Henry I in Reading

There are moves to find the body of Henry I who is buried in Reading.

The main report is in The Daily Telegraph.

Henry I was the son of William the Conqueror and brother of William II. Henry died in France on 1 December 1135 and his body was buried a month later, on 4 January 1136, in the abbey which had founded in Reading.

The Thames Path guide has always maintained that Henry is under the school playground next to St James’s Church.

This is the modern successor of the Reading Abbey which covered much of the adjoining Forbury Gardens park.

There were recent suggestions that the body was under the park but Philippa Langley, who was involved in the search for Richard III, has said that the King may lie under the playground or school car park. The latter spot, south-east of today’s St James’s church, now seems to be the most likely area for initial investigation.

The burial was near the abbey’s high altar but the exact length of the abbey church is uncertain.

The church’s dedication to St James recalls that the abbey church held the hand of St James the Great whose remains are now in Santiago de Compostela Cathedral in Spain. The hand was the gift of Henry’s daughter Matilda who had inherited the relic through marriage.


Best teashops on Thames Path

The Sunday Times list of 20 top teashops complied by baker Louise Johncox includes two on the Thames Path.

The feature in the magazine recommends The Maids of Honour at Kew, famous for its secret recipe Tudor tarts.

Also highlighted is Burgers at Marlow which for many is the natural place for tea after a day’s walk.

David Sharp RIP

Thames Path pioneer David Sharp has died at the age of 89.

David Sharp, a superb draughtsman, artist and writer, lived yards from the River Thames in Barnes.

He was responsible for the look of Ramblers’ Association (as The Ramblers was known) and Open Spaces Society publications but his lasting legacy is the Thames Path.

He walked what was possible and lobbied for its completion and recognition.

The Ramblers’ Association report on the towpath and its gaps, including central London, was written by David. This was the document, with very clear hand-drawn maps, which he handed to me in 1981 when I was appointed temporary Thames Path officer to write the feasibility study.

It was the job that David should have had and would have enjoyed but he could not offer himself since he was still working for an advertising agency.

But he gave me huge help and advice.

My task was to visit every riparian council and landowner along the Thames and produce a report for Thames Water and the Countryside Commission. It took more than a year and included some occasionally frightening moments trying to check lonely overgrown paths alongside the fast flowing the river.

David laid out the possible route and I had the challenge of tweaking it during consultations and negotiations.

Three new bridges and 16 miles of new riverside path had to be put in place to achieve the national trail.

After Environment minister Virginia Bottomley had approved the path there came the time when it was officially opened. It was a privilege to be with David in 1996 as he walked along the river from Greenwich to the ceremony at the Thames Barrier.

Subsequently David wrote the official guide taking the walker downstream whilst I wrote the guide for the walker wanting to start in London. He was always helpful and generous when I went to him with a problem and sometimes he contacted me with a minor change or temporary difficulty. More than once we checked out a problem together.

Until last year David was still co-editor of South East Walker where he continued to highlight Thames Path updates and possibilities.

I am sorry to learn that he declined the MBE but pleased that he was recognised as the key player in the long story of the Thames Path which had first been proposed in the 19th century.

The Times has an obituary and OSS general secretary Kate Ashbrook has written an appreciation.

Tudor Pull 2015

The Tudor Pull today Saturday 16 May 2015 will see Thames Watermen’s cutters rowed down the Thames from Hampton Court Palace to the Tower of London.  Craft include the Royal Barge.

More details on the London SE1 website.

A Bridge Too Far

Letter in The Daily Telegraph 12 May 2015

SIR – The problem with London’s proposed garden bridge (Letters, May 8) is the location.
Its trees would obstruct the splendid views of the towers of the City of London and the dome of St Paul’s Cathedral, seen from all the way across Waterloo Bridge and Hungerford footbridge.
Such a project would be more welcome in a place where it might enliven a dull length of river, such as near Vauxhall Bridge, rather than downgrading one of London’s most evocative views.
Hal Moggridge
Filkins, Oxfordshire

Donkey on Thames Path

Donkey at riverside Surrey Docks Farm on Saturday

Donkey at riverside Surrey Docks Farm on Saturday

Donkeys were on the Thames Path today alongside Surrey Docks Farm near Rotherhithe.

Marlow Museum: Thames exhibition

Marlow’s River: How the Thames shaped our town is the title of a small exhibition at Marlow Museum.

This can be found in Pound Lane opposite Burgers in the High Street.

The exhibition continues until October; open weekends and bank holidays 1-5pm; free.

Meanwhile the Tourist Information Centre has moved into the Library in Institute Road; open Tue-Sat.

Boat Races: Live TV

There is over two hours of live BBC1 TV coverage from the River Thames this afternoon, Saturday 11 April, thanks to the two Boat Races.

Expect  a good commentary from Clare Balding and plenty of shots from the helicopter between Putney and Barnes.

Maybe HMS Stork will get a mention.


HMS Stork remembered at Ravilious exhibition

The Ravilious exhibition of 80 watercolours Dulwich Picture Gallery has just two featuring the Thames but both are very interesting.

In 1931 young Eric Ravilious and his wife Tirzah moved into a riverside flat at Hammersmith. The view was of the Thames with Chiswick Eyot directly opposite. It was this view which Eric painted in 1933. The houses have small riverside gardens separated from by the road which in the Thirties was quiet since the residences were not fashionable and were largely occupied by artists.

River Thames at Hammersmith 1933

River Thames at Hammersmith 1933

In River Thames at Hammersmith 1933 the towpath bank opposite looks even more rural than today.

But the most arresting of the two Thames pictures is one called The Stork at Hammersmith 1932.

The Stork was not a pub but fifty year old HMS Stork which was anchored in the river upstream of Hammersmith Bridge to serve as a training ship for boys interested in a Naval career.

It had been a landmark since squeezing under Hammersmith Bridge in 1913 and remained a gently moving landmark until 1950. Its arrival was not welcomed but its loss was like the Pool of London having to say farewell to HMS Belfast.

The Stork at Hammersmith 1932

The Stork at Hammersmith 1932

Among items on show is a letter addressed to fellow student Helen Binyon at ‘Streatley Berks’. This suggests more Thames associations but, although this is Streatley opposite Goring, the farmhouse is some way from the River Thames.

Ravilious is at Dulwich Picture Gallery until Bank Holiday Monday 31 August; open Tue-Sun admission £12.50 (OAP £11.50; student £6).

Garden Bridge judicial review appeal

Many reasons have been put forward for thinking again about building the Garden Bridge across the River Thames.

The crossing would link the South Bank, near the Oxo Tower, with Temple in the City of London.

The huge and unexpected cost to the public purse as well as the need to fell trees to build a bridge carrying trees are just some of the problems raised.

Above all  there is the question of whether the fine natural stretch of water at Kings Reach should be spoilt by a new structure.

The decision by Lambeth Council to allow the bridge to be built is being challenged in the High Court.

The bill for the appeal will be around £24,000 and so far a quarter has been raised.

“If all the thousands of people who have signed petitions against the bridge gave a few pounds I would have all the costs covered,” says Waterloo Community Development Group director Michael Ball who successfully requested the judicial review.

A number of people have given £5 just to be part of the effort.

You can donate online here.

The background and views can be read in The Independent, The ObserverDaily Mail and The Times.

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