Super Sewer stops Parliamentary Regatta

Lords and Commons competing in 2013 (Photo: www.London-SE1.co.uk)

Parliament is about to rise for the summer recess without having held its regatta.

The All-Party Parliamentary Rowing Group says that the Parliamentary Charity Regatta is postponed until further notice due to the Super Sewer.

Lack’s Drawdock on Albert Embankment near the Palace of Westminster is closed for Thames Tideway Tunnel, or Super Sewer, works and will not be available until at least 2024.

Matthew Offord MP said “It is a shame that the Group has to postpone the Parliamentary Charity Regatta, but the Group has investigated every possible alternative and concluded that the regatta will be postponed until further notice.”

The main race is the competition between eight MPs and eight peers rowing downstream from Lambeth Bridge to Vauxhall Bridge.

The finishing line is between the Lords and Commons marquees on the terrace where a FINISH banner is placed.

Visiting crews from London Youth Rowing and a men and women’s senior race give show performances over a slightly longer course and are in return entertained to tea on the terrace afterwards.

The annual tradition dates from 1986.

The English River by Virginia Astley

The English River by Virginia Astley

Musician Virginia Astley has revealed her other passion in a new book The English River: A journey down the Thames in poems & photographs.

The poetry and the pictures are Virginia’s.

Her home reach with family memories is Cleeve but for the book she has walked the river.

The photographs are a delight as she visits the Thames out of season. How many of us have seen Inglesham Church in the snow or crossed the Cricklade meadows when the fritillaries are out?

She goes from Docklands to Source on days which are wet, sunny or even dull.

It is good to see a neglected Conservancy gate highlighted as few survive.

Virginia likes places alongside the path such as Kelmscott Manor: I shed my shoes, feel the chill of flagstones.

The Foreword is by her relative Pete Townshend of The Who.

The English River: A journey down the Thames in poems & photographs by Virginia Astley (Bloodaxe £12).

 

Inside Ferry Cottage

Ferry Cottage featured in The Observer’s On the Water magazine

Ever wondered what it is like to live in Ferry Cottage at Cliveden?

You may have looked across the water at the cottage when walking between Boulter’s Lock and Cookham.

For towing horses this was the first of three ferries before reaching Cookham.

This was also the last ferry to be operated by Thames Conservancy.

Now there is no crossing but the house is let by the National Trust.

The Observer today shows the rarely enjoyed view back to the towpath.

Mortlake 475

Mortlake’s church tower

St Mary’s Church in Mortlake is keeping its 475th anniversary.

The church was placed on its present site during a brief period when Henry VIII had control of the manor.

The tower is Tudor. Was it built so bells could be rung as the king was rowed past to and from Hampton Court?

The  village has long looked to the river with workshops and brewery by the water.

The great tapestries in  Hampton Court and other places across Europe were made opposite the church between 1619 and  1708.

Earlier this month the opening hymn at the church’s anniversary service was: O Praise the Lord by the riverside, Where England’s Thames meets London’s tide. 

The Bishop of Southwark, The Rt Revd Christopher Chessun, who was presiding Tweeted the words.

The great figures associated with the church include Dr John Dee who was visited by Elizabeth I coming  downstream from Richmond Palace.

George III’s prime minister Henry Addington, Lord Sidmouth, is buried in the lovely churchyard where the entrance to the earlier church has been placed.

A small history exhibition is open daily in the church this month.

On Saturday 23 June at 3pm there is  talk in church on the history of St Mary’s by Helen Deaton from the Barnes & Mortlake History Society.

On Sunday 24 June teas will be available at a garden party in the churchyard from 3pm.

TO FIND THE CHURCH: From the Thames Path look out for steps going up to Tapestry Court. The church is opposite across the road behind trees.

Looking to Barnes from the towpath
Tapestry Court steps from towpath
Mortlake’s old church entrance in churchyard

Woolwich link opening date

The new ramp at King Henry’s Wharf

The long awaited Thames Path missing link between the Thames Barrier and Woolwich will open next week.

The new route is being opened by Cllr Denise Scott-McDonald of the Royal Borough of Greenwich and the Mayor of London’s  walking and cycling commissioner Dr Will Norman on Wednesday afternoon 20 June.

The ceremony will begin at 3.30pm just behind the Thames Barrier. Guests will be invited to walk east along the line of path down Bowater Road for an opening ceremony at the bottom of the raised walkway in Warspite Road.

The route should be available for public use from about 4.30pm.

The link joins the Barrier to downstream King Henry’s Wharf.

It also means that the Thames Path national trail to the source in Gloucestershire from the Barrier now joins seamlessly with the unofficial extension which runs continuously from the River Darent confluence near Erith.

From Wednesday we can say that the Thames Path starts not at Charlton but at Slade Green Station.

Will Secretary of State for Environment Michael Gove extend the National Trail designation?

Reading Abbey reopens

Reading Abbey gate

Reading’s importance owes much to its riverside abbey visited by royalty, archbishops and statesmen.

From this Saturday 16 June Reading’s abbey ruins will again be open to the public free of charge following a restoration programme.

Grass has been placed along the top of exposed walls to slow crumbling.

The monastery opened in 1121 so thoughts are now turning to its 900th anniversary in three years time.

It is hoped that Henry I who was buried in the Lady Chapel might be located by archaeologists in time for the celebrations.

It took some years to complete the abbey church which was eventually consecrated by St Thomas Becket in 1164. This was possibly the last time that Henry II and the archbishop met as friends.

The main focus of pilgrimage was not the royal tomb but the hand of St James the Great given by Henry I’s daughter Matilda.

An early Victorian church by architect Augustus Pugin lies across the abbey church’s north transept and is dedicated to St James.

Today a relic said by some to be Reading’s hand of St James, but not displayed,  is in the care of St Peter’s Church in downstream Marlow.

Parliament came to Reading in 1453 to meet around the abbey cloister. The Commons sat in the chapter house whilst the Lords assembled in the refectory.

Passage between refectory (left) and dormitory (right)
Reading Prison seen through abbey church’s south chapel window
Chapter House entrance from cloister

Butler’s Wharf’s only tree under threat

Tree in Shad Thames

A move is being made to fell the only tree in the Butler’s Wharf area.

It is the Lombardy Poplar on Portland Wharf which is flanked by Tower Bridge and Horsley Down Old Stairs.

The application to Southwark Council is being made by the Horace Jones Vault cafe located in the nearby Tower Bridge undercroft.

Portland Wharf belongs to the City of London and the tree was planted in 2000 as part of  a millennium greening project.

The deadline for objections is Thursday 21 June.

View upstream towards Tower Bridge

Inglesham’s riverside path

New signposts at Inglesham

This is the first summer when walkers can enjoy the riverside path at Inglesham in Wiltshire.

Some people could be setting out on the Thames Path unaware that there is a great improvement upstream of Lechlade.

Inglesham has long been the place where the river changes dramatically. Navigation ends and with it the towpath.

With no towpath walkers continuing to Cricklade and the source have always had to take to the road which during 20th century became unpleasant and even dangerous.

But since last October this main road ceased to be part of the Thames Path. Walkers can now stay by the river for a further 1.75 miles beyond Inglesham church.

This is the stretch of river which poet Percy Shelley tried and failed to see in 1815.

Inglesham church, saved from restoration and Victorian ‘improvement’ by William Morris, is a delight to visit. At present it is closed during restoration of wall paintings but it is worth trying the door later in the summer.

Inglesham church and new kissing gate

Opposite the little church is a set back kissing gate leading to a grass path. Follow this way down to gates at a field and bear right to reach the river.

The Thames beyond Inglesham church where Shelley found the reeds to thick to continue

Stay by the winding river as a footbridge carries the path over a branch of the River Cole as it enters the Thames.

The new path

Later the way is fenced on the inland side and there are several gates. After passing through a wood, the path turns sharply to the right to cross high over an inlet.

Here there is a surprise view directly along a grass airfield runway. Stay on the fenced path between the airfield (left) and the river.

Airfield runway from Thames Path
Path by airfield
Airfield windsock
Notice by the path
Gated Bydemill Brook bridge

At a stream, the Bydemill Brook, the path turns inland to cross at a gated footbridge before continuing inland on the far side.

Beyond a gate there is a T-junction by a footpath ford (left). This was the old approach for those who in the past had walked along the main road.

Ignore the ford and turn right to another gate and bear left to a join a path. Do not cross a footbridge (left) but go right along a wide enclosed path.

This is the existing Thames Path which regains the water higher up.

See map here.

Woolwich-Barrier link nearly ready

The new ramp at King Henry’s Wharf

The unofficial Thames Path extension from Erith allows many to begin their long walk where there is a feel of the estuary.

But this recent addition does not join the national trail’s start at the Thames Barrier. There is a rather unpleasant detour away from the river between Woolwich’s King Henry’s Wharf and the Thames Barrier garden.

This involves walking along Woolwich Road which has very heavy traffic.

The only bonus is a McDonald’s by a bus stop.

But this week contractors are due to hand over to Greenwich Council a riverside route. The ‘missing link’ as it is called locally will be filled.

Some minor highway resurfacing has yet to be undertaken and new signposting is not ready.

But it looks as if the promised ‘late spring opening’ will be achieved.

It will be possible to walk the length of King Henry’s Wharf and go up on to a raised walkway. This curves round into Warspite Road. The at present gated Bowater Road, which runs parallel to the river, will then take the Thames Path to the Thames Barrier.

There is good view of a listing steamer from the new path
The path joins Warspite Road
Downstream end of Bowater Road
The upstream end of Bowater Road where the path joins the Thames Barrier gardens

From the Sea to the Source