Monday, July 30, 2018

Thames River Routes: Richmond to Hampton Court

There were two problems with blogging this route.

Firstly, the vessel for the first half of the voyage was the boat above which, to quote someone on Twitter, is SO FAKE!!!!

It's not just that it isn't a paddle steamer (the wheel rotates on its own) and the smoke stake is a prop (rotated up and down for bridges) but the design is foreign to the Thames - see this post here.

The second problem was that had already covered this part of the river on the Westminster to Hampton Court route.

However as there is always something happening on the river went along and did indeed get some blogging material. The route can be seen in the map from the operator, Turks, here:

A one way ticket cost £ 9 and stopped at the following piers:
  • St Helena Pier, Richmond
  • Turks Pier Kingston
  • Town End Pier, Kingston
  • Turks Pier, Hampton Court

There was fun at the Teddington lock when the narrow boat ahead went through the wrong lock and then dropped the boat hook, which entertained those watching:

As I said, things do happen on the water.

Entertainment for all was increased by a local boy's response to the fake smoke stacks on the Turks boat, which was to exclaim very loudly that "its got two giant d*ld*s at the front!!":

At Kingston we had to disembark one boat and get on another. This had just had a crowd of what looked like a "Made in Chelsea" party. If you haven't seen that TV show (and I haven't, only the trailers, though Sassi "loves, loves, loves it") it involves a bunch of young, beautiful and rich types with a sense of entitlement enjoying life in that part of London.

The second boat, which the MiC lot had just left, had a floor sticky with spilt drink and crew in full "thank god they're someone elses's problem now" attitude.
Anyway, it pottered on up, and we passed a few other boats (it being a cool overcast day) and a little wildlife. I don't think its a great way to go bird watching, TBH, as its the wrong time of day (dawn / dusk better) plus of course its a large, loud, human machine disturbing the water.

Finally made it to Hampton Court after an hour and three quarters just in time to see the train head back to London and realise the next was 30 minutes away.

Ah well, that's why we have a smartphone on one.

Saturday, July 28, 2018

Thames River Routes: Westminster to Hampton Court

This is the longest of all the river routes I went on in both duration and length. Taking about three and a quarter hours it connected the following piers:

  • Westminster
  • Kew
  • Richmond
  • Hampton Court

That's about 35 km worth of the upper river while remaining in London (as defined via the London Stones) including both tidal and non-tidal Thames.

It's a very pleasant way to spend a couple of hours. It starts in the centre of London, full of tourists and tourist sights:

It then heads upriver and keeps on going....

... and going...

... and going....

... all the way to Hampton Court (top photo).

On the way, the Thames bank can be seen to go from hard stone to green vegetation:

There is officially any commentary but unofficially the staff give a good job of quirky did-you-know facts including pointing out where Elton John, Robbie Williams and Cher live (Chelsea Harbour if you're interested).

To get from the tidal Thames to non-Tidal Thames there is one or two (depending on state of the tide) locks to go through, in particular this one at Teddington:

Prices and timetable can be found at the operator's web site here which are worth checking as they change depending upon the tide and time of year. They also give this useful map:

It's a good way to make your way to Kew Gardens or Hampton Court Palace if you're visiting those places. It was also interesting to see the route from the water having walked or biked it from the Thames path.

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Thames River Routes: RB6

RB6 is the river bus route I use the most as the far west end is Putney. The full list of stops (west to east) is:
  • Putney
  • Wandsworth Riverside
  • Plantation Wharf
  • Chelsea Harbour
  • Cadogan Square
  • Battersea Power Station
  • St George's Wharf
  • Milbank
  • Embankment
  • Blackfriars
  • Bankside
  • London Bridge City 
  • Canary Wharf 
As always the timetable is a mess in the sense that I can't find a single sailing that goes to all of those piers, there're always some that are missed off. For example:
  • Non-peak hours, the route west ends at Battersea Power Station
  • Non-peak hours, the route east ends at London Bridge
  • Peak hours, the route misses out Bankside and Milbank
  • etc.
The time I took it was peak hours so went the full route from Canary Wharf to Putney (on way back from the NMM conference on the history of navigation) but missed a few piers, which picked up when taking other routes.

The river east of Tower Bridge (above) is wide and sided by many warehouses turned into apartments plus famous pubs and the Thames Police and their museum (as visited many years ago):

The central section is chockablock with tourists top sights:

Note all photos taken with phone as main camera battery mysteriously died earlier.

I like to sit at the back outside when the weather is good and you have to choose which side to sit (unless you sit backwards and see both directions not so well). In this case I was on the north side so the pics are of that bank.

Alas Big Ben wasn't a great subject as currently undergoing restoration:

This photo also emphasises the way the Thames wiggles as it is clearly taken into the sun while on the "north side" of the boat: here the river actually runs south to north.

Further up pass the great development work at Battersea Power Station:

This is still work in progress but they have a lot of convincing to do as the general impression from locals is its aimed out non-resident non-doms wanting to park some money. The old Thames of Lots Road Power Station is also undergoing development:

Towards the end the river banks turn green and the river quieter:

The boat arrives at Putney at 18:30 having left Canary Wharf at 17:25, so that's just over an hour. In a rush a train/tube combo might be a little quicker but its definitely not as scenic.

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Thames River Routes: RB5

The difficulty of defining RB5 sums up part of the problem with the Thames Clipper timetable. Conceptually it's simple, a limited service connecting the following piers:

  • North Greenwich
  • Woolwich / Royal Arsenal

But these two piers were also served by the RB1 / RB1X routes.

The idea, I think, is that at weekends the RB1 / RB1X boat, a large clipper, stops at North Greenwich and then heads back into central London. A separate, smaller clipper boat (often used for RB6 to Putney), shuttles between North Greenwich and Woolwich, and this is the RB5.

However the day I went to North Greenwich there were two large cruise liners in London that had hired the smaller clipper boat and so the larger RB1 boat was continuing on Woolwich.

I was a bit worried that this might not count as going on RB5 but the timetable expert at the pier side said the larger boat arrived as RB1 but left as RB5 and the printed timetable at Woolwich definitely said RB5 not RB1 so felt I could confidently tick this one off.

The endless new blocks of apartments made there were no views of the O2 and the Gormley sculpture Quantum Cloud is now hard to see from the river so instead I took the picture above of a Thames Barge heading towards Trinity Wharf.

This end of the river is wider with more of an estuary feel and zips though the magnificent Thames Barrier:

After this is passes the Woolwich ferry which of course had been on as part of the ferries of London project:

Then we arrived at Woolwich pier and there was a quick turnaround as the clipper was late and some were a bit slow on reaching it in time and hence missed it, watching it disappear off upriver in a roar of spray.

Sunday, July 22, 2018

Thames River Routes: RB2

RB2 covers the inner London section of the Thames, connecting the following piers (from west to east):

  • Battersea Power Station
  • St. Georges Wharf
  • Milbank
  • Embankment
  • Blackfriars
  • Bankside
  • London Bridge City

It runs both peak hours and weekends, unlike, (say) peak week day only RB6 which has a further reach west. It doesn't stop at Westminster & London Eye / Waterloo so you'd have to change at Embankment or simply walk (seriously not far from that pier).

There used to be a special Tate to Tate route that went from Milbank (for Tate Britain) to Bankside (for Tate Modern) but now that's part of RB2.

I went eastwards on a Saturday afternoon in peak tourist season in which the river was seriously crowded and boats delayed. The Thames Clipper cats can accelerate to some speeds and in a rush to catch up time were upsetting other slower boats. In particular, one party boat turned hard to port, blew its horn twice to reinforce the message, but the Clipper still zoomed along its port side, causing the other vessel's skipper to throw his hands up in the air.

Anyhow, it was a lovely afternoon and there are great sights to be seen. This time was sitting on the south side of the boat where can initially see the shell (as it was then) of Battersea Power Station surrounded by cranes (above).

Just along from that was the brand new American Embassy which apparently Trump doesn't like:

Further along is Vauxhall Bridge and when on the water you can see the key decoration which are statues invisible to those passing overhead:

Downriver you can see Drury's Science, Fine Arts, Local Government and Education while upriver there are Pomeroy's Agriculture, Architecture, Engineering and Pottery. Behind you can see spook central aka the offices of MI6.

Just beyond is Lambeth Bridge, with the Archbishop's Palace in the background:

Lambeth Bridge is painted red (pink) to reflect the colour of the House of Lords benches while Westminster Bridge is green as that's the colour of the benches in the House of Commons.

Central London has of course top sights like the London Eye, Tate Modern and Shakespeare's Globe:

The route ends at London Bridge City. If you want to go back you have to leave the boat to tap out and then tap in again, but for me I was leaving at this point, with views downstream to the HMS Belfast and Tower Bridge:

Friday, July 20, 2018

Thames River Routes: RB1

RB1 is the longest of the Thames Clipper routes, with some sailings going all the way from Battersea Power Station to Woolwich. But not all sailings stop at all the piers and there is a clear choice that you can either take #thelongestroute or do #allthepiers.

I decided to do the latter as the longest route overlapped two other RBs, namely RB2 from Battersea Power Station to London Bridge and RB5 from North Greenwich to Woolwich (which did on different days). However there were some piers that only RB1 went to.... hence #allthepiers.

Are you following all this? If you want, check out the timetable here but there doesn't really appear to be a single RB1, rather a set of combination of piers connecting multiple start and multiple end points.

Anyhow, in this case I got the #allthepiers route from Embankment to North Greenwich as follows::

  • Embankment
  • Westminster
  • London Eye (Waterloo)
  • Blackfriars
  • Bankside
  • London Bridge City
  • Tower
  • Canary Wharf
  • Greenland (Surrey Quays)
  • Masthouse Terrace
  • Greenwich
  • North Greenwich (The O2)

Jolly nice it was too, initially heading upriver to Westminster (above) and the London Eye before turning down river.

At the back of the boat is a seating area where you can admire the views (above and below), though you also get a certain amount of diesel engine fumes.

The boat was a lot less busy after Tower Bridge as quite a lot of passengers were just doing the central sights. After that there's a long stretch without any piers until Canary Wharf, but the view backwards is pretty good:

In this stretch the river opens up and you have to know what to look for (Thames Police MuseumThames Tunnel etc.) rather than there being obvious sights.

However just beyond Canary Wharf is Greenwich, home to the Cutty Sark:

Pretty much everyone got out at this point but I kept on to North Greenwich, the last stop on this particular RB1 and the O2 Dome:

Here there was a wait for the return journey when saw the "secret ferry" connecting the North Greenwich with Trinity Wharf:

Note: the hashtag #allthepiers is a subtle reference to one of my favourite YouTube channels, namely "All The Stations" in which Geoff and Vicki went to all the railway stations in Britain during the summer of 2017. If you haven't seen them, head over to YouTube as its a real treat.

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Thames River Routes: exploring the scheduled river services

After last year's project to travel on all the Ferries of London it was obvious to try to go on all the routes up and down the river.

But which boats to include? I found a long list of different types of Thames boat trips on the Transport for London (TfL) web site - far to many to consider.

It needed something to focus on, so I used this map of timetabled routes up and down the river:

This was a perilous decision.... it included routes no Londoner could dare admit to travelling on, namely the (whisper it) tourist cruises.

But in the name of honest reporting and a weird psychological need to complete obscure challenges I set off.

Starting with the Thames Clipper (as in the photo at top) services which have the following river bus (RB) routes:
  • RB1: between central London and eastern piers such as North Greenwich and Woolwich / Royal Arsenal
  • RB2: covers the central zone from Battersea Power Station and London Bridge City
  • RB3: there is no RB3 (it used to connect from London Bridge pier and Canary Wharf  according to this old map)
  • RB4: this is the Doubletree Docklands Ferry, which I did last year as part of the Ferries of London (so didn't feel a need to do again). Updated: but did anyhow!
  • RB5: between North Greenwich and Woolwich / Royal Arsenal
  • RB6: my favourite, taking me home to Putney from central London (or to meetings in town)

The timetable is a bit confusing but over the last few weeks have ridden on each route and stopped at every pier on their schedules. The route map also includes another ferry have already been on, namely:

There are also additional routes upstream from other companies, such as:

Finally there were the central tourist routes, in particular:

The Thames Clipper route pricing is based upon zones as in the pic at the below with {West, Central, East} zones and prices per number of zones. For some reason {Central + West} is more expensive than {Central + East} - no idea why.

The best way to pay is by tapping in and out with your contact-less credit card otherwise use an Oyster. Buying a physical ticket at the machines is more expensive so don't do that.

And so: the river buses !

Monday, July 16, 2018

The London Canal Museum

A final canal related post, this time about the London Canal Museum.

This is just round the corner from Kings Cross / St. Pancras and no prizes for guessing what this museum covers. It's a good source of information about the history of London's canals, showing the network both built and unbuilt, still functioning and those waters that have been lost:

The building itself is interesting as it used to be an ice store and there's a large cellar where the ice used to be kept. Outside by the wharf is an old canal tug, Bantam IV:

Upstairs is a large space where archive films were being shown and which is also a place where there are exhibitions, talks and concerts.

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Canal Walks: The Shortest Canal

If all those canal walks sounded too much like hard work then why not try the walking the shortest canal in London?

The Grosvenor Canal must be just under 200 m in length and is very handy, being close to Victoria Station. It used to go all the way but has been progressively filled in so that only the section nearest the Thames remains, surrounded by the inevitable blocks of luxury apartments (above).

The entrance to the Thames and final locks can be seen below:

From the Thames little is to be seen, just shadow underneath Grosvenor Road built along London Embankment:

It was actually the last canal to be used for commercial traffic and wasn't the shortest ever built in London, which was in Wandwsorth.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Tall ship at night, by Greenwich Old Naval College

This round of visit of tall ships to London seems a lot lower key than previous years. I really struggled to find web sites that gave the firework times and nothing about a parade of sail.

Visit Greenwich didn't seem to know (or were unwilling to say) when the fireworks were but I found the necessary information on the PLA's Notices To Mariners.

The fireworks too were a bit of a let-down, as early in the evening (so the sky not dark), not by Greenwich's Old Naval College but by Deptford Creek and with a whopping great cruise ship as foreground rather than any pretty tall ship:

Couple of factors seemed to be behind this, in particular the cruise ship company sponsoring the Greenwich Music Time being held actually in the Old Naval College meant the fireworks had to be moved elsewhere.

Given I really enjoyed the Noel Gallagher gig I can't really complain about this and did manage to snap one ship slip by (top picture) while listening to whoever was playing that night.