Tidal Thames: Teddington to Shadwell
Our start point for the Thames is the begining of the tidal section at Teddington Lock. Yes, I am aware there are some 250 Kilometres of water upstream of here, but it flat water. These pages are about the sea !
The TIDE at this top-end of the river is quite asymmetric, having roughly 9 hours of ebb vs 3 hours of flood (vs about 7/5 at London bridge). HW at Richmond/Teddington is around 1 hour after London Bridge. For those organising trips for the first time (and wanting tide support) this is reasonably confusing ! How long have I got to complete the trip ?. Well, as long as you are paddling with the tide, it turns out that you have around 6 hours in either direction, as this hypothetical tide timetable shows:
HW LW HW Richmond 08:00 17:00 20:00 so 08:00->14:00 (~6 hours) paddling Eastbound London Bridge 07:00 14:00 19:00 or 14:00->20:00 (~6 hours) paddling Westbound
The Teddington/Richmond section has the added complication that only the "top 2 hours" of the tide shows through, because a set of weir gates swing into place at Richmond to maintain levels above 1.7m over CD. Allegedly, this is to assist navigation, but it also keeps the river looking plump and fullsome for the benefit of local landowners, and provides a pleasing surface for the swans to glide around on. To keep things simple, aim to pass Richmond within 2 hours of HW.
From Richmond to Putney, the river is quiet and almost rural. At most states of the tide there are plenty of places to stop, the riverbank being mostly shingle. This is a popular area for rowing, so expect to find teams out practising - often seemingly on the "wrong" side of the river (but "right" according to The Rowing Code, if you can get your head around it!). Obviously, kayakers need to give rowers a wide berth, as the latter cannot see where they're going (because they face the "wrong" way...)
East of Putney, everything changes ! You are entering a major capital city, so of course the river buzzes with activity - and you need to keep your eyes open ! Access to the banks is also rather limited, as there are few slipways, and the huge tidal range (7 meters) makes it impracticable to climb over the side walls. At low tide, there are sandbanks and beaches to take a break on, but when the water is up, the next stopping point might be miles away. Currents can also run quite fast (up to 3 knots) particularly in the Westminster to London Bridge section where the river is narrow. These factors, plus the sheer density of traffic East of Westminster bridge, make this a river to take seriously ! But it is also seriously nice, so don't be put off !