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Tales from the Riverbank

One of the joys of living on the Isle Of Dogs is the access to large stretches of water with the docks and the Thames winding around the Island. Over the years, I have reported on the large number of boats and ships that have visited West India Docks that have included warships and tall ships. Over the last few years, these marine visitors have got less and less due to the large developments near the dock.

Since the Covid crisis, the visitors have stopped almost altogether and I decided to go down to the riverbank and look for any interesting boats or ships on the river.

I often think when I am looking at the river about what it would have looked like a hundred years ago when the Thames was a truly working river full of lighters, barges and boats bringing their produce and materials to the centre of London.

Until the crisis, the river was not busy in the old sense but did have quite a large range of ships and boats going up and down the river from cruise ships, large yachts, tall ships, river cruises and many more.

Standing on riverbank near the O2, it was some time before a Thames Clipper appeared and a little later a Port of London boat Barnes drifted by. Barnes is a Port of London Harbour Service vessel which is a catamaran designed for the lower tidal waters and for use as Pilot cutters.

Walking down to Westferry Circus, I had more hope that the river stretch around Limehouse may be busier.

A London Port Health Authority Londinium boat appeared, and in the distance a Cory Riverside Energy barge was taking some containers into the city.

Thames Marine Services boat Gosso, Port of London’s Driftwood II and a Police speed boat all went by as I sat and enjoyed the warm weather.

The Cory Riverside Energy barges are a familiar sight on the river all through the year. The barges are used to transport non-recyclable waste from waste transfer stations along the River Thames to Cory’s energy waste facility in Belvedere.

Driftwood II as the name suggests is a Port of London boat whose main function is the collection of driftwood and other debris from the River but they are also equipped with hydraulic cranes, burning gear and salvage pumps.

Whilst the traffic on the river was well down on normal times, it did remind me that working boats were still going up and down the river. Although we tend to ignore these smaller boats when there are larger ships in the river, it is these boats that are the workhorses that keep things ticking along.

The last boat I watched was Cory Riverside Energy barge Recovery bringing its containers backdown river, this seemed appropriate in the present climate when we are all looking for signs of recovery in our everyday life.


2 Comments

  1. In about 1970, I was very young, and would sit on a bench in Island Gardens with my ‘Observer’s Book of Ships’ which was so informative that I could sometimes tell what a ship was carrying just from the flags and other clues. I thought the river was busy at the time, but didn’t realise that the amount of traffic was already long in decline. It remains one of the nicer things in life – if you get the chance – watching boats and ships pass by in the Thames.

    • Hi Mick,

      Hope everything is well with you. I have enjoyed the latest posts on your excellent website.

      Yes it is often the simple pleasures which are the best, and there is nothing like sitting and watching the life on the river.

      Those small observer books were very good and full of information, I think I had one for aircraft.

      Thanks for the comment and keep safe.

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