Supporting river events … without getting your feet wet


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Well, only just as I helped launch my son’s Mirror Dinghy down at Hearty Ferry into the Swale’s summer tideway – like previous blogs I’ll try and describe the joy of the wide open estuarial waterways which are London’s passage way to the North Sea.

As a much younger man, I relished sailing where tide and wind reign supreme – a wonderful contrast to our very much more crowded London river.

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However, this summer has brought a whole series of events which I hope to summarise for you.  The River Thames Barge Driving Race of 2015 was held just on my doorstep on a beautiful Saturday July 4th, when a whole fleet of tugs and lighters gathered in Greenwich Reach.  Escorted by crowded pleasure craft on their passage upstream to Westminster on a rising tide, recalling the days when lightermen of London Docks provided the vital good link between ship and shore.  From where I write, the river was once lined with noisy moorings of empty iron lighters booming together as they gathered for tugs to tow them about their business.  Here abouts were the marshalling yards of trade with shore line slipways and craftsmen ready to build and maintain these work horses of the tideway which were able to reach the shallowest of destinations or, indeed, the deepest docks.

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The Thames Sprit sailed barges compete in a series of races up and down the estuarial waterways and, yesterday, at Faversham’s upper creek, a gathering of colourful historic craft met in the town’s centre, where alas the established Creekside berths which once served these historic craft are being moved on by commercial pressure, just like those on the Greenwich peninsula.  The Faversham Creek Trust has been set up to inspire regeneration of the town’s maritime history, and an open weekend was held to attract an amazing gathering of vessels of every vintage and shape, moored just by the swing bridge lock which is in need of an expensive upgrade.  Their Purifier Building on Morrison Wharf’s car park has been upgraded by the Trust for maritime use.  Boat building and other maritime crafts have this most useful base.  But plans to open this basin for day to day use depends on action on the lock.

Other dates for your diary:

Saturday 1st August, 11.30 – the Doggetts Coat & Badge Race for single scullers from London Bridge to Cadogan Pier, Chelsea.  This will be the three hundredth annual event – how about that!!

Saturday 12th September – the Annual Great River Race, which attracts over 300 rowed craft, starts from opposite Greenwich and goes up with the tide to Ham, the other side of Richmond.  This year a flotilla of Dutch Marines will row a Dutch naval ship over the North Sea to take part.  I am expecting an escort to accompany them to Greenwich.  Another friendship bond will be played out, casting back memories of the William & Mary Köpcke Race of 1994, when a splendid fleet of Dutch yachts came to celebrate in Greenwich.  The Dutch just love our river and its traditions.

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About RiverWatch returns

Peter Kent shares his Thames riverside studio viewpoint

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