On St Mary’s Church at the bottom of the high-street is a small sign beneath the clock bearing the words “Time and tide stay for no man”. Certainly living in Putney the tide plays an integral role in the mood and feel of the area. It rises and falls to create vastly different impressions of the river and the areas along it. The low tides leave huge expanses of beach exposed, letting you stroll right down along the edge of the river, where as the high tides give the river much more majesty – the contrast between the two really underlines just how much water is moved up the Thames each day.
Occasionally they reach such heights that they flood over the embankment and toe-path along the south side of the river West of Putney Bridge, catching those out not aware of the impeding flood. We saw several cars were caught out, and The Putney Paper saw plenty of runners and cyclists come to a slow, gradual halt as they peered in front of them and realised the way was blocked and alternative routes were required.
The super high tides are actually quite a common occurrence throughout the year, as this list on the excellent Putneysw15.com shows. This year they’ll be at least 50 this year. Today’s hit 7.38 meters but the highest will be on 25 July, at 04:54am, reaching 7.54 meters. A date for the diary. It’s a strange sensastion when the boats moored on the river appear higher than the road on which you’re walking.
Interestingly, the Jubilee river flotilla event took place on a day when the tide would have usually flooded the bank but given the need for normal access on that day the flood barriers were shut upstream to help keep the tides at bay.