Tidal Thames: Teddington to Shadwell

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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...)

0k map Teddington Lock
Tidal limit of the river
2k map HAM HOUSE
River South. A perfect launch point in an otherwise difficult area ! Access via Ham Street to car park adjoining playing fields. Nice beach area for launching, especially at HW.
5k map Richmond Bridge
River East. No easy parking anywhere nearby, but a nice touchdown spot at the foot of water lane, which is a kind of natural slipway. At HW springs, the river floods this whole riverbank area and laps at the ankles of drinkers in the front yard of the White Cross Hotel.
11k map Chiswick Bridge
River South. Natural landing/lunch point with a flight of steps leading up to the riverbank, and even a bench to sit on.
River North, 24hr. Good access here from the slipway in front of the Emmanuel School and Cygnet Rowing Club boat houses. Ample free parking on Riverside Drive (Chris).

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 !

18k map PUTNEY
River South, 24hr. Several easy places to stop round here. This one is by the Pier/Embankment, Southwest of the bridge, and just West of the rowing club steps area - nice and quiet, with toilets nearby. Other options include :
(i) the slipway down from the road at the SW corner of the bridge
(ii) another slipway next to the pub just SE of the bridge.
River South, 24hr. Pleasant bit of waterfront with shingle beach and the odd barge, just where Battersea Church Road touches the river. Car access and parking nearby. The spire of St Mary's Church (1775) is a distinctive landmark.
River South, 24hr. This slipway used by the "Frog Tours" boats, and a short approach road off the embankment leads to it (although of course, little chance of parking anywhere). Portuguese-style "Cafe Madeira" nearby makes a nice fuel stop (Albert Embankment, East side, in a railway arch - 300m)
River North, 24hr (in a sense!). Steps lead down off the embankment to a sand/shingle 6m above CD, so it's a wet launch only on the highest of tides (and muddy only on the lowest of lows). Access via Glamis Rd. Parking restrictions 08:30-17:30 Mon-Fri, but OK at all other times. This location is of course most famous as the home of the renowned Tower Hamlets Canoe Club, undoubtedly the best kayaking club in all Shadwell. Also just alongside is the renowned "Prospect of Whitby" pub, dating from 1543. So we take break here...