In 1986 Correlli Barnett wrote The Audit of War. he believed that war speeds up innovation. Obviously not every innovation is successful and some look ridiculous in the cold light of day.1 Barnett’s said the stresses of war creates an atmosphere where creative people can ‘think the unthinkable’ and they get an influential audience. Havering’s concrete barges, which are rotting adjacent to the Rainham Riverside Thames path are a wonderful example of bizarre innovation. “They are the remains of concrete, iron rod-enforced ships from World War II. Despite appearances, they are lighter than the water they displace, and so can float.”2
The Americans developed concrete ships but ours’ were barges meant to transport material across the Channel for D-Day. They were invented to overcome a dangerous shortages of steel, which was used for strategically important munitions.
The Rainham Riverside walk starts at a small car park and the concrete barges are adjacent on the edge of the Thames. These 16 historical curiosities are part of Havering’s heritage. If you continue walking eastwards (towards QE2 bridge) you reach the RSPB reserve, which has a visitor’s centre, cafe and fascinating wildlife with accessible paths and viewing points.3 This is an easy walk but there aren’t many benches.
1 An aircraft carrier made from a mixture of wood pulp and ice is certainly innovative but??? See Project Habakkuk – Wikipedia
2 See Thames History at Rainham (londonriversidebid.co.uk) See also the excellent blog Rainham Marsh Concrete Barges – Beyond the Point and also 16 Ships Made Of Concrete, Hiding In The Thames | Londonist
3 untitled (rspb.org.uk) This shows you the circular walks which are available