Messing about by the river – Thames Tidefest returns for a 7th time

Thames Tidefest is now in its seventh year and is a celebration of all that the River Thames has to offer. It aims to help Londoners reconnect with their river and is usually a day packed with loads of great activities for all the family with boatyard tours, boat trips, film shows, guided photo-walks, seine netting, live fish tanks, children’s games, bouncy castle, circus workshops, stalls, live music, refreshments and much, much more. However, whilst we were pleased to be back on Sunday 6th September the coronavirus pandemic forced us to put on a much more limited programme of pre-booked activities. Taster sessions in Paddle boarding with Active 360 and Kayaking with Edge Paddling took place as usual as did the popular Foreshore Walks and trips to Oliver’s Island led by local archaeologist Fiona Haughey. 

Stand Up Paddleboarding has become a staple part of Tidefest

Guided walks were on offer at Twickenham’s Eel Pie Island – a venue famous in the history of British rock music hosting such stars as the Rolling Stones, Eric Clapton and Rod Stewart and The Strand on the Green Sailing Club members competed for the Thames Tidefest Trophy on the in coming tide in the afternoon.

Attendees arrive for a fascinating tour of Oliver’s Island

At low tide the Environmental Charity Thames21 took small groups of family or friends onto the foreshore to examine the array of wildlife to be found in the river and under rocks. The youngsters found crabs, shrimp, baby bass and flounders in their nets. 

“River-dipping” on the tidal Thames reveals some amazing wildlife

Visitors were also able to see the range of fish that now live in the tidal Thames as 40 top anglers once again competed in the annual Tidefest Championship. Species caught included sea trout, mullet, smelt, bream, chub, dace and some high quality roach.

Beautiful roach like these were caught in numbers during the Tidefest Angling Championship

The wide range of fish now present in the river illustrate what a diverse fishery the Thames has become following years of investment in cleaning up the sewage discharges that once rendered this famous river as ‘biologically dead’. Surveys by the EA have indicated 127 different species of fish now living from the tidal limit to the Thames Estuary. The river will be further improved when Thames Water open the Tideway Tunnel in 2025 removing nearly all storm water discharges which have caused repeated problems. 

When the Thames Water open the Tideway Tunnel in 2025 it should make the river cleaner and healthier for wildlife and people who want to enjoy the river. (picture shows Chelsea Kayak Club members)

Tidefest Chairman Martin Salter said: 

Thames Tidefest is organised by volunteers from the local community and we really wanted to keep it going notwithstanding the challenges presented by the current coronavirus situation. Although this meant doing without the stalls and live music, advance booking and a reduction in the numbers attending , those who booked in seemed to appreciate the activities on offer and smiling faces could be seen throughout the day.

Tidefest is part of the Thames Festival and was able to offer free or heavily subsidised activities thanks the generous sponsorship received from Thames Water.

Photo Credit for all images: “Anna Kunst Photography”