chatham reach - sun pier
  • Date: 18th September 2021 - 19th September 2021
  • Every day
  • Location: Sun Pier House, Medway Street, Chatham ME4 4HF
  • Time: 10:00 - 16:00
  • Cost: Free

In partnership with Sun Pier House and Tiller and Wheel, this festival with a country fayre atmosphere will focus on the heritage of the river and vessels.

We’ll be remembering the history of Sun Pier as a hub of river life coinciding with the second weekend of Heritage Open Days.

Located alongside and on Sun Pier in Chatham, which is currently the only available public river access point in Medway, we will celebrate with:

  • Steam Tug Barking offering free ship tours
  • Free sailing trips on board Sailing Barge Edith May
  • Sailing Barge Blue Mermaid offering free tours and demonstrations
  • A Whitstable Oyster Smack attending on display
  • Jetstream Tours attending with ‘Jacob Marley’, running short river excursions
  • Free history walks, covering the wharfs and west end of Chatham High Street
  • Live music throughout the day, including sea shanties and folk music
  • Have-a-go activities for all to try and learn about river vessels
  • Demonstrations of traditional river skills
  • Costumed characters
  • An arts market, local produce and food stalls
  • Exhibitions inside The Riverside Gallery at Sun Pier House, inspired by local history
  • Drop in family friendly art workshops
  • Traditional carnival games for all ages.

Seeing Medway from the river is without doubt its most beautiful viewpoint.

Ticketed activities 

Chatham’s West End History Walk

On this walk you’ll learn about the Empire Theatre, Theatre Royal, the Great Fires of Chatham, Sun Pier and the river industries of Chatham Intra.

Taking place at 10:30am and 2:30pm each day, book your free place.

River trips on Sailing Barges Edith May and Repertor

Free 80-minute sailing experience on board a traditional Thames sailing barge. Please note, trips must be booked in advance. 

Book your sailing now.

On board tours

Steam Tug Barking and Thames Barge Blue Mermaid will be static on the pontoon at Sun Pier, offering free tours of the ship - the tours will be bookable on the day from a stall placed on the Pier (limited capacity per tour). 

More about the Blue Mermaid:

Blue Mermaid is the first full size Thames Sailing Barge to be built since 1930. She is a faithful replica of a barge of the same name, which was one of the last Thames Barges ever built and was sunk by a mine during World War II with the loss of her crew. She was commissioned in 2019 by Sea-Change Sailing Trust, a charity based in Maldon, Essex. Sea-Change Sailing Trust offers residential voyages for young people and vulnerable adults.

It is unique in its field in the UK because its approach concentrates on high quality personal support and training with on-going mentoring, entrenching the development of small groups of students for the long term rather than limiting the experience to time spent aboard. It enables support to be offered to participants once they have returned home from a programme and sustain them between programmes. As they are often from very disadvantaged backgrounds it is critical in encouraging lasting, positive outcomes that boost confidence and self-esteem. The charity’s bursary scheme ensures that no one is excluded on financial grounds.

Blue Mermaid is also able to offer extended residential programmes through our Youth Sailing Scheme, engaging young trainees with the genuine vocational objective of carrying cargo. As a traditional Thames Sailing Barge, she does not have an engine and is able to transport the equivalent of up to six articulated lorry loads in a low carbon environment.

River trips aboard Jacob Marley

Take a one hour cruise from Chatham (Sun Pier).

Jetstream Tours will be operating a special one hour cruise taking in the sights of the river Medway.

Join us as we pass by some of Medway’s historic landmarks including:

  • Rochester Castle
  • Chatham Dockyard
  • Upnor.

Tours are fully commentated, with toilets on board and refreshments available to buy.

Book a place on the Jacob Marley cruise.

Music programme

Saturday 18 September

  • 11am to 11.45am: Argyle (young folk rock band from East Kent)
  • 12 to 12.40pm: Rachel Lowrie (Medway singer/songwriter)
  • 1pm to 1.45pm: Sea Folk Sing (Idea’s Test acclaimed choir project)
  • 2 to 3pm: Hobo & The Hippies (young folk rock band)
  • 3.20pm to 4pm: Skinner Rats (traditional folk duo)

Sunday 19 September

  • 11am to 11.45am: Lowly Strung (brilliant Bluegrass)  
  • 12 to 12.40pm: Silver Darlings (all female shanty group from Essex)
  • 1pm to 1.45pm: The Flowing (innovative Medway Indie Folk)
  • 2pm to 2.40pm: Thomas Abrahams (virtuoso guitarist)
  • 3pm to 4pm: Banter (superbly entertaining English folk trio)


We are 10 minutes' walk from Chatham Train Station, 5 minutes from Chatham Bus Station and the nearest public car park is Sir John Hawkins located on Waterfront Way, Chatham ME4 4JL

Keeping you safe

Keeping our staff and visitors safe is paramount. Therefore, we have ensured our events adhere to the current government advice, including regular enhanced cleaning. However, we ask you take notice of the following:

  • If you have symptoms of COVID-19, please do not come to the event, and take a PCR test immediately,
  • As this event is outside, face coverings are optional, however please respect those wearing them,
  • Wash your hands regularly - hand sanitiser stations will be available.
Boat along river medway


People standing in a circle listening to man talking about rochester


boat sailing along river medway


Image credits: Rikard Osterlund, Alison Lewis and Heather Burgess. 

old picture of rochester high street