Since I was a kid I,ve spent plenty of time in, on and around the waters of the Thames Estuary. I lived on Canvey Island, aptly named ‘The Island’ or ‘The Mud’, when I was a young before we moved a few miles away but would regularly visited relatives who still lived there, and still do. In my late teens I worked with my Dad in one the of the many industrial units on ‘The Island’. During the winter nights I,d go fishing with Dad, and various other family members, along the sea wall that skirts best part of Canvey keeping the sea at bay. And nowadays I live only a few miles away the salty waters of the Thames estuary and regularly walk the dogs along its shores. And in all those years, many, many, many years, I have only known the water to be various shades of muddy brown, sometimes there would be an algae bloom turning the water a green tinge, but always it would return to muddy brown. On occasions I’ve even sat at night watching the bioluminescent glow, caused by algae, as the waves crash on the shore. But again the water has always had that dirty brown look to it.
Most would look at its waters and claim that it was dirty and polluted and that would of been quite true a good few years ago. I think at one point the Thames further up stream in London was classed as being ‘biologically dead’ with very little life within its waters and plenty of pollution to take its place. Nowadays the Thames is thriving with water quality making it one of the cleanest rivers in the UK and many species of wildlife colonising its banks again, and fish are making a welcome comeback with regular runs of sea trout and odd salmon swimming up its length. But still the water runs brown. The brown colour though is only sediment from the rivers bed suspended in the water making it look dirty as most of the Thames bed is made up of estuarine mud, there is a lot of sand and stone but mainly further out in the deeper reaches and also a band that runs along the tideline in parts, but mainly the water flows over soft silty mud. This silt gets easily stirred up by tide movement, rough weather and boat traffic. Now the later point, I believe, is the main reason why the waters of ‘Old Father Thames’ are always muddy looking. It is my belief that the wash caused by the huge container ships, and numerous other large vessels, which can be seen powering up and down the Thames at any time, day or night, keeps the river bed agitated causing the silt to remain suspended in the water on a near permanent basis, making the water a constant brown colour.
All that has changed since the dreaded Coronavirus Lockdowns have been put in place though. For the past year or so there has been very little boat traffic, of any sort, sailing on the River Thames and it didn,t take too long for the silt particles to drop out of the water back to the river bed and for the water to start clearing. Last year I first noticed the rivers clarity during the summer whilst I walked the dogs along the Southend beaches. Yesterday I was amazed at how clear the water actually was again, take a look at the short video I took above, I could see every stone lying beneath the waves for as far as my eyesight would allow. I could even see Choccies brown legs paddling away beneath the surface as he swam to the shore some distance out. The ripples on the waters surface sparkled in the sunlight as the waves hit the shore, and you could be forgiven for thinking you were standing on the beach of some exotic holiday resort and not on an Essex shoreline 20 odd miles, as the crow flies, from busy London Town. Unfortunately it won’t last like this for too long once the world gets back to normal and the boat traffic increases again.
So if ever you find yourself standing on the beach by the pier chomping on your ‘fish n chips’ whilst kids run havoc around you, don’t turn your nose up at the brown water, its only tiny silt particles, just roll up your trouser legs and take a paddle, the waters lovely……..