A trip on the Wild Side on the Stour

Published: Wednesday, 16 August 2017

I HAVE lived in Thanet for nearly 40 years but until today I had never taken a river trip in nearby Sandwich on the Stour, admits Alan Tilbury.

Southern QueenI joined the passenger boat Southern Queen, skippered by Captain Colin for the one hour round trip to Richborough.

Harbour Master

 Colin, who is also Sandwich Harbour Master, started these trips in 1999, regularly going down river on seal spotting trips to Sandwich Bay and up river to the Roman Fort of Richborough or even to the limit of navigation at Fordwich for private hire specials.

Today it was low tide so no need to open the swing bridge in Sandwich. There has been a tolled crossing here since the Midddle Ages. The current bridge was tolled until 1977 and was the most down-stream crossing of the Stour for many years until the Sandwich Bypass opened. Colin says the bridge was opened three times today.

Captain Colin2Two miles from sea

Sandwich was one of the cinque ports and still has many original medieval buildings. While once a major port it is now two miles from the sea due to the disappearance of the Wantsum Channel that made Thanet an Island, a name that still stands today.

In Roman times Richborough or Portus Ritupis was the major British port and the starting point for their equivalent of Watling Street.

Variety of residential boats

GunshipThese days the river is home to a variety of residential vessels from small cabin cruisers, even narrowboats, to huge Dutch barges. According to Captain Colin some boats have been converted to luxury floating apartments, but to be fair there were a number of derelict looking specimens that must have struggled to stay afloat.

Recently relocated to Sandwich from Ramsgate Harbour is the privately owned P22 gunboat that has a starring role in the Dunkirk movie.

In the cold war days the US navy patrolled the River Rhine in Germany with this ship.