Facts About the River Thames

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The River Thames has it's source in the Gloucestershire Cotswolds and travels for 215 miles through 8 English counties before reaching it's estuary at the North Sea at Southend - on - Sea, making it England's longest river and the U.K's second longest river after the River Severn.

The river travels through hundreds of villages and towns along the way, including the metropolis of London and other notable towns such as Oxford, Reading, Henley and Windsor.

The river's name is of Celtic origin and was known as Tameses, which meant dark or muddy coloured.Today the name Thames has been hailed by historians as being the oldest place name in Great Britain.

In the city of Oxford the river is known as the Isis, a name which stems from Victorian times, when geographers of that period claimed that the river's correct name from it's source to Dorchester, was infact the River Isis, but modern historians are of the belief, that the name is just a corruption of the Roman's Latin name for the River, which was Tamisis, which meant wide water - tam - wide, isis - water.

The river is served by 38 tributaries along it's course, including the rivers Thame, Pang, Kennet, Jubilee and Evenlode.

Before the building of the Teddington Lock in 1811, the river was tidal for 16 miles upstream by way of tidal activity from the North Sea.

Today the river is entirely tidal for the 55 miles from it's estuary at Southend until it reaches the weir and three locks at Teddington. This part of the river is known as The Tideway, an area that includes the Thames Estuary, The Thames Gateway and the Pool of London. It is at London Bridge where the river has a has a depth of 1.8 metres, that is the basis for the the publication of the London Tide Tables.

The river receives two tides a day, with levels as high as 24 feet, which takes up to 4 - 5 hours to flow in and between 6 - 9 hours to drain out. Because of this the river is vulnerable to flood and storm surges. Due to this the Thames Barrier was constructed in 1974, the world's second largest floating barrier, built on a 570 yard stretch of the river at Woolwich.

The river's discharge at the site of it's estuary has a catchment area of 4,994 square miles, along with that of the River Medway, whose estuary is also situated in the same area. 


                      TEDDINGTON LOCK.                                                  

 Image Courtesy of Motmit, wikimedia commons.

The river starts life one mile from the village of Kemble in the Gloucestershire Cotswolds and travels through the counties of Gloucestershire, Wiltshire, Oxfordshire, Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, Surrey, Essex and Kent before discharging into the area known as the Thames Estuary, which is the largest river inlet in Great Britain and leads into a major shipping route on the North Sea.This area has the second largest tidal movement in the world with a tidal rise of up to 4 metres which flows at a rate of 8 miles an hour. 


 The stone which depicts the source of the River Thames. 

   Image courtesy of Richard75, wikimeida commons.

The river's crossings are made up of 214 bridges - the longest of which is The Queen Elisabeth II Bridge between Dartford and Thurrock at 2,664 feet long - 20 tunnels - including the world's first ever underwater tunnel, that of the Thames Tunnel built between Rotherhide and Wapping in 1843, by Marc Brunel, father of Isambard Kingdom Brunel - 45 locks, 6 ferries and one ford.

Also situated on the river are over 80 islands, some of them natural, some man made and some that were once islands but have now merged into the mainland, but still keep their original titles.

The river's natural islands are known as aits, and tend to be long, thin slivers of land made up from the build up of silt. 


                      HAMPTON REACH.                                            

    Image courtesy of Motmit, wikimedia commons. 

The river has been a souce of food, water, transport and commerce for thousands of settlements as far back as pre history times.

The river has for centuries been a main route into the City of London and a main shipping route into Great Britain.

Nowadays however, the river is better known for it's sporting and leisure pursuits of fishing, rowing, canoeing and pleasure boat trips and for being the backdrop to most of London's famous landmarks.

The river runs through 3 areas of outstanding natural beauty ( AONB ) the North Wessex Downs, The Kent Downs and The Cotswolds and In it's non tidal waters the river is home to 25 species of course fish. 

The Thames Path, a 184 mile long walkway from the river's source all the way into London, is Europe's longest river trail.

The river is also world known for being the home of the Henley Regatta, which was first held in 1839 and for being the location of the Oxford / Cambridge University Boat Race, which first began in 1829.

The river's largest employers are The Environmental Agency, The Port of London Authority and the Thames River Police.


                                         The course of the River Thames.

                              Image courtesy of George Mel, wikimedia commons













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