The River Thames is one of the most wonderful things about London. Inextricably bound up with the city's history—it's the main reason the Romans founded Londinium in the first place—of course it's fascinating from that perspective. As Anna Quindlen eloquently remarks in Imagined London:
|"[The Thames] is less a river than the single most indelible piece of British history....There is something about flowing water that seems immutable, as though there might still be a hint of Cromwell or Chaucer running under the bridges, the most eternal part of a constantly reconstituted city."|
But it's also just a wonderful, relaxing, exciting, and beautiful place to visit, float along, and take pictures of. And I did a lot of the latter!
This page contains a small selection of my favorite general River Thames photos. I have separate, related, pages which contain more photos of the River:
You can see larger versions of the photos on this page, plus many more, in this Flickr set, which covers the River in general.
Plus, for details and more of my impressions, see these blog posts:
I think you'll see, as you look at these photos, that the river is a much more hospitable-looking waterway than the one described in some stories you might have read. London has been working very hard (even before they were awarded the 2012 Olympics) to clean up the river and they've done a great job.
I'm going to follow the river, as an organizing principle for this page —heading downstream toward the sea. So we'll start with less developed shorelines, move through the heart of London-for-tourists, and on to the stretch that used to be such a bustling port.
The shot on the left below, looking downstream from near Hammersmith Bridge, shows the Thames about as far upstream as I got. (Not counting my trip to Oxford.) You can barely see the lights of Craven Cottage, the football ground I was heading toward, in the distance on the near shore. The fancy building across the River, and somwhat nearer, is the old Harrod's warehouse. You can see a closer picture of it in the Flickr set. And on the right is a good example of the River being used for recreation: rowers gliding under Hammersmith Bridge.
A bit further downstream I saw some shorebirds (living evidence of a cleaner Thames), and was able to take this lovely shot, of buildings across the River from Bishop's Park:
Some London residents live a close encounter with the Thames all the time. Here are some houseboats near Battersea Bridge, with the Lott's Power Station development in the background, just one of the many large—and mostly handsome—developments that are taking advantage of desirable riverfront property:
Here are three nice shots looking upstream from Chelsea Bridge, the next major crossing downstream from Battersea. The greenspace on the left bank is Battersea Park, and you can see the Albert Bridge, and the development near Lott's Power Station, off in the distance in the other two:
Here are two views of the only section of the River that some tourists see. First, on the left, looking downstream from the Albert Embankment between Vauxhall and Lambeth Bridges, you can see the Victoria Tower and Houses of Parliament on the other side of the River, and the London Eye on the South Bank. The picture on the right was taken a good bit further downstream, from near Blackfriar's Bridge on the Victoria Embankment, looking back up at the same group of tourist attractions. Because the River makes a big bend here, it looks like the Houses of Parliament and the Eye are right next to each other; but they are really on opposite banks and the Eye is a bit downstream of Parliament as well.
Another shot featuring the very photogenic lampposts along the Embankments is on the left here. It was taken from near Waterloo Bridge, looking downstream. You can see St. Paul's coming up and even get a glimpse of the "gherkin" between the first two lampposts. Again, the river bends might fool you, both are on the same side of the River. On the right there's a photo looking back upstream at Blackfriars Bridge from the Millennium Bridge. No big landmarks visible here, but it's a nice shot of this section of the Thames Path and you can see one of the clean-up barges that frequent the Thames and do such good work. The sign on it says "Eat Rubbish."
Moving a bit further downstream, we have these two shots, representing very different, but both quite attractive, lighting conditions for River photography. On the left is one taken from the Millennium Bridge near sunset, looking downstream towards the Southwark, London, and Tower Bridges. And on the right, earlier afternoon light nicely illuminates the City of London's impressive skyscrapers, the most recognizable of which is the "gherkin," at 30 St. Mary Axe.
We're almost at the end of the tourist-y Thames, a section marked by the iconic Tower Bridge. Here's a picture of the floating museum HMS Belfast (with some kayakers looking very small beside it). You can see one of the Tower Bridge's towers in the background. And then a glimpse of the River from within the Tower of London complex itself. The roundish building on the other side of the River is London's City Hall.
The tide must have been out when Henry first crossed the Tower Bridge, since this photo was taken from it, exposing what's known as the foreshore. Check out the high watermarks on the walls to see what a large difference there is between low and high tide on the Thames:
That covers the sections of the Thames that I was most familiar with. However, I did make two trips to Greenwich, several miles downstream from Tower Bridge. Here are the blog posts that describe these excursions: First trip to Greenwich • Second trip to Greenwich. And here are some pictures taken there or on the way. On the top, below, are some rowers we saw on our boat cruise downstream (my second trip). Behind them you can see some of the new apartment buildings that are springing up all along the River's banks. Since this is the side of London where most of the Olympic activity will be happening, it's not surprising that there are lots of new buildings here.
Below are two shots of the River from near Greenwich pier. On the left I'm looking downstream and you can see the distinctive "antennae" of the O2 Arena as well as some more of those swanky new apartment developments. On the right is another one of the clean-up barges. This one says "Working Together for a Cleaner Thames."
I'll close with two lovely shots that showcase what a beautiful, beautiful river the Thames is. First another sunset photo from the Millennium Bridge, this one looking upstream. You can see the silhouette of Blackfriar's Bridge and just get a glimpse of the Oxo Tower behind the large building on the left. The photo on the right was taken while we waited for the fireworks that would finish out the Mayor's Thames Festival. We had found a great viewing spot at Cleopatra's Needle. The tall tower you see on the other side of the River is the Tate Modern's.
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