“With only one road in and out, through estuarine flatlands, the Isle of Grain is one of the most remote locations in South East England – the final stop at the end of a long peninsula which divides the two great rivers, the Thames, and the Medway, at their estuaries to the north sea.
An Island in effective terms, the last three miles of the Hoo Peninsula crossing saturated wetland marsh which has no other road or footpath connecting to the Peninsula.
A place to which few visitors venture, or even know about, and yet in contrast to its remoteness, it has two stories to tell..
The first sight at Grain Bridge that attracts the visitor’s eye, are the eight giant quay cranes of Thamesport , a port with deep water jetties for some of the giant container ships, that travel the world.
The road then continues on, through a spread of shining modern engineering structures, at the importation terminal for Liquefied Natural Gas, The Gas is offloaded here, having been shipped in from foreign fields. You will see some of the biggest storage tanks in the world, each large enough to enclose the Albert Hall, and they contain one fifth of the entire country’ s gas supply.
This Industry, is accompanied by another importation terminal, for Aviation Fuels, to be stored in Tanks and then pumped, mainly by pipeline, to the major airports in the southern half of the Country.
Next to this, is even another terminal, for Granite, mined and shipped here from Scotland. and where, twenty plus years ago, the concrete segments were cast, to assemble the walls of the Channel tunnel.
There are also, two, sub sea electricity cables, coming up from under the foreshore, to connect the British network, one with France, and the other with the Netherlands, to an Interconnector Station, which converts the current of the supply, to be suitable for our National Grid.
Finally, there are three Power Stations, and a Peak Load generator Station.
There is no doubt, that all of this, and all within a two mile radius, the Island hosts one of the largest and most nationally important combinations, of thriving global energy suppliers and international trade in the southern half of the Country. A major intersection of Gas, Electricity, Fuel, and trading movements for onward dispatch, worldwide and countrywide. It is all here.
Be that as it may, a contrasting vastly different story, starts here. Most people who visit the Island will see the industry first, and turn away, and go back along the lonely road across the marsh, but we say no, please drive on. For here, you will see another side, to reveal the true wonders, of the Isle of Grain.
Drive through this eerie mix of industries ,and out the other side, and the road settles into a quiet, tree lined avenue, through fields of rapeseed or corn, to the small village of St James. A little retreat on higher ground. and you will have found us.
A small compact little community, with a church, a Public House, and several busy little shops, and where the journey starts, down onto the marsh.
When it is high tide, I could take you on a walk on the Isle of Grain, where in twenty minutes you would find yourself in the heart of the marsh…….,and where you will find a place you could not believe exists.
Just 30 miles from the centre of London, watch as the full tide washes in at speed, carving steep banks of white cockleshells, at the entrance to the Yantlet channel.
It is here, the Island reveals its true self.
The village borders Lees Marsh, and the north Level marsh, and where the Yantlet Channel divides the Island from the Peninsula. The mudflats here, are a favourite resting place for seals, which come close in their curiosity of people, whom they see, as us venturing into their world.
There is a solitary monument, a granite pillar, rising from a stone plinth, at the entrance to the Yantlet Creek which is called the ‘London Stone’
Cast an imaginary line across the Thames, from the London Stone, to the Essex beach at Chalkwell, where there is an identical stone to be found, called the ‘Crow Stone’
This line demarks the end of the Port of London’s jurisdiction, and denotes the final end, of the River Thames.
When standing on the marsh at Yantlet, it looks so open and desolate. No trees or shrubs, but this is where its real and natural beauty is revealed.
Now you stand removed from the clanging and bustle of the Industry in the far distance, you feel an almost shouting silence. A rare but natural silence, only to be sometimes disturbed by the occasional whisper or grunt of a contented cow, or the sudden startling shriek of a wading bird, as it leaps into the sky in protest.
Out in the Thames, you might hear a passing ship, with the steady thump, thump of its engines, as it sails out of the Thames and on towards the Nore Light, and distant shores.The marsh hosts an abundance of rare breeds of birds, and amphibians, and so much more.
Some people have discovered us, and travel miles to spend time here, at our Coastal Park, just past the Church.
From the shores of the Island, there is a view for miles, out across the estuaries, to the Isle of Sheppey and the Town of Sheerness, at the Medway entrance. Look the other way to the distant town of Southend, on the other side of the Estuary. Watch the ships arrive from deep sea and look to see which River into which they turn.
Wander through the woodland paths amongst the ancient remains of old forts and concrete mats for the guns of war, to contrast with the clearings of open mown, grassland parks, and if the tide is low, explore the shoreline rocks, or search for Samphire to cook at home.
And if you can, come to Grain, in the darkness of the new years eve.. Stand still, at our waters edge, and listen. At midnight, when Big Ben strikes its bell, you will hear the sound in chorus. of ships horns, from the ships at rest on their moorings in the Estuary, as their crews, salute each other, to celebrate the dawn of the new year. All of this, out of sight, at the start of the lifeline that leads to London, the River Thames.
Michael Dale. Parish Councillor