This article covers the facilities available for yachts and motorboats in the East Swale area.
It is possible to follow the Swale all the way round into the Medway, passing under one lifting bridge in the process. It is beyond the scope of this article to describe the passage.
Keelboats wishing to remain afloat can find anchorages in the Swale itself around the area off Harty Ferry. There are very limited facilities here, and the anchorage is exposed to the East. In these conditions shelter can be found by pushing deeper into the Swale.
Boats prepared to take the ground can push into Faversham Creek which divides a short way in, with Faversham Creek branching off to port and Oare Creek to starboard.
Various boat facilities are available at the junction of these two creeks, with further boatyard facilities in Oare Creek itself.
Faversham Creek if followed to Faversham Town can offer many more facilities including a popular boatyard, some drying moorings either side of the Creek, and the historic town of Faversham which can offer all normal town facilities. Aficionados of Thames sailing barges will find plenty to look at round here.
Approach to this area is either made through the easterly entrance to the Swale...
... which commences in the area to the north of Whitstable, or having negotiated the Swale from it's Western entrance near Sheerness in the Medway.
The Swale itself is not really a river, but a submerged valley, more of a Ria. It completely isolates the Isle of Sheppey and the tide flows into it from both ends. The opposing tidal forces meet somewhere in the region of Milton Creek, and it is important to note that the direction of the buoyage changes at this point. The red can port hand marks and the green conical starboard hand marks always follow the direction of the incoming tide. Pilotage directions:
In the area described in this article the tide is flowing inwards from the East, therefore as you approach from that direction green conical buoys are left to starboard.
Until you are properly within the Swale the tidal flows of the Thames Estuary will be tending to set you towards the Columbine Spit, assuming you are entering the East Swale on a rising tide. When you follow the instructions below remember to keep an eye out for this effect.
The initial approach from seawards is made from about 2 1/2 miles north of Whitstable at the green conical Columbine Buoy, which is paired with the red can Whitstable street buoy (Fl.R.2s). A generally south westerly course is steered taking you past the Columbine Spit green conical buoy which is left on your starboard hand. Next up come a matching pair of buoys, the green conical Ham Gat, paired with the red can Pollard Spit (Q.R). Pass between these. Attention to the depth sounder will show that you are in a deeper water channel that shallows either side.
After passing between these two buoys a touch more South is applied to your course, say around 220° to 225° and continue inwards with one eye on the depth sounder. These buoys are not particularly large or conspicuous. The land appearing on your starboard side is Shell Ness, and the deeper water lies about 1/4 mile from it. The bank of the channel is quite steep too on the starboard side, but far more gently shelving on the Pollard Spit which lies to port. This area contains oyster beds so you mustn't anchor or go aground. It is clearly marked on the chart.
Continuing on the same course will bring you to the next mark which is a green conical buoy, Sand End (Fl.G.5s), which is left to starboard. The channel starts to narrow down a bit now and the tide follows it fairly.
Next up come two buoys in the region of the entrance to Faversham Creek. First a green conical buoy (Fl.G.10s) marking the deepwater South of the Horse Sand... this is left to starboard. On your port side will be a small, lit Northerly Cardinal Buoy (Q), named Faversham Spit.
To the south of this cardinal buoy lies the entrance to Faversham and Oare creeks, to be described shortly.
This Swale meanwhile changes course now first to the W and then to the WNW. Small craft moorings will be seen on your port hand side and just to the north of these lies the Horse Sand Bank complete with shellfish beds (that musn't be disturbed) and just a little bit further on the northern side lies the Harty Ferry Anchorage.
Anchorage or moorings can be had at Harty Ferry, Faversham Creek, Hollowshore, or Oare Creek.
At this point Harty Ferry, the Swale used to be crossed and the remains of two hards can be found one north bank and one on the south bank. The southern one is marked by a series of withies and Northern one is opposite a popular watering hole, The Ferry House. There are no other facilities nearby. The pub provides meals at weekends and has toilets, showers and even a laundry for yachtsmen.
Anchorage can be had out of the channel in this area, with dinghy access to the above-mentioned pub on the north bank. The northern hard expires slightly short of LWS so watch your timings. Landings can also be made at the hard on the south bank which is a bit of a hike from anywhere.
This anchorage is popular with boaters during the summer, but is not the place to be in strong easterlies. Furthermore getting ashore in the dinghy can be complicated by strong currents and the ebb runs quite hard, meaning anchors should be well dug in.
The moorings on the southern side are generally laid by the boatyards in Faversham Creek although there may be some privately laid ones. In general it is permissible to pick up a suitably sized one for a temporary stop, with the proviso that you must be prepared to move should the rightful owner return.
There is a chartlet of Faversham Creek on the www. The origin (possibly the MSBA) and age of this chart is unspecified and several websites (including this one) have hyperlinks to it. It generally comes with a text description of the delights of Faversham and instructions on where to moor - about the year 2000. Do NOT use this for navigation of any sort
If planning to enter Faversham Creek you need to do it on a rising tide and preferably early enough that the banks are not covered and you can feel your way in. These creeks are only suitable for boats that can take the ground, there are no moorings available with water.
To enter, leave the northerly Cardinal Mark on your starboard side and follow the numbered buoyage shown on the chart. Various wrecks lie on the starboard hand side with the one opposite the red number eight buoy being particularly conspicuous. Now the Creek takes a more southwards course and runs fairly centrally with further wrecks on the starboard side and saltings on the port side. You will pass underneath an electricity cable with the least 25 m clearance and come to a fork where Faversham Creek branches off to port and Oare Creek to starboard.
This is the name given to the junction area. An ancient pub, The Shipwrights arms, has been here more or less forever, and is extremely popular with wooden boat aficionados. The nearby boatyard also specialises in gaffers and old wooden working craft. In fact the whole area is more concerned with traditional working boats than any kind of glitzy consumer orientated yachting. Hollowshore Services are on 01795 532317, and it may be possible to raft off the yard with permission.
Following the starboard hand Creek to its bitter end (the whole of the south bank of the creek is populated by boats parked on fingers and ashore) will bring you to another yard and the village of Oare. The whole Creek dries totally and any kind of expedition needs to be mounted a couple of hours before high water. In the entrance to the Creek from Hollow Shore be sure to leave the slipway belonging to the boatyard on your port hand side... it's end is marked by an orange buoy. This Creek should only be tackled by small, shallow draught boats, and you may be able to obtain a drying mooring from Youngboats at the village of Oare, telephone 01795 536176...they charge £10.00 a night (2021) irrespective of size, have water and electricity (prepaid) and a link to their website is provided below:
Faversham Creek Continued.
Shallow draft craft intending to make their way to Faversham should note that the channel dries to over 3 m at CD near the town and over 2.5 m in the region of the Ironwharf boatyard. The Creek also narrows out around the town so perhaps 12 m is about the longest size boat that should aim there. Around the area of the boatyard there is a more room to turn, and sailing barges over 25 m manage this. Depths are the problem and with proper tidal calculations perhaps the best time to start the journey to Faversham would be around four hours before high water. At this time the banks will be uncovered and the way will be clear. Any accidental groundings will soon be taken care of by the rising tide. The Iron Wharf Boatyard has supplied a very good Navigation page on their website at:-
https://www.ironwharf.net/navigation-esturary-info.html Ignore the "Click for Detailed Guide" hyperlink as the info there is out of date.
The twisting channel is marked by buoys and beacons and passing the Southern Water sewage works the deepest water runs centrally up to the Iron Wharf boatyard on your port side. Drying moorings can be obtained here, you could telephone to check availability of 01795 536296. There isn't a fixed price, just depends what's available on the day and who's on duty (about a tenner or so for a 10m boat) A link to their website is provided below and there are a couple of photos in the gallery
Cautiously bumping your way up the twisting Creek you will come to Front Brents Jetty on your starboard side which can just about be made out in one of the photos in the gallery. This dries out completely at about half tide with a soft mud bottom. It is run by the local council and no longer takes visiting boats
Just a little bit further you will find your way blocked by a bridge ahead, and the tiny Town Quay on your port side. As mentioned before there's not much room to turn around should you need to retrace your steps. Should you find yourself being swept onwards and in danger of being pinned on the bridge (c/w large audience watching) consider turning hard to starboard and running your nose up the west bank...the tide will sweep your stern onwards, and you can go back the way you came with head held high ! Old East Coaster's trick.
Both the above berths are right in the town.
A link is provided below to a very useful local website that gives details about the Creek, the marine businesses around it, and the town:
At Harty Ferry the only facilities to be found are at the pub on the northern shore, which is very popular in season. There are no shops or anything else of interest close by.
At Hollowshore there is one pub, and the boatyard specialising in wooden craft. Hollowshore Cruising Club is also based here and a link to their website is provided below:
This little outpost is a long way from anywhere and there are no shops or any other facilities available.
Oare Creek leading to the village of Oare is a bit more promising with the boatyard offering water, electricity and also a scrubbing berth. This is dependent obviously on your ability to penetrate that far and take the ground. The yard can handle repairs and has an 8 tonne crane, furthermore Camping and Calor gas can be obtained. Provisions are a bit of a hike away, but the village possesses two pubs which serve food. Buses call occasionally...
Faversham Creek is also quite promising. Iron Wharf boatyard, if you can arrange a mooring there, has water and fuel. Toilets showers and a launderette are also available for the crew. They have a small chandlery and can lift up to 15 tonnes with their crane. For large shallow draught vessels they have a dry dock. The yard specialises in DIY projects, so if you want to fit out your boat this could be your place...
Gas is obtainable from a nearby garden centre, and there is a local yacht club, The Iron Wharf YC, tel 01795 530352.
It is not a long walk from this area to the town of Faversham.
If you have pushed up the Creek to it's end you will be moored on the tiny Town Quay on the east bank.
Faversham Town offers all normal small town facilities, including banks with cashpoints and a couple of supermarkets for provisioning. Transport is covered by railway links to London, Ramsgate, and Dover via Canterbury.
Faversham is a town in Kent, England, in the district of Swale, roughly halfway between Sittingbourne and Canterbury. The parish of Faversham (Feversham) includes an ancient sea port and market town, some 48 miles east of London, off the London to Dover A2 road, 18 miles east north-east of Maidstone and 9 miles west of Canterbury.
History and features
Faversham, established as a settlement before the Roman conquest, was held in royal demesne in 811, and is further cited in a charter granted by Kenulf, the King of Mercia. It was recorded in the Domesday Book as Favreshant. The town has regularly throughout its history obtained curious royal privileges and charters.
In 1148 Faversham Abbey was established in Faversham by King Stephen, who with his consort Matilda of Boulogne, and his son, Eustace, the Earl of Boulogne was buried there. During Stephen's reign, Faversham was a very important settlement and even became the capital of England for a short period. Sir Thomas Culpeper was granted Faversham Abbey by Henry VIII of England during the Dissolution of the Monasteries about 1536. The abbey was demolished directly after the dissolution and much of its masonry taken to Calais to reinforce that town's defences against French interests. In 1539, the ground upon which the abbey had stood, along with nearby land passed to Sir Thomas Cheney, Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports. Queen Elizabeth's Grammar School has been built on the abbey site.
Although the abbey was dissolved by Henry VIII the nearby St Mary of Charity, Faversham Parish Church remains. It has an unusual 18th-century flying spire, known as a crown or corona spire, which is visible for long distances. The interior was restored and transformed by Sir George Gilbert Scott, known for his St Pancras Station, the Foreign Office and many college and cathedral buildings, in 1874. (His son, Sir Giles Gilbert Scott, designed the classic 1930s phone boxes and the Faversham Society has one in its collection at the Fleur de Lis heritage centre). Notable features of the church include the reputed tomb of King Stephen (the church is thus one of only a few churches outside London where an English king was interred), nationally important misericords in the quire, a rare medieval painted pillar and a recently installed altar dedicated to Saints Crispin and Crispinian. The church supports a strong choral tradition with a choir of adults and children who sing Anglican matins, evensong and communion.
The town is known as a harbour and market community and is also at the centre of the county's brewing industry, being home to Britain's oldest brewery, Shepherd Neame. The town formerly also housed Fremlins and Whitbread breweries. Abbey Street and the centre of the town include a remarkable collection of original medieval houses. Much of it was intended for demolition as recently as the 1960s, until the value of the buildings, now listed, was recognised and local people began a determined fight to restore and preserve the area.
The historic central area, especially the part-pedestrian parts between the station and the creek, attracts visitors, who can learn about the town's history and features at the Fleur-de-Lis centre, which provides tourist information and houses a museum. There is still a regular market several days each week in the market square where the Guildhall stands. In the same part of the town there is an early and largely unchanged but functioning cinema and the modern Arden Theatre, named after Arden of Feversham, a domestic drama set in the town's Abbey Street. All the nearby streets feature old pubs, almshouses, shops and a growing collection of art galleries and restaurants.
Old sail-powered Thames barges are repaired, rebuilt and moored along the creekside and the works of local artists is revealed in open houses linked to the Canterbury Festival each autumn.
The years during the First World War saw an uncertain time for the breweries. In the first instance, the scarcity of labour soon became evident from 1915, as a number of employees turned to offers of higher wages elsewhere, including the local ammunitions works. The explosion at the gunpowder works (see below) and subsequent changes in the local economy have, however, meant that Shepherd Neame is now one of the area's more promising industries despite a decline in consumption of traditional bitter beer. It now also makes Indian and other beers under licence and, in common with many other "gastro-pubs", its largely Kentish pub franchise is as noted for its food as its owner's beers, following trends in food consumption and drink-driving laws. It is both one of the most profitable breweries in Britain and also claims to be its oldest.
By contrast, the munition industry in the area is now extinct and the part of the Oare Marshes where the 1916 gunpowder explosion (see below) took place is now even more isolated and has been an important reserve for birds, attracting binocular-toting enthusiasts to view the many species of migrants. There is an interesting information centre (as well as other bird hides) near the site of the former Harty ferry over the Swale to the Isle of Sheppey.
Faversham has a rigorous approach to exploring its past — it has a highly active archaeological society and a series of community archaeology projects are run every year. Most recently, evidence of the town’s medieval tannery was unearthed in back gardens of one street, and evidence from the Saxon period was uncovered during the Hunt the Saxons project in 2005.
Faversham was the cradle of the UK’s explosives industry: it was also to become one of its main centres. The first gunpowder plant was established in the 16th century, possibly at the instigation of Faversham Abbey. With their estates and endowments monasteries were keen to invest in promising technology.
The town was well-placed for the industry. It had a stream which could be dammed at intervals to provide power for watermills. On its outskirts were low-lying areas ideal for the culture of alder and willow to provide charcoal — one of the three key gunpowder ingredients. The stream fed into a tidal Creek where sulfur, another key ingredient, could be imported, and the finished product loaded for dispatch to Thames-side magazines. The port was also near the Continent where in warfare demand for the product was brisk.
The first factories were small, near the town, and alongside the stream, between the London-Dover road (now A2) and the head of the creek. By the early 18th century these had coalesced into a single plant, later to be known as the Home Works, as it was the town’s first. In 1759 the British government nationalised the works, upgrading all the machinery. From this phase dates the Chart Gunpowder Mill, the oldest of its kind in the world. This was rescued from the jaws of the bulldozer, and then restored, by the Faversham Society in 1966. (It is now open to the public on weekend and bank holiday afternoons from April till the end of October.)
A second factory was started by Huguenot asylum-seekers, towards the end of the 17th century, and became known as the Oare Works. It became a leading supplier to the East India Company. The third and last gunpowder factory to open was the Marsh Works, built by the British government 1 km northwest of the town to augment output at its Home Works and opened in 1787. This also had access to the sea via Oare Creek.
All three gunpowder factories shut in 1934. ICI, then the owners, sensed that war might break out with Germany, and realised that Faversham would then become vulnerable to air attacks or possibly invasion. They transferred production, together with key staff and machinery, to Ardeer in Ayrshire, Scotland.
Guncotton, the first “high explosive”, more useful for its destructive powers, was invented by Dr Christian Schonbein, of the University of Basel, in 1846. It was first manufactured, under licence from him, at Faversham’s Marsh Works in 1847. The manufacturing process was not fully understood and on 14 July 1847 a serious explosion killed 18 staff, only 10 of whose bodies could be identified. Discretion being the better part of valour, the factory owners shut the plant. Guncotton was not made again in Faversham till 1873, when the Cotton Powder Company, independent of the gunpowder factories, opened a factory on a remote new site. Near Uplees, about 4km northwest of the town centre but still within the parish, this was alongside the Swale, the deep-water channel that divides mainland Kent from the Isle of Sheppey. Deliveries of raw materials — cotton waste and sulphuric and nitric acids — could readily be made, and the product readily dispatched by water.
The factory rapidly expanded, producing new high explosives as they were formulated. Adjoining it, on the west, in 1913 an associate venture, the Explosives Loading Company, built a plant to fill bombs and shells. Both plants were high-tech, with a power station, hydraulic mains, and internal telephone and tramway systems. Together they occupied an area of 500 acres (2km²) — almost as large as the City of London.
When the First World War started in 1914, the two factories were requisitioned by the Admiralty and armed guards were mounted. Production facilities were further expanded and many new staff recruited from Faversham and elsewhere in east Kent. Road access for the workers was poor, so the Admiralty built a metre-gauge railway to transport them from a terminus at Davington, near the Home Works, to Uplees.
On Sunday 2 April 1916, a store of TNT and ammonium nitrate (used to “stretch” the TNT) exploded. More than 100 staff were killed in this explosion and in other “sympathetic” ones that followed. It was a Sunday, so no women were at work (see below).
The owners of both Swale-side factories closed permanently in 1919. The Davington light railway track was lifted, and its three steam locomotives found new homes in South America, where at least one is thought to survive.
However, in 1924 a new venture, the Mining Explosives Company, opened a factory on the east side of Faversham Creek, not far from the site of Faversham Abbey — hence its Abbey Works name. Its Mexco telegraphic address led to it being known as “The Mexico” by local people. After a fatal accident in 1939 the proprietors decided to abandon the manufacture of high explosives and instead make an explosive-substitute based on a large reusable steel cartridge filled with carbon dioxide. The premises still needed to be licensed under the 1875 Explosives Act, as gunpowder was used in the initiator. Under the name Long Airdox, production continues today. Unusually, the company is owned by its main customers. Its appearance is still that of a traditional high explosive factories, with small buildings widely spaced for safety. It has one of the UK’s few surviving manumotive railways.
The Great Explosion at Faversham
At 2.20pm on Sunday 2 April 1916, a huge explosion ripped through the gunpowder mill at Uplees, near Faversham, when 200 tons of TNT ignited. The blast killed 105 people and many were buried in a mass grave at Faversham Cemetery.
The weather might have contributed to the origins of the fire that followed on the morning of Sunday 2 April 1916. The previous month had been wet but had ended with a short dry spell so that by that Sunday the weather was "glorious" ... but provided perfect conditions for heat-generated combustion.
The munitions factory was in a remote spot in the middle of the open marshes of north Kent, next to the Thames coastline, which explains why the great explosion at about noon on 2 April was heard across the Thames estuary as far away as Norwich, Great Yarmouth and Southend-on-Sea, where domestic windows were blown out and two large plate-glass shop windows shattered.
The East Kent Gazette of Sittingbourne reported the explosion on 29 April. Although recognising the need for some censorship, it referred to the reply given in Parliament to the question as "mystifying and ambiguous" and called for the fullest precautions to be implemented to "prevent another calamity of the kind" occurring again.
Although not the first such disaster of this kind to have happened at Faversham’s historic munitions works, the April 1916 blast is recorded as "the worst ever in the history of the UK explosives industry", and yet the full picture is still somewhat confused. The reason for the fire is uncertain and considering the quantity of explosive chemical stored at the works — with one report indicating that a further 3,000 tons remained in nearby sheds unaffected — it is remarkable, and a tribute to those who struggled against the fire that so much of the nation's munitions were prevented from contributing further to the catastrophe.
The Secretary of State for War, Earl Kitchener, had in 1914 written to the management of the CPC, and it is presumed the ELC, instructing the workforce on "the importance of the government work upon which they (were) engaged". "I should like all engaged by your company to know that it is fully recognised that they, in carrying out the great work of supplying munitions of war, are doing their duty for their King and Country, equally with those who have joined the Army for active service in the field," Kitchener said.
The sites today
The Marsh Works then became a site for mineral extraction, as it remains today, and almost all its buildings were destroyed. Except for Chart Mill, Stonebridge Pond, and a few other buildings, most of the Home Works site was redeveloped for housing in the 1960s.
The Oare Works is now an attractive country park, open to the public free of charge all year round. Remains of process houses have been carefully conserved. From an informative visitor centre, signed trails radiate in various directions. An early 20th century electric-powered gunpowder mill which was transferred to Ardeer in 1934 has been repatriated and is on display. The 18th-century works bell has also been repatriated and is on display at Faversham’s Fleur de Lis Heritage Centre. With their streams, watermills and forest trees planted to minimise blast damage in the event of an accident, all traditional gunpowder factories were places of beauty, even during their working lives, and this one is no exception.
The shipyard: James Pollock & Sons (Shipbuilders)
The shipyard was established in Faversham by James Pollock & Sons (Shipbuilders) in 1916 at the request of Lord Fisher, the First Lord of The Admiralty. Faversham already had a tradition of shipbuilding, and it soon became a major contributor to markets throughout the world. Vessels such as the Molliette and the Violette both constructed of concrete were the forerunners to over 1200 ships built and launched from Faversham between 1916 and 1969.
Faversham holds the record for the highest temperature ever recorded in the UK. 38.5C (101.3F) was recorded at the Brogdale Horticultural Trust on 10 August 2003.
The text on this HISTORY page is covered by the following licence
Local history article covering the creek:
The pubs at Harty Ferry, Hollowshore and Oare have already been mentioned.
Faversham itself being a small town offers a reasonable choice for eating out and drinking. It should be mentioned the local independent brewer produces some notable ales, popular over a wide area.
A couple of links are provided below for further investigation: