The Albert Dock, Salthouse Dock, Canning Dock, Princes Dock, Wapping Dock, Queens Dock and the Coburg Dock – today it’s time to go fishing for water! Andreas armed with the Sonde portable water quality sampling equipment and I with camera and clipboard – save for the want of white lab-coats we would look quite official. So we think but not so to the ever vigilant Port security officials – we are quizzed by a burly buzz-cut fellow with a tell-tail spiral cable falling from his ear. Asked if we have permission we smile and say no, asked what we would do if Andre fell in with all the gear, we say we would take a great photo! At least the guy had a sense of humour!
We move off but resume our sampling work as soon as the official disappears, we must look more convincing to the next chap as he is very pleased to see us and wishes us luck with our research! If it was ten degrees warmer I would fancy a dip in the Albert Dock, the water looks surprisingly clear and the dock walls support a profusion of marine life, principally large Mussels much favoured by immature Herring Gulls who pluck them off and litter the pontoons with the empty shells. Later I discover that the Dock water is tested every two weeks and is of Swimmable quality.
We sample along the narrow-boat pontoons in the Salthouse dock and chat with the barge owners, proud of their craft and the heritage of industrial revolution waterways. They are a direct and friendly bunch who unanimously agree that the waterways are radically improved over the past twenty years. It is clearly evident that Britain’s post-industrial condition and the transition from primary industry to a service economy has bought tangible environmental benefits. One could say that Thatcher’s confrontation with the Mining unions that destroyed a major part of working class culture and an entire industry in one fell swoop has ironically set the pre-conditions allowing country to move away from a Carbon based economy!