Favorite thing: One of the most beautiful things I have experienced was celebrating the arrival of the new year with good friends along the banks of the Thames and watching the fire works light up the sky. It was very cold, but worth going down there.
Like many cities, London would not be where it is today were it not for its river. Yet for many years the city seemed to turn its back on its famous waterway, regarding more as a barrier between the north and the south of the city than as a feature to be enjoyed and celebrated. Nowadays though the river is one of the delights of London, and a walk on its banks (preferably the south bank where there are fewer roads) is a wonderful way to spend a few hours. My own favourite stretches are near the Southbank Centre where Sunday afternoons are particularly lively, and further east near the modern buildings surrounding City Hall. From both of these stretches there are particularly fine views across the river to some of London’s most famous landmarks – Parliament and Westminster from the former, the Tower of London and Tower Bridge from the latter. In 1802 the poet Wordsworth was inspired by the view from Westminster Bridge to write his famous sonnet, “Composed upon Westminster Bridge”, which still for me has one of the most beautiful views in the city:
Earth has not anything to show more fair:
Dull would he be of soul who could pass by
A sight so touching in its majesty:
This City now doth like a garment wear
The beauty of the morning;
Not all visitors realise that the Thames is tidal for all of its length in the centre of the capital - ocean tides move up the river as far as the south-western suburbs. You can see the effects of this at low tide, when muddy stretches are revealed on either bank. Years ago poor children would eke out a living as “mud-larks”, searching for anything of value that had been buried in the mud, and treasure hunters still do the same today.
The river has long been a focus for public celebration, for instance with the famous 17th and 18th century Frost Fairs, held on the river when it occasionally froze, with barbecues, stalls, fairground amusements and performing animals. The winter of 1813-14 saw the greatest and last Frost Fair. The replacement of the old London Bridge in 1831 meant that the river flowed faster and no longer froze sufficiently to bear public events.
This tradition of using the river as a focal point for events has however been revived in recent years, with the current city administration organising wonderful fireworks displays on New Year’s Eve, and a series of free festivals on its banks throughout the year. For instance in September is the Mayor’s Thames Festival, an annual free event celebrating the river. The Festival takes place in the heart of London, between Westminster Bridge and Tower Bridge, on the river banks and on the adjacent riverside walkways and public open spaces.
Directions If you spend any time at all in London you won’t be able to avoid the river. Try Embankment (District & Circle lines), Waterloo (Jubilee, Northern & Bakerloo lines), London Bridge (Jubilee & Northern lines) or Tower Hill (District & Circle lines) to be sure of getting quite close.
The south bank of the river Thames between Waterloo Bridge and Tower Bridge has got a pedestrianised pavement and leads along many interesting sights. It is a nice walk which offers scenic views of the opposite side.
Among the many sights in this area are the London Eye, the Royal National Theatre, Shakespeare's Globe Theatre, Tate Modern Museum, the Millenium Footbridge, Southwark Cathedral, Hays Galleria, the HMS Belfast and the new City Hall.
The River Thames winds along London for 220 m (135 miles). It serves as a drainage channel and provides London with two-thirds of its drinking water.
Make a boat tour and see some attractions (London Eye, London Bridge) and historical and modern buildings along the banks.
I love the example VT suggest for your general tip, "Blue skies and beaches". I can't think of anything other than the Sahara that's further from that than the Thames is on a murky autumn day.
None of which is to construe for a moment that I didn't enjoy it. My youngest son used to work casual shifts on one of the pleasure craft in the foreground but my favourite memory from here is of "Cleopatra's Needle", just visible, left rear.
Read all about it in the next tip
The Thames, which is a beautiful little river in and around Oxford, has been the main source of commerce in London for many years. It's been a very dirty river in the past but quite a bit of work has been done in recent years to clean up both its image and the river itself.
Across the Thames are some lovely bridges, especially Tower Bridge which is instantly recognisable. A cruise down the Thames is recommended as something to do in London as you pass by many icons of London and get a unique perspective of this classy old town.
Favorite thing: From anywhere along the Thames you will be able to see something that you immediately recognise as being in London. One of my greatest pleasures is cycling along the embankment to Battersea Park for some exercise, on the way i took these pictures. The Thames is a wonderful place to be in the evening, along the embankment there bars on some of the ships anchored there, there are some great places to just sit and watch people go by and of course there is that skyline , it can only be London.
The city of London and the Thames River have had a harmonious relationship for many a year.
The river helps feed the city and the city helps feed the river.
We love walking along it, some places are nicer than others, most are really enjoyable.
This photo was taken alongside the Thames just under Tower Bridge. It speaks of flooding of the river and how the city is protected from such an event occurring.
It would certainly be catastrophic!
This is a view of Charing Cross Station, Hungerford Bridge and the Thames taken from the Royal Festival Hall during the VT meeting we had on 19th June.
The RFH is Europes largest cultural complex and there are many free foyer events throughout the year.
Tel: 020 7960 4242 (box office) for more information.
The river's name appears always to have been pronounced with a simple "t" at the beginning; the Middle English spelling was typically Temese and Latin Tamesis. The "th" lends an air of Greek to the name and was added during the Renaissance, possibly to reflect or support a belief that the name was derived from River Thyamis in the Epirus region of Greece, whence early Celtic tribes are thought to have migrated. However, most scholars now believe Temese and Tamesis come from Celtic (Brythonic) Tamesa, perhaps meaning "the dark one".
Fondest memory: The Thames has a length of 346 km (215 miles).
The Thames is a motif in many books. My favorite - Three Men in a Boat by Jerome K. Jerome describes a boat trip up the Thames..
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