Oyster Walk - Cushing's View
- Cushing’s View is a wooden bench behind the sea wall by the steps down into the western end of the car park. Peter Cushing was a famous actor and local resident specialising in theatre, horror films and who played Dr. Who in the original 1960’s film version. This was Peter and his wife’s favourite walk and view, and the bench is a dedicated in fond remembrance of them.
- There is also a blue plaque on the house where he lived - Seaway Cottage, Island Wall which we will see but not pass later.
- Peter was very involved with Whitstable theatre, and even has the ‘accolade’ of having the town’s Weatherspoons named after him!
- Also there was a song called ‘Peter Cushing Lives In Whitstable’ a Peter Cushing tribute song by The Jellybottys. You can find it on Youtube!
- If you look out to sea now you will see land. It is not - as one teacher is was heard to tell her pupils - France! It is the Isle of Sheppey.
- The sea passes between the island and the coast it becomes the Swale which leads up past Faversham Creek with its port and beautiful medieval town and then on to join the River Medway just as it enters the Thames at Sheerness.
- Sheppey is infamous for having three prisons housing over 3,000 inmates, one of the largest concentrations of prisoners anywhere in the UK. Why? The island, cheap land and maybe historical ties with the old hulk prison ships of Dickens’ time.
- Technically the Swale is not a river it is a ria – since it is open to the sea at both ends. This creates a curios effect of the tide coming in from both ends – meeting somewhere off Conyer.
- Looking further out to sea you can see the Essex coast on the far side of the Thames Estuary, the taller buildings being in the centre of Southend-on-Sea. You can now appreciate how wide the estuary is, giving access to the port of London. It is a major shipping lane and tricky to cross because of mud banks tides and the traffic!
The Sea Forts
- You will also see in the estuary two forts, the one slightly to the left is Red Sands fort and the one over to the right, in front of Herne Bay is Shivering Sands fort. These forts, named Maunsell forts after their designer, were built in the early days of the Second World War to provide early warning and anti-aircraft gunnery against Luftwaffe raiders using the Thames as a guide towards London. This is what they look like closer up!
- Photo 1 Fort from a boat
- Both forts had 7 towers, originally linked by walkways and were operated by members of the Royal Artillery. In conjunction with several other forts protecting the Thames estuary, they accounted for around 50 German aircraft and flying bombs. During the Second World War, each fort housed up to 265 men for weeks at a time,
- After the war the towers fell into disuse and poor repair, a situation that was not helped when one of the Shivering Sands towers was destroyed in a collision with a cargo ship (Ribersborg), in fog, in 1963.
- In 1965 Shivering Sands was the base of Screamin’ Lord Sutch’s pirate Radio Hutch then became the more professional Radio City. With one of the undamaged towers used as a radio and data link for the Port of London until the advent of satellites, the future of Shivering Sands remains a matter of debate
- Red Sands fort, which is the only estuarial fort that can be readily and safely accessed from the sea, has been threatened with demolition, and a local group, ‘Project Redsands’ has been formed to protect it. It too was also used as a pirate radio station – at various times Radio Invicta, KING Radio and Radio 390.
- Just in case you are wondering, neither of these are the fort that Paddy Roy Bates has declared the nation state of Sealand. That was Roughs Tower 7miles off the coast of Suffolk.
The Wind Farms
- The forts are sometimes difficult to see amongst the Kentish Flats Farm 8 miles away. It started in 2005 and then extended in 2013. Now is has 45 turbines with a combined output of just under 140 MW covering an area of 10 sq. k.
- There are others bigger farms in the Thames. The London Array 12 miles away to the northwest was until recently the largest in the world.
- They may look serene but every day during the summer, labourers travel between the turbines, climbing their vertical ladders servicing the machinery. The turbines have a life span of 20 years – now they think maybe longer.