Downriver – Thames walk from Purfleet to Grays

Purfleet, famous as the site of Carfax Abbey in Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Standing on that windswept shore beneath the twisted steampunk towers of the Proctor and Gamble factory, I imagined the unfortunate Jonathan Harker battered by the same damp Thames Estuary gales before his ill fated trip to Transylvannia. Carfax Abbey may have been Bram Stoker’s creation but the P&G Factory is equally worthy of a work of dystopian fiction.

QE II Bridge at Purfleet

The weather was bleak. It was perfect. The rusting jetties, ghost wharfs, WW2 pillboxes on Stone Ness where the lighthouse stands all lonesome on the marshy point poking out into the Thames. The Queen Elizabeth II Bridge dominates the stretch out of Purfleet where chemical and oil storage vats replaced the gunpowder magazines. A landscape forever on the verge of being wiped off the map. A chemcial tanker registered in the Bahamas was moored to the jetty at South Stifford, a lone ship anchored to a single staging post awaiting the next cargo – most likely taking it across the North Sea to Holland or Norway. What must the crews make of their time floating off the shore of Grays, Essex?

The Thames at Purfleet