Top 10 Weird Facts about the Thames

Yes, yes… there is plenty of fascinating history about the Tudors; a wealth of maritime links; plenty of references to the ‘heart of London’. But where’s the humour? Where’s the weird and wonderful? Right here! We’ve unearthed some rather more unusual facts about the Thames in this week’s blog. Of course we can’t absolutely vouch for their credibility, but they make for great reading!

Check out our top 10 facts about the Thames before getting onto one of Thames Leisure’s boats – it will add a whole new dimension to your cruise:

1. Water, water everywhere

A drop of rain that joins the Thames at its source in the Cotswolds will go through the bodies of 8 people before it reaches the sea. In fact two thirds of London’s drinking water actually comes from the Thames. At one point there was a little less water though – in 1607 the river froze over and Londoners had a ‘frost fair’ on the ice.

2. Top film location

Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade… was in Essex! Who knew Tilbury Docks could be the site of such brave adventure. Well Hollywood it seems. Not only has Indiana Jones raced along the river, Harry Potter has had a broomstick chase in ‘The Order of the Phoenix’; Johnny Depp (aka Captain Jack Sparrow) escaped from the window of the Old Naval College at Greenwich; James Bond raced by speedboat past the MI6 headquarters. Apparently it took 7 weeks to shoot the scene as the Thames’ 9-MPH boat speed limit had to be factored in!

3. Dead bodies abound

On average there is one dead body hauled out of the Thames each week. Perhaps this is due to the POLAR BEAR in the Thames. In 1252 King Henry III received a bear as a gift from Norway. He kept it in the Tower of London and used to let it swim in the river to catch fish. Maybe the bear has ancestors… I feel I am spreading a Loch Ness Monster scale rumour here!

4. It was pretty polluted

In 1858 the sewage was so bad that the smell forced Parliament to be suspended and they almost relocated to Hampton Court. You will be glad to hear that it’s not polluted anymore. The Debris Clearance Operation of the Port of London Authority removed around a thousand tonnes of litter each year from the Thames and there are 396 sewage works. Despite the fact that 300,000 tonnes of sediment travel down river, the water is clean enough for marine life and we now have 119 species of fish in the waters of the Thames.

5. Arty inspiration

Millions of poets, artists and writers have featured the Thames – too many to recount. Some of the most interesting ones are: Claude Monet, who painted the Thames 3 times; Handel, whose water music was first played on a George I’s barge in 1717; Kenneth Grahame, whose watery inspiration led to his most famous work: ‘Wind in the Willows’, and Charles Dickens, who used to frequent the ‘Prospect of Whitby’ pub on the banks of the river whilst writing ‘Our Mutual Friend’ (which features the river).

6. Pooh sticks is an actual competitive sport

It’s not just a game on the Thames – they have a world championship at Day’s Lock in Oxfordshire every year!

7. The Magna Carta

This historic document was signed by King John in 1215 on an island near Runnymede.

8. London at war!

The Luftwaffe used the Thames to navigate to London – as soon as they saw the distinctive u-bend they knew that they were at the docks.

9. It’s a river for boating

There are approximately 37 major rowing clubs along the Thames, not including the Universities clubs. The Boat Race between Oxford and Cambridge has been running since 1829 and Henley Royal Regatta has taken place since 1839.

10. It’s a river for crossing

There are more than 200 bridges across the river, six ferry crossings, more than 20 tunnels and even a cable car crossing.

By Guy Wimpory guy@topsailevents.co.uk

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