An explorer's guide to the islands of Britain

There are some fascinating points of interest on Canvey relating to its role in history and position on the Thames. 

Oil City

Before natural gas was discovered in the North Sea Canvey Island was identified as the centre for landing liquid natural gas from North America. It would have been Britain’s lifeline for energy. Prototype storage tanks and distribution networks were built along with a 1.5 km pier to bring the precious gas from the ships that had just crossed the Atlantic. Today, remnants of this major project remain in a dilapidated but nostalgic state – fulfilling a very important modern day need of providing an undisturbed safe haven for nature. Biodiversity here is equivalent to that of a rainforest. Walking along the south western shoreline gives unique views of the old site, current activity and far-reaching views to the cranes of the Thames Gateway. Here you get a real sense of how important this mighty river is to connecting Britain to the rest of the world as vast tankers and container ships drift by.

Seawall murals

The island’s seawall is painted with murals along much of the south east coast. These depict the essence of island life and the history of Canvey as well as simple phrases and slogans that can sometimes be a bit cryptic for the outsider to understand, such as ‘Canvey is Englands Lourdes’. It’s thought to refer back to the early 1970s and when an ingenious local invented her own tourist attraction. At this time cheap flights to the continent had ended the island’s dream of being the ‘go-to’ seaside resort for Londoners, so a Canvey woman claimed the Virgin Mary appeared in the back garden of her bungalow. For a time the garden became a shrine for the faithful with coachloads of visitors arriving from the east end. The murals also offer a memorial to downed WWII pilots who’s plane crashed into the Thames; and there are scenes depicting the devastating floods of the island in 1953. The murals also play homage to the island’s most famous natives. ‘The best local band in the world’, the legendary 1970’s R&B band, Dr Feelgood.

The Labworth
This is a grade-II-listed art-deco building, now a restaurant, that resembles the bridge of the Queen Mary. This is one of our favourites for breakfast.
The Lobster Smack

The oldest building in Canvey with parts dating back the the 16th century. In its day the inn was notorious for its illegal bare-knuckle fights and was a popular haunt for the island’s smugglers. Today it makes for a welcome break for those walking or cycling the coastal route around the island.

 

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