London’s River Thames: our guide to our playground

The Thames is an indelible part of London’s character, the main vein of its psycho-geographical complexity. Or so I’ve heard it said. Without getting too deep about it (between about 1.8 metres at London Bridge and 11 metres at Southend since you ask) there is though something special about it for all resident Londoners, and of course all visitors. My guess would be that most tourists or day trippers on a first visit to London would be sure to have the river somewhere on their schedule. Can you imagine how you couldn’t? It both divides the capital and joins it, the metaphor of the Thames as a vein, pumping lifeblood into the heart of London is one you’ll find in many places.

Celebrating the Thames

We all work on or with the Thames in some way or another. Whether the people in the office, or our captains and mechanics, waiters and waitresses, a working day doesn’t really go by without us talking about it. And guess what, we love it! And it’s changing. We’ve been in business on the river for 25 years – me personally for 11 years on and off – and the changes that have gone on have been, and continue to be incredible. The Queens Diamond Jubilee last year, with the Thames Pageant at its heart, was almost certainly the greatest spectacle on the river in modern times and despite the awful weather on the day (Hurrah, we’re British!) it did show the great river in a fantastic, albeit slightly grey, light. We were proud to be a part of that waterborne celebration last year, entertaining hundreds of royal well-wishers on what was a great day.

Looking ahead…

With the jubilee and pageant a fading memory though, what’s going on along and on the river now? Although you could write a tract as long as the Thames yourself, we wanted to give you a selected run through of some of the daily sights and upcoming happenings on the Thames for next time you find yourself bank-side in our never-waterlogged-blog.

First a few events. The pageant trundled along at a respectful and regal 4 knots more or less, but if you fancy a little more oomph to your river viewing then why not check out the Venture Cup 2014. This high octane event is billed as ‘the world’s longest, toughest, and most prestigious powerboat race. From 7th June 2014, more than 20 teams of powerboat racers will storm through a 2750 mile course from London to Monte-Carlo. We’ll soon be releasing cruise packages on the river to make sure we give you the best seats in the house, on the river of course, to see these incredible boats start the race at what is certain to be more than 4 knots. These boats can actually travel at up to nearly 50 knots, that’s about 57.5mph!

Still being boaty, and up at the western end of the central river Thames, there is of course the boat race every March/April. The blues of Oxford and Cambridge keep alive a tradition stretching back to 1829. (Personally we’ll all be rooting for the dark blues to win again.) Pimms anyone? Staying with tradition, the lesser known Doggetts Race has been running since 1715. 6 Watermen row between Cadogan Pier in Chelsea and London Bridge. 2014 will be the 300th race and is set to be an extra special event. Again, watch this space for cruises and another excuse to take to the water, eat, drink and be merry whilst revelling in one of our great traditions.

Tall Ships to return to Greenwich

To move us from old to new, let’s turn to the Falmouth-Royal Greenwich Tall Ships Regatta of September 2014. The last 2 years have seen some beautiful Tall Ships grace the Thames for Sail Royal Greenwich and now the royal borough of Greenwich are hosting a much bigger event. Up to 50 Tall Ships will visit London which will be the destination port for a race from Falmouth. This will be the largest tall ship fleet to visit the Thames since 1987 and again, we will be putting together special hospitality packages on all our boats for those who want to see the ships from the best viewpoint, and also take in the nightly fireworks displays on Greenwich and Woolwich waterfronts that the council are putting on as part of the celebrations.

The ever evolving Thames

Of course, the banks along the Thames both host lots of events with which we get involved, and also provide an ever-changing backdrop to our cruises. So what will you see on board our vessels as you go with the flow? The Thames doesn’t really have many new crossings and since the elegant Millennium Bridge opened to connect Bankside and Tate Modern to the City and St Paul’s area in 2000, we think only one brand new way to cross has opened. The Emirates Air Line cable car is an incredible way to get across from the Greenwich Peninsula by the O2 to The Royal Docks. Up to a height of 90 metres, the ride provides great views of London and the Thames as it snakes to the East and West from this newly thriving part of East London. Staying on the Greenwich Peninsula, there are big plans from developer Quintain as the area accelerates into develop to become a new district for London. Residential, business and leisure developments will change the skyline of this huge area and ensure we stay as busy as ever and find ourselves visiting the QEII pier at North Greenwich more and more often. Watch that space – it won’t be a space for long!

When it comes to transport the river is getting busier and busier. In terms of what this means to most of us, the speedy Thames Clippers offer a great water taxi service servicing routes all along the river. What you may not know is that Europe has one of its newest biggest ports in London too now in London Gateway. Admittedly, you are probably not likely to get a glimpse of it on one of our cruises but it’s great to know the Thames is once more becoming an economic hub for the country. Festivals and celebrations we like and sometimes feature in, include the Mayor’s Thames Festival every September. This celebratory 10 day festival sees art, music and educational events happen along the central Thames on its banks and bridges. On its boats too, we’ll have more to tell you about that in the New Year.

Our favourite Thames delights

Well, we said we could write long and meanderingly about all the Thames has to offer and if we carry on we are in danger of doing just that, so to wrap things up – because we’ve got a few party boat events to organise – here’s our own personal list of some of our favourite places: Tower Bridge: what a place, iconic, magical, and handsome. This best of all bridges is also very polite indeed, often opening her arms to let the tall masts of our Sailing Barge Will come cruising through. Vinopolis: yes we all like a drop of vino here at HQ when the weekend comes and Vinopolis has turned quaffing and swotting up in the grape into something approaching an art form. It’s near Bankside pier so we can always hook you up with their own events team for a joint event, we’ll keep you steady on your feet! Finally, pubs. We like a good cosy pub as much as the next landlubber and the Thames has its fair share of gems. We get to see them as we cruise along and often our guests will raise a glass and a good-natured cheer from the decks to punters who’ve stayed on dry land to enjoy our river pubs. We particularly like The Gun near Canary Wharf, The Prospect of Whitby in Wapping, The Mayflower in Rotherhithe and The Grapes in Limehouse.

This is just a glimpse of the great Thames and very much from our point of view. If you’d like to know more, or get some advice about other ways to enjoy it from the very best place, the river itself, please contact us and we’ll be delighted to talk about one of our favourite subjects.

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