It is time for this blog to address the question of the Mighty Thames, the longest river which is wholly within England, 215 miles (346 kms) long, and dividing London into North and South. Crossing the Thames on Waterloo bridge, or walking along Southbank to the Tate Modern, the river looks unprepossessing. It is a sludgy brownish colour, or steely grey on frequent rainy days. It looks shallow to a passerby (at least, to one used to Sydney Harbour), although boats of various sizes ply up and down it quite busily. It is tidal in London, and now and then a kind of sandy shelf (“beach” would be too strong) appears here and there.
|And this would be...?|
|The London Eye, Westminster: Thameside|
A trip down the river to Greenwich is a chance to experience the Thames afloat. Take a short trip inland and see the Thames at its more bucolic country pace: Maidenhead is a good spot for this. It is only about 45 minutes from London by train, full of attractive B&B establishments, and close to The Fat Duck in the village of Bray, and to Windsor Castle. At Maidenhead you can see a number of essential Thames-side activities: rowers practising, houseboats moored lazily, a lock in action, and of course swans.
|Tea by the Thames?|
|Sculling on the river.|
|Home sweet home.|
|Walking along Regent's Canal|
|The Thames at Maidenhead|
On the length of the Thames there are 214 bridges and 17 tunnels. Interestingly, Maidenhead has one of the more famous bridges. The Maidenhead Railway Bridge was built by the great Victorian engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel, who should be remembered for his wonderful name as well as his engineering works. The Maidenhead Bridge was painted by Turner, in a lovely evocative impressionistic picture called “Rain, Steam and Speed”, depicting smoking train racing over the bridge. Although it is thought by some that the word “speed” int he title may refer to a tiny hare dashing along the tracks in front of the train, which can just be made out in the painting. The Maidenhead Bridge was built in 1838, and still carries trains, although today they weigh about ten times more than Brunel ever imagined.
|How Turner saw it.|
So that’s a little about the Thames. And besides all this, it provides most of London’s drinking water. True. There’s food - or rather a beverage - for thought.
Turner picture from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Turner-rain-steam-and-speed.jpg (Wiki Commons)
Map from: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/River_Thames