Sir Simon Jenkins visits North Kent

The threat to the second-most popular yachting centre in the UK, from becoming concreted over as Heathrow-on-Sea, is now being backed by none other than the National Trust…well anyway the trust’s chairman, Sir Simon Jenkins.

The well-respected journalist, author and editor is one of the few newspaper columnists who has genuine contacts among the movers and shakers of the land, so this is bad news for those people, who, like me, are viscerally opposed to such a development.

Writing in the Tory-leaning London Evening Standard, Mr Jenkins, confesses the Thames Estuary is an ‘unknown territory’ to him. To correct this he tells us he has made a ‘tour’ of the area and discovers it has’pockets of charm, a few fishing villages… an old church here and there…and acres of mud and marsh.’

This, therefore makes it the best location for another airport as siting it instead by enlarging the tarmac across the manicured lawns around Gatwick and Stanstead or building a third runway at Heathrow would cause more harm to more people.

He is not wrong there. But I would argue that what the citizens of the overcrowded South-East of England need more than the ability to fly to exotic wildernesses is to have one on their doorstep.

The whole area of the Thames Estuary is a breath of fresh air, in every sense of the phrase, to walkers, dog-lovers,cyclists, hikers, ramblers, anglers and boat users. It’s all free, there’s miles of it, and it’s dripping in history.

The fact that it comprises ‘marginal farms, oil terminals, and squatter settlements’ is partly what keeps it a wilderness: there’s not a uniformed English Heritage subscription-seller in sight.

My advice to any Londoner is take a day-return from Liverpool Street to Colchester; Fenchurch Street to Leigh-on-Sea – where I live – or London Bridge to Faversham and start walking. See for yourself what Mr Jenkins and your Mayor, Boris Johnson, want you to lose.