Thursday, 23 August 2007

Crossings of the River Thames 4 - Teddington Lock Footbridge

For me, Teddington has to be one of the more fascinating parts of the river. Teddington itself has nothing much to offer the human species, apart from the fact that it is a nice enough suburb. But the river as it flows past Teddington is fantastic. Not so much for its charm or beauty, although it is a lovely spot, but for what it actually is.

But to the bridge first. It is a simple footbridge that links the merry suburb of Teddington with the less glamorous suburb of Ham on the 'South Bank'. Although as the river curves at this point Ham is actually on the eastern side of the river and Teddington is on its western side. For all keep fitters this is a great place to jog or cycle. This part of London is particularly lush and especially on the Ham side of the river there is parkland to enjoy as well as being close to Richmond Park. Oh, the joys of cycling along the Thames! Oh, happy memories! I must admit, getting to these crossings is half the fun and if you're a mudlover such as myself, then you will love the dirty, unpaved river bank that follows this lazy river towards the sea.

Except one thing. We have already reached the sea. Yep, from here on in we are no longer following a river but in fact we are now happily skipping along the coast, as defined by the Ordinance Survey. So get out your deckchairs and bathing suits as this is where the seaside fun begins.

You can call this part of the Thames the sea, a creek, an inlet or an estuary, but from here on eastward, this is the most famous part of 'The River'. Irony.

Teddington Lock itself is just slightly upstream from the footbridge. And when the lock is in full blast, it makes an amazing sound. A wall of water belching out from the upper reaches of the river towards the sea. I have been to far larger rivers but I am always impressed by the locks over the Thames and Teddington being the biggest of the lot impresses me the most. Size matters.

So this is the dividing line. The border. Artificially inserted. For the lock holds back the tide and so also holds back the influence of the PLA. If there was any denial of London's haphazard local government, the management of The River has to be a start. With rising sea levels, the tidal head would be a lot further upstream, possibly as far as Chertsey. But for now the imposing locks at Teddington keeps the tide at bay. And this is also the border between 'Plastic London' and 'Real London'. The classic poses of The Capital begin here. It gets a little less posh, a little bit more grimy and a lot more funky. Well actually, the river is still quite pleasant for the next few miles, but head 'inland' from the Tidal Thames and you get to see a little more in the way of 'Dutty London'.

But for now, you can enjoy life on the beach.

Getting there:

Bus routes 281, 285 and R68 all pass a stone's throw from the lock on the 'Northbank'. Route 371 passes a short walk away on the 'Southbank.

Nearest stations are Kingston and Hampton Wick (National Rail).

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