Views from a bridge

Looking north, Lambeth Bridge…

… in central London, has one of finest views in the city, taking in the Palace of Westminster, Lambeth Palace, St. Thomas’ Hospital, Westminster Bridge, and the London Eye but it’s also a perfect vantage point for watching all kinds of boats that operate along this stretch of the Thames.
Though, despite a couple of ugly buildings, the north is more in line with Wordsworth’s immortal words composed on Westminster Bridge, “Earth has not any thing to show more fair”, look to the south and you’ll see an architectural mess with little redeeming features. Most of the pictures that follow were taken from the north facing side of the bridge, just a few from the south, not only because the view is basically unattractive but also because sunlight often made things more difficult.

Westminster Bridge seen from Lambeth Bridge
The Palace of Westminster sheltered to the south by mature plane trees in Victoria Tower Gardens

Despite commercial trade being far from what it used to be in the 1960s and before, there are still a number of working boats regularly passing under Lambeth Bridge. A familiar daily sight are the Cory tugs towing empty yellow containers upstream to collect waste from their Wandsworth and Battersea depots, returning downstream, with filled containers to their plant at Belvedere.

Cory tug RECOVERY towing empty waste containers upstream

GPS Marine Contractors are major players in civil engineering and construction along the Thames and the Medway but their business also extends throughout Europe. Their bright tugs and barges are a familiar sight along this stretch of the river too.

GPS Marine tug ARCADIA towing a barge of building materials upstream. She has now been sold, renamed and is bound for Africa
GPS Marine tug ARCADIA returning downstream having made a delivery

Walking beside the Thames you will probably have seen the smart blue refuelling tankers HEIKO, ARMADOR II, GOSSO and CONQUESTOR of Thames Marine Services, making their way along the river, or passed by their static barges at Wapping and Westminster.

Thames Marine Services’ motorised fuel tanker CONQUESTOR approaching their Westminster fixed refuelling barge
Bunker barge ALMERE 4 heading upstream
Livett’s workboat ALFIE heading downstream, approaching Lambeth Bridge

Livett’s Group have been one of the leading companies working along the Thames, the Medway and others, for over three hundred years. With their varied fleet they can take on all kinds of projects including: filming along the Thames by river or drone; luxury river cruises, publicity events and product launches; marine civil engineering, logistics and towage; diving services; the hiring of barges, piers, moorings and pontoons; safety boats and workboats along the Thames.

Port of London Authority’s DRIFTWOOD III heading downstream towards Lambeth Bridge
Workboat REBEL
STORM Clipper part of the Thames Clipper fleet since 1999
GOLDEN SUNRISE one of CPBS’s party and sightseeing boats
Bateaux London‘s M.V. SYMPHONY with her Glass Room restaurant.
James Berry, winner of the DOGGETT’S Coat and Badge Wager 2020, raced on June 25, 2021, a year later due to Covid. The 2021 race took place on September 8, 2021, so continuing the unbroken tradition of the annual race since 1715, and was won by Max Carter-Miller
London Port Health Authority vessel LONDINIUM III
Thames River Police launch GABRIEL FRANKS II
Tower Lifeboat crew attending to a casualty on Lifeboat HURLEY BURLY
Port of London Authority vessel BARNES
London Fire Rescue vessel FIRE FLASH

Looking at the cityscape to the south, the only easily recognisable building is the *sore thumb* Millbank Tower on the right. Ahead, and to the left, is a mediocre architectural mishmash, its only redeeming feature being Vauxhall Bridge, just discernible in this image but better illustrated in the image below this.

Looking across the roadway at the architectural jumble to the south
Vauxhall Bridge seen from the south facing side of Lambeth Bridge
Lambeth Fire Rescue Station with fire rescue vessels FIRE DART and FIRE FLASH on permanent standby
The floating Tamesis Dock Pub

Lambeth Bridge was one of the earliest articles in this series and not many days have passed during lockdown and beyond without my seeing it from Victoria Tower Gardens or walking across to the other side. For many, including me, bridges are a symbol of connection, of bringing together, summed up so well by Simon & Garfunkel’s “Bridge Over Trouble Water“…

Further information
I have given some information in the text where possible about most of the companies that I’ve seen working on the stretch of the Thames observed from Lambeth Bridge. If you would like to discover more, click on the links in the photo captions.

Birds on the Wall

The company of birds during the time of Covid.

A bench in Victoria Tower Gardens by the Thames in Westminster, has been a place of refuge, a place for slowing down and pausing for reflection during the time of Covid and its lockdowns. And one of the pleasures has been the company of birds, only occasionally lured to the wall in front by the offer of food…
With the gradual cleaning up of the Thames since it was declared “biologically dead” in the 1950s, life of all sizes has come back to the river, which among others has attracted a greater variety of birds. Here are photos of some that have come to sit on the embankment wall nearby, sometimes in the hope of food, often just to look. Some are easy to identify, others difficult, so with the help of friends, and links to useful sites, hopefully you’ll find information if you need it.

Immature gulls waiting in line

A number of birds seemed to like the angled shape of the top of the wall and would sit there for longish periods of time, often relaxed, sometimes semi-dozing, but always watchful.

A relaxed, recently fledged crow looking comfortable on the top of the wall
Slightly peeved looking gull resting on the embankment wall. One of the many types of gull to be seen along the Thames
Contented Egyptian goose adapting to the shape of the wall
A “youngish drake Mallard duck” keeping a beady eye on me

Food offered anywhere in the vicinity is always likely to attract attention, sometimes very loud and insistent attention.

Angry bird: immature gull demanding to be fed
Very angry bird, warning off others, claiming its stretch of wall
Recently fledged magpie meekly asking for food from a nearby parent

If you’re sitting quietly, birds will often stay close by looking at you. If you’ve got your lunch or tea with you, they might be there hoping for a share but sometimes there doesn’t seem to be a particular reason. Special moments of calm, over-riding all else.

Patient pigeon standing on one foot
A ringed Black-headed gull
A gentle-looking, undemanding, immature gull

Then there are those that suddenly spot you as they’re walking along.

Smart turnaround by a Black-headed gull
Crow doing the Lambeth Walk
Egyptian goose, giving me a look
A heart-warming moment of trust

No small birds came to the section of the wall close to the bench where we were, though parakeets often made themselves heard, camouflaged among the plane tree leaves above. In certain settings, some of these birds are rightly regarded as pests but they’re doing no harm here, rather they’re joining with London pigeons to mop up some of the crusts and crumbs left by people picnicking in the park. And they’re always good company.

End Notes
Thanks to Chris Dodson and Ian Young for their help
You can follow 4th generation Master Thatcher Chris Dodson @c_dodson_thatch
and Ian Young, photographer with a particular interest in birds @ianyoung33 You can also see his blog, about birding and mental health on Anxious Birding
And thanks to NS for company and patience.

Erith

Extracts from London to the Nore, painted and described by W.L. and Mrs Wyllie

By 1905 when the book of their journey from Westminster to the Nore was published Marion, Mrs Wyllie, explains how Erith, the once quiet village “in the midst of green fields and gardens” had been transformed, and that “No-one in the present day would call Erith pretty or rural.” She goes on to explain why:
“It is a place of gun factories, engineering works, and coal-wharfs, where cranes, derricks, and other engines of every shape and kind scoop the coal from the dusty holds of the many screw steamers.” The yachts that used to moor there have moved elsewhere and she notes the detritus that now takes up the shore: “A hill of dusty ashes, rusty tins, and and broken glass…black smoke belches from the shafts and funnels.”

Erith
Long Reach

In her detailed description of Long Reach and some of the boats moored there, she mentions the “hulks of the Small-pox Hospital”, made up of the remains of ships Atlas, Endymion and Castalia connected by a covered way. By 1903 the ships, which were in bad condition were no longer needed, and were gradually replaced by land-based hospitals

The Remains of a Forest, Long Reach
Roughly the same view of the sunken forest, June 1st, 2020 by ©Ian Tokelove

As they approach Long Reach, while so much of what Marion has written about has long since disappeared, she describes a landscape that can still be seen today. The remains of a Neolithic – Bronze Age forest visible only at low tide. A strange and ancient landscape.
As the tide begins to flow, she looks out and wonders “how the branches and boles of trees came to the slope of stiff clay with forms the bank. […] However, here there are the trees – hundreds of them – they spread all along Long Reach, and the sea wall seems to have been built over them; and as we push slowly down against the tide we bump some of the submerged trunks which stand out from the bank here and there.”

Greenhithe

She paints the scene as they set off for the next part of their journey towards Greenhithe: ” The air is soft and moist; the decks are soaked with dew […] The sun is a pale disc faintly seen; and floating in the air are millions of little spiders, each borne by its thread of gossamer beaded with tiny drops of dew […] The sun shines with a faint slivery light over the surface of the grey oily water.”
Marion watches and notes much of what is going on along the Thames around them. She sees a barge “drifting crab-wise across the tide; and a man in the bow with a long oar trying to keep her head in the right direction, and give her a little steerage way.” And, as they are about to anchor, a boat pulls off suddenly from the Worcester, a large ship ahead of them, and they are asked to “please not anchor over the water pipes that run from the ship to the shore.”

Warspite and Arethusa training ships

Warspite and Arethusa were training ships run by the *Marine Society. In the second part of the eighteenth century “Gangs of boys were collected by the Society’s agents, medically examined, clothed in sailors’ uniforms and sent on board our ships.” She explains that now: “There is accommodation aboard the Warspite for three hundred lads; but for want of funds, only two hundred and twenty have been shipped.” However the regime, doubtless fairly rigorous, met with her approval: “The difference which good food, drill and healthy exercise make in the lads is wonderful.”
Marion continues: “The Arethusa and her tender, the Chichester, belong to the National Refuges for Homeless and Destitute Children.” Over the years with the education and training they provided, though certainly tough, they rescued and gave a future to over seventeen thousand boys. She could see that they were proud of their ship and noted that they “had an excellent band, popular for outdoor fêtes“, which meant time ashore that was thoroughly enjoyed.”

As their voyage progressed towards the Nore, Marion describes in her engaging conversational style, much of what she, her husband, and family could see, together with its history and associated background. It is a wonderful record of life on and around the Thames, the Estuary, and of the social mores of her time. Later on, I shall return to share the final part of their journey.

End Notes
London to The Nore, painted and described by W. L. and Mrs Wyllie.
* The Marine Society today
Smallpox Hosptals in London.
Lead image from: Stanford’s Coloured Chart of the Thames Estuary; c. 1930s
Discover Ian Tokelove’s sites here: Remote London; Canoe London; and follow him on Twitter @iantokelove
W. L. Wyllie Short biography, some of his work, biographies and books by him at the White Dog Gallery



Thames

John Challis

After a day of keeping tugs and waste disposal barges,
sailing racers, showboats and commuter clippers afloat,

the Thames turns inwardly to find a space…

…to stretch out in, within a space no bigger than itself,

and burrows through the mud and clay
where every London intersects, to get its nose beneath the grave,

then flips the past up like a coin to send afloat
its drowned possessions:

… Anglo-Saxon ornaments,
unexploded payloads, bone dice and oyster shells,
wedding rings and number plates, and all those
you might have been had your time started early:

…grave-diggers, barrow boys, mole men and cockle pickers,

gong farmers and costermongers, resurrectionists
and suicides; the taken, the lost, the given –
then settles down to dream again of all its infant waterways,
the estuaries and tributaries that led it here,

among the rusted hulls of years, to where there is no space
to breathe or settle down to sleep.

‘Thames’ ©John Challis

End Notes
With thanks to John Challis and Bloodaxe Books for permission to publish ‘Thames’.
John Challis
The Resurrectionists, by John Challis
John Challis reading ‘Thames’ and other poems from The Resurrectionists. Start around 25 mins in.
Thames’: the Guardian’s poem of the week
Bloodaxe: publishers of The Resurrectionists

Cover image: Smithfield Market, 1964. ©Associated Newspapers

To Ruth, with love…

… from some of your Thames-side Twitter friends.

Many of you will know Ruth Wadey as a star “weather watcher” featured across several British TV channels screening her ever-changing river Thames and sky views. From her perch high up on the river bank at Twickenham, she captures the river in all its moods and fills our timelines with sunrises, sunsets, and magical clouds.
This is a ‘welcome home’ tribute for you Ruth, and comes with all best wishes for your speedy recovery, from a few of the friends we share on Twitter.
It’s also a chance to share with everyone some of the beauty of the world around the tidal Thames.

©Andrew Wilson “There’s nothing better than a high tide in Twickenham as the sun sets behind Ruth’s home – Hope you’re feeling better, all the best, Andrew Wilson” See: https://www.wildlondon.co.uk And follow him @wildlondonpics
“Dear Ruth, I am so sorry to hear that you have been unwell, but relieved that you are now back home and recuperating. I did miss you and your wonderful photos. You need to make haste slowly- that said it will be a very happy day when I see you in the park again. Sue x” ©Sue Lindenberg Follow her on @patlinberg
©Clare Delmar “Sending you the energy & strength of the sculler with the peace & tranquility of the river.” Follow her on @ClareDelmar
©Ben James “My wonderful friend Ruth, it is such a pleasure and honour to call you that. I truly hope you make a full and speedy recovery, best wishes, prayers and love, Ben James xx” See: https://www.benjamesphotography.co.uk And follow him @BenJamesPhotos
©Kristi Tange. “Wishing you all the best in your recovery, and look forward to seeing your beautiful photos.” Follow her @KristiTange
CreatingMemories73. “Ruth you are forever known as the Queen of the Weather Watchers, to watch as you observe and capture with your camera is a delight, you inspired me to be proud of my photography.” Follow him @CMemories73
For Ruth from Simon Treasure Photography. Follow him @Simon_Treasure
“To Ruth, Like the colours in the sky at sunrise and sunset are ever changing, so is our life. Sometimes dark clouds gather but as sure as a new day begins, those dark skies will clear. Look for the light and stay strong. Wishing you a speedy recovery. Big hug, lots of love. Astrid” See Nikon Photographer And follow her @Astrid_Tontson
Thank you Ruth for bringing your imagination and talent to brighten the timelines of your Twitter followers. Hope this Cory tug will be a symbol of your return to health … Xx

To find Ruth
See Ruth’s art Gallery
Follow Ruth on Twitter @ruths_gallery