All posts by Leigh Hatts

Reading Festival: Towpath closed at night

There will be a night-time closure of the Thames Path (9pm to 6am) in Reading from Thursday 22 August to Saturday 24 August.

The closure for the annual Reading Festival will start around Caveresham Bridge and end at Scours Lane near Tilehurst.

During the day walkers will see a temporary footbridge spanning the river near Scours Lane.

This first appeared in 2008 and replaces a temporary ferry where queues built up.

Marchioness Anniversary

Marchioness memorial in Southwark Cathedral

This year sees the 30th anniversary of the Marchioness Disaster on the River Thames.

In the early hours of Sunday 20 August 1989 the Marchioness pleasure boat sank in the River Thames having collided in the dark with the Bowbelle dredger. 51 people died in the water following the accident downstream of Southwark Bridge.

There will be commemorations on the anniversary of the night when the boat set out on the party cruise and on the actual anniversary date of the loss of life.

Monday evening 19 August

An open air service of remembrance led by the Bishop of Southwark will take place on the Thames Path on Monday 19 August at 8.15pm.

A procession will leave Southwark Cathedral at 8.05pm and make its way along Clink Street and past The Anchor pub to a location on Bankside between Cannon Street railway bridge and Southwark Bridge.

Those attending are invited to bring a candle in jam jar and natural petals to throw on the water.

Tuesday lunchtime 20 August

On Tuesday, the 30th anniversary of the Marchioness Disaster, the Bishop of Southwark will preside at a Memorial Eucharist in Southwark Cathedral at 12.45pm.

Flowers can be laid at the memorial at the end of the service.

Deptford street closure

Dog & Bell on May Day when road closure would be good

Prince Street in Deptford is being closed to traffic this month. 

This has always been part of the Thames Path and will remain so until a new long planned path is created across Convoys Wharf. 

The temporary closure of Prince Street is to assess the possibility of making it permanently traffic-free.

The best known building in the street, linking Watergate Street to Sayes Court, is the unique Dog & Bell pub.

St Ethelwold of ABINGDON

The Thames at Abingdon

If you are walking into Abingdon on Saturday 3 August you might think of St Ethelwold who knew the Thames.

Saturday is St Ethelwold’s Day.

In 955 he re-established Abingdon Abbey.

He also restored downstream Chertsey Abbey.

He died on 1 August 984 and was buried in Winchester. An arm and a leg were taken to Abingdon Abbey when he was recognised as a saint.

St Ethelwold

St Saviour’s Dock Bridge open

St Saviour’s Dock seen from Dockhead

St Saviour’s Dock footbridge is now back in use although refurbishment work continues.

“We still have work to do at dock level …. including minor works to the decking,” say contractors Conway in an update statement.

“The unique design of the bridge means that all the parts of the mechanism which facilitate the opening, are bespoke. “

“There will need to be two further days of closure to complete the inspection and commissioning of the bridge ‘swing’ mechanism.”

Conway’s Helen Mcconnell adds: “To ensure all checks are completed, a ‘full day’ closure to the pedestrian access may be required. The dates are likely to be the same day on two consecutive weeks.”

St Saviour’s Dock is near Tower Bridge. The footbridge, spanning the dock entrance, links Jacob’s Island and Butler’s Wharf.

Searching for start and end of the Thames

Sailor Caroline Crampton who has known the tidal River Thames since childhood set out to explore upstream and downstream.

Her book is called The Way To The Sea which means that she starts at the source rather than following the water to see where it comes from.

She describes setting out by train to Kemble to begin at the official source. Like most people she is disappointed that the field in front of the stone marker appears to be dry.

Caroline’s problem is that finding the start is uncertain most of the year. It is possible to visit the stone many times and never see water.

On eventually finding it at Ewen she feels obliged to paddle.

“If the source of the Thames is elusive its ending is even more so,” she writes 283 pages later. “There is no definate point at which the estuary finishes and the sea begins.”

Is it Tilbury where pilots hand over to the sea colleagues, the London and Crow Stones line, the Nore Lightship position or back upstream at Teddington?

This matters because Natural England’s England Coast Path project intends bringing the continuous path up the Thames as far as Woolwich. We may be talking about walking from Margate to Kemble one day.

This book reminds us that most of the Thames population and heritage lies in the tidal Thames valley to the east.

Coming downstream that major heritage begins at Runnymede where Caroline is convinced that the location of the Magna Carta agreement is the meadow and not the island.

She suggests that this cornerstone of liberty has now shifted east to Westminster adding the interesting reminder that Augustus Pugin travelled to that riverside building site from Ramsgate by water.

Before reaching central London Caroline pauses at Putney which she finds has an attractiveness easily missed on Boat Race day. She sees old Putney as a tiny village like Cricklade in the upper reaches.

However, it is not the obvious places that take up most space in this well-researched book but the lower reaches where you find Grays, Mucking Marshes and Shivering Sands. They will become more familiar as the Thames Path lengthens.

Prince Edward at Downings Roads

Downings Roads is Wednesday’s drizzle

The Earl of Wessex, Patron of the London Gardens Society, visited the Floating Barges Garden on Wednesday.

The garden barges, just downstream of Tower Bridge and Butler’s Wharf, are converted from a variety of vessels including lighters.

Yesterday was a dull day but even at low tide the green growth was a striking contrast to the City skyscrapers.

The gardens, known as Downings Roads Ancient Moorings, are best viewed from the wharf at the end of East Lane (by East Lane Stairs) on Bermondsey Wall West or further upstream where the path runs alongside alongside Jacob’s Island.

Court Circular 12 July
Swans are back in the Pool of London

Barnes pub re-opens

Re-opened Watermans Arms (Photo: Emma Robinson)

“I’m pleased to report on a pub that was turned into a restaurant and has now reverted to being a pub,” writes Tony Hedger in the London Drinker magazine.

“The Watermans Arms, an ex-Watney pub next to the Bulls Head in Barnes, closed in the 1980s and became a succession of chain restaurants. It has now been reopened as a proper pub.”

The pub, dating from 1850 and on the corner of Barnes High Street, faces the river.

Stone-baked pizza and home-made dishes is the food feature as well as sandwiches and jacket potatoes.

Tony Robinson’s TV Thames series

Tony Robinson at the O2, the former Dome, in episode 2.

On St George’s Day last year Tony Robinson was breakfasting at the Thames Head pub near the source of the River Thames.

This week the first of his four films on the river will be on Channel 5.

The opening of the series takes him from Kemble in Gloucestershire to Oxford.

In episode two he will reach London and its Docklands before exploring the rest of the tidal Thames and estuary.

The Thames: Britain’s Great River With Tony Robinson is on Channel 5 on Tuesday at 8pm.