Flowing fascination: What are interesting River Thames facts?

While it’s true that the River Thames proudly courses its way through the heart of London, there’s a hidden world of wonders that stretches far beyond the city limits.

Starting its journey in the picturesque landscapes of Gloucestershire and eventually winding its way to a mysterious confluence somewhere between Kent and Essex, the Thames has a treasure trove of quirky, cool facts waiting to be discovered.

So join us as we unravel the lesser-known tales, celebrate its quirks, and dive deep into some of the most interesting facts about the River Thames!

It’s often referred to as the “River of Liquid History” 

Media from nadeemsheikh777

The River Thames has been a witness to London’s evolution for centuries, dating back to Roman times. It’s seen it all – from the grandeur of the Tudor era to the ravages of the Great Fire of London and even the bombs of the Blitz during World War II. 

And guess what? The Thames hasn’t just been a passive observer. It’s been a key player in London’s story. Trade, transportation, and even recreation have all thrived on its waters. Without the Thames, London as we know it might not exist.

The River Thames is about 346 kilometres long

Media from justefe

First off, that impressive length is nothing to scoff at. It makes the Thames the longest river in England, and the second-longest in the UK overall. That’s right, it’s playing second fiddle only to the mighty River Severn. 

So, when you’re gazing at this meandering waterway from the likes of Tower Bridge or the London Eye, you’re gazing at a piece of geographic history.

The Thames has more than 200 bridges and tunnels crossing it

Media from stevo_white10011

Londoners have been building Thames bridges and tunnels for centuries, dating back to Roman times. From the historic Tower Bridge to the futuristic Millennium Bridge, each structure tells a story of architectural innovation and engineering prowess.

Some of these crossings are more than just means to an end too. They’re attractions in their own right. 

Take the Tower Bridge, for instance. It’s a towering symbol of London, complete with a glass-floored walkway for thrill-seekers.

The Thames used to cause flooding in London 

Media from heloucou

The Thames has been flooding London for centuries, and it’s left its watery mark on the city’s history. There are records of catastrophic floods dating back to Roman times, and even the medieval London Bridge had houses on it that were swallowed by the river during floods.

It pushed London to develop its intricate system of river defences, including the famous Thames Barrier, which has kept the city high and dry since its completion in the 1980s.

The Thames Barrier was built to protect London from tidal surges and flooding

Media from mikehutton63

Imagine London, a bustling metropolis, teetering on the brink of watery disaster. Tides surging, floodwaters rising, and the city at risk. That’s where the Thames Barrier swoops in like a caped crusader.

You see, London has a bit of a history with flooding, and not the charming, poetic kind you might find in a Wordsworth poem. We’re talking about real, soggy, and potentially disastrous floods. The Thames Barrier was conceived to put an end to these aquatic nightmares.

The river provides ⅔ of London’s drinking water 

Media from barker9969

The Thames may have a reputation for being a bit, well, murky, but thanks to modern water treatment plants, that H2O is as clean and crisp as the morning dew. It goes through a rigorous filtration process, ensuring that what flows from your faucet is safe.

And there’s history in those waters, too – London’s dependence on the Thames for drinking water dates back to Roman times. 

The river has witnessed the rise and fall of empires, plagues, and royal pomp and circumstance, all while dutifully providing hydration to the city’s residents.

The river is home to over 120 species of fish, including salmon and chub

Media from goshii

You might think a river that flows through a bustling metropolis like London would be too polluted or disturbed for aquatic life to thrive, but the Thames fish say otherwise. They’ve adapted, evolved, and claimed their watery territory.

Now, the salmon is the true showstopper. These remarkable fish swim from the open ocean all the way up the Thames to their spawning grounds. It’s like their own personal version of “Finding Nemo”, but with more of a British accent.

And then there’s the chub, a feisty little fish that’s not afraid to call the Thames home. 

It’s possible to swim the entire length of the River Thames

Media from fernandogodoy1720

The first person to accomplish this feat was Lewis Pugh back in 2006. He embarked on this remarkable journey to raise awareness of global warming. However, there was a twist in his adventure – the headwater had dried up, so he had to run rather than swim the first section.

The annual Oxford and Cambridge University Boat Race takes place on the Thames

Media from hillsroadrowing 

Oxford and Cambridge, two of the world’s most renowned universities, have been duking it out on the Thames since 1829. Forget lecture halls and dusty books. These scholars take their rivalry to the water, rowing their hearts out in the name of university pride!

But it’s not just about academics – it’s a gruelling physical test. The race covers a challenging 4.2-mile stretch of the Thames, from Putney to Mortlake, testing the endurance and skill of the rowers. 

In the 19th century, the Thames was so polluted that it was declared “biologically dead” 

Media from ian_1078

Back in Victorian days, London was booming, and the Thames was at the heart of it all. The river was the city’s lifeblood, bustling with boats, and carrying everything from goods to sewage. Yep, you read that right – sewage.

The pollution was so severe that in 1957 the Thames was “biologically dead”. It was basically an aquatic graveyard. Fish were scarce, and the riverbanks were coated with sludge and muck.

Today, the Thames is a thriving ecosystem once again, with a variety of fish and a pleasant place for a leisurely stroll. It’s a testament to the power of human intervention and a vital lesson in the importance of taking care of our environment.

The river is a habitat for several species of birds, including herons, swans, and kingfishers

Media from sooze74

The Thames plays host to several species of birds, and not just your run-of-the-mill pigeons. We’re talking majestic herons, elegant swans, and the jewel-toned kingfishers. These birds add a touch of wild elegance to the urban hustle and bustle.

The riverbanks and wetlands along the Thames provide these winged wonders with the perfect sanctuary. It’s like a five-star hotel for birds, complete with room service in the form of abundant fish, insects, and aquatic plants.

The Thames was once used for “frost fairs” during severe winters when it froze over

Media from artististraveling

With the river frozen, it meant the hustle and bustle of trade and transportation came to a standstill. So, Londoners made the most of the situation by turning the frozen river into a temporary playground and marketplace.

But what goes up must come down, and as temperatures warmed in the 19th century, the frost fairs became a thing of the past. The Thames simply didn’t freeze over as reliably as it once did.

The river smelled so bad in 1858 that it was christened The Big Stink

Media from  zoeleighhassall 

As the summer heat cranked up in 1858, so did the stench. It hung in the air like an invisible fog of doom, reaching every nook and cranny of the city. Parliament even had to close its windows to escape the noxious fumes.

It pushed the government to take action. Sir Joseph Bazalgette, a brilliant engineer, designed a revolutionary sewer system that rerouted London’s waste away from the Thames and into a network of underground tunnels.

The river has been featured in many movies, including James Bond films like “The World Is Not Enough”

Media from leon.tandela

This river has been a source of inspiration for artists, writers, and filmmakers for centuries. Its iconic landmarks, historic bridges, and stunning waterfront provide the perfect setting for cinematic adventures.

We’re talking about the James Bond franchise. In “The World Is Not Enough”, the Thames plays a starring role in an electrifying boat chase. Bond, as dashing as ever, zips along the river with all the high-speed action that fans love.

London’s famous “Mudlarkers” search the riverbanks for historical artefacts and treasures

Media from lockdownexplorer1

These intrepid explorers venture into the river’s muddy banks during low tide, armed with little more than buckets, trowels, and an insatiable curiosity. They sift through centuries of silt and sediment, unearthing everything from ancient pottery shards to Victorian-era relics.

So, what’s hiding in the Thames’ murky embrace? Well, you name it – Roman coins, medieval jewellery, Tudor pottery, and even World War II artefacts. It’s like taking a stroll through history, one muddy artefact at a time.

The river is divided into two main sections: the Upper Thames and the Lower Thames

Media from keithkfleung

First things first, the Upper Thames is like the river’s head honcho. It’s the source of the Thames, a bubbling spring in the picturesque Cotswolds that kick-starts this liquid adventure. 

But then, there’s the Lower Thames – the river’s bustling, urban sibling. This is where the Thames takes on its big-city persona. As it flows through London, it rubs shoulders with iconic landmarks like the Tower Bridge, the London Eye, and the Houses of Parliament. 

The Thames has been featured in countless works of art, including the painting “Waterloo Bridge” by Claude Monet

Media from fragaud

Monet’s “Waterloo Bridge” takes the Thames-inspired art to a whole new level. This legendary French painter, known for his dreamy landscapes and shimmering light, chose the river as his subject during his stay in London in the early 1900s.

Monet painted the same scene – Waterloo Bridge – multiple times, capturing the bridge and the river from various angles and in different lighting conditions. Each painting is like a snapshot of a specific moment in time, frozen in the artist’s distinctive style.

The annual “Totally Thames Festival” celebrates the river’s history and culture 

Media from teeddz

The Totally Thames Festival is like the river’s very own birthday party, complete with cake, and confetti. Okay, maybe not cake, but there’s definitely a lot of excitement in the air.

It’s a month-long extravaganza held every September, jam-packed with events that showcase the Thames in all its glory. Think riverfront concerts, art installations, boat races, and even historical exhibitions. It’s a bit like a Thames-themed carnival that takes over the city.

The “Royal Nore” is a famous sandbank at the mouth of the Thames, known for its role in naval history

Media from highflyingdroneshots

The Royal Nore is a symbol of British naval power. In the 18th and 19th centuries, it served as the rendezvous point for the Royal Navy’s Channel Fleet. Picture majestic warships, their sails billowing in the wind, anchored near this sandy sentinel.

And that name, “Royal Nore” Is a nod to the royal connection – “Nore” originally meant “north bank” in Old English. But with its regal role in naval affairs, it earned the “Royal” title as a mark of distinction.

The River is named for the fact that it’s dark

Media from travelbyarehat

The name “Thames” has ancient roots, dating back to Roman times. It’s derived from the Old English word “Temesa”, which itself is believed to have borrowed from an even older, pre-Roman name, “Tamesas”. 

But what does it mean? Well, it’s all about the river’s colour – the Thames is famously dark or “tam” in appearance.

Interesting Facts About London Eye

Previous Post

Riding high: What are interesting London Eye facts?

Next Post

Savouring the South: What are the top things to do in South London?

Top Things to Do in South London