A film history of Thames Estuary gravel carriers Prior’s

This is a beautifully made film history of Prior’s – their small gravel-carrying ships are a familiar sight for anyone sailing the north side of the Thames Estuary.

My thanks to Paul Mullings for the link.

Here’s a photo of one of Prior’s vessels that I took earlier this year.

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Hollowshore in danger – please lodge your objection now!

Hollowshore and its marshes 500px

Hollowshore threatened area 1 Hollowshore threatened area 2

The marshes at Hollowshore – threatened by company plans for gravel extraction. See a satellite photo the area on Google Maps

I hate to call on people’s help once again so soon after my earlier comments about Faversham Creek – but another important location in the Swale area is in danger because someone in business can see a way of making money.

This time the threat is to the area around Hollowshore and along the western bank of Faversham Creek. It comes from a local company in Faversham called Brett Aggregates, which apparently owns mineral rights in the area and has put in planning applications to excavate gravel in the area for a period of 17 years.

The application information published by Kent County Council is here (please scroll down quite a way to sites 25 and 26). It was also the place to go to object, but the consultation has now closed, even though many of us have only just learned about it. The only contact address I can find is mwdf@kent.gov.uk.

I hope many of you will write to object: I understand we’re now past the official deadline for objections, but this application has only come to light in the past couple of weeks, deeply buried as it is.

If you do make your views known, you will be in very good company. The organisations who have already objected or expressed serious concerns include Swale Borough Council, Natural England, Kent Wildlife Trust, Protect Kent, The Faversham Society, the Environment Agency and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds.

If the Brett’s applications succeed I think we have to accept that it will be goodbye to a gem of a place. The areas where the company’s workings are recognisable: they’re ponds and holes in the ground that have been fenced off, no doubt for the safety of the public. The area has not been returned to anything like the marshland it must once have been.

What’s more, this is a business that needs to make great use of big digging and spoil-carrying machines, and there’s often a lot of noise that is particularly noticeable at night.

If the excavations go ahead, we will almost certainly have to say farewell to the wonderful old pub at Hollowshore, the Shipwright’s Arms, which will lose much of its appeal for visitors. There will be less demand for moorings along Oare Creek and I fear also for the future of Hollowshore Services, the shipyard that for decades now has maintained an extensive fleet of traditional craft, and provided many of them with suitable berths. Expanding the Brett’s business will likely destroy at least one established business, and to greatly damage another.

If you’re passing by, I’d suggest you dropping into The Shipwright’s, enjoy a pint and ask to sign landlord Derek’s petition opposing the planned excavations.

This is an area that should be well protected, and I hope it is.

For one thing the area around Hollowshore is a designated Ramsar Site. For those who don’t know – and I didn’t – the Ramsar Convention in 1972 was an inter-governmental agreement that wetlands would be preserved. At the time, the reasons for doing so were often about wildlife, but we now know that they are an important part of the carbon cycle, and help to control carbon levels in the atmosphere.

The marshes around Hollowshore and in the Ham Farm area are clearly wetlands, for along with the cattle (and marsh frogs) they are a tremendous place for wetland birds, which often include herons and little egrets. No doubt birders could say a lot more.

It’s also a Special Protection Area under the EC Birds Directive, which came into force in April 1979, and which designates areas that are important to rare and vulnerable birds, and to regularly occurring migratory species. Yet again, it’s a designated SSSI – a site of special scientific interest, and therefore one of our best sites for wildlife. Brett’s say they will dig up only one area at a time, but it seems inconceivable that they can return areas they have dug up to their previous condition – surely that would take decades, if it could be done at all.

Please help – if enough of us make our objections, the council and the planners will hopefully have to take some notice.

PS – It might be useful to see what Brett Aggregates have left in the areas where excavation has taken place – and the plea left by someone who loves the area as it is.

Brett Aggregates mess at Faversham Brett Aggregates mess at Faversham Brett Aggregates mess at Faversham Brett Aggregates excavation appeal