The magnificent Thames flows through London in looping curves and is one of the city’s most iconic landmarks.
It’s a long river at 364km (215 miles) that starts in Gloucestershire and runs through nine different counties, including Greater London, ending at the Thames Estuary, which leads into the North Sea. It has over 200 bridges, with 21 in Central London between Hammersmith and Tower Bridges.
It’s also one of the cleanest rivers in the world that flows through a major city – it provides two-thirds of London’s drinking water (after treatment, of course) and is home to 125 fish species. It looks brown because of the silt on the riverbed, whose particles disperse and make it look muddy – it’s not dirty. I feel that’s part of its charm, and the river changes colour, reflecting the seasons and the sky; it’s a river of many moods. And provides one of the most perfect ways to explore the sights of London Town.
Today we’re embarking on a winter tour along the Thames starting at the pier closest to home – Riverside Quarter Wandsworth. Our Uber Boat by Thames Clippers arrives precisely on time and we’re soon aboard and heading east towards Greenwich. It’s a typical London winter day, grey and blustery with a light drizzle but it doesn’t matter because it’s cosy and warm on the boat. There’s even a bar, serving everything from coffee to alcoholic beverages.
Our route takes us past many of London’s stunning sights. From the newly-completed Battersea Power Station to the ancient Tower of London with plenty in between. It’s hard to stop snapping away as we pass the stylishly regal Houses of Parliament, the sparkling London Eye, the glittering Shard, St Pauls Cathedral and the towering buildings of the City of London and Canary Wharf before we arrive at the grandeur of Greenwich with its imposing naval college and verdant park.
It’s a fascinating journey as the river clearly does not flow in a straight line (like depicted on the Underground map) but meanders in loops through the city providing a slightly disconcerting perspective at times. Buildings often seem on the wrong side of the river…until we turn another corner. The trip takes about an hour and we soak up the historical heart of London in comfort while the rain pelts down on the windows. It’s strangely reassuring and somehow appropriate way to explore London on a day like this. Even our little dog loved it (pets are welcome!).
You can hop on and off as the fancy takes you and the All Zone River Roamer ticket gives you access to the boats for 24 hours. Download the timetable and take to the river – you’ll totally avoid all that London traffic and can enjoy most of its famed views without leaving your seat. And you’ll be kept dry and warm, no matter what the weather. Oh and don’t forget the bar, it serves both exceptional coffee which we enjoyed on our outbound journey and lovely wine at good prices which we splashed out on for our return. Making the trip all the more enjoyable.
Uber Boat by Thames Clippers calls at 24 piers across London from Barking Riverside in the east to Putney in the west, including many of the city’s hotspots such as Greenwich, Tower, London Bridge, London Eye (Waterloo), Westminster, and Battersea Power Station. With a River Roamer ticket, you can enjoy unlimited hop-on, hop-off travel throughout the day. An All Zones River Roamer costs just £21.20 and can be purchased online, on the Thames Clippers Tickets and Uber apps, and at piers.
Words by Sandy Cadiz-Smith