Sunday, November 18, 2007

The Thames is a river flowing through southern England, and one of the major waterways in England. While perhaps best known because its lower reaches flow through central London, the river flows through several other significant towns and cities, including Oxford, Reading and Windsor.
The river gives its name to the Thames Valley, a region of England centred around the river between Oxford and West London, and the Thames Gateway, the area centred around the tidal Thames and the Thames Estuary to the east of London.
Until around half a million years ago, the Thames flowed on its existing course through what is now Oxfordshire, before turning to the north east through Hertfordshire and East Anglia and reaching North Sea near Ipswich. At the end of the ice age, the ice started to melt and huge amounts of water entered this river system, causing it to cut down a new route through the chalk at the site of the Goring Gap, near the Oxfordshire village of Goring-On-Thames between Oxford and Reading. This created a new river route flowing down through Berkshire and on into London.
At the height of the last ice age around 12000 years ago, Britain was connected to mainland Europe via a large expanse of land known as Doggerland. At this time, the Thames was much larger than it is today, with its source rising much further west in present-day Wales. The river's course continued out into Doggerland, where it met the Rhine. Thus the two rivers were at one time part of the same river system.

Geological history
The Thames provided the major highway between London and Westminster in the 16th and 17th centuries. The clannish guild of watermen ferried Londoners from landing to landing and tolerated no outside interference.
The River Thames has frozen over in cold weather throughout history. One of the earliest accounts of the Thames freezing over comes from A.D. 250 when it was frozen hard for nine weeks. Hubert Lamb and other historians have found that the Thames froze in the years AD 923, AD 998, and for seven weeks in 1061. It has also completely frozen over during these severe winters of (paradoxically) the Medieval Warm Period: 1149 - 1150, 1204 - 1205, 1269 - 1270, 1281 - 1282, 1309 - 1310, 1407 - 1408, 1409 - 1410, 1434 - 1435, early 1506, 1513 - 1514, 1516 - 1517, and 1536 - 1537. (12 times in total)
Between 1400 and the nineteenth century there were a total of 23 documented winters in which the Thames froze over at London during a period that became known as the Little Ice Age. This led to the first Frost Fair in 1607, complete with a tent city set up on the river itself and offering a number of amusements, including ice bowling. After temperatures began to rise again, starting in 1814, the river has never frozen over completely. The building of a new London Bridge in 1825 may also have been a factor; the new bridge had fewer pillars than the old, so allowing the river to flow more freely, thus preventing it from flowing slowly enough to freeze in cold winters.

Human history
The river's name appears always to have been pronounced with a simple "t" at the beginning; the Middle English spelling was typically Temese and Celtic Tamesis. The "th" lends an air of Greek to the name and was added during the Renaissance, possibly to reflect or support a belief that the name was derived from River Thyamis in the Epirus region of Greece, whence early Celtic tribes are thought to have migrated. However, most scholars now believe Temese and Tamesis come from Celtic (Brythonic) Tamesa, possibly meaning 'the dark one'. The modern Welsh name for the river which may stem from this earlier tradition is Tafwys.
Indirect evidence for the antiquity of the name 'Thames' is provided by a Roman potsherd found at Oxford, bearing the inscription Tamesubugus fecit (Tamesubugus made this). It is believed that Tamesubugus's name was derived from that of the river.

Origin of the name

The Thames has a length of 346 km (215 miles). Its usually quoted source is at Thames Head (at grid reference ST980994), about a mile north of the village of Kemble and near the town of Cirencester, in the Cotswolds. However, Seven Springs near Cheltenham, where the river Churn rises, is also sometimes quoted as the Thames' source, as this location is furthest from the mouth both in distance along its course and as the crow flies. The springs at Seven Springs also flow throughout the year, while those at Thames Head are only seasonal.
The Thames flows through Ashton Keynes, Cricklade, Lechlade, Oxford, Abingdon, Wallingford, Goring-On-Thames, Reading, Henley-on-Thames, Marlow, Maidenhead, Windsor, Eton, Staines and Weybridge, before entering the Greater London area.
From the outskirts of Greater London, the river passes Hampton Court, Kingston, Teddington, Twickenham, Richmond (with the famous view of the Thames from Richmond Hill), Syon House and Kew before flowing through central London. In central London, the river forms one of the principal axes of the city, from the Palace of Westminster to the Tower of London and was the southern boundary of the mediaeval city.
Once clear of central London, the river passes between Greenwich and the Isle of Dogs, before flowing through the Thames Barrier, which protects central London from flooding in the event of storm surges. Below the barrier, the river passes Dartford, Tilbury and Gravesend before entering the Thames Estuary near Southend-on-Sea.

Course of the river
The whole of the river drains a catchment area of some 4,994 square miles (12,935 km²) or 5,924 square miles (15,343 km²) if the River Medway is included as a tributary.

Catchment area and discharge
Innumerable brooks, canals and rivers, within an area of 3,841 square miles (9,948 square km), combine to form 38 main tributaries feeding the Thames between its source and Teddington. These include the rivers Churn, Leach, Cole, Coln, Windrush, Evenlode, Cherwell, Ock, Thame, Pang, Kennet, Loddon, Colne, Wey and Mole.
Between Maidenhead and Windsor, the Thames supports an artificial secondary channel, known as the Jubilee River, for flood relief purposes.
More than half the rain that falls on this catchment is lost to evaporation and plant growth. The remainder provides the water resource that has to be shared between river flows, to support the natural environment and the community needs for water supplies to homes, industry and agriculture. During heavy rainfall events the Thames occasionally receives raw sewage discharge due to sanitary sewer overflow.

The non-tidal section
About 55 miles from the sea, at Teddington, the river begins to exhibit tidal activity from the North Sea. This tidal stretch of the river is known as "the Tideway". London was reputedly made capital of Roman Britain at the spot where the tides reached in AD 43 but this spot has moved up river, in the 2000 years since then, because of the glacial rebound effect. At London, the water is slightly brackish with sea salt. Below Teddington, the principal tributaries include the rivers Brent, Wandle, Effra, Westbourne, Fleet, Ravensbourne (the final part of which is called Deptford Creek), Lea, Roding, Darent and Ingrebourne.
The average discharge of the Thames grows up to approximately 66 m³/s at the end of its non-tidal section, at Kingston upon Thames, a figure which is exceeded by some other British rivers (e.g., the Severn and the Tay). Indeed, if the Thames were not a tidal river, its average discharge in the centre of London would be somewhere between 80 and 100 m³/s, and the Thames would look like a small river, not the large river we can see today by Westminster, the Houses of Parliament or the City.
Some low-lying areas beside the tidal section of the Thames are liable to regular flooding at spring tides. However, in recent years, the flooding has been occurring more frequently at unusual times. One such example exists at Chiswick Lane South in London's W4 postal district, where the river now bursts its banks almost daily between March and September.

The tidal section
The Thames is navigable from the estuary as far as Lechlade in Gloucestershire. Between the sea and Teddington Lock, the river forms part of the Port of London and navigation is administered by the Port of London Authority. From Teddington Lock to the head of navigation, the navigation authority is the Environment Agency.
The river is navigable to large ocean-going ships as far as the Pool of London and London Bridge. Today little commercial traffic passes above the docks at Tilbury and central London sees only the occasional visiting cruise ship or warship, moored alongside HMS Belfast and a few smaller aggregate or refuse vessels, operating from wharves in the west of London. Both the tidal river through London and the non-tidal river upstream are intensively used for leisure navigation.
There are 45 locks on the River Thames. See Locks on the River Thames for a full list of all locks.


Main article: Crossings of the River Thames Crossings

Main article: Islands in the River Thames Islands
The river itself rises in Gloucestershire, traditionally forming the county boundary, firstly between Gloucestershire and Wiltshire, between Berkshire on the south bank and Oxfordshire on the north, between Berkshire and Buckinghamshire, between Berkshire and Surrey, between Surrey and Middlesex and between Essex and Kent.
Before the 1974 boundary changes, the current boundary between Berkshire and Surrey was between Buckinghamshire and Surrey. The boundary between Oxfordshire and Berkshire was also moved at that time.

The river as a boundary

The Thames is a motif in many books. Three Men in a Boat by Jerome K. Jerome describes a boat trip up the Thames; published in 1889, it has never been out of print, proof of the continuing influence of the Thames on the literary imagination. Other authors took inspiration from this best-selling comic novel (with its side-nods to social commentary). Examples include poet Kim Taplin's 1993 travelogue Three Women in a Boat and Connie Willis's To Say Nothing of the Dog. Somewhere near the Oxford stretch is where the Liddells were rowing in the poem at the start of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. The river is almost a character in its own right in Kenneth Grahame's The Wind in the Willows and its derivatives. The utopian News from Nowhere by William Morris is mainly the account of a journey through the Thames valley in a socialist future. Another is featured in The Amulet of Samarkand from The Bartimaeus Trilogy by Jonathan Stroud, when Nathaniel plans to toss a can of tobacco into the Thames in order to imprison Bartimaeus. The Thames also features prominently in Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy, as a communications artery for the waterborne Gyptian people of Oxford and the Fens.
In books set in London there is Sherlock Holmes looking for a boat in The Sign of Four. Many of Charles Dickens's novels feature the Thames. Oliver Twist finishes in the slums and rookeries along its south bank. Our Mutual Friend begins with a scavenger and his daughter pulling a dead man from the river, to legally salvage what the body might have in its pockets. Dickens opens the novel with this sketch of the river, and the people who work on it:
In these times of ours, though concerning the exact year there is no need to be precise, a boat of dirty and disreputable appearance, with two figures in it, floated on the Thames, between Southwark Bridge which is of iron, and London Bridge which is of stone, as an autumn evening was closing in.
In Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad, the old sailor Marlow begins his yarn while sitting on a boat in the Thames. The serenity of the contemporary Thames is contrasted with the savagery of the Congo River, and with the wilderness of the Thames as it would have appeared to a Roman soldier posted to Britannia two thousand years before. Conrad also gives a memorable description of the approach to London from the Thames Estuary in his essays The Mirror of the Sea (1906).
In poetry, T.S. Eliot references the Thames at the beginning of The Fire Sermon, Section III of "The Waste Land". It could be said that the references make for a spiritual reverence of the river, as the river is referred to as "sweet". However he also refers to the area as "brown" and throughout this poem the semantic field evokes feelings of decay with its references to detritus. William Blake makes reference to the Thames in his famous poem London:
I wander thro' each charter'd street,/ Near where the charter'd Thames does flow
In this instance, it could be said that the Thames is a boundless and free notion; but Blake seems to be showing here a disdain for its apparent 'chartered' nature. Joseph Brodsky wrote a poem entitled "The Thames at Chelsea".

John Kaufman's sculpture The Diver:Regeneration can be found sited in the Thames near Rainham.
A boat chase on the Thames forms the long opening scene of the James Bond film The World Is Not Enough. The offices of MI6, Britain's external spy agency, are right on the river in a building known as Vauxhall Cross.

Thames Other arts
The river is popular with tourists. There are many sightseeing tours in tourist boats, especially in the lower reaches past the more famous riverside attractions such as the Houses of Parliament and the Tower of London.

The Thames is the historic heartland of rowing in the United Kingdom. There are over 200 clubs on the river, and over 8,000 members of the Amateur Rowing Association (over 40% of its membership). Most towns and districts of any size on the river have at least one club, but key centres are Oxford, Henley-on-Thames and the stretch of river from Chiswick to Putney.
Two rowing events on the River Thames are traditionally part of the wider English sporting calendar:
The University Boat Race is rowed between Oxford University Boat Club and the Cambridge University Boat Club in late March or early April, on the Championship Course from Putney to Mortlake in the west of London.
Henley Royal Regatta takes place over five days at the start of July in the upstream town of Henley-on-Thames. Besides its sporting significance the regatta is an important date on the English social calendar alongside events like Royal Ascot and Wimbledon.
Other significant or historic rowing events on the Thames include:
Innumerable other regattas, head races and bumping races are held along the Thames.

The Head of the River Race and other head races over the Championship Course
The Wingfield Sculls for the amateur sculling championship of the Thames and Great Britain
Doggett's Coat and Badge for apprentice watermen, one of the oldest sporting events in the world
Henley Women's Regatta
The Henley Boat Races for the Women's and Lightweight crews of Oxford and Cambridge Universities
The Oxford University bumping races known as Eights Week and Torpids Rowing
Sailing is practiced on both the tidal and non-tidal reaches of the river. Clubs in and near the London section of the Thames include:
Clubs Upstream of London Include:
Clubs in the Lower Thames Include:
See also:

London Corinthian Sailing Club near Hammersmith Bridge
South Bank Sailing Club in Putney
Ranelagh Sailing Club in Putney
Docklands Sailing And Watersports Centre at Millwall Dock
Capital Sailing School at Millwall Dock
The Surrey Docks Watersports Centre at Surrey Quays.
Thurrock Yacht Club in Thurrock
Greenwich Yacht Club in Greenwich
Royal Thames Yacht Club in Knightsbridge
Thames Sailing Club in Surbiton
Hampton Sailing Club in Hampton, London
Little Ship Club near Southwark Bridge
Goring Thames Sailing Club in Goring-on-Thames, Oxfordshire
Upper Thames Sailing Club in Bourne End, Buckinghamshire
Cookham Reach Sailing Club in Cookham, Berkshire
Medley Sailing Club in Oxford, Oxfordshire
Dorchester Sailing Club near Dorchester-on-Thames, in Abingdon, Oxfordshire
Gravesend Sailing Club in Gravesend, Kent
Erith Yacht Club near Erith, Kent
The Thames Sailing Barge Trust
Sailing on the River Thames by the The River Thames Alliance, a partnership between public and private sector organisations set up to help manage the future of the non-tidal Thames. Sailing
Skiffing remains popular, particularly in the summer months. Several clubs and regattas may be found in the outer suburbs of west London.

Unlike the "pleasure punting" common on the Cherwell in Oxford and the Cam in Cambridge, punting on the Thames is competitive and uses narrower craft.

Kayaking and canoeing are popular, with sea kayakers using the tidal stretch for touring. Sheltered water kayakers and canoeists use the non-tidal section for training, racing and trips. Whitewater playboaters and slalom paddlers are catered for at weirs like Hurley Weir, Sunbury Weir and Boulter's Weir.

Kayaking and Canoeing
This is a trivia section. The section could be improved by integrating relevant items into the main text and removing inappropriate items.

The Sex Pistols played a concert on the Queen Elizabeth Riverboat on June 7, 1977, the Queen's Silver Jubilee, while sailing down the river.
On January 20, 2006, a northern 16-18 ft (5 m) bottle-nosed whale was spotted in the Thames and was seen as far upstream as Chelsea. This is extremely unusual because this type of whale is generally found in deep sea waters. Crowds gathered along the riverbanks to witness the extraordinary spectacle. But it soon became clear there was cause for concern, as the animal came within yards of the banks, almost beaching, and crashed into an empty boat causing slight bleeding. Approx. 12 hours later, the whale was believed to be seen again near Greenwich, possibly heading back to sea. There was a rescue attempt lasting several hours, but it eventually died on a barge. See River Thames whale.
Unusual objects floated along the Thames by barge include a Eurostar Railway locomotive, a Concorde aircraft and a Submarine.
It is not unusual to see the French navy in the Thames; very often French naval vessels make official visits to the Royal Navy dock, HMS President, just by the Tower Bridge.
While writing in his diary in June 1667 Samuel Pepys was disturbed by the sound of gunfire, as Dutch warships on the Thames broke through the Royal Navy to invade London.
Polar explorer and endurance swimmer Lewis Pugh became the first person ever to swim the length of the Thames. His journey started on 17th July 2006 close to the source of the river in Gloucestershire and ended 147 miles later in London. Pugh undertook the challenge to raise awareness of climate change.
The traditional Swan Upping ceremony takes place annually on the River Thames during the third week of July.
Bear Grylls, host of the Discovery Channel's "Man vs Wild" series lives on a converted barge on the River Thames with his wife Shara and their young sons Jesse and Marmaduke.
In the Doctor Who episode "The Runaway Bride", the Thames was completely drained, leaving numbers of barges stranded. Religion

Marchioness disaster
The Diver
Torso in the Thames
River and Rowing Museum
Rivers of the United Kingdom
UK topics
Thames Town
Thames Television
Locks on the River Thames
Weirs on the River Thames
London Stones beside the river

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