River Thames

Frost fairs to be celebrated at museum festival weekend

Frost fair
Getty Images

London's famous frost fairs, which were held on the River Thames when it froze during particularly harsh winters, are to be celebrated at the Museum of London Docklands.

About seven frost fairs were held between 1564 and 1814, with Londoners descending on the ice to build markets, play games and cook up feasts.

The last to be held in 1814 even saw an elephant being marched across the river alongside Blackfriars Bridge.

The fairs will be marked at the east London museum with a free family festival on 21 and 22 December featuring choirs, talks, arts and crafts.

Aisling Serrant, community engagement manager at the Museum of London Docklands, said they hoped "to capture the spirit of these spectacular, winter celebrations of a bygone era".

Whale found dead beneath bridge 'had been hit by ship'

Tom Edwards

Transport Correspondent, BBC London

Dead whale

A dead whale which washed up in the River Thames had been hit by a boat, ZSL London Zoo scientists have said.

The minke whale, which can grow up to 33ft (10m) long, was found motionless on the river banks under Battersea Bridge late on Friday.

It is still unclear why there have been three stranded whales in the river over the last two months with theories including a larger whale population, more fish in the water and climate change.

Thames Revival

From biologically dead to a vital wildlife habitat. Helen Czerski cruises the Thames.
In 1957 the River Thames through London was declared biologically dead. The retreat of industry from the city lifted the curse and today the river hosts more than 3000 seals, 156 species of fish, porpoises, dolphins and the occasional very confused whale.

That’s just the start. Over the next decade more than £4bn will be spent radically reducing the pollution that enters the river and improving the riverbank habitat. What can we expect to see in the Thames of the future? What impact will sea-level rise and increasing water temperature have on the insects, birds, fish and mammals that make their living along the river now and in the future?

Physicist, Helen Czerski of University College London is co-ordinating a large-scale study of the River Thames. For ‘Costing the Earth’ she cruises the river meeting the engineers and naturalists determined to give Londoners a river to be proud of.

Producer: Alasdair Cross

TfL announces plan to double boat travel on Thames

Local Democracy Reporting Service

Westminster Pier sign

Boat travel on the Thames is set to double under plans announced by Transport for London (TfL) this week.

The transport authority wants to build new piers in the east of the city, and in Kent and Essex, to help boost public transport.

There could be as many as 20 million boat journeys by 2035, according to the Pier Action Strategy announced by TfL and the Port of London Authority on Wednesday.

There are currently 24 piers on the Thames in London, stretching from Putney in the west to Royal Woolwich Arsenal to the east of the city.

The new strategy outlines plans for the east of the city, with river bus stops proposed on the Isle of Dogs, and at the Royal Docks, Thamesmead and Bexley. It also suggests stops in Swanscombe, Kent and Tilbury, Essex to provide a new route into central London.

There are no plans for new piers west of Putney, because the river is too shallow and bridges present a barrier.

Gareth Powell, managing director of surface transport at TfL, said: “Our strategy establishes a clear way forward for everyone involved in river transport to get more Londoners out of their cars and to travel on the river in safe, sustainable and easy to use ways, freeing up capacity on other types of public transport and helping to clean up our toxic air.”

Extra dates added for Illuminated River tours

Thames Clipper boat on Thames
Thames Clipper

Extra river tours for people to look at the Illuminated River lights from the water have been organised after all previous dates sold out.

The first bridges were lit up earlier in the year as part of what is thought to be the longest public art commission in the world.

London Bridge

The 30 minute tours see Thames Clippers’ catamarans glide beneath the four crossings which have been illuminated so far - London Bridge, Cannon Street Railway Bridge, Southwark Bridge and Millennium Bridge - while guides provide passengers with the history of each bridge.

They begin on 26 October with tickets costing £7.50 for adults, £5 for children aged 5 - 15 years or for London Freedom Pass Holders.

Tickets can be purchased here.

Reading roadworks causing gridlock

Roadworks in Reading are causing long delays for drivers and bus services.

Electricity company SSEN is replacing an underground cable near Reading station.

Temporary traffic lights have been installed on the Vastern Road roundabout and one lane is closed on Reading Bridge, causing queues on both sides of the River Thames during rush hour.

SSEN has issued an apology, stating it has liaised with local authorities to try and reduce disruption to commuters.

The works are due to last two weeks.

Vastern Road
Jennie Hardie