Wednesday, 4 June 2014

My corner of England: The River Thames

I've lived in Essex since I was three years old and always by the coast. Canvey Island is a small island measuring approx 3 x 5 miles and sits just off the mainland in the Thames Estuary. Before it became the island it is today, during the first half of the century the only way onto the island was by means of stepping stones over the muddy creek when the tide was out or by a dinghy ferry when it was in. Now a bridge carries the heavy traffic onto and off the island.



From the age of about 7 or 8 years old, I spent many happy days playing in the sand and paddling in the rock pools on the beach at the top of my road with school friends - it was quite safe but I hasten to add something that would never occur these days, apart from anything else I couldn't even swim ! Mum always knew where to find me though and even though we didn't have watches we always knew when it was time to go home for dinner.

Courtesy of Canvey Island.org

The river played a huge part of my growing up as my parents always owned their own boats and belonged to the local yacht club.


This was one of the first - a converted fishing boat named 'Pegasus' 



This was our last boat named 'Amola' which dad built himself


Champagne for all as she was launched (note the 1960s bouffant hairstyle)

Most weekends were spent on the Thames off the coast of Leigh on Sea and Southend with several trips to the River Medway in Kent when we visited towns such as Chatham, Rochester and Maidstone.

Courtesy of Google

Once we even motored up the Thames to London - and us girls were absolutely amazed when dad told us that Tower Bridge was opening for us (only to find out within minutes that a huge ship was cruising behind us and was the cause of the opening !! )

That's me fourth from the left on the top row

I belonged to the Sea Rangers aged 14 and was always messing about on boats - canoes, dinghies, sailing boats - and I still couldn't swim!

As I said the river was just at the top of my road and just 800 yards off the foreshore was the Chapman Lighthouse on the Chapman Sands a series of mud flats which had been a problem for sailors and their vessels for hundreds of years.  


Courtesy of CanveyIsland.org

This red iron framed structure rang a bell every fifteen seconds during foggy weather and believe me when I was a child, London and its environs suffered many "pea soupers"  I can tell you, and that darned bell would be ringing all through the night. Nowadays a bell bouy has replaced the old lighthouse which was demolished during the 1950s. 

As a family, most Sunday afternoons during the summer we'd be seen walking along the sea wall, watching all the boats cruising along the river and looking at the fishermen catching their tea. Often mum would pack up a picnic and we'd walk over to the salt marshes beyond the sea wall when the tide was out - being very mindful that the tide would come in again within an hour or two - dangerous as we'd be cut off from the mainland. 


 c.1950 with dad. mum and auntie Rosa on one of our picnics





This area is known as "The Point" and takes you literally to the furthest point of the island from where you can see Leigh on Sea. Here beautiful purple sea heather grows in abundance and us girls took great pleasure in trying to pick some for mum. The aroma is still with me today.

Courtesy of Google

Well that's just a little snapshot of my life as a child on an island in the Thames which I hope you enjoyed. I'll be back soon with some more of my "My Corner" soon.



52 comments:

  1. How lovely to see the old photos, Patricia. I was looking at some old ones just last weekend, the 1950s photo could almost have been my parents!! And I also sported the same lovely hairstyle in the 60s. Joy x x

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    1. The trouble is Joy once you start looking at the old photos you can't stop. That hair was back-combed to look like that and a pain to detangle before bed!

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  2. I've really enjoyed this post, especially with the old photos. Is that a bubble cozzie you're sporting?

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    1. Ah thank you, it did bring back lots of memories. Yes it was a bubble cozzie and I think they must have been quite fashionable in those days!

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  3. I think I had a bathing suit like that as a child but can't remember the name of them, was it sort of elasticated smocking, seersucker or something?

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    1. I seem to remember wearing one of these for years, not the same one of course. Little Blue Mouse has just referred to it as a bubble cozzie and I believe that's what they were called back then. It could have been elasticated shearing and very stretchy.

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  4. This is such a lovely and interesting post, it must have been wonderful growing up by the sea. Suzy x

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    1. It was, but somehow its taken for granted. x

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  5. How wonderful to grow up by the sea! I've really enjoyed reading all your memories and looking at your photos. I rememebr having one of those bathing costumes - stretchy, blue seersucker with little fish on it:)

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    1. Thankyou Rosie. Its funny how many are remembering the swimsuit too. x

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  6. Lovely to read about your memories. I am pleased that I too had the sort of childhood where we were relatively free to come and go as we pleased. Kids today will never have that freedom sadly.

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    1. Thanks Anne. It is a shame but its a sign of the times I guess. x

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  7. Your memories are so lovely Patricia and it is nice of you to share them with us. I could almost taste the sea air and I love the idea of your Dad telling you that London Bridge opened for you, it is a shame that you spotted the real ship in a way, but still exciting!! What a wonderful childhood you must have had. xx

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    1. Thanks Amy. I think nostalgic memories are always special but I don't think we appreciated it at the time. x

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  8. This post is wonderful, Patricia. I loved seeing all the old photos and reading about your memories. Thank you so much for sharing.

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    1. Thank you Jennifer. I spent ages shuffling through all my old photos after I wrote my post. A bit of a time waster but oh what memories they evoked. x

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  9. It must have been a wonderful place to grow up in. I have enjoyed so much reading about your childhood and seeing those lovely photographs too. Sarah x

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    1. Thankyou Sarah, I really enjoyed writing it too and realised that we never really appreciate things when they occur. x

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  10. What lovely old photos...I do so love black and white images.

    We used to have a boat. We used to chug along the Medway. Our children so enjoyed it.
    I also spent a lot of time in Essex as a child. My Grandparents had a small holding not far from Colchester. We spent a lot of time with them during the summer holidays :)

    Lovely post.....brought back many lovely memories for me. Tku for sharing

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    1. Hi Cheryl, nice of you to visit and thanks for your lovely comment. I like walking down memory lane every so often. Have a good weekend x

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  11. lovely old photos and some great memories :)

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  12. What a wonderful childhood you had, there by the sea Patricia. Like you, I could not swim as a little girl - perhaps it was not considered so important back in the 50s? The old photos are so lovely, bringing back memories. I'm sure we shared the same hairstyle in the 60s, and the same little swimsuit - Mum used to make ours with shirring elastic. Great post! xx

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    1. Thank you Patricia. I love old black and white photos. This made me think I really need to sort them out, all stashed away in a box. But then I really enjoyed just shuffling around and pulling them out randomly. So I think I'll leave well alone! x

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  13. A lovely post, Patricia, which took me down 'Memory Lane' in many ways. It must have been a happy childhood growing up with a boating background in the Thames Estuary area. The good old River Thames - that was my playground further upstream in Berkshire watching the boats go by especially fascinated by the river locks. I enjoyed hearing about the old lighthouse, the bell ringing constantly during the foggy days and nights - a very interesting memory that evokes those 'pea souper' times!

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    1. Thank you Linda. Funnily enough and quite co-incidentally my husband was born near Erith which is slightly upriver from us and when I met him he was living at Weybridge - the River Wey being a tributary of the Thames!! x

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  14. I so enjoyed reading this post Patricia. What in interesting childhood, to have grown up on an island.
    How great to have sailed up the Thames, in your family boat. Such memories.
    I can imagine that the lightouse was a great Beacon for the boys of the RAF.. Tomorrow being D day-70 years ago.
    Thank you for sharing Memory lane .
    Great post and photos .
    love val x xx

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    1. Thanks Val. They were fun times but really not appreciated at the time. Lovely to look back on and i enjoyed writing it. x

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  15. Hello Patricia, I truly enjoyed every single word of your post. It is wonderful to see your family photos and to tag along as you reminisce about your childhood. What a delightful place to grow up! I do have a question for you . . . have you ever learned to swim? Just curious :)
    I'll be looking forward to more posts about "your corner of the world".
    Your blogging sister, Connie :)

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    1. Thank you so much Connie, it was a pleasure writing it up. Yes I eventually learnt to swim in my late teens. x

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  16. Brilliant post - I love that corner of England - the Thames is such an historic and important river. We like to "Mudlark" when we are dow that way - we always find something interesting. Your old photos are great. PS I have those old M&S cook books too! xx

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    1. Thank you Diane. We love to 'Mudlark' too, its such fun raking around on the foreshore. x

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  17. What a lovely post, Patricia! When you talked about playing in the sand and rock pools as a child it reminded me of my childhood and all the freedom I had - sadly, a freedom not many children have today. What a great story about your dad telling you they were opening the Tower Bridge just for you! :-)

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    1. Thank you Kristie. The Tower Bridge episode was one that I'll never forget! x

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  18. Ah, water, boats, nostalgia and bouffant hairstyles; I love this post ! xxx

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    1. Thank you so much, it was a pleasure writing it. x

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  19. Lovely nostalgic black and white photos Patricia - was life more relaxed and carefree then? I tend to think it was. Bouffant hairstyles and lots of lacquer, it couldn't have been good for the hair.

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    1. There is something about black and white photos isn't there. Back in the day even my wedding photos were too. x

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  20. Just found your blog. Since I visited England some years ago, I have been in love with the country. Your posting brings back lots of happy thoughts. Thanks for sharing. Hope to return. Jack

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    1. Hi Jack. Thanks for popping by and nice to meet you. I've been away for a few days and missed your comment, hence the delay. See you again maybe.

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  21. A lovely, nostalgic post, Patricia and I really envy you your childhood spent messing about in boats. :-) To live with water so close is very special and your photos capture your surroundings beautifully. I too had a bouffant hairstyle like that. All that back-combing and lacquer can't have done our hair any good. :-)

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    1. Thanks Perpetua. It's amazing our hair didn't fall out the way we treated it!!

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  22. What a lovely insight into your childhood, living near the water (like we do too) provides endless summer fun.

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    1. Thank you Jay, I'm always drawn to the water x

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  23. What a wonderful post. I love looking at old photos. It sounds like you had a wonderful time. I too played out and never once was I late for dinner.

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    1. Thanks so much. Those were the days eh? x

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  24. I really enjoyed this post Patricia, and I didn't know you used to sail and spent so much time on the water. Lucky you having parents who owned boats and a dad who even built his own! I went to Two Tree Island the other day and enjoyed the views along the Thames, I love the water and sailing too.

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    1. Ah thanks Sandie. Two tree island was always a stopping point when we canoed over to Leigh. I was never keen on actually sailing due to the fact that we'd had a few very bumpy near catastrophic sailing moments on board my Dad's sailing boat that it put me off for life. I did eventually learn to swim but I'm quite nervous of the water because of it. x

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  25. I have just found your blog today. Isn't a childhood growing up on the water just the most wonderful thing? I feel so privileged, and I can tell you do too. Looking forward to reading more! Deborah

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  26. Hi Patricia - I love your snapshot and your old pictures are fabulous...you can't beat a good bouffant!

    Such happy memories to treasure.

    Nina x

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  27. I love your part of the world. Wasn't it wonderful growing up back in the 50s and 60s? Times were simpler and much much safer. It was definitely a better time to raise a family for sure.

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  28. Wonderful post! I have really enjoyed reading your story of Canvey Island, what an idyllic place to grow up!
    BH x

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