The River Thames

The Thames lies at the heart of London. Over the centuries, London grew into an important wealthy world city because of its river trade. At two hundred and fifteen miles, the Thames is the longest river that flows entirely through England. The Thames flows from the source at Thames Head near the hamlet of Kemble into the North Sea in southeast England between Westcliff-on-Sea in Essex and the Isle of Grain in Kent.

The river collects itself at Kemble from several little streamlets that meander through the fields. The early inhabitants of the area were the Dobunni, one of the ancient Celtic tribes, whose territory was later occupied by the Romans.

Over two hundred bridges cross the Thames in England, and twenty-seven of those cross the Thames in London, including Westminster Bridge, London Bridge, and Tower Bridge. The most recently built bridge, the Millennium Bridge, is for pedestrians only.

The river, once highly polluted, is today so clean that over one hundred species of fish live in it.

The Thames is a tidal river, and in places, the water can rise 20 feet at high tide. In the past, London was subject to severe flooding from the river. In 1236, the Thames rose so high that people rowed across Westminster Hall. London flooded again in 1663, 1928 and 1953. Today, the Thames Barrier at Woolwich protects London from floods.  Completed in 1984, it is the most significant movable flood barrier in the world. Since 1984, the massive gates have been raised over 100 times to prevent flooding.

There are a great many attractions and places to stay, from museums to spas and luxury hotels on the River Thames. The Thames meanders through Oxfordshire, Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, and Surrey before flowing into London. With plenty to see and do along the two hundred mile route, you will not be short of inspiration and ideas.

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