Walk along the shorelines of the river Medway or Thames and you'll most certainly be greeted with the sorrowful, wretched sight of decaying barges. For centuries these proud little vessels sailed their cargoes into the Port of London, along the Kent and Essex coasts, further around the country and over to the continent.
Everything and anything was transported. Coal, grain, sand, hay, bricks, gunpowder and rubbish were mainstay cargoes, with plenty of contraband going under the radar too. Thames barges are the best known but don't forget the others; brick barges, cement barges, grain barges, coastal barges, cut barges and North Sea barges, all plied their trades around our waters.
At certain times of the year on the Thames and Medway, you can witness the 'matches'. Started in 1863, barges would sail upstream from Erith then back on the tide using the currents only. Later, use of engines meant immediate disqualification. The matches have a chequered history but are said to be the world's second oldest sailing competition after the America's Cup.
Although these historic craft (30 barges took part in the Dunkirk rescue) are now abandoned and forgotten, try to navigate the mud and investigate the green and grey skeletons. Bottles and other artefacts have been discovered. Be careful!