Thames Paddle Steamer

9 June 2001

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We set off on our evening cruise from London Bridge City Pier

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Lucy, John and Clare

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We turned downstream, passing HMS Belfast on our right. HMS Belfast is a cruiser, and was launched in March 1938, serving throughout the Second World War. She played a leading part in the destruction of the German battle cruiser Scharnhorst at the Battle of North Cape and in the Normandy Landings. After the war, she supported United Nations forces in Korea and remained in service with the Royal Navy until 1965. In 1971 she was saved for the nation as a unique and historic reminder of Britain’s naval heritage in the first half of the twentieth century.

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And passing the Tower of London on our left. The Great or White Tower was begun by William the Conqueror. Since the first foundations were laid more than 900 years ago the castle has been constantly improved and extended by the addition of other smaller towers, extra buildings, walls and walkways, gradually evolving into the castle, fortress, prison, palace, and finally museum and home of the Crown Jewels that it is today.

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...before passing through Tower Bridge, which has lifted to allow us through. The bridge was completed in 1894 and provides an opening 200 feet wide. Its twin towers rise 45 metres above the Thames. Between the towers stretch a pair of glass-covered walkways that are popular with tourists. The Bridge was operated by hydraulic pumps driven by steam until 1976, when electric motors were put into operation; the steam power system is still kept (in good repair) as a tourist display.

(See also our visit to Tower Bridge in 2003.)

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The new offices of the Mayor of London and Great London Authority under construction. The building is expected to open in summer 2002. The design apparently "expresses the transparency of the democratic process and promotes the image of a modern vibrant world city". (See our visit to Tower Bridge in 2003 for the completed building.)

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New flats by the Thames. The banner says that the sub-penthouse is yours, for a mere 2.3million

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Passing over the Thames Tunnel, the first tunnel of the modern age, and the first under the Thames. It was built by Marc Isambard Brunel at a cost of ten lives and 614,000. It was completed on the third attempt - the first ran into quicksand and out of money, the second failed after the Thames broke in twice. The third attempt took fifteen years, was a national joke, and was only rescued by repeated additional money from the Government. It was completed on 4 April 1840, and opened by Queen Victoria on 27 January 1843.

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A swing bridge, behind which is a lock and the entrance to Limehouse Basin (formerly known as Regent's Canal Dock), the start of the Regent's Canal, which climbs up round central London towards Paddington, meeting the Paddington Arm of the Grand Union Canal at Little Venice.

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The Cutty Sark, a three-masted clipper ship that served in the British-Chinese tea trade through the 1870s, moored at Greenwich since 1957. The circular domed building is the southern entrance of the Greenwich foot tunnel, built in 1902. "No person may enter the tunnel in a state of intoxication ... No person shall spit on or upon the tunnel or its approaches, stairs, lift, passages, or other means of ingress or egress thereto or therefrom".

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The Old Royal Naval College, with The Queen's House in the centre. The Queen's House was commissioned by Queen Anne of Denmark, the wife of James I (reigned 1603-25). Traditionally he is said to have given the Manor of Greenwich to Anne in apology for having sworn at her in public, after she accidentally shot one of his favourite dogs while hunting in 1614.

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The cranes are still hard at work building more of Docklands

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Everyone's favourite building, the Millennium Dome

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And alongside it, this rather strange section of a ship

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This is the Millennium Man

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Approaching the Thames Barrier

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Here we turned and headed back upriver. Here you can see the giant wheel to which is fixed the gate which is rotated up to protect London against flooding. These ten gates weigh up to 3000 tonnes each. They protect 45 square miles of low-lying land and 1 million people who live there.

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The Dome with Canada Tower and its two new twins - I think the skyline looked much better before the two newcomers.

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Virtually the whole of our route this evening is lined with flats, either converted warehouses or new additions. Many of the newer ones are hideous. Here the architect appears to have mistaken the brief for some buildings in Amsterdam, but the result is better than many.

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Darkness starts to fall as we leave Docklands behind us.

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Tower Bridge lifting for us once again, and looking spectacular lit up with the dying rays of the sun behind it.

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Information on Kingswear Castle... 

See also our trip on Kingswear Castle in 2003...


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Unless otherwise stated, all images copyright (c) Stephen and Lucy Dawson