Tuesday, 18 December 2007
Crossings of the River Thames 8 - Richmond Lock Footbridge
And so coming to our eighth crossing over the river and one of the more unique crossings over the Thames in London, Richmond Lock and Footbridge.
Richmond is a small suburb in what I would personally describe as the armpit of London. A very pretty suburb but, let's be honest, it feels like Henley has been attached to the Metropolis. But, I am going to focus on the pretty side today. Along with the massive park just outside the town, the riverside at Richmond is spectacular. Richmond also has the distinction of having more crossings named after it than any other place in London. Richmond Bridge, Richmond Railway Bridge and the footbridge at Richmond Lock.
Built in 1894, Richmond Lock is an unusual structure on the river. Firstly, it is the lowest lock on the Thames. Also, this is the least wheelchair accessible crossing on the river. No ramps or lifts or even a ferryman to hoist on your wheelchair. Just a flight of steps on either side of the riverside. Richmond Lock is also a part time crossing, really only opening for daylight; it seems sensible given the nature of the local inhabitants. RIchmond Lock is also unusual in that it is the only public crossing that is actually owned and maintained by the Port of London Authority.
So why does this particular crossing exist. Well, it is not to hold back the tides, as this structure simply just is not big enough. At high tide weir is overwhelmed and during low tide it is overexposed. But its reason for existence is very much in association with the tidal flow of the river. The locks further upstream not only regulate water flow during a flood but more importantly also control the levels in the river. But once beyond Teddington, the levels of the River Thames are dependent on the tides. Sometimes those tides struggle to penetrate upstream. And sometimes, the low tides can ebb far away from the freshwater supply of Teddington Lock. As a result, Richmond Lock was built to maintain the levels of water between Teddington Lock and itself.
I actually like Richmond Lock. It's a weird little crossing and it really does not connect anywhere in particular, just a park and a few (posh) houses. It is pretty, as are the many things that straddle the Thames and of course, a little offbeat. If you stick around long enough, you might see a small boat trying to use the lock, but I was not that patient. Richmond Lock is also fascinating for just being there. A bit odd, but it serves a purpose, sort of, to the few boats that decide to take advantage of it.