Coordinates: 51°30′N 0°35′E / 51.500°N 0.583°E / 51.500; 0.583

The Thames Estuary

Satellite image of the Thames Estuary
taken by the Operational Land Imager.

Aerial view of the Blackwater Estuary, on the Essex
coast, in the northern part of the Greater Thames Estuary. Mersea Island
Mersea Island
is on the right.

View of the upper Thames estuary from Tilbury
to Mucking Creek looking north from Shorne, which is 4 kilometres south of the river.

The Thames Estuary
is the estuary in which the River Thames
River Thames
meets the waters of the North Sea, in the south-east of Great Britain. It is not easy to define the limits of the estuary.[1] Although physically the head of Sea Reach or the Kent
/ Essex
Strait, south of Canvey Island
Canvey Island
on the northern (Essex) shore presents a western boundary, the Tideway
itself can be considered estuarine; it starts in south-west London
at Teddington/Ham. The Nore
is a sandbank at the mouth of the estuary, between Havengore Creek, Essex, and Warden Point, Kent. The eastern boundary of the estuary suggested in a Hydrological Survey of 1882-9 is a line drawn from North Foreland, Margate, Kent
via the Kentish Knock lighthouse to Harwich
in Essex. It is to this line that the typical estuarine sandbanks extend.[2] The estuary downstream of the Tideway
has a tidal movement of 4 metres, moving at a speed of 8 miles per hour.[citation needed] The estuary is one of the largest of 170 such inlets on the coast of Great Britain. It constitutes a major shipping route: its thousands of movements each year include large oil tankers, container ships, bulk carriers and roll-on/roll-off (ro-ro) ferries entering the estuary for the Port of London
Port of London
and the Medway Ports of Sheerness, Chatham and Thamesport. The traditional Thames sailing barge
Thames sailing barge
worked in this area, designed to be suitable for the shallow waters in the smaller ports. More recently one of the largest wind farms in the UK has been developed in the estuary, located 8.5 km north of Herne Bay, Kent. The farm contains 30 wind turbines generating a total of 82.4MW of electricity. The much larger London Array
London Array
of up to 1GW capacity is also planned. This area has had several proposed sites for the building of a new airport to supplement, or even to replace Heathrow/Gatwick. In the 1960s Maplin Sands
Maplin Sands
was a contender; in 2002 it was to be at Cliffe, Kent. The new airport would be built on a man-made island in the estuary north of Minster-in-Sheppey
[3] There is also some discussion about the need for a Lower Thames Crossing
Lower Thames Crossing
in order to alleviate traffic congestion at Dartford. The Thames Estuary
is the focal part of the 21st-century toponym, the "Thames Gateway", designated as one of the principal development areas in Southern England.


1 Greater Thames Estuary 2 Salinity 3 Cultural references 4 References

Greater Thames Estuary[edit] The appellation Greater Thames Estuary[4] applies to the coast and the low-lying lands bordering the estuary itself. These are characterised by the presence of mudflats, low-lying open beaches and salt marshes, namely the North Kent
Marshes and the Essex
Marshes. Man-made embankments are backed by reclaimed wetland grazing areas, but Rising sea levels may make it necessary to temporarily flood some of that land in places at spring tides, to take the pressure off the defences. There are many smaller estuaries in Essex, including the Rivers Colne, Blackwater and Crouch. Small coastal villages depend on an economy of fishing, boat-building, and yachting.[5] The Isle of Sheppey, Foulness Island and Mersea Island
Mersea Island
are part of the coastline Where higher land reaches the coast there are some larger settlements, such as Clacton-on-Sea
to the north in Essex, Herne Bay, Kent, and the Southend-on-Sea
area within the narrower part of the estuary Salinity[edit] The River Thames
River Thames
flowing through London
is a classic river estuary, with sedimentary deposition restricted through manmade embankments. The district of Teddington
a few miles south-west of London's centre marks the boundary between the tidal and non-tidal parts of the Thames, although it is still considered a freshwater river about as far east as Battersea
insofar as the average salinity is very low and the fish fauna consists predominantly of freshwater species such as roach, dace, carp, perch, and pike. The Thames Estuary
becomes brackish between Battersea
and Gravesend, and the diversity of freshwater fish species present is smaller, primarily roach and dace, euryhaline marine species such as flounder, European seabass, mullet, and smelt become much more common. Further east, the salinity increases and the freshwater fish species are completely replaced by euryhaline marine ones, until the river reaches Gravesend, at which point conditions become fully marine and the fish fauna resembles that of the adjacent North Sea
North Sea
and includes both euryhaline and stenohaline marine species. A similar pattern of replacement can be observed with the aquatic plants and invertebrates living in the river.[6][7] Cultural references[edit] Joseph Conrad
Joseph Conrad
lived in Stanford-le-Hope
close to the Essex
marshes. His The Mirror of the Sea (1906) contains a memorable description of the area as seen from the Thames. It is also described in the first pages of Conrad's Heart of Darkness, as both the launching place of England's great ships of exploration and colonization and, in ancient times, the site of colonization of the British Isles by the Roman Empire.


Main article: Estuary
English See also: English in southern England The form of speech of many of the people of the area, principally the accents of those from Kent
and Essex, is often known as Estuary English. The term is a term for a milder variety of the "London Accent". The spread of Estuary
English extends many hundreds of miles outside London
and all of the neighbouring home counties around London have residents who moved from London
and brought their version of London
accents with them leading to interference with the established local accents. The term London
Accent is generally avoided as it can have many meanings. Forms of " Estuary
English" as a hybrid between Received pronunciation
Received pronunciation
and various London
accents can be heard in all of the New Towns, all of the coastal resorts and in the larger cities and towns along the Thames Estuary. References[edit] Notes

^ "81. Greater Thames Estuary". Countryside Agency. Archived from the original on 27 February 2006. Retrieved 2 March 2013.  ^ "Thames Estuary
Passages" (PDF). the Cruising Almanac. Archived from the original (PDF) on 29 February 2008. Retrieved 2 March 2013.  ^ "The Thames Estuary
Airport Ltd". Retrieved 2012-03-18.  ^ "The Thames Estuary
Partnership". 2012-02-07. Retrieved 2012-03-18.  ^ "English Nature and the Greater Thames Estuary". Retrieved 2012-03-18.  ^ The River Thames
River Thames
- its geology, geography and vital statistics from source to sea, ^ The River Thames
River Thames
- its natural history

v t e

River Thames, England


Gloucestershire Wiltshire Oxfordshire Berkshire Buckinghamshire Greater London Surrey Kent Essex


Thames Head


Thames Estuary


Ashton Keynes Cricklade Castle Eaton Lechlade Oxford Abingdon Wallingford Goring-on-Thames Reading Henley-on-Thames Marlow Maidenhead Windsor Eton Staines-upon-Thames Weybridge London Dartford Gravesend Tilbury Canvey Island Southend-on-Sea

Major tributaries

Churn Leach Cole Coln Windrush Evenlode Cherwell Ock Thame Pang Kennet Loddon Colne Wey Mole Brent Wandle Effra Westbourne Fleet Ravensbourne (Deptford Creek) Lea Darent Ingrebourne

Major crossings

Crossing Blackwall Tunnel Rotherhithe Tunnel Thames Tunnel Tower Bridge London
Bridge Millennium Bridge Blackfriars Bridge

Hungerford Bridge Westminster Bridge Teddington
Lock Staines Bridge Windsor Bridge Maidenhead
Railway Bridge Marlow Bridge Folly Bridge (all)

Longest UK rivers

Severn Thames Trent Great Ouse Wye Ure/Ouse Tay Spey Clyde Tweed Avon N