The Panorama of the Thames conservation project is creating a unique and enduring historical record of the banks of the river through Great Britain’s capital city, London. It contains panoramic images and videos, accompanied by an extensive database to cover every feature along 52 miles of rapidly changing riverbank.
From the dawn of civilization, rivers have been the crux of human life. Most great cities are built around rivers. We use them for sustenance, transportation or simply to have a nice stroll and a good time. Throughout the ages, artists found inspiration in rivers, portraying their many faces on paintings. But how many faces can a river have?
Nothing beats getting to know the River Thames than walking her historic banks.
At 184 miles, the Thames Path tracks the river from its source in the Cotswolds, but as it closes in on the City, the path offers stunning routes that cross through central London, divided into more achievable sections.
One of our favourites is the Putney to Tower Bridge section (about 10 miles) which offers two different routes. The first through Battersea Park and then past historical sights including the Houses of Parliament and the London Eye. The second route takes you through Chelsea, Westminster and Embankment to reach the Tower of London and Tower Bridge.
For more inspiration take a look at these articles
A buyer explains how his life has changed since buying a houseboat through RiverHomes, and why living on a floating home truly offers the relaxing lifestyle amongst the hubbub of a busy city.
Why do you live on the river?
I remember one day walking alongside the river, seeing a community of houseboats and thought ‘why not me?’. As soon as the idea popped into my head I contacted RiverHomes, as the houseboat specialists, to help me through the process.
Have you always lived on / by the water?
Before this [owning the houseboat] I have never lived on the water, although I have always sailed.
Is it how you expected it to be?
It is everything I hoped it would be.
What is your favourite thing about living on the Thames?
The constant change. The change in light, water level, birds, trees.
I also love the flexibility owning a houseboat offers me. It’s like a tortoise shell, I can cruise off to visit a different area and take my home with me.
What is it about your view that you like particularly?
I am lucky to have very good views both up and down river. It’s also wonderful being opposite the Leg of Mutton island nature reserve.
Do you like any season particularly?
I like that there are seasons and enjoy every one.
How has your lifestyle changed since living on the river?
Mostly because being in a conventional house you go inside and close the door. Here there feels much more of a community. Everyone is so neighbourly, so close. We are a group who have chosen this lifestyle and all want it.
I now have a different friendship group, and know my neighbours much better than when I lived in a house in Hammersmith.
Do you eat / drink out along the river? Any favourites?
There are a series of waterside pubs and restaurants that I use regularly and enthusiastically! I use my bicycle a lot to get to these.
The Black Lion is a friendly pub with a good range of beers and food.
The Dove is a nice, cosy, historic pub.
What do friends say when they visit you for the first time?
When my daughters first saw the houseboat they said ‘go for it’ and I have regular visitors.
The first time friends visit it is ‘wow’ and then there are questions about any snags to living on the river. It’s great to turn their preconceptions upside down when they realise that I live in a warm, cosy space with great headroom!
All my friends are now enthusiastic visitors and we have a barbeque on deck on Boat race day and for the Great River race. Great fun!
Do you prefer high tide or low tide?
I like both. I like that I go up and down.
Are you more in tune with news / events / about / on the River since living on her?
Yes. I am a member of the Pier Trust and stay in touch with events, as well as attending their lectures on river related history, wildlife and ecology.
What do you like most about your houseboat?
It’s just a lovely way to live. A lovely place to live. I love it in every way.
Anything else to add?
I thought that just looking for the right houseboat was a lot of fun. RiverHomes showed me lots of different houseboats and floating homes in different areas and on different moorings. I really enjoyed the whole process and making a fantastic choice with the assistance and knowledge of the RiverHomes team.
I feel like it is something that every Londoner should experience. Author of London in Fragments: A Mudlark’s Treasures.
What is your connection to the river?
I am the author of London in Fragments: A Mudlark’s Treasures. I like to mudlark all over the river from east to west. I typically take public transport down to the river with my wellies in a bag. It’s great to just be able to travel around and just choose and explore different locations.
I discovered mudlarking in early 2000. When I moved to London, mudlarking was something I would do very, very occasionally. It was something I would do almost entirely solo. You know, I’d go when the tide was out. I would just hop over the wall and go into the foreshore and just walk. Not even look for things. It’s amazing by the river. It’s so incredibly different to being in London. It’s suddenly very quiet, empty and you can feel a sense of loneliness or at least of being alone.
As a hobby, mudlarking took a fairly long gestation period. Even as much as a decade where it would be purely chance that would bring me to the river. Eventually I found the excitelyment of discovering historic objects down there really stayed with me. So the remarkable thing about mudlarking is that the history of London is so extraordinary and so intimate. You get down to the foreshore and you know, lying at your feet, you suddenly spy something that no one has held apart from you and the person who dropped it. That’s a really powerful feeling. Reaching, reaching through history; reaching through time.
I have found some wonderful, wonderful things. They’re interesting in different ways. Sometimes it’s just finding a very small object and using detective work to find out what it is; what sort of story it can tell. A little bit of glass can take you back to a nineteenth century pickle factory or bits of pottery that tell you about London’s industry but I think one of my favourite finds is a pearl that I found just outside of the Tate Modern. So right in the centre of the city and not hidden in any way. It was just exposed on the gravel and it was quite a large pearl of a type called baroque, as in it’s not perfectly circular. It was actually shaped like a pear. I had it mounted with a sort of little gold mount that gave it a tiny single pear leaf and a little stem and I gave it to my wife when the book was published as a kind of thank you for putting up with me while I was doing all the research and everything. It was a very treasured find.
The book does have a really good chapter about how to mudlark. First, you need to secure a license from the Port of London Authority because without one, you simply cannot mudlark. With a license in hand, go down to the river when the tide is out which you can find out from online tidal tables. Go down to the river at low tide. Find a spot where you can access the foreshore and there are lots and lots of these where you will see some stairs going down or a gate that will open up. Then just walk down and experience being on the foreshore. It’s always restorative to walk next to the water anyway, and you will experience that sense of being outside of time. Just look at your feet as you’re walking alone. It’s like beachcombing in some ways. You’re looking for things that don’t match that ground; that sort of don’t match the grave, sand and the mud that you’re walking on. You might find Victorian clay pipes or you might find beads and jewellery. People find incredible Roman fragments. The River Thames has all of London’s history on the foreshore.
I wrote the book because I really wanted to share this genuine excitement and access.
I should probably caution that if you find anything that dates back prior to 1650, you need to report it to the Find Liaison Officer, or FLO, at the Port of London Authority.
Our passion is not just the river, but also the wellbeing that can be achieved by spending time by water and, more generally, with nature. We felt that this aligned with our thoughts as well as why so many of our clientele choose to live in a RiverHome.