For centuries this was “The Navy’s” river. The large bases at Chatham and Sheerness are history now, but the dockyard buildings and the even older forts at Folly Point and Darnett Ness can still be seen.
For the yachtsman, the Medway offers excellent sailing in the lower reaches where, on the southern side, there are quiet anchorages in settings that can have changed little since the Romans established their potteries in the area. During the Napoleonic and Revolutionary wars, the river was used to moor the prison hulks. The curious can still find relics from both these periods – even though they were separated by over 1000 years.
The river is navigable by quite large vessels for some 13 miles from its mouth at Sheerness to Rochester where the headroom under the bridge is 9.1 metres (40 feet) at LWS, with 3ft. depth of water.
The tide flows for a further 12 miles to Allington Lock, one mile above the low arched bridge at Aylsford. Headroom is 9ft 6” at HWS. Then, for a further 17 miles, the river winds through the pleasant country to Maidstone and Tonbridge – with eleven locks on the way. Craft drawing 2m can reach Maidstone while those drawing 1.2m can reach Tonbridge. Maximum length is 18m and beam 4.5m.