THE TIDAL THAMES
The Thames Tideway is a great introduction to proper bolder boating. What could be more thrilling than taking your narrowboat under Tower Bridge and past the Houses of Parliament?
The easiest route by far is upriver from Limehouse to either Brentford for the GU or Teddington, where the tidal river ends. Downstream to Limehouse is much trickier: the ebbing tide is faster and fiercer, and the entrance to Limehouse Lock decidedly tricky.
You leave Limehouse Lock cut and swing right into a dauntingly big river. I remember it well. We pitched and rolled in the sudden swell as the tide and waves took us. After a couple of minutes, when I realised we weren’t about to sink, I started to settle down to enjoy the trip. You pass tall old riverside buildings and the
famous Prospect of Whitby pub, then around a curve is the awesome spectacle of Tower Bridge and the glimmering needle of The Shard.
Before the bridge, we’d already been passed by one of the high speed Clipper catamaran river buses. If you’re worried about river traffic then try to plan your trip for a period when the tides suit an early morning start. We didn’t so the trip boat action came thick and fast.
Bridges follow each other quickly through central London, and mostly at different angles on the curving river. Be alert that the tide will push you toward the outside of the bends so line up for bridges accordingly.
Clippers, trip boats and tugs hauling big barges seem to be moving every which way but they’re all on the alert and, so long as you don’t dither or do any silly, you’ll be all right. Well, we were anyway. It was only later when we looked at Adam’s photos from Hungerford Bridge that we realised quite how diminutive we were. “Don’t dither, make positive decisions,” was our experienced crewman’s advice. “If a boat is waiting to pull away from a pier then indicate to him which way you’re planning to go by showing him the side of your bow and he’ll react accordingly.”
And keep well away from the Houses of Parliament if you don’t want to be arrested. Keep right as always but stay virtually in mid-river.
Sadly the Tideway is like a three-hour action movie in which all the stunts happen in the first hour. After the Houses of Parliament the river quietens and flattens and you’ve time to contemplate an unbelievable number of luxury riverside apartment blocks and then the large and luxurious houses of the suburbs before Teddington Lock.
Next time we will have to head left out of Limehouse and take a trip to the Thames Barrier. I’ll report back.