River adventures - water way to spend a day!

The River Medway is one of our most treasured assets and visitors are spoiled for choice when it comes to getting out on the water.

Visit Medway’s Helen Steel and Harriet Smith joined two different sightseeing river trips to enjoy Medway from a unique vantage point, getting up close to some surprising landmarks along the way.

*Both tours took place in line with Coronavirus restrictions at the time.

Chris and Paul aboard the Red2Red RIB

Magnificent Medway Tour and RIB Experience with Red2Red

I love the water and no holiday for me is complete without a boat trip. So when I discovered you could experience the thrills and spills of a speed boat trip on the River Medway, I couldn’t wait to try it!

It is a glorious, sunny day as we arrive at Gillingham Marina, where the sights and sounds of glistening, tranquil waters and the gentle rattling of masts and riggings instantly transport me to the South of France.

 

We are met by Paul and Chris, the crew of the Red2Red RIB (rigid inflatable boat) who are to skipper our tour along the river. After a quick safety briefing we don our lifejackets and climb carefully aboard.

The Magnificent Medway Tour is just of the charter tours and experiences offered by Red2Red and gives you a close up view of 400 years of history. It also showcases the more modern side of Medway, including Chatham Maritime, St Mary’s Island and other riverside regeneration projects.   

First we head west towards Chatham, getting a great view of the historic warships at the Dockyard and the dry dock where Nelson’s flagship HMS Victory was built. You also get a real feel for the size of the mighty Ropery Building, as well as the Copper Rivet Distillery, built in the former Victorian pump house.

In this part of the river the speeds are restricted, so you have time to enjoy the landmarks at a gentler pace, and the Paul and Chris have plentiful knowledge to impart and stories to tell.

A jet boarder passes by

The Russian submarine

The floating hotel barge

We continue on towards Rochester, passing under the famous Rochester Bridge before mooring up in the shadow of Rochester Castle and Cathedral to enjoy a delicious picnic supplied by the crew, complete with homemade paté, local cheeses and some wonderful brownies.  As we bob about on the water, we even see a man zoom past on a motorised jet board and some rowers row serenely past.

Suitably fed and watered, we return back along river, where we are immediately confronted by the eerie site of the abandoned Black Widow Russian submarine which has found its way to our waters.

And if that isn’t strange enough, the waters at Rochester are also home to a decommissioned Dutch Navy accommodation barge and a derelict floating night club barge that has floated down the river from London. What an experience to get right up to these aquatic landmarks.

 

Back to the more traditional sights, we pass by Upnor Castle. From the water you get to see some of the writing on the walls of the former gunpowder stores – something you wouldn’t get to see from a land visit.

As we head further east, the excitement levels mount. I know we’re approaching the freedom of more open water ahead in the estuary, where the adrenaline-fueled RIB Experience can begin.

The boat heads downriver, taking us up close to the Napoleonic Forts that remain in the estuary, to the strangely deserted islands, accessible only to brave kayakers, and to the imposing industrial cranes on the Hoo Peninsula.

Up close to the forts on the estuary

"I'm flying!"

We are then told to hold on tight – it’s time to get up some speed! We bolted the Adrenaline Experience onto the end of our trip. It was truly exhilarating - the wind pummelling our faces and the waves crashing around us. I can’t stop smiling and squealing with excitement.

As the sun begin to set, it’s time to ease our way back to the marina, but not before I head to the front of the boat to pose for a Kate Winslet-style pic.

It has been one of the best afternoons in a very long time. What a memorable way to experience Medway.

Red2Red tours are due to resume from the end of March for bubbles, gradually opening up to groups of 6 as lockdown restrictions ease. For more information, prices and booking information visit www.red2red.info

The Jacob Marley passing Upnor Castle

The Jetstream Tour ferry

A Cruise to Southend with Jetstream Tours

What to do in a semi-restricted half-term that satisfies the family tweenager and teenager?  I had a lightbulb moment when I saw the Jetstream Tours daytrip to Southend advertised knowing it could be sold as an adrenaline trip to Adventure Island.

It was a relatively early start to the day leaving Sun Pier at 9am, but the teenagers seemed to have reverted back to children in their sense of excitement upon boarding the ferry, aptly named Jacob Marley.  The captain welcomed us aboard and gave a comprehensive safety briefing before setting sail.

Social distancing measures had been carefully thought through and it was obvious that the ferry (although fully-booked) was not running to its usual pre-covid capacity. The facilities onboard were well-equipped and I noticed my husband eyeing up the bar and the Whitstable Bay for the return trip.  But for now, we settled for tea and biscuits.

The beginning of the journey took us past the Command House, Gun Wharf, Historic Dockyard and Upnor Castle until the river widened ahead and into the Estuary.

 

Hoo Fort in the Medway Estuary

Passing the wreck of the Richard Montgomery

Upnor Castle by night

Trips are also available to the WWII Redsands Towers

Throughout the journey the captain shared his enthusiastic love of the river with very interesting stories and facts. 

I was happy to just sit back, enjoy the views and listen, the younger crew were happy to be out on deck soaking up the fresh air whilst subliminally having a history lesson.  They particularly like the tales about ‘Dead Man’s Island’ (just off the coast of Hoo), skeletons and pirates.

The journey was just about the right amount of time before we found dry land at Southend.  Southend itself had plenty to occupy everyone - we walked the world’s longest pier, popped into Jamie’s and Jimmy’s Friday Night Dinner café, visited the RNLI museum, rode the Adventure Island roller coasters and had fish and chips for tea.

The tide times dictated our early departure and it was time for the off. 

The captain announced a special treat for the way home; he was going to take us up close and personal to SS Richard Montgomery, a sunken Second World War vessel containing 1,400 tonnes of high explosives!  The sun was now beginning to set and the rusted masts of the wrecked ship could be clearly seen above the water, as could the marked-out danger zone!

There was something quite eerie enjoying the final stretch of the journey out on deck in the drizzle and the star of the show was most certainly Upnor Castle at night.  It looked truly magnificent lit up and standing proud on the river, a sight that can only usually be seen from St Mary’s Island.

We all alighted the ferry with windblown hair, red cheeked and smiles on our faces.

Join Jetstream Tours this summer for its first socially-distanced cruise to Redsand Towers, which departs from Chatham on 20 May 2021. See website for tickets and information.