Cleaning the river

The Port of London Authority & Thames 21 leading the fight for a cleaner and safer river

Since the much quoted judgement by the Natural History Museum in 1957 that the Thames was “biologically dead” and incapable of supporting life, a lot has happened. The first changes began soon after that as a result of much discussion and soul-searching.

In a long, wordy, and complex debate in the House of Lords on December 3rd, 1959, on ‘The Pollution of Rivers and Estuaries’ there was an interesting remark by one Viscount Simon: “The natural channels for the disposal of waste in a country like ours are undoubtedly our rivers.” Referring to earlier comments that some of the UK’s rivers were “like an open drain”, he goes on to say “In my view, that is exactly what a river ought to be; but it should be a clean and healthy drain, not a foul one.” He accepts that in a heavily built up area there might not be sufficient oxygen in a river to accomplish the breaking down of human waste and therefore the construction of sewage works would be necessary. However, he adds: “…our rivers are still capable of looking after quite a lot of organic waste, and it would be wasting the value of our rivers as a national asset […] if we did not give them something to do.” Well, that’s a view that evolved. Luckily.

Following on from this, the 1960s saw a gradual improvement and eventual repair of London’s Victorian sewerage system which had been badly damaged during the Blitz. And now, as many of you know, Tideway are constructing a 25 kilometre super sewer under the Thames to serve London and to deal with the raw sewage spills that can still make their way into the river after heavy rainfall. So the quality of Thames water, now already supporting a wide variety of wildlife, will become even cleaner. However, there are other hazards including floating debris of all kinds, and the ever growing scourge of plastic pollution.

The first of these, floating debris such as logs, tree trunks or old railway sleepers, which can cause serious damage to vessels on the tidal Thames, is covered by the Port of London Authority’s Driftwood Service. And first in their line of defence are their Passive Driftwood Collectors, known as PDCs, conceived about twenty years ago. Fixed “at carefully chosen points on the river, where the current and tidal stream will carry the most driftwood they trap the floating debris.” This is then collected for recycling and disposal by their Driftwood craft.

Port of London’s Passive Driftwood Collector at Westminster, marking their partnership with Thames 21

Their annual haul is impressive but rather concerning. “Each year we pull more than 400 tonnes of assorted floating rubbish from the river including branches and tree trunks, plastic bottles and traffic cones.” They also recover bicycles, supermarket trolleys, and cars parked too close to the river swept into the water by a rising tide.

The two Driftwood craft that I’ve seen most often are the simply named Driftwood II and Driftwood III. As well as their primary function being the “collection of driftwood and other debris, they are equipped with hydraulic cranes, burning gear, and salvage pumps”, to deal with emergency maintenance or repairs. Each has a Dory tender in tow, either Ray or Tyburn, to allow flexibility of movement for the crew.

DRIFTWOOD III heading past old St. Thomas’ Hospital, Westminster
DRIFTWOOD II and RAY approaching Westminster Bridge
PLA tug IMPULSE pushing an empty debris collection barge upstream
A loaded PLA barge being pushed downstream
Punchy PLA tug IMPULSE
DRIFTWOOD II heading towards moorings at Lambeth Bridge
The crew of DRIFTWOOD II attending to M.V. SUERITA close to Lambeth Bridge

The *giant* of the fleet, London Titan, and I’ve only seen her a couple of times, is sturdy enough to undertake a whole variety of work in the outer estuary, and also “squat and shallow enough to negotiate the Thames bridges as far upriver as Richmond”, where she can be used among other tasks to “haul wreckage from the riverbed.”

LONDON TITAN at work close to Westminster Bridge in January 2018

The second concern over the state of the river is the increased amount of plastic pollution. In 1994 the Port of London Authority teamed up with Thames 21, an independent charity dedicated to the environmental improvement of rivers and canals in and around London. And one of the several tasks their partnership has set itself is the removal of litter present everywhere along the waterways. Their Report on Plastic Pollution in the Tidal Thames highlights the problem. A particular scourge of the Thames foreshore is the use of wet wipes, some of which have accumulated into large mounds that, because they’re mixed in with river mud, look natural. Paul Hyman, Founder and Director of the stand up paddle boarding group Active 360 highlighted the problem for Thames 21 during a campaign back in 2016, “There is one very persistent problem that is spoiling the enjoyment and the safety of watersports and that problem is litter.” And that hasn’t changed. In 2018 he co-founded In The Drink to raise awareness among riverside pubs and bars, by promoting the use of re-usable alternatives to replace single use plastic.

During the Covid pandemic, there’s actually been an increase in the amount of plastic drink bottles, mugs, and containers dropped along the banks or into the river. This alarming issue is underlined in the latest River Thames Survey by Thames 21, published on December 21st, 2020, which also notes a new specifically Covid related phenomenon that “plastic gloves & masks were found on seventy percent of the stretches of the river monitored…”

Kew Bridge Drawdock littered with plastic refuse © Paul Hyman
An organised litter pick on the foreshore opposite Greenwich Power Station © Thames 21
A Thames 21 team and members of the PLA stand around a yellow litter cage, on a socially distanced litter pick at Gravesend © Port of LondonAuthority

Several hundred clean-ups are organised every year, and volunteers give their time to gather the rubbish and place it into steel cages provided by the PLA, which then sees to their disposal. They recover “an estimated 800 cubic metres of litter and rubbish from the foreshore” every year. Among the unusual items recovered on their events are handguns, motorbikes and fridges.

As you walk along a stretch of the river that you know well, particularly at low tide, you’ll appreciate how much litter accumulates in certain places and how there’s more of it than before. A certain amount of it is collected by organised litter picks but as A J McConville, coordinator of Thames 21’s plastic monitoring programme, rightly says: “The health of the Thames should not depend on volunteer clean-ups. We need to turn off the plastic tap at source.” In fact, we need better education. Much better education…

Latest News from Thames 21
Obituary of Celia Hensman MBE 1936 -2021, founder of Thames 21, published on January 6, 2021

Sources and further information
With thanks to the PLA, Paul Hyman, and Thames 21, for their help and permission to use their images.
The Port of London Authority
Driftwood Service
Thames 21
Active 360
In the Drink

The Thames in winter

Snowy images from 2009 to wish you the best for 2021

Taken taken on February 2, 2009 these pictures are a reminder that until quite recently we used to have colder winters in London. Not as cold as the famous Frost Fairs in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, when the river was frozen over for several weeks at a time but definitely colder than most of the past few years.

Looking along the embankment past Lambeth Palace towards the London Eye

With colours standing out against the snow on the Lambeth side of the river, walkers enjoy the transformation of familiar steps, walls, lamps, benches, and pavements into new softened versions. Blemishes hidden.

From Lambeth Bridge, you can see Thames Cruises’ M.V. THAMES PRINCESS moored at Lambeth Pier

These pictures are also a reminder of how much London’s skyline has crowded in upon us during the last eleven years.

Lambeth Bridge fringed with snow as a small boat is about to pass underneath
Victoria Tower Gardens, a precious central London riverside park

As many of you know, this view of the Palace of Westminster, a UNESCO world heritage site, seen across Victoria Tower Gardens, is under threat. We have been grateful for this little park during the Covid crisis as these carefully nurtured gardens have been a refuge for many living and working in the area. A place to breathe, an escape by the river from the ravages of the pandemic.

The Victoria Tower at the Palace of Westminster watching over the Gardens

Will such snowy London pictures be a thing of the past, I wonder ? Snow, being rare in London now, always used to excite a feeling of delight before pristine white, snow-packed roadways turned into greasy, gravelly, salt-speckled, grey slush and new, untrodden snow in the parks became tracked with a tumult of footprints. The delight was obvious in January 2013 when I saw, young and not so young people, scooping snowballs from the roofs and bonnets of cars to hurl at their friends; keen photographers slip-sliding on icy roads and snow-packed pavements, to capture London in her winter guise; and children and the young at heart, making snowmen in the Royal Parks.

Yet for those working regularly on the river, snow and bitterly cold winds were rather less appealing. Waterman and Lighterman, Eric Carpenter, recalls a trip that was particularly tough: “My most vivid memory of winter on the Thames is the journey from Egypt Buoy at Egypt Bay, situated in the estuary on the Kent coast, across the tidewater to Old Haven Creek on the Essex coast. I experienced it in a force 5 gale, driving rain, and a snow storm. The tug would be “beam on” pitching and rolling, ropes, eight inches in circumference snapping like twigs. It was a journey that could be undertaken at any hour night or day”. The winter of 1963 must have been specially gruelling for everyone and Eric describes how that year “was very hard work, as the snow had to be cleared from the decks and hatches constantly. I remember using a crow bar to prise the mooring ropes apart. The river Lea was specially hard going; I remember breaking the ice to allow the lock gates to open fully.”

As I looked again at those wintery photographs from eleven years ago, when I was safely wrapped in a warm coat, scarf, and gloves, it was a timely reminder that for some, life on the river in the cold was not so comfortable. But then Thames Watermen and Lightermen are a tough breed…

End note
Thank you for reading my words. Thank you also to those who have helped me with information and images for my articles. May I wish you all a happier year in 2021, and to everyone who works on, or around the Thames, especially, a return to normal life as soon as possible.

Thames High Tides

“When the lions drink, London will sink…”

…so the much quoted saying goes. A saying that, without finding its origin, you’ll see quoted in guide books and all over the internet. However, I was told by Ben, Waterman and Lighterman of the river Thames, that the rhyme was used by Thames Watermen and “it’s been said for many years by guides on sightseeing boats.” There are further lines with slightly different wording but this last one has a punchy ring of authenticity: “When the lions are ducked, London is f…looded.”

The bronze lions’ heads, each holding a mooring ring, were sculpted by Timothy Butler in 1870 as a decorative finishing touch to the embankment built by Joseph Bazalgette over his newly created London sewer. They line stretches along both sides of the Thames Embankment in central London.

Three of the Lion rings set outside Lambeth Palace, standing beneath George Vulliami’s dolphin lamp posts, at the approach of high tide
A lion definitely drinking at high tide. A wave must even have momentarily reached his nose. Above is the base of one of George Vulliami’s Embankment lampposts
Rising Tide: Jason deCaires Taylor’s riders braced against the flooding tide on the Vauxhall foreshore

As mentioned in my earlier piece Ebb and Flow on the movement of Thames tides, the deCaires Rising Tide sculptures remained defiantly in place for a month, at times almost completely submerged by the highest tides.

The Riverside Cafe and the Tamesis Dock Bar, are two of the Thames-side venues from which you can enjoy a close encounter with the river at high tide. Of course both have exceptional views over some of London’s most famous sights but there is that extra frisson when, so close to the water, you feel afloat.

The Riverside cafe on the Lambeth bank of the river appears to float
Tamesis Dock Bar at Lambeth almost floating

However, the lovely 18th-century Bull’s Head pub at Chiswick unfortunately doesn’t float and in December, 2019, a combination of heavy rain swelling the downstream flow and a high tide driving upstream, raised the water level over the window ledge. The window held firm but there was seepage through the brickwork below. Yet General Manager Barbara Smith is philosophical and takes it all in her stride. She has a particular affinity with the Bull’s Head as not only does she appreciate its history – there has been a tavern on that site for over four hundred years – but her great grandmother worked there in 1905.

Thames water seeps through the wall below the window ledge of the Bull’s Head ©The Bull’s Head
Barbara Smith, General Manager of the Bull’s Head, is philosophical: Life goes on © The Bull’s Head

People living close to the river overlooking stretches of the Thames that flood regularly during high spring tides, are used to it. Ruth Wadey, artist, photographer, and weather watcher for the BBC, is an acute observer of both river and clouds at Twickenham, capturing some memorable moments.

Rising tide breaching the Thames Embankment opposite Eel Pie Island at Twickenham © Ruth Wadey
Egyptian Geese bathing in flood water opposite Eel Pie Island at Twickenham © Ruth Wadey

Anywhere along the stretch of the river at the risk of flooding, you can watch the inexorable rise of the water during a spring tide. Of course London is now protected by the Thames Barrier, first operational in 1984, but flood alerts can still be issued for low lying roads and paths between Putney Bridge and Teddington Weir when it has not been judged necessary to close the Barrier, as no property flooding is expected. However, warns Flood Forecaster Alan, “Don’t park in roads vulnerable to flooding.” But the warning is not always heeded.

My childhood friend Clare Risoe who lived in Putney before the Barrier was built, confesses: “I’m afraid, being young, we used to watch with some amusement, distraught owners coming back to find their cars full of stinky water, or swept elsewhere by the force of the water’s flow.” She remembers how “walking back to Ruvigny Mansions along Putney Embankment at high spring tide could mean paddling, or even wading, through the overflowed river water to reach the front entrance, wisely built raised from ground level.” She remembers too, the surreal effect of a high tide “when watching football at Fulham’s ground Craven Cottage, she could see the sails of boats gliding past above the hoarding”.

High spring tides can also cause problems for river traffic, specially if their timing is slightly out. Last year, no less than three Thames clippers, were trapped temporarily unable to pass under Westminster Bridge. I have also seen tugs getting into difficulties there and having to wait for the water level to drop.

Three Thames Clippers held up at Westminster Bridge

But tides can rise even higher, causing damage and loss of life rather than temporary inconvenience. Over the centuries the centre of London was regularly subjected to flooding, and to see how dreadful conditions were for people who lived in these areas Victorian London is a sobering read. An excellent article by John Kelly on The great 1928 flood of London explains how that flood, the worst since the record-breaking flood of 1881, broke through and over the river’s defences. He writes: “Worst affected were the slums on the Westminster side of Lambeth Bridge, where ten of the fourteen victims lost their lives.” There was also widespread damage to property both there and in the City, which took many years to restore.

Here the markings of the 1881 flood appear on the wall of the access lodge to the river steps of the Palace of Westminster at the north end of Victoria Tower Gardens

London escaped major flooding in the devastating North Sea Floods of 1953 that claimed so many lives on Canvey Island and elsewhere, but the embankments in the centre were within inches of being breached. That focussed people’s minds on the need for the protection of central London and from then began the long process of agreeing to, and constructing the Thames Barrier which was finally completed in 1984.

The Thames flowing freely through the Barrier on an ordinary day

Closed only for its monthly testing, rigorous annual overhaul, and when conditions dictate, the tidal water flows freely between the piers allowing normal river traffic to pass through. When the Barrier is fully closed in its ‘defence’ position, water from the incoming tide backs up and floods the specially built overflow areas.

The incoming tide is held back by the Barrier © Ian Tokelove

London is lucky, for the Thames Barrier is deemed sufficiently robust to protect the city and the surrounding area from flooding for at least another forty-five years.

Sources and further information
The Liquid Highway Excellent boat info site on the Thames by Ben. Follow him on Twitter @liquid_highway1
Explore Ruth Wadey’s Gallery and follow her on Twitter @ruths_gallery
Clare Risoe ceramicist. See her work ‘Shoreline’
Tamesis Dock @TamesisDock
The Bull’s Head, Chiswick, @TheBullsHeadW4
News of Thames Barrier closures on Twitter @AlanBarrierEA
Visit Ian Tokelove’s site Canoe London Follow him on Twitter @iantokelove

Ebb and Flow

Watching the Thames tides

Walking by the river, unless you happen to time your arrival with that moment between tides at slack water, when it’s more or less still, you will see a current flowing either down or upstream. Either ebbing or flooding. Familiarity with the tides is essential for all who work on, or use the Thames for recreation but observing them is also interesting for anyone who is doing more than simply passing over or under the river.

On November 8th, the RNLI Tower Station, @TowerRNLI, tweeted a time lapse film capturing the first stages of an ebb tide from their station by Waterloo Bridge. This moment is also described by Iris Murdoch in Under the Net, as “a gentle and continuous pull”. The pull gradually strengthens and the speed of the outgoing tide can rise from 4 up to 8 knots depending on the amount of rainfall coming into the river from further upstream.

Tide ebbing slowly past one of the Palace of Westminster security markers, much favoured by cormorants
Tide ebbing more swiftly from beneath Lambeth Bridge
City Cruises’ sightseeing boat navigates the Blackfriars Bridges against a fast ebbing tide
Night time at the Blackfriars Bridges where a fast ebbing tide takes on a more sinister aspect

Pogue Muhone, who has kindly allowed me to quote from his article ‘Tidal Ebb and Flow’, explains the phenomenon, known as the Rule of Twelfths, which you might have heard of in relation to the speed of rising and falling tides on the coast. “Starting from slack water at low tide, the flow rate speeds up until half tide and then slows down until full tide.”

“It has been observed that the tide rises one twelfth of its range during the 1st hour; two twelfths in the 2nd hour; three twelfths during both the 3rd and 4th hours; slowing to two twelfths during the 5th hour, and finally to one twelfth in the 6th hour at full tide.” And the same goes in reverse for the ebbing tide. Though things don’t work in quite the same way on the Thames, these details are good to know, especially if you are absorbed in a walk on the foreshore at low tide, as after a slow start the tide can come in swiftly and you risk being cut off. If you watch attentively, you will become aware of subtle changes in the texture and movement of the water as you walk along the riverside and you will get to know its moods.

Rising tide rocking a cormorant perched on one of the Palace of Westminster security markers

Pogue Muhone gives specific details on Thames tides: “Their timings vary enormously and Rivermen often observe the flood to be over seven hours and the ebb nearer five, which means that the flow rate at a given point tends to be faster on the ebb than on the flood. Under ‘ideal’ conditions the water flows at almost 8 knots (10 mph) in places.” This is fast…

Pigeons uncovering titbits brought to the Victoria Tower Gardens’ shoreline by a rising tide

There are a number of small beaches accessible at low tide along the central London Thames. Some, such as the once popular and glamorous Tower of London beach have been closed to the public for a while, others with their slippery steps and inhospitable foreshore, enjoyed only by mudlarkers and the sure-footed, have a limited appeal. Yet there are some, with sandy stretches such as Ernie’s Beach below Gabriel’s Wharf, that draw families and friends for a good beach session depending on the tide and, as I mentioned in my last piece, sand sculptors. All who go there, particularly those who venture onto one of the other Southbank beaches around the corner, must keep an eye on the tide. On occasions I’ve seen an RNLI Tower Lifeboat coming alongside, warning people to return to a part of the shore with steps up to the embankment. And I have seen some, caught out by the swiftly rising tide, having to wade through a foot of water to get back the safety of stairs or to the main beach. It is dangerous, for even at that depth the current can be powerful enough to sweep you off your feet.

Sculptor on Ernie’s beach enjoying his sand chair till the last

This sand sculptor who in 2007 entertained both beach goers and the crowds walking on the embankment above, was clearly familiar with the strength of the incoming tide and knew just when to abandon his *castle* to avoid a complete soaking.

Rising Tide. Jason deCaires Taylor’s sculptures stand on the Vauxhall foreshore braced against the rising water

Longer lasting were the deCaires’ Rising Tide sculptures installed for the month of September 2015, on the Vauxhall foreshore. What I liked about them was firstly, while making his point about the dangers of ignoring the multiple threats to our environment, they were a striking addition to the riverscape set against a Palace of Westminster background as a warning message to politicians who have the power to shape our future. And secondly, views of the four horses and their riders were in constant movement, changing perspective with the tides, the time of day, and the weather.

Extinction Rebellion yacht having been stranded by an ebbing tide finally floats on the flood

Another focus on the river to raise awareness of the climate emergency took place on October 18, 2019. Using one of their trademark pink boats to highlight their cause, the Extinction Rebellion yacht, having apparently been stranded, caught out by an ebbing tide below the Victoria Tower Gardens’ embankment, managed to re-float, only to be *kettled* next to Westminster Bridge by Police and Port of London launches concerned about the potential danger to the protesters and to other river users.

A flood tide racing beneath Westminster Bridge

As mentioned earlier, at full flow the tides are fast-moving and muscular, added to which, should anyone fall into the river, there is the real danger of cold water shock, and drowning.

Experienced captains and amateurs, however, use the tides, harnessing the force of the currents to help bear their load. The Cory tugs, along with the Port of London and emergency services’ patrols, kept going throughout the Covid crisis and used the tides to their advantage, as did, when later permitted, groups of kayakers.

Cory tug REDOUBT coming in with the flood tide, towing her empty waste containers to the collection depot upstream
Kayakers riding upstream with the tide

So there she stands, attentively, a young girl watching the incoming tide. Like many of us, she is perhaps dreaming, giving way to her imagination, or simply allowing her thoughts to swirl around with the infinite patterns she sees at her feet. If you’re not in a hurry when you’re walking by the river, stop for a moment and do the same…

A young girl watches the river…

Further Information
See Tidal Ebb & Flow by Pogue Muhone.
The Port of London Authority has produced The Tideway Code, an indispensable guide for all “users of man-powered boats”.
Tides on the River Thames by Richard Jennings.
See Tower Beach by Simon Rushton (with a fabulous collection of vintage photos).

Thames tides

LOW TIDES in central London.

Just the other day two visitors approached me in Victoria Tower Gardens, considerately keeping to our Covid social distancing norms, and asked me why the river seemed bereft of water. It was low tide. And it was not the first time that I’ve met people unaware that the river is tidal up as far as Teddington Lock and, that apart from the short intervals during slack tide, there is the constant movement of water upstream or downstream, borne by flood or ebb tides.

Low tides expand the foreshore exposing multi-layered remnants of the past and that is why London’s beaches have been declared an architectural site, which must not be explored or excavated without a Thames Foreshore Permit. At first glance the apparent slime or mud-covered rubble at low tide lacks appeal but on closer examination you can see thousands upon thousands of fragments of London’s history. Bricks, bottles, clay pipes, coins, jewels, medals, and countless remains of household, shipbuilding, and industrial artefacts, lie jumbled together, often broken, continually shifted by the movement of the tides, appearing and disappearing at the whim of the currents. And their stories are being studied and pieced together by members, both expert and amateur, of the Thames Discovery Programme.

The remains of old structures and a figure on the foreshore close to Southwark Bridge

You may, as you walk through the city along the Thames Path, come across figures moving slowly, bending intently towards the foreshore, occasionally picking up and stowing objects into a sample bag. These are modern day, permit holding mudlarkers, who with every find add another piece to the mosaic of London’s history, and among them, some such as Nicola White, not only add to our knowledge of London’s past but turn their finds into art. Low tides are a potential treasure trove for them. However, in the 18th and 19th centuries mudlarks were the very poor, mostly men but women and children too, scavenging the shoreline for objects that they could sell to eke out a living and, until a hundred or so years ago ‘mudlark’, was recognised as an occupation.

The remnants of a jetty below the Victoria Tower Gardens’ embankment
Part of the Victoria Tower Gardens’ embankment wall blasted into the river by a WW2 bomb
Pools among the foreshore rubble make good hunting ground for gulls, ducks and others

Low tides, while they suit some, are not necessarily such a benefit to navigators. They have to learn the shape of the river bed and its shifting positions, with its beaches, sandbanks, and sandbars. The Port of London Hydrographic Service survey vessels THAME, MAPLIN, and GALLOPER are each fitted with ‘Multibeam Echo Sounder Systems’ and carry out over four hundred surveys a year along the tidal Thames and Estuary.
People often ask how deep the Thames is but of course this varies with every tide so the difference between the depth of the river at high and low tide is at its greatest during spring tides. This also depends on the volume of the fluvial flow. The average low water levels at spring tides are marked on charts as MLWS – Mean Low Water Springs.
However, for those just wishing to check the tides on a particular day, there are a number of sites including the BBC that predict the tide levels at London Bridge, and Willy Weather that covers the projected tide levels at all the central London bridges.

Port of London survey vessel THAME approaching Lambeth Bridge

Knowing the tide tables is not just essential for professionals but also for walkers and mudlarkers to avoid being cut off, not forgetting canoeists and anyone making use of the currents to speed their journey. When I met him last year Rob Jeffries gave an example from upstream, where the river is shallower, of the need to be aware of the tidal movements: “There’s a shoal by Fulham Football ground close to which, if you’re not careful, you risk getting stuck and stranded by an ebbing tide.”

Putney foreshore at low tide
The foreshore beneath Albert and Battersea Bridges at low tide
The Tamesis Dock bar always high and dry at low tide. Canoeists passing by
Low tide at Lambeth Bridge
Muddy castle building at low tide on the Westminster foreshore
Sand sculpture on the beach at Gabriel’s Wharf

The beach at Gabriel’s Wharf is a favourite place for sand sculptors, who create their work on the sand revealed by the falling tide, only to see it washed away a few hours later. They are fun to watch and of course depend on the public *showing their appreciation* from the embankment above by aiming coins at a well-marked target.

A set of sculptures called The Rising Tide, by Jason deCaires Taylor, installed on Vauxhall beach for the month of September 2015, was constructed to resist the scouring of the tide for much longer. And after being displayed on the shore of Lanzarote for three years, sadly the subject of a political dispute, they are now in storage. Made of stainless steel, cement, basalt and aggregates, their form and meaning evolved with the rhythm of the tides…

The businessman, ignoring the dangers of climate change, one of Jason deCaires Taylor’s four ‘Rising Tide’ sculptures on Vauxhall Beach

If you spend a lot of time watching the movement of the river, your visit might just coincide with the changing of the tide.

An incoming tide flowing past one of the Palace of Westminster security markers

Often imperceptible to begin with, you can see a change in direction of the current when, after slack water, an incoming tide meets the fluvial flow. The water can remain still for a while, with small eddies whirlpooling out against the main direction of the flow, but not for long before pursuing its inexorable course upstream.

Further Information
Thanks to Richard Jennings for help with Tides on the River Thames.
Explore the foreshore with Lara Maiklem in Mudlarking: Lost and found on the River Thames.
Thanks to NS for editorial help.
Look at The Port of London Authority’s Tidal Information.