Boat Race on Sunday

The 2017 Oxford and Cambridge University Boat Race takes place in the late afternoon this Sunday 2 April.

The traditional race is at 5.35pm preceded by the Women’s Race at 4.35pm.

So expect the riverside from Putney Bridge to Mortlake to be crowded, especially at Putney, all afternoon.

Upstream on the towpath there is usually some room to see the race. The Hammersmith side with its pubs tends to be especially crowded.

There will be live coverage from the river on BBC1 from 4pm.

See a close-up of Greenwich’s famous ceiling

A conservator working with water to begin cleaning

It’s easy to turn into the grounds of the Old Royal Naval College at Greenwich. The gates on the Thames Path are open daylight hours.

From Saturday it will again be possible to go into the magnificent Painted Hall. Its not laid out for dinner because a £8.5m restoration is under way.

Instead a temporary platform, held up by 8,000 temporary pole fittings and just below the high roof, will allow a close up view of the ceiling painting which is being painstakingly cleaned.

This is a unique opportunity to see the painting undertaken by Sir James Thornhill three hundred years ago.

One of the restoration team says that being up so close is both “eerie and disorientating”.

Thornhill completed the work called The Triumph of Peace and Liberty over Tyranny in 1714. It had taken him seven years.

Three hundred years ago this year he submitted revised designs for the upper hall, or west end higher level, which he eventually finished in 1722.

The tours are available from April 10am-5pm (last admission 4pm); £10 (child £5).  Profits go towards raising the final £2m needed. The scaffolding is expected to remain in place until late 2018.

The Painted Hall is one of the oldest tourist attractions. It was intended as the dining room for Naval pensioners but was soon only used for special occasions to allow for the growing number of visitors.

Looking towards the Thames Path with the Painted Hall (left)


The Painted Hall with the high platform


The west wall painting uncovered and clean in the Upper Hall


Cleaning starting on the Painted Hall ceiling

Iffley Church commended by Bill Bryson

Bill Bryson has included Iffley Church in his top fourteen.

“This is a splendid Norman church in a village within the city of Oxford,” says the author.

“And it is worth visiting for its rich interior and the story of its anchoress (or pious hermit) named Annora, but its particular glory is that it serves as a perfect destination for a walk along the Thames from the centre of the city. ”

The Norman church dates from around the year of Thomas Becket’s murder.

Funeral processions used to arrive by water.

The list has been compiled for the National Churches Trust where Bill Bryson is  vice-president.


Duke of Gloucester unveils panel on Thames Path

The Duke of Gloucester has unveiled a river view interpretation panel outside Southwark Cathedral to mark the 40th Anniversary of the Jubilee Walkway.

The Queen inaugurated the Silver Jubilee Walkway during her 1977 Silver Jubilee year. The route has been known as just the Jubilee Walkway since Her Majesty’s Golden Jubilee.

The 1977 route follows the present Thames Path, which dates from 1996, between Tower Bridge and Westminster Bridge.

The highlight of the interpretation panel, depicting the river view from Cathedral Square, is a reproduction of the seven phases of London Bridge from 1209 to 1831 drawn by Gordon Home.

This first appeared in Gordon Home’s book Old London Bridge published in 1931.  Gordon’s son Gospatric Home was present with a copy of the book.

The panel is dedicated to Sir James Swaffield who in 1977 was both Greater London Council director general and Chairman of the Jubilee Walkway Trust. His three children and a grandson were also present.

Reports with more pictures can be seen on the London SE1 website and The Outdoor Trust website.

Gospatric Home (left), talking about his father Gordon, and the Duke of Gloucester
The original bridges fold out drawing in Old London Bridge.

Jeremy Paxman on the Thames

Jeremy Paxman’s Channel 4 programme on the River Thames in his Rivers series seems very short.

The hour goes quickly. It is  a pleasant drift downstream but a lot seems to be missing.

This is because the River Thames is so rich in heritage, beauty and interest that all four programmes in the series could easily have been devoted to just the Thames.

It would be interesting see what was left on the cutting room floor.

It is maybe a pity to make fun of Cricklade’s court leet since it is one of few remaining manorial courts with a serious function. The court officers safeguard one of the most important water meadows in the country.

A pause to talk about the Thames Super Sewer is topical and probably right as the tidal river is not yet clean enough.

Rivers with Jeremy Paxman episode 4 The Thames is available on replay for the next four weeks.

Tattershall Castle to reopen upstream

PS Tattershall Castle below the National Liberal Club

Looking across the river from London’s Jubilee Gardens later this year you might wonder if the Tattershall Castle has moved.

The steamer is at a permanent mooring but the answer will be yes.

The change is to allow for the Tideway Tunnel preliminary works.

The PS Tattershall Castle is about to be relocated  140 yards upstream to be just north of the riverside RAF Memorial.

She will in future be seen framed by the east end of Horse Guards Avenue.

The Tattershall Castle at present can only be reached by using small craft

The steamer, which is now a floating pub, was built in 1934 and worked a route between Kingston upon Hull and New Holland.

After the Second World War she was part of British Rail’s Sealink fleet before coming to London in 1976.

In 2015 her mooring was vacant when she  returned to Hull in 2015 for a refit.

The ship, with two new gangplanks,  will reopen during the summer.

PS Tattershall Castle about to be towed upstream