Here’s a recently published article about our Thames cruises and how they fit into a stretch of the river that is central to our operation: Southwark, on the doorstep of the City of London.
Operating a fleet of river cruisers of various shapes and sizes on the river Thames and as a major London river event company, we can’t think of a better base than what we see as the heart of the river – the ‘Pool of London’. The ‘Pool’ is technically the stretch of river from just below London Bridge down to Limehouse – that’s just before the big sweep down of the Thames ‘U-bend’ down to Greenwich. We though, tend to think of this area mostly as that perfect short stretch of the river which starts at London Bridge and goes just past the area just East of Tower Bridge, around Butler’s Wharf. Perfect? Well, in so many ways yes it is – as a stretch of urban riverside it has so much going on, and the feel of London when on the water here just seems special. From the river, it truly feels like the gateway to the capital.
There’s no doubt that in recent years, the area has evolved and changed. The Shard looms overhead and the ‘Walkie Talkie’ on the north side are both recent additions. More London and City Hall provide a different architectural angle, and certainly a lower profile perspective. HMS Belfast is smack-bang in the middle of the river – a warship! A real live WWII warship standing like a guardian to the city and watching over the royal palace of the Tower of London just across the way.
For us, a crucial part of the Pool is the wondrous structure that is Tower Bridge. The reason for this is that we probably have the bridge open up more than any other vessel operator. Cruise ships and the occasional tall ship do it (indeed sometimes we bring in the latter too). There is also a luxury mega-yacht now and then. Thames Leisure has two vessels regularly taking public and corporate cruises through the bridge that are big enough to warrant it opening. The three-floor Dutch Master takes up to 375 guests through at one time, and our 90 year old historic Thames Sailing Barge and her 30 metre high masts, take groups of between 10 and 50 through. Going through is an amazing experience, in short, you feel special.
The Pool of London is Southwark’s treasure, and though technically you share it with City and Tower Hamlets boroughs, in our eyes, Southwark has got the best bits! Sometimes we can cruise from London Bridge City Pier which is the pier on the Southwark side, however, due to burgeoning use by the Thames Clippers, most of our cruises set off from Tower Millennium Pier outside the Tower of London.
The cruises on half of our vessels can travel the length of the central Thames. We go to Chelsea and Putney in the west and all the way out past Barking reach in the East, an area where we operate our clay-pigeon shooting cruises, something we definitely couldn’t get away with in the Southwark section of the river! Nearly all other river cruise operators and event companies are based in the west of the Thames – we are proud to have our fleet moored in the Pool, on Southwark’s doorstep, and on the City’s doorstep. Next time you get to the river, maybe through Hay’s Galleria, look out for smart teal-coloured hulls bobbing about beyond the bow of HMS Belfast and outside Old Billingsgate. If we are not there, look right, we might just be stopping traffic and bothering the Tower Bridge master to press the big button.