Monday 7 January 2013

A river runs through it

London is where London is because of the Thames. The river rises in Gloucestershire, and runs for over 200 miles before eventually joining the North Sea at the Thames Estuary (dividing Essex from Kent).

London used to be a bustling port, a hub of shipbuilding. There many quays and wharves (now converted into flats, offices and shops) bear witness to the rich history of the Thames. From Rotherhithe to Woolwich the banks of the river were littered with docks; which fell into disuse when shipping turned to containers and the docks were to small or too shallow for the new vessels. Some of London's tallest buildings now surround the former docks at Canary Wharf.

Settlement on the North side of the river provided excellent natural defence, the Thames was once wider than it is now in many places (the water-gates on Somerset House and the Tower of London bear witness to this).

The Thames

Uploaded by nat_mach on August 7, 2012
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Today there are fourteen road bridges, six rail bridges, two foot bridges, two road tunnels, two foot tunnels, and of course the Woolwich Free Ferry that cross the river in Central London. The underground and DLR also cross on tunnels and bridges, the Jubilee line alone crosses the Thames four times. From Hammersmith in the West to Woolwich in the East. Of if you prefer you can hop on the Thames Clipper service which stops at various piers on both sides of the river.

The Thames may no longer be the commercial life blood of the City it once was. Now it often poses more of a threat. A tidal river the level of the water varies daily within established parameters; but storm surges coinciding with high tides and rising water levels put the City at risk from flooding. The iconic flood barrier (ironically made possible by the containerisation that killed the docks) provides protection to the City upstream from Woolwich. There is a visitor centre at the Barrier, and it is worth the trip.

Thames Barrier

A set by nat_mach
Canary Wharf in the distance The O2 through the barrier Barrier from the south
Close up of shining Pieces of armadillo!
Spread out like jewels Working parts
Long shote of the barrier Art shot