Tilbury Circular

I’ve barely picked up a camera in the last few weeks. Various personal and professional preoccupations have taken up my time. So when a free Sunday finally presented itself, I didn’t hesitate to seize the opportunity.

I’ve spent many minutes staring at Google Maps, zooming in and around the places within range of my house, considering where to go. I have explored the Thames Estuary pretty extensively over the past decade. I like its open spaces, its coastal stretches, its mix of industrial and agricultural land use, and its unexpected tranquility. On Sunday, I realised that I had not visited Tilbury for some time so I readied a picnic and hit the road.

This excursion was primarily for exercise and relaxation, not photos. That in mind, I designed a circular walk beginning at Tilbury Fort, walking north-east towards Coalhouse Fort and returning along the coast, past Tilbury Power Station. 10 miles or so, in all (no Gordon GPS tracking service on this walk, unfortunately). The stretch out to Coalhouse Fort was along roads and, though traffic was sporadic, not especially enjoyable or interesting.

The weather was the archetypal mix of sunshine and showers, borne swiftly by a lively westerly. The sky was full of massive, dramatic cloud formations, dominating the horizontal landscape. A couple of sharp downpours demonstrated the utility and effectiveness of the thinkTANK Retrospective 5‘s waterproof cover.

Things got more interesting when I reached the coast at Coalhouse Fort. The outlook towards Grain is incredibly minimal, punctuated only by passing container ships. Such views are captured in early Mondrian landscapes, Fenland images and photographs such as (the now notorious) Rhein II by Andreas Gursky. These apparently featureless views, unimpeded by buildings, connect with us emotionally. Their sense of space, perhaps a relief and contrast from our urban lives – or echo of our pre-industrial existence – seems to induce contemplation.


The final leg of the walk, west towards Tilbury Power Station, was unremarkable. As I approached the power station itself, I recalled Gordon and I’s previous visit and anticipated an meaningless encounter with a private security guard at any moment. Happily, this didn’t occur – maybe the rain kept him inside his control room. This section of coastal path – with its mix of graffiti, lush vegetation and industrial buildings – is interesting photographically. It’s an ideal location to consult the excellent SunCalc or LightTrac when planning a shoot, and I plan to return to this area specifically with that in mind.

Click here to see a small gallery selection from the trip.