Kayak to Tower Bridge and beyond (Shadwell)

Kiki doing stretching exercises – tower bridge impersonation?

Went on a kayak paddle from Chiswick Pier to Shadwell Basin (1.5 miles past Tower Bridge) and back with Kiki and Harvey (22-24 mile round trip). We started very early due to the heat, tides and distance to be covered. 7.30 am we were on the water by 8. Needless to say Kiki was semi-traumatised and late (it was meant to be 7.00).

Did the usual sprays and cataloguing boats taken. There was already a strong outgoing tide, which I hoped would help us. There was a slight breeze with a punishing sun, which would make the temperature rise to 31oc. We had plenty of water and sun protection.

Swimmer on Thames

Our first encounter was not wildlife but a swimmer, I heard his voice but as it was coming from the river level did not at first see him. He had a nice yellow inflated dry bag with towel etc. Apparently he had been swimming for decades the same stretch. (He must be immune to all the contaminants pouring in from Hammersmith sewer and the dreaded Weil’s disease.)

Kiki & John Albert Bridge

The river was magical and it was still relatively cool, so we made good progress. Only a few keen scullers around.

We reached Westminster Bridge in record time, the water was getting more dynamic and actually fun as the outgoing tide collided with the incoming tide.

It was nice to be challenged, otherwise the paddle might have become soporific! Westminster bridge was known as the bridge of fools, as it was not funded in the usual way (toll fees or private funds). Lotteries were set up to fund though they were subject to fraud hence the name.

The waters around Westminster bridge are frequently tumultuous, the reasons could be many.

(I have had the bow of my sea kayak once sucked 2 feet underwater). An engineering friend believes that it is due to the many spans of the bridge (the most of any Thames bridge) which has large support underwater. This means as the Thames tides ebbs and flows due to gravitational pulls its mass of water is funelled through the bridge’s tight confines of the bridge pillars or seven iron-ribbed elliptical spans.

Any other thoughts?

Harvey & John HMS Belfast

We passed HMS Belfast (from an article I wrote for those history buffs:

“We soon found ourselves paddling in the shadow of a giant World War II warship HMS Belfast. It had an awesome metal camouflage painted hull rising from the sombre waters with a length of 613 feet 6 inches (187.0 m), and a beam of 63 feet 4 inches (19.3 m). She was once able to travel 32.5 knots or 60.2 km/h (37.4 mph) and have a range of 8,664 nautical miles or 16,046 km, but now she seemed to stand sentinel over Tower Bridge moored permanently as a museum ship.

Built in 1938 Belfast she fired some 5,000 shells in support of the Normandy landings and on D-Day. Her deafening 175-ton triple gun turrets could fire with pinpoint accuracy, 112 pound (50 kg) shells up to 14 miles away. Her powerful guns vibration was such that it cracked the crew’s toilet. The magnificent war machine could also ingeniously catapult-launch two Supermarine Walrus amphibious biplanes. The ship saw further combat in the 1950–52 Korean War.”

Harvey at Tower – Photo John

We were next in the shadow of our magnificent city landmark, Tower Bridge. The mighty suspension and bascule bridge has underground counterbalances which come into play when large ships come through and the bridge magically does its ‘open sesame’ manoeuvre. It was built between 1886 and 1894, yet it did not move Kiki who grumbled it is only a hundred years old it while it pretends to be from the middle ages. (clearly they made them better in Germany!). Well 126 yrs old anyway I wondered if any German bridges are that old and if the RAF left any standing and I bet they don’t have a bascule bridge that old!  Anyway London bridge burned down in the great fire. The bridge was so cleverly designed that pedestrians used to use the top part of the bridge when it was open. Ships still have the right of way over cars. If you wait long enough you might see it open as it is raised 2.3 times a day or 850 times a year.

John @ Tower – Photo: Kiki

(A few bits of trivia apparently Kiki likes trivia) – It was once parachuted from in 1917, which was believed to be a key influencer in founding the Parachute Regiment. A biplane aircraft once flew in 1912 between the walkway and the bascules. (I suppose the planes were much slower then?) What happened to that adventurous spirit? It seems the 1910s were full of dynamism, health and safety has killed off any enthusiasm, or maybe terrorism.

Near Shadwell Basin

Anyway we went on to Shadwell basin which had been the starting point for a 26 mile kayathon a few years back. There was a pub right on the riverbank so I asked some locals if it did takeaway beer. Sadly not till sat. We went on to Shadwell basin which was looking uninspiring full of construction work.

So we headed back to the secret beach by the tower.

Roman sandal?

Harvey and I had a nice picnic lunch after wading through a very gooey mud. We settled down to be entertained by Kiki doing the same. Harvey annoyingly warned her of the mud so she spent 20 min doing various attempted landings, I counted 15..(I think the Normandy landings were quicker) – Finally she succeeded with minimum mud on her nice dainty white shoes, so we were disappointed with the anti-climax.

Heron Flying wings outstretched

We settled to our priceless view of Tower Bridge. It is at times like this that London feels and looks amazing. Unbeknownst to us on our sparsely used Thames, the beaches were overcrowded. Though the bridge was surprisingly congested with traffic. We felt sorry for them overheating. (Not)

Harvey at Tower – Photo: Kiki
Alien-like giant buoys

We had leisurely time before heading back on our journey with a different perspective on all the bridges as we were the other side of the river.

Returned around 3.40 pm. A nice 6,5 hrs paddle.

2 thoughts on “Kayak to Tower Bridge and beyond (Shadwell)”

  1. What a terrific adventure & how I wish I could have been with you whilst struggling to renew my membership in time to avoid the mighty price hike – surely this will have the opposite effect of reducing new applications

  2. Nice one John though 7am start sounds like cruelty!
    Done a group trip similar to isle of dogs 27th but at a more sensible 9.30 start.
    We made it 25 MLS return from tower bridge.
    Did you find my other sandal?

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