Touring the River Themes

London Travel Blog

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Buckingham Palace from St. James's Park
  

Adam, Bella, and the kids took me on a tour of the River Themes. We rode the tube to Westminster and after riding an escalator, an elevator, and climbing a few  stairs - or the inclined ramp with Dorothy's stroller - emerged above ground in the shadow of Big Ben. The giant bell struck twelve as we bypassed nearby Downing Street which was closed off toward number 10 by tight security . We cut through the open grounds of the Royal Guard to enter the east end of St. James' Park. The park seemed more like a botanical garden with manicured lawns lined with brightly colored flora and fauna. Buckingham Palace reflected on the far end of a lake teeming with birdlife. The setting was rustic - and right in the middle of London. St. James's was a fine spot for a family picnic before boarding the 2:00 boat.

 

As our tour boat churned east on the Themes, the London Eye loomed over us like a giant bicycle wheel four hundred and fifty feet tall.

Approaching Tower Bridge
We twisted the river's course, passing under numerous bridges. A modern white cruise ship nearly dwarfed the HMS Belfast. After passing under the Tower Bridge, and a  brief stop at St. Katherine's Dock to take on more passengers, we continued east. The guide pointed out dozens of landmarks - famous government buildings, bridges, the wharf where the Mayflower was built and sailed to America from, the oldest bar on the Thames, and other historical points of interest. There were many.

 

Numerous canals entered the Themes and their upstream locks provided water transportation far inland. Much of the riverfront between London Bridge and Greenwich was lined with wharves and warehouses from the 18th and 19th Centuries - most had since been converted to condominiums, homes, or offices.

Pedestrian bridge across the Themes
Shortly after a boat change at Greenwich we passed the odd-looking Millennium Dome and crossed the Prime Meridian into the eastern hemisphere. London's only lighthouse stood across the river from the dome at the Trinity Buoy Wharf. The light was no longer in service and had been primarily used for testing lights, lenses, and training personnel to man lighthouses throughout the UK.  The river continued through East London. Its buildings were tall and new but maintained the same architectural styling of old London.

 

The river falls and rises with North Atlantic tides. The Themes Barrier protects London from flooding when high tides and storm surges coincide. The tide was extremely high on our tour and two of the barriers nearest the south bank were closed. It looked like low dams had been rotated into position out of the river depths between three of the modules.

One of the Themes Barrier modules
The barrier itself looked like a line of giant, half-submerged jet engine modules; their stainless steel shapes aerodynamic. The modules housed mechanical arms that rotated the dam-like barriers into position.

 

On the return voyage we stopped at Greenwich for an hour or so. A full day there would be an adventure in itself. We strolled a few streets, browsed an international food market, and relaxed in one of the parks before catching a later boat back to Westminster. It was an awesome adventure for all of us.

sylviandavid says:
Great blog.... when you were in Greenwich did you ask for the time.... ?
Posted on: Oct 05, 2014
bkretzer says:
Sounds like the best way to get a London overview
Posted on: Nov 03, 2009
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Buckingham Palace from St. Jamess…
Buckingham Palace from St. James'…
Approaching Tower Bridge
Approaching Tower Bridge
Pedestrian bridge across the Themes
Pedestrian bridge across the Themes
One of the Themes Barrier modules
One of the Themes Barrier modules
St. Jamess Park
St. James's Park
House of Parliament and Big Ben fr…
House of Parliament and Big Ben f…
London Eye and Big Ben from the Th…
London Eye and Big Ben from the T…
The cruiser and a cruise ship
The cruiser and a cruise ship
Passing under Tower Bridge
Passing under Tower Bridge
Adam and Dorothy on the Themes
Adam and Dorothy on the Themes
Bow Creek Lighthouse
Bow Creek Lighthouse
Passing through the Thaees Barrier
Passing through the Thaees Barrier
Signal lights on the Themes Barrier
Signal lights on the Themes Barrier
Coffee at a Greenwich park
Coffee at a Greenwich park
Waiting for the tube
Waiting for the tube
London
photo by: ulysses