Reclaiming the River

March 4th, 2014, 1pm

When I stood watching the River Thames the other lunchtime (see here and here), one thing that I was really pleased to see was the number of boats on the River that weren’t tourist-related but actually seemed to be involved in work of some sort.

Centuries ago the Thames was of course vital to London’s growth and prosperity. As with many cities in third world regions today, back then it could be said that the River was the artery that carried London’s life-blood. All manner of trades were reliant on the boats and barges that visited the capital. But as rail and then road transport became dominant, and cargo ships got too big to be able to make it into London, the role of the River declined, with the famous docks in East London finally closing in the late 1970s/early 1980s.

So how heartening it was to see barges like this, and other work boats, using the Thames to carry on their business. In the past I’ve only really noticed the vast numbers of tourist boats taking visitors from every part of the globe up and down this stretch of water. I know this is business too, but of a rather different sort, with, dare I say it, far less character than the industrial vessels of the past.

There is one positive side effect of the decline in the industrial use of the River: it’s much cleaner than it used to be. We even get the occasional seal now, and salmon and trout apparently. Not bad for a river that was declared biologically dead in 1957!

Jacob and David Wade said thanks.

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Adrian Tribe

A follower of Jesus Christ, a husband and father, a Kentish Man (not a Man of Kent), a commuter to London

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