Jo Cox flower dinghy arrives at Westminster

red boat

The House of Commons’ Serjeant at Arms has given permission for a flower laden dinghy decorated in remembrance of Jo Cox MP to remain on the river in front of the House of Commons.

A barge carrying the family of Jo Cox, and towing the dinghy, left Wapping shortly after 2pm preceded by a police boat and a Port of London launch. A fire boat followed.


Jo Cox ‘s family sail to Westminster

From the Thames Path in London this afternoon (Wednesday 22 June 2016) you may see a craft carrying the family of the late Jo Cox MP who was murdered last week.

Today is her birthday.

The family is sailing at about 3pm from Jo’s houseboat mooring in Wapping, opposite Bermondsey Wall West, upstream through Tower Bridge to Westminster.

Friends will tow a dinghy laden with flowers and tributes which have been left at the Hermitage Moorings where she lived.

The plan is to land at the Palace of Westminster which is something Jo was planning to be able to do daily as an MP in preference to having to cycle along busy streets.

She was trying to overcome security issues about mooring outside the House of Commons. The trip in a rigid inflatable boat takes just ten minutes. She and her immediate family made the trip a week ago with an ‘IN’ flag to counter the Nigel Farage ‘OUT’ flotilla.

The return to river transport for MPs and other visitors to the Palace of Westminster was something many have wanted for some years. It seemed ridiculous that a temporary pontoon had to be used for the annual Parliamentary Regatta when Speaker’s Stairs and Black Rod’s Stairs, at the Lords’ end, were purpose by the Victorians.

Jo knew the Thames very well. She and her husband Brendan once lived on a boat at Port Meadow and moved up and down the non-tidal river. In London their boat rose and fell with the tide and from the capital they recently took their 92 year old houseboat barge out into the Thames estuary.

The party landing today at Westminster will go on to Trafalgar Square where there is memorial gathering at 4pm.

Find Leon behind Tate Modern

Leon on Bankside

Leon on Bankside

View from Leon of the new Switch House

View from Leon of the new Switch House

The Thames Path has another attraction.

The relaunch of Tate Modern with the opening of its new addition with viewing gallery means that there are even more stopping places for refreshment on Bankside.

It is now possible to walk through the middle of the Tate Modern building to the south side.

Directly ahead is a branch of Leon. It has been there for some years and is much loved by locals who have enjoyed not only its healthy reasonable menu but the until now lack of crowds.

It is a little busier now but it still offers a good resting place for refreshment on the Thames Path. The informal self service restaurant (no plates and little cutlery) has chairs and seats outside.

On the way to Leon there is Tate Modern’s new Bar with outside seating.

Tate Bar

Tate Bar

A Leon dish

A Leon dish

Pool of London welcomes RMS St Helena

Passing Rotherhithe

Passing Rotherhithe

Royal Mail Ship St Helena sailed up the River Thames on Tuesday afternoon (7 June) on a farewell visit.

The ship is due to be sold and its regular Cape Town to St Helena voyages carrying the Royal Mail replaced by an aircraft.

It was exactly 4.55pm as RMS St Helena passed through Tower Bridge. Her approach from Tilbury was as the rising tide turned and the tugs manovered her slowly into the Pool of London.

A small group of people standing outside the The Angel near Rotherhithe watched the ship gradually turn into the Upper Pool.

Meanwhile a group of Saints, exiles from St Helena, waited near HMS Belfast to see their Royal Mail ship come home.

Approaching Tower Bridge

Approaching Tower Bridge

Concern about the future of the ship was raised two hours earlier upstream in the House of Lords.

International Development minister Baroness Verma was questioned by Lord Foulkes about the failure of the replacement air service. The new airport is experiencing crosswinds and no commercial aircraft has landed.

The minister said that the government was “looking at potential providers” but meanwhile the sea service would continue.

Three more return trips from Cape town are planned with the last scheduled for 9 September.

Lord Shutt said that the RMS St Helena should not be sold.

Admiral Lord West spoke of the importance of “a regular presence in waters which belong to us”.

Lord Collins asked if there had been a risk assessment before the contract for building of the new airport was agreed. The minister indicated that there had been.

Princess Anne will visit RMS St Helena in the Pool of London on Wednesday.

Tower Bridge is due to lift at 5.45pm on Friday 10 June for the departure of RMS St Helena.

* The new Cicerone guide Walking The Thames Path is this month available at 25% discount and post free.


RMS St Helena is alongside HMS Belfast until Friday

RMS St Helena is alongside HMS Belfast until Friday

Thames Path 20th anniversary walk

The Thames Path opened twenty years ago on 24 July 1996.

This anniversary year 2016 is being marked by a baton relay from source to beyond the Thames Barrier.

The first walk is from Kemble to Cricklade. There are sixteen stages with the numner of walkers limited to fifty persons.

The start is on Saturday 7 July in order that the climax can come on Sunday 24 July – the actual anniversary.

But this will be marked by arriving at Slade Green Station near Erith because this where unofficially the Thames Path (although not the official national trail) now starts.

The walkers will arrive at the Thames Barrier, where the grand opening took place, on Saturday 23 July.

On that first day twenty years ago those of us who had long worked on the path and written guides, including David Sharp and me, walked from Greenwich to be welcomed at the Barrier. Some houses near The Trafalgar Tavern had decorated their front doors for the occasion.

More details on how to join in any one of the walks forming the 2016 relay led by The Ramblers are here.

The new edition of the Cicerone guide Walking The Thames Path includes the new alternative start at Erith.

For the first time the book comes with a 1:25000 route map booklet which also includes the new section.

The new book is available direct from Cicerone at 25% discount post free until 30 June 2016.

Travelodge opens at Richmond

Travelodge has opened Richmond-upon-Thames.

The budget hotel,  9 Paradise Road TW9 1RX in the town centre, is handy for the river.

Christina Hardyment: Writing the Thames


Christina Hardyment grew up in Richmond where she played by the lock and went upstream to Hampton for school. She danced on Eel Pie Island. Later she lived at Ashton Keynes in Wiltshire where you can almost jump across the river.

Now the author lives in Oxford where she knows Port Meadow in summer and winter. She has sailed and taken a punt on a long journey. She has even tried swimming in the river although wisely it was above Inglesham where such activity is safer than in the Home Counties.

So Christina really does know the River Thames and her new book Writing the Thames (Bodleian Library; £25) is about other writers who have known the river.

There is not a lot on the London end for most of the best literary heritage is to the west in more delightful corners. London is rightly described as now being a series “boom areas for ritzy developments intended as investments”.

But it is good to be reminded that one of the earliest poems to mention the River Thames was written by Chaucer’s friend John Gower who lived in the capital.

In Confessio Amantis he claims to have met Richard II when rowing on the river. Gower’s lovely tomb and effigy can be found in riverside Southwark Cathedral where his head rests on a copy of his book.

The cathedral was a priory and Christina highlights Hilaire Belloc’s claim that the dissolution of the monasteries changed the character of the river. The religious communities had provided the bridges and accommodation all along the Thames.

But as the Reformation approached, the Thames became the fast route for top people. Thomas More found Chelsea handy for both Hampton Court and Greenwich.

Thomas Arne’s tune Rule Britannia was written in a pub passed by boats heading for Hampton Court and first heard at riverside Cliveden.

We are reminded that Discovery, which a century ago was sent to rescue Ernest Shackleton marooned in the Antarctic, was once moored on the Embankment. There was a lovely view of her down Cornwall Road near Waterloo Station before the gap was blocked by the IBM building and the ship moved to Dundee.

The book mentions another 2016 anniversary. In 1816 Percy Bysshe Shelley arrived with his new wife Mary at Marlow. In two years time we shall have the bicentenary of Frankenstein which was written at Albion House in West Street.

There is much much more to be found in this book which most readers will wish to return to from time to time after a walk along the towpath known to Thomas Love Peacock, Charles Dodson, Gerard Manley Hopkins, William Morris, H G Wells, Robert Gibbings and many others.

The notes and reading list are extensive.

The illustrations include sketches by John Evelyn and Shelley. A special delight is a 1951 lithograph called Fishing at Marlow by Edwin La Dell for Lyons Tea Rooms.

Ramblers say no to Garden Bridge

Tom Copley AM at the meeting

Tom Copley AM at the meeting

“The Ramblers of London oppose the Garden Bridge.” said Inner London Ramblers chair Phil Marson speaking at St John’s Waterloo on Monday.

He was addressing a packed meeting called to rally opposition to the proposed Garden Bridge and press new London Mayor Sadiq Khan to cancel it.

After suggesting that the money involved could be spent either on London’s footpath network or the proposed Rotherhithe foot and cycle bridge, he said: “We call on Sadiq to stop it.”

Earlier architect Ian Ritchie had described the Garden Bridge as “celebrity hype and hubris”. He also suggested that the design would result in a crossing which was too big and unbalanced. His summing up was “a dangerous folly”.

The opposition appears to centre most on loss of a world famous view from Waterloo Bridge, loss of the view from the Thames Path just downstream of the NFT and the felling of mature trees on a much loved stretch of the national trail. Trees on the bridge will, apparently, be of a different nature and not so tall.

The meeting was chaired by Kate Hoey MP who said the bridge was “not much of a garden, and not much of a bridge”. Speakers included Tom Copley who has been re-elected to the London Assembly.

A crowded St John's Waterloo on Monday evening

A crowded St John’s Waterloo on Monday evening

Stop the Garden Bridge public meeting

This view would be blocked by the Garden Bridge

This view would be blocked by the Garden Bridge

Thames Central Open Spaces is hosting a public meeting to ask new London Mayor Sadiq Khan to reconsider the funding for the proposed Garden Bridge.

The meeting is on Monday 16 May at 7pm at St John’s Church Waterloo, opposite the IMAX and near the Garden Bridge site. Local MP Kate Hoey has agreed to be in the chair.

Kemble to Cirencester railway restoration plan

A surprise plan has been announced to reopen the Kemble to Cirencester railway line.

One of the pleasures on reaching the source of the Thames in a remote Gloucestershire meadow is that there is a railway station nearby.

However, many walkers would like to pause at the end rather than catch a train from Kemble station on the same day. Most bed and breakfast accommodation is a few miles away in nearby Cirencester rather than the village.

The branch line to Cirencester was closed in 1964.

Cotswold District Council cabinet has considered a plan to restore the three mile track. Consideration is being given to having a light driverless train service as run by the Docklands Light Railway in east London.

The main expense in relaying the track would be near Kemble where the Thames Path crosses the main road. It is at this point that a railway bridge has been demolished.

There were two halts between Kemble and Cirencester. One was Park Leaze Halt just north of Ewen and next to a bed and breakfast farm.

Supporters are suggesting that the line could be reopened sometime between 2019 and 2021.

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