I remember, I remember … the River Thames

London

The Lens Artists Challenge this week asks for Memorable Moments. I was all set to embark on a virtual journey to Moorish Spain, or Seoul, or Pondicherry. But then on Monday, I wrote a post about fog, and I found myself making comparisons between the smog-bound, dirty, industrial and horribly polluted Thames that I knew as a child, with the vibrant highway that has become the face of modern London.

I have no photos of 1950’s London. I’ll give you instead, with sincere apologies to John Masefield’s Cargoes, a word-picture of the working craft on that busy river – traffic which still exists today.

The Tyne coal was then. The tonnes of waste are now.

The header photo combines old and new: one of those barges, still busily doing what Thames barges have done for several centuries: with a twenty first century backdrop. The gallery below shows recent photos which contain memories of the rusty workaday river I once knew.

Any minute now, I’m going to get marks deducted for not answering the question. But I am, in my own way. Those early memories are etched into my head, and on my visits to the Big City now, every trip along the Thames in a Thames Clipper – always a treat – adds fresh memorable moments, as I savour the clash and contrast between old and new which brings piquancy and added flavour to my long held recollections.

The Tower of London, founded 1066, meets the City of London, largely re-invented after WWII, and especially in the last twenty years.
The building on the right is London’s County Hall. As a teacher, my mother had access to its wonderful library, and it’s where we often went on Saturday to choose books. Nowadays, it’s a hotel, and utterly dwarfed by The London Eye.
The Thames at Greenwich. Not much changed.
Further out still, beyond Woolwich: the flood defence of the Thames Barrier, which formed no part of my childhood.

47 thoughts on “I remember, I remember … the River Thames

  1. More poetry! Smiling…and wonderfully grungy images, which you can always find along the Thames…and lots of other places. My favourite is the first of your pretty shots, the Tower with the Bullet etc in the background. A fine piece of reminiscence, Margaret.

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  2. Do you know that I never knew there were passenger ferries on the Thames? The things that I have missed out on. Great images, and the poem takes me back to my grammar school.

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    1. They’re great, Jude. Regular passenger services. My grandson and I have had many a trip from Greenwich to one of the City locations. And yes, that’s a proper Grammar School mainstay of English lessons, isn’t it?

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    2. It is also where you will find the two busiest RNLI stations in the country – Tower and Chiswick. Tower has a crew on duty 24/7, and did more than 500 call outs in 2019.

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  3. A lovely selection of photos and memories. Don’t you think there’s something poignant about seeing images of Old Billingsgate Market and County Hall dwarfed by millennial buildings and structures?

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    1. I do. County Hall was a mighty building that formed part of my childhood. I don’t like to see it diminished like this, even though the Eye is itself quite an – er- uplifting part of the landscape.

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  4. I love traveling along the Thames. My first such journey was as a child in 1972, when we where warned that to fall in the Thames meant death by poisoning rather than drowning. Now it’s clean enough for Salmon!

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  5. I’m a huge fan of the Thames Clippers, they’ve been such a wonderful addition to our transport options! I always take visitors on them and used to regularly recommend them on the Virtual Tourist forums 🙂 Your pictures sum up the Thames I love, warts and all!!

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  6. Thank you for taking me back to The Thames with your wonderfully crisp shots – so full of reality; the river’s ‘grunge’ and it’s smart metropolitan side too… fantastic – what a great City and amazing photograhps! 🙂

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    1. The Thames has everything I love about London: the history of the highest and the lowest in the land, beauty, elegance, grunginess, and a breath of fresh air too.

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  7. What a treat, Margaret! And I have been to London maybe ten -fifteen times…and never went by river boat…! If I ever come back, I will. We used to go for the musicals and theaters, the people and for Kew. All the ordinary historic buildings too of course. This was all in the 70s and 80s. Oh, sometimes I really long for England again. And now you made me want the Thames!

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  8. Love the juxtaposition of the old and new in the photo of the Tower with Gherkin in the background. It’s years since I was able to get to London and take a trip down the Thames but like you I have very fond memories of trips in the past

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