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.