Category Archives: Tides

In praise of…the river

A meeting of cloud, sky and sun over the Thames

A meeting of cloud, sky and sun over the Thames

Yes, yes, it’s an obvious choice and hardly needs pointing out, but then again it’s perhaps because it is so obvious that it does need praising. Aren’t we just so lucky to live on the River Thames?

Growing up far from London the idea you could live within strolling distance of the Thames would have been met with incredulous scoffs about price, availability of places, and other derision, and many friends in other areas of London often seem surprised by the closeness of the river when they come to visit: “What, it’s just down there?” “Yeah, come on I’ll show you.”

What’s so nice, so engrossing, is the endless change that it brings to the area. Any stroll down to the banks and you’re greeted by the tides in various states of rising and falling, sometimes pouring over the edge of the pavements, other times leaving huge expanses of dry shingle shore expose for dogs to charge along and children to play on, even runners to jog across.

Heading across Putney Bridge, on the tube or on the foot bridge, always brings pleasure, even surprise, no matter how often you do it, that you should be greeted to such fine views from a tube carriage – so often that clichéd-comic concept of sweaty armpits shoved in your face. Those people have obviously never travelled in through the back street houses of Fulham and out onto Putney Bridge to be greeted by the beauty of an ebbing tide and a long, slow sunset flitting between the cast-iron fittings into the carriage as you rattle home from work.

River Thames on New Year's Day 2013

River Thames on New Year’s Day 2013

Then, for running, walking, cycling, as you curve up and around to Hammersmith Bridge, as the road gives way to a woody, earthen track, perfect for a feeling of escape and wildlife, the rowers stroking in sync,  the birds circling around. You can follow it for miles if you wish, or just loop back around through Barnes, Putney Common, or back on the north side past Fulham FC.

The boat race – we’ll save that for another time – and the boats you can ride up the river to Embankment, Blackfriars to get to work – we’ll also save that for another time…there’s so much to enjoy and be intoxicated by, to help you ruminate, to escape the London that can get you down – the mad, over-the-top, over-priced, endless-battle city it can sometime seems.

But there, at the bottom of the hill, Old Father Thames – the same river the Romans saw when they first arrived, the same river generations of Kings and Queens have ruled over, the same river that has inspired Shakespeare, Dickens and Wordsworth, just keeps rolling in and rolling out.

We should remember this, and praise it, because right now in all that rich span of history, stretching out over millennia, it’s ours.


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Filed under Good Putney, Sunsets, The Thames, Tides, Water, Weather

Time and tide stay for no man

super high tides in PutneyOn 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 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.

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Filed under The Thames, Tides, Water