Tag Archives: westminter

All Quiet on the Waterfront; Kayaking through London

See also
Kayaking Richmond to Greenwich

Notice anything suspect about this image?

Right now it’s a great time to kayak the Thames through London. It’s only April but due to Covid, the Westminster tourist barge scene is dormant, making that brief but lively stage a bit less fretful. Down at water level we may be hyper vigilant, but can the bloke doing a U-turn in his heaving tourist catamaran see us fending off the standing waves and refracted wakes?
As a barge-tourist in a Union Jack bowler hat asked me last time;
Is this allowed?
Yes it is chum, but a kayak on this part of the Thames is still an incongruous sight. The congestion and the standing waves pushed up by some bridges at certain times can feel a bit like skateboarding in a gale on Runway 3 at Heathrow.

Downloading the PLA’s mammoth 130-page Tideway Code is enough to put anyone off, but I do believe this edition (dated October 2020) is less anti IK than a previous version I read. At the time I recall seeking clarification from the PLA’s media person, and got an arsey corporate riposte. Has last year’s IK consumer surge turned the tide on the PLA’s prejudice? It’s the old problem of misconflating a clueless beginner in £49.95 Aldi bin bag with an alert and well-equipped paddler in a decent high-pressure hybrid. The former far outnumber the latter.
I say: pick your tide, keep right and be observant. For me the biggest peril was dodging the horizontal scythes of the Putney rowers who seem to go up and down across the whole width of the river as they please. They do need a lot of space.

Mortlake to Mayflower (Rotherhithe)
This 21-km (13-mile) stretch lined up well with 10-minute walks from stations at either end.
By Rotherhithe the excitement, such as it is, is over. And skipping the five miles from Richmond gives an easy three hours on the river; a nice early morning or afternoon paddle with good light for great photos or views of the Thames’ bankside icons.
It’s dawn and a Sunday, so it takes two buses and a train to get to Mortlake
Yadda, yadda…
Spacious put-in at Bulls Alley off Mortlake High Street, complete with benches
7.15am. All is calm
A bit of early morning rumpy-pumpy
Head buoy
Genteel Georgian waterfront around Chiswick
Arseache! Hammersmith Bridge is Falling Down and closed to navigation.
Ie: you can’t paddle under it in case it collapses on your head.
But n the north bank there’s a handy jetty and this slipway (above) on the downriver side is a 5-minute carry
The Hammersmith’s brittle, ageing cast iron dates from 1887 and is suffering from micro-fractures.
All together now: “Build it up with iron bars, iron bars, iron bars.
Build it up with iron bars, my fair lady
Once a Harrods warehouse, how expensive flats
9am. Putney rowers getting their oars on.
At Wandsworth I nip up Bell Lane Creek where the Wandle comes in.
Big weir drop to the left, and a bit further up on the right, another weir drop at all but HW.
See: Wandle: An Urban Packrafting Nightmare
Hanging hay bale? WTJoF? Explanation in the PLA Tideway Code.
No arcane signage here
It’s chilly. Nature’s call cannot go unanswered
River racers. My money’s on the Yellows
Holy Mother of all Parliaments. The latest scandal? The ‘chumocracy’ of lobbying
It gets a bit choppier just after Westminster Bridge as the current backs up
London Eye still looks as amazing as ever. I wonder if they grease the axle and tension the spokes once in a while
Rectilinear skyscrapers are just so last century
A few years back sunlight reflected off the ‘Walkie Talkie’s’ concave face (20 Fenchurch St) melted a car in the street below
Not falling down any time soon, but small standing waves soon after can make you think
By the HMS Belfast it settles down again. On a neap tide at least.
‘Send him to the Tower!’
This is what Hammersmith needs
After Tower Bridge the river widens out and the powered craft can gun it
A mile downriver, the Mayflower’s looking a bit shabby. Don’t people go to pubs any more?
In 1620 the famous ship embarked from here for the New World
Tourists RIBs slalom up and and down the Pool of London like giant jet-skis
My modified seatback worked great. Just what was needed
Go west young man. And never come back!
From the beach it’s a 10-minute walk to Canada Water station.
I pop into Decathlon nearby to admire some Itiwits; quite possibly Britain’s most popular IK.