People have lived and worked around the estuary for thousands of years. As a result it is rich in both archaeological and historical remains including: Prehistoric droveways, Roman pottery kiln sites, Anglo Saxon fish traps (known as Snowt Weirs), numerous military installations (including Rochester and Upnor castles) and two historic dockyards at Chatham and Sheerness. To the east, Faversham was a major producer of gunpowder from the 16th century and is home Chart gunpowder Mills ( the oldest of its kind in the world). Throughout the 19th and early 20th centuries, the estuary was home numerous cement works and brickfields, producing much what helped build the rapidly expanding suburbs of London.
Today the estuary is of national and international significance, both environmentally and economically. As a major trading route, it is home to several important shipping terminals, handling a wide range of products and raw materials. Since 2005, it has also played a key role in the UK’s energy supply network, with the country’s first Liquified Natural Gas (LNG) terminal situated on the Isle of Grain.
Despite this industrial landscape, the estuary continues to support an impressive and diverse ecosystem, providing the perfect habitat for thousands of breeding and wintering birds, protected by both national and international designations. In 2013 the Medway Estuary was designated a Marine Conservation Zone (MCZ), protecting one species (the nationally scarce tentacled lagoon-worm) and eight different habitats, including peat and clay exposures, an uncommon habitat formed millions of years ago from ancient lakebeds and forested peatlands.