Our big bucket list item we were not able to do a couple of days ago, we did today. We had to wait until the tide was right along with the time of day. We got up at 5.00am and made our way by tube and Dockland light rail back to Limehouse where Wolfgang and Marlene had moored. It was very good of them to hang around for the additional three days but like us, they really wanted to add the cherry to the top of the cake.
Below is the circular route we took from Brentford Lock where we had met up with Wolfgang and Marlene back on the 28th August and back to the same lock this morning.
Green denotes us travelling up the Thames to Brentford lock and then turning left (red line) to Bulls Bridge and then turning right onto the Paddington Arm of the Grand Union and into Paddington Basin. The purple line takes us from Paddington Basin to Limehouse Lock.
The black line denotes what has taken us nearly a year of planning to achieve. That is to go onto the tidal Thames at Limehouse Lock and cruise under Tower Bridge, past Tower of London, London Eye and Parliament Buildings, Battersea Power Station, under the numerous bridges crossing the Thames and back onto the Grand Union Canal at Brentford Lock.
It is such a fitting end to what has been many wonderful experiences we have had on the UK, Scottish and Welsh canals and various rivers, starting as far back as 1991.
We were able to get down to Limehouse Dock by 6.45am in time for a quick cuppa and to sort out our life jackets.
The guys had already prepared the boat in readiness for going onto the Thames. All loose items were secured inside and outside the boat as we were anticipating a lot of swells from other boats.
So out through Limehouse Lock we went. The lock is manned, and permission must be obtained from the Lock Keeper. We also had to carry a VHF radio to be able to contact the London Port Authority in case of an emergency. It was also a requirement to contact the London Port Authority and request permission to go onto the Thames.
Our first recognisable structure was Tower Bridge.
We were very fortunate in that the water was very calm.
It was the river traffic that we knew would cause us the most grief. Flat bottomed boats just do not like or handle turbulence.
With the incoming tide behind us we were heading up the Thames at a great rate of knots and it was difficult to take it all in. Thankfully we did have a bit of a head wind that slowed us down a little.
The Houses of Parliament were looking resplendent in the sun and especially Big Ben who had recently had his shroud of scaffolding removed after a five-year restoration.
If you think the clock tower has a lean on it, you are correct. It has a 9.5 degree lean due to subsidence caused by water egress from the Thames. A lot of the restoration work done was to do with preventing the lean getting worse.
As can be seen, we were most fortunate with the sun coming out at the exact moment that we went passed the parliament buildings showing them in all their finery.
We were not sure if we were going to put this last footage of our Thames trip on the blog as it is so grainy but decided as it is our memory of what was a wonderful experience, we would.
This piece of footage was obtained from one of the Thames webcams which shows Ange De L’Eau going down the river. A huge thank you to Marlene and Wolfgang’s son Lars for getting this for us. You can see how low the bow dips into the wake and how rigid she is. Considering all this the ride was pretty good. There was only one instance where the water came over the bow slightly. As you can imagine, it would not take much for it to have become a very uncomfortable and scary ride.
We continued down past Battersea Power Station which has been turned into exclusive flats after sitting for years in a state of dereliction.
One of the final 23 bridges that we went under was the Putney Bridge. What was even more remarkable than the beautiful standard lamp was the fact that we saw a seal under the bridge. Let us hope this is a testament to the quality of the Thames water.
After what was sadly a very frantic farewell to Marlene and Wolfgang, it was onto the next activity. Before we do though, we need to thank these guys for giving us the wonderful opportunities they have provided us over the years….but….it is not over yet as they have more adventures planned where this time we will be the lock/rope slaves.
We had just over an hour to make our way to Northumberland Street where we had a tea date.
We dashed through Trafalgar Square hardly having time to glance around.
We had planned to meet Karen at the Sherlock Holmes pub where we had a look at the Holmes exhibition there. It was rather creepy as everything was old, dusty, and even the stuffed fox was losing its fur.
Karen had arranged for our afternoon tea to be on an old Routemaster bus.
These are the old buses where you use to be able to jump off and on them whilst they were moving and of course when our old bones would allow us to do so. Now it is all about health and safety and no fun.
They had set up the bus beautifully and the sandwiches, cakes and scones were of the same quality as you would get at an afternoon tea. The bus took the typical tourist route around Parliament, Westminster etc. It lasted for approximately one and a half hours which was perfect.
Next activity was a walk along the embankment from Trafalgar Square to St Paul’s Cathedral.
Last time we had been inside was back in 1991 – had much changed – Nope!
Having said that, Christopher Wren has created a masterpiece.
We were starting to run out of time to fully explore it but one of the items on our agenda was to climb up the dome.
There are two sections to the climb. The first is to the bottom of the dome which is where the Whispering Gallery is. Unfortunately, this closed just after Covid, and they have not reopened it yet. We could not fault this view.
There was a viewing panel where you could look straight down onto the centre of the mosaic floor below.
It was then onwards and upwards but not until we had assisted another member of the public who had passed out because he was afraid of heights as well as being a recently diagnosed diabetic and hadn’t taken the added exertion into consideration.
The staircase became narrower and the steps larger to negotiate but the view was well worth it. You can just make out the London Eye in the distance.
It was certainly nerve wracking to walk around the cupola at the very top as the narrow walkway sloped to the outside. We gather this was because of rain.
If you have managed to keep reading this far, you will no doubt be just a little tired. Imagine how we felt and yet we still had almost an hour’s tube ride to get home. Once home, we had showers, a quick bite to eat and collapsed into bed with huge smiles of satisfaction on our faces.