Whether you live in the UK or not, River Thames must be quite a familiar name if not sight! It has been featured in many movies, has been the inspiration behind many famous paintings, and a significant part of many books such as ‘Alice in Wonderland’, ‘Three Men in a Boat’, and ‘The Wind in the Willows’!
The Thames is considered a part of the longest river in all of England. In fact, it is all of 215 miles or 346 km and is believed to have its source in a Gloucestershire field, approximately one mile north of Kemble. The latter being a village near Cirencester. It is also believed to flow across six counties before reaching the North Sea!
Although the exact source of its name is unclear; there are two popularly accepted stories! While one claims that the name arises from the Sanskrit word, “Tamas”, which means ‘darkness’ as the waters are mostly dark and cloudy; the other claims that it comes from the Roman words “Tam” and “Isis”. Tam means ‘wide’ and ‘Isis’ means water.
The Thames has tidal and non-tidal parts. From its source till Teddington, it is tidal and from Teddington to the sea, it is non-tidal. The non-tidal part of the Thames stretches about 147 miles and the river falls to about 342 feet in this stretch. Out of the 47 locks in this river, 45 of them are situated in the non-tidal part of it.
The river Thames is believed to be home to several aquatic creatures. Studies have shown that around 119 different species of water creatures lives in this river. Some of these include otters, different kinds of eels, and river voles. In fact, the non-tidal part of the river alone is home to over 25 different species of fish.
For most parts, the banks of the river Thames are rolling hills with the land being used mainly for agriculture and grazing. It is only from London the banks of this river sport an urbanized look, which we are more familiar with!
The Thames is not only used for farming, it also happens to be the largest source of water supply for London. In fact, it takes care of about two-thirds of the drinking water requirements.
Like all rivers in the world, Thames also had its share of stink! Before 1865, all waste from the city was dumped into this river; and at one point things came to such a state that the Parliament had to be suspended due to the unbearable stench! But this ‘Great Stink’ also led to the development of London’s sewer system by Sir Joseph Bazalgette; most of which is use, even today.
Among the many locks that this river has, the one near Lechlade – St. John’s Lock is the first and the one at Teddington is the last. The smallest among all is the Buscot Lock, situated east of Lechlade.
Despite being the inspiration behind several paintings and works of literature, it also has the reputation of being “the dead river”. It has been recorded that at least one body is retrieved from this river every day!
The river Thames is well-known for its bridges. In fact, there are over 200 bridges along the span of this river. The oldest bridge is around 2000 years and was built by the Romans; the most popular is the Westminster Bridge which has the same green color as the benches in the House of Commons; and the longest one is the Waterloo Bridge extending about 1,250 feet.