Germander Speedwell 

The Shipping News - final piece

THE SHIPPING NEWS, QUEENBOROUGH, WINTER 2012

 

                               Click here to read.

 

This is a word picture of Queenborough Creek and Harbour in the winter of 2012. At this time the town was in the lull of winter and recession (in one week, both a pub and the local steel works closed down) but many things were about to change and regeneration was imminent. Management of the harbour was about to change, and new facilities were to be built in the town, though sadly some older harbourside buildings and workshops were shortly to be demolished.

 

The following notes will help make sense of the content:

Turnstones, those ever-present, charming and watchable winter residents of the harbour foreshore, are referred to throughout this piece, under many names - some old vernacular names from elsewhere in the UK (Ebb-peckers, Tangle-pickers) and some newly made-up by Germander (Stone-turners, Pebble-pushers and Come-back Birds).   Their ‘leading role’ in this piece was inspired by seeing them walking on the water, which was effectively solid with weed, as the tide overtook the shore.  

 

The Go-away Bird is a local name for the Redshank, because of its easily-alarmed nature and warning cry which also alerts and disturbs other waders.   (This name prompted Germander to call the turnstones Come-back Birds, because of their readiness and reliability in returning).

 

The boat and ship names and their movements come from The Shipping News Room project, in which sightings of vessels seen in or from Queenborough Creek and Harbour were collected and updated daily over 2 weeks, with the ships’ movements followed on marine tracking websites, to see how they spread out around the world.  (You can do it yourself at home - see www.marinetraffic.com).

 

The Black Ship is a local nickname for the police RIB boat, because it and its crew are ominously coloured and clothed all in black - bow to stern and head to toe.   The Vigilant is a steam-driven customs cruiser built in 1902, currently moored in disrepair alongside the harbour.  In the Shipping News Room we heard rumours that it was going to be brought up the creek for restoration, and watched eagerly on the high tide for a sighting.  Unfortunately the plans were cancelled as it was simply too long to navigate up the creek.  Sexburga is a rowing gig belonging to Queenborough Rowing Club, named after the Saxon Queen of Kent who founded Minster Abbey.  All the other boats and vessels named have their own fascinating stories too…

 

Trunnel is another name for a tree nail, or wooden nail, used in shipbuilding – these wooden pegs are inserted into holes to act as nails, often also with a wedge of harder wood driven into the middle; as the wood swells it holds the wooden parts of a vessel firmly together.  Spud legs are pole-like legs on certain vessels, such as barges and floating work platforms, which can be lowered to stand on the sea bed in shallow waters, to secure it in a stable position while working.  

 

The place names include some local nicknames, and a couple of new ones made up by Germander:  The Abbott Lab Gap, alongside the pharmaceutical factory, allows a view into the car export terminal at Sheerness Docks.  Pottery Bay, between Chalk Wharf and Rushenden, is a bay littered with remnants of ceramic bathroomware from the former Alfred Johnson and Son Ltd Pottery Works.