The Thames Path is a path that runs alongside the River Thames in its entirety – that’s a whopping 184 miles! That’s because the Thames runs all the way from its source in Gloucestershire to the Thames Barrier in south east London. So in theory it’s possible to walk the entirety of the Thames, and many people choose to walk, run or jog a 100km (62 mile) stretch of it in the Thames Path Challenge.
An astonishing 70% of Londoners’ drinking water originates from the River Thames. Water companies move water from the river to reservoirs, which is then treated before going to homes across Greater London.
The site just next door to The Runnymede on Thames was excavated during the 1970s, when it was confirmed to be a location of Bronze Age settlers. Many items were discovered, including a stone axe mould and various tools, weapons, vessels and ornaments. It’s believed a bronze smith working in this location buried his hoard of goods before leaving the area – and amazingly his stash wasn’t found for thousands of years!
Hundreds of species call the River Thames ‘home’. As well as fish such as pike, some unexpected creatures have been found in the river too. This includes dolphins and porpoises, who are occasionally spotted in the River Thames in the centre of London in search of food.
The River Thames is also home to a healthy population of salmon. These fish previously died out in the river in the 1800s due to pollution. Now the Thames is much cleaner, salmon were reintroduced to the river, and riverside dwellers regularly report seeing them travel up to their breeding grounds in the Berkshire stretch of the river.
Many people aren’t aware that there are almost 200 islands on the River Thames! What’s more, many of them are inhabited, often by creative people who embrace the unconventional lifestyle that island living brings. Here are some of the islands closest to The Runnymede.
One River Thames island in particular has an important connection to the Romans. Church Island is thought to be the location where the bridge for the Devil’s Highway crossed. The Devil’s Highway was the Roman road that connected Londinium (London) to Staines. Nowadays, Church Island is inhabited by just a few people. You can catch a glimpse of the island from the Thames Path, just a short stroll away from The Runnymede on Thames.
Nowadays, there are more than 200 bridges that cross the River Thames. The longest is the Queen Elizabeth II Bridge at 812 metres. What’s more, the colour of Westminster Bridge is very deliberate – it’s the same shade of green as the leather seats in the nearby House of Commons!
It’s hard to imagine now, but the River Thames used to freeze over regularly. When this happened, so-called Frost Fairs sprang up, where enterprising Londoners would sell gingerbread and hot gin to revellers. Read more about the history of gin and the River Thames. The longest time the river is thought to have remained frozen is for two months, during The Great Frost of 1683.
The Thames has captured the imagination of many musicians and bands who have gone down in the history books. This includes The Beatles, whose penultimate photoshoot took place on the Richmond stretch of the River Thames in 1969. The Sex Pistols performed a concert in 1977 from a riverboat on the Thames. And Culture Club’s music video for Karma Chameleon was filmed on the river, although at the time viewers were led to believe the river was actually the more exotic Mississippi!