All posts by John Cheyne

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”

Free Fun For Kids

‘Skinny Bean’ will be giving his street clown show ,with fabulous circus tricks, slapstick comedy and arms length audience participation.

Performance times: 11.30am, 12.30pm, 1.30pm and 2.30pm alongside the information tent.

Audience size limited to 20 per performance (first come first served) please book a place at the information tent on the day.

Free Family River Dipping Wildlife Safari sessions

The Environmental Charity Thames21 will be taking small groups of family or friends onto the foreshore to examine the array of wildlife to be found in the river and under rocks on the Foreshore.

River dipping nets will be provided for producing kick samples of invertebrates in the river flow. Records of specimens found will be sent to the Greenspace Information for Greater London – the city’s biodiversity record centre.

Two supervised groups of up to four people (8 in total) on each session at – 10am, 10.45am, 11.30am, 12.15pm & 1pm on the Foreshore by Kew Bridge. Access via the slipway.

Bring your own wellies.

To book, choose one slot for up to four people from the drop down menu below.

illustrated Walk along the old Twickenham Embankment :Book Now

Join us for an illustrated Walk along the historic and fascinating Twickenham Embankment using archive photos to compare then and now. Particular reference will be made to the island, a place which helped launch the careers of Eric Clapton, The Rolling Stones, David Bowie and many others including Prog Rockers Genesis, Pink Floyd, Hawkwind and Black Sabbath during the 1960’s.  Participants are then welcome to come back to the museum to peruse the exhibits, subject to social distancing limits.

Social distancing rules will apply. Please bring masks.

Book online using drop down menu below

Meet at the Eel Pie Island Museum, 1-3, Richmond Rd, Twickenham TW1 3AB

Walks start at 10:30am, 12pm, 2pm, 3:30pm, 5pm

Limit 10 attendees per session.

Cost: £5 + Booking Fee,

Paddleboarding at Tidefest 2020

Paddleboarding has become an essential part of the Thames Tidefest experience. There a few better ways to enjoy the river so why not book one of the Thames Tidefest Taster Sessions being run by Active 360 or take part in one of the Active 360 Paddleboard Natural History Tours !

Taster Sessions

Suitable for beginners. Please note we will not be able to take children under the age of 11 and you will not be able to book multiple children (more than 2) without contacting beforehand.

Anyone under the age of 18 must be accompanied by a parent or guardian!

You will start with an on land lesson and safety briefing before going out onto the river for a paddle around the local islands.

Depending on the tide you will either head up to Olivers Ait or Brentford Ait guided by one of our instructors.

What to bring

No specialist clothing is required. In warm weather, ordinary gym gear will be fine (shorts/leggings/T-shirt/sweatshirt). Preferably not cotton as it holds moisture – quick drying technical clothing is best if available.

No bare feet, footwear is required at all our SUP locations. Oldsandals with a heel strap or trainers you don’t mind getting wet. Or you can get cheap neoprene wet shoes from most large supermarkets.

Always bring a towel and a change of clothes just in case you take a little dip during the SUP lesson.

In colder weather (November – March), a wetsuit would be advisory.


You do not need to be a proficient swimmer, but should be comfortable about falling into water while wearing a buoyancy aid.

A certain level of flexibility and ability to get up to standing from kneeling is required for learning to paddleboard.

You will need to shower / wash thoroughly after the session if you have fallen in or been splashed and need to ensure any open cuts are covered.

We have taken people with physical and mental disabilities out on the water however please contact us before booking as we may need to take you out privately to ensure you receive the coach’s full attention.

We will also need to know of any recent injuries prior to the session.


Natural History Tours

A downriver paddleboarding trip learning about the Tideway, it’s wildlife and history. There are amazing animals to see and fascinating history to learn about and all while your floating down the river on a paddleboard !

This will include a lesson beforehand. Not suitable for anyone under the age of 16.


Covid-19 Statement


This year’s Thames Tidefest has been reduced in scale to comply with the government’s coronavirus regulations and to keep everyone safe. There will be no stalls, food or live music and all activity events are to be pre-booked either online or at the information tent on the day. Hand sanitisers and wipes will be available and social distancing rules will be applied. However there will still be lots of happy smiling faces and a chance to enjoy the beautiful tidal Thames.

How you can help: Please help us keep everybody safe by bringing your own masks – for use where appropriate- and adhering to instructions on our signage. Do not attend if you, or anyone you have been in contact with, in the last 14 days has had any Covid-19 symptoms. Please adhere to social distancing and try to keep no less than 2 metres away from anyone who is not from your household or support bubble. Most of all please be curteous to others and have fun.

Tidefest is back on !

Following the easing of the COVID-19 lockdown restrictions Thames Tidefest 2020 will be happening on Sunday September 6th at Strand on the Green, Chiswick. However, to help keep everyone safe, all events in our reduced programme will have to be pre- booked.

Tidefest is now in its 7th year and celebrates the recreational opportunities available on the River Thames in London with activities for all the family. These include paddle boarding, kayaking, foreshore walks, island visits, London’s biggest angling competition and much more.

Put the date in your diary and find out what the River Thames has to offer.

Full details including ticket bookings will be on this website SOON

Oliver’s Island Trips Tickets Go On Sale

Unique opportunity to explore a secret Thames island !

Come and explore a secret island that is in full view as you walk along the towpath and yet out of sight. Oliver’s island is shrouded in mystery as well as trees and yet was a very important participant in the trading along the Thames over the past few hundred years. Come and see the view from its banks, explore its history both ancient and more recent, and hear about its environmental importance. Number have been limited this year to allow social distancing.

Transport by guided Kayak’s

Times: 09.00 Group 1; 09.30 Group 2; 10.00 Group 3; 10.30 Group 4; 11.00 Group 5.

Meet: Kew Rail bridge ramp – under the railway bridge and between City Barge and Bull’s Head pubs.


Each group will consist of 6 people

The trips are unsuitable for those under 16 and for those with mobility issues..

Please wear suitable footwear such as boots or trainers.

Strand On The Green Foreshore Walk 2020 Tickets Go On Sale

These highly popular Thames Foreshore guided walks have always been a big favourite at Tidefest.   Led by local archaeologist Dr Fiona Haughey who has worked on the Thames foreshore since 1993 theses fantastic walks provide a fascinating insight into the history of the area. Come along a witness the living history of London’s river. There will be two x  1 hour long walks and social distancing rules will be enforced.

Buy tickets below

FREE Kayak Taster Sessions at Tidefest 2020

Edge Paddling will run free covid compliant canoe or kayak Taster sessions on the hour from the Kew bridge boating arch 

Sessions will be held on the hour every hour between 11.00am and 4.00pm.

Cost: FREE

Open Canoes – Minimum 1 adult, minimum 2 participants, maximum 3 participants (must be from same household)

Kayaks – 1 person per kayak, all participants must be 16years +

Please wear clothes that you don’t mind getting a bit wet and sensible shoes. All equipment, including buoyancy aids will be supplied.

Qualified coaches will lead the groups and coaches reserve the right to assess the suitability of groups on the day.

All equipment will be cleaned between sessions to ensure covid-19 compliance.

All  sessions must be pre-booked  in  advance via online ticketing below. (Canoe bookings are per canoe, not per person – if you want one canoe for up to 3 people, just book one canoe)

Groups of up to six paddlers will be accompanied at all times by a qualified instructor.