Tilbury Fort in the sunshine

There were a couple of destinations on our Historic Buildings in Essex page that we hadn’t got round to visiting, and we’re making inroads into a 2014 resolution to rectify those omissions. Last week we went to Hadleigh Castle when we had some blue skies for the what felt like the first time this year. And today, with similarly blue skies, we headed off to Tilbury Fort, an English Heritage property tucked away on the River Thames in the far south east of the county.

We took a slight detour off the A13 to visit the Rising Sun in Stanford-le-Hope, which has won the CAMRA South-West Essex Pub of the Year Award a couple of times recently. There were four excellent real ales on tap, and the Dengie Dark from Wibbler’s Brewery in Southminster was drop-dead gorgeous. They had quite the biggest big screen I’ve ever seen, from floor to ceiling, which was just about to show some rugby. We popped down to King Street to get some chips!

Back in the car for 10 minutes and we wended our way into deepest Tilbury, past container yards and the passenger ferry terminal, past the World’s End pub, and parked up outside the handsome Water Gate entrance. It’s a huge fort, built in the 17th Century, close to where Elizabeth I famously rallied her troops awaiting the Armada “I know I have the body of a weak, feeble woman; but I have the heart and stomach of a king…”

It was garrisoned until as late as 1950, and is in excellent condition, with plenty to see. There are lots of guns and cannon (some swivel!) and walls to be walked, ammunition stores to be explored, and there’s an exhibition in the officer’s barracks of some quite touching WWI memorabilia (and some scary gas masks!).

There’s a much longer walk around the outskirts of the fort, and it’s dog friendly. There are great views over the Thames to Gravesend, and you can see the roof of the Sikh Temple there. So – plenty to see, great for photographers, great for dogs and for children. Slightly off the beaten track, but very much worth finding it!