The Lone and Level Sands


'It was Conrad's always offshore view that the estuaries of rivers appeal strongly to an adventurous imagination, yet he knew that 'their appeal is not always a charm'. Mudflats, after all, are austere and grim-looking places, and low sandbanks are not always improved by their 'shabby and scanty vegetation'. And yet Conrad insisted that the 'dispiriting ugliness' of an estuary was sometimes only a 'repulsive mask', and rarely more so than on the Thames, which was less built up, and therefore open to more 'romance' than any other commercial British river.

The estuary shore is littered with relics of the imperial history that Conrad knew, and of a long-running drama of invasion and defence that extended up through the Second World War. But nowadays, this history seems strangely disconnected from the present. Indeed, in our time, the romance of the estuary lies in the experience of coming across your own history and realizing, whether with sadness, bewilderment, or an unexpected sense of relief, that it consists so largely of voids, hulks and ruins.'


Currently reading the excellent 'The River, The Thames in Our Time' by Patrick Wright





7 comments:

zmkc said...

Where's that photograph from? I like it.

worm said...

I just found it on google images! Im pretty sure that its a photo of the isle of grain

Gaw said...

We've turned our backs on the Thames estuary as its commercial and logistical importance has declined into insignificance. We now tend to look west to Heathrow or south to the Channel when we think of the country's front door, so to speak. The estuary is literally a backwater.

worm said...

...but that's what makes it so great gaw! what a shame that it will soon all be consumed by crap hosing estates.

I was also most upset when they decided to get rid of all the dereliction along the river lea to build the olympic village

Gaw said...

Yeah, nothing wrong with backwaters.

Susan said...

oo something close to home - must read that, thanks! I jogged along the river this morning when the tide was right out. An enormous log (more like a whole tree) had washed up on the slipway. Makes a nice change from the shopping trolleys.

Kevin Musgrove said...

The sound of distant curlew and, if you're lucky, brent geese and the very occasional passing launch. Big skies and the reminder that you've not so much to be cocky about after all.

Cold brown mudflats are what distinguish the Anglo-Saxon nations.