10 surprising facts about the River Thames

Learn more about one of the most striking geographical features in London.

For those staying in serviced apartments in central London, the River Thames is an ever-present feature of their visit. It meanders through the heart of the capital; has some of the city’s most famous landmarks on its banks; and has played a key role in the history of London.

While many people see the famous waterway every day, there are still plenty of facts about the Thames that are relatively unknown. Read on to find out more about the river and its secrets.

Two-thirds of the capital’s drinking water comes from the Thames

Urban myth suggests that by the time water reaches the Thames Estuary, it has already gone through eight people. Whether or not this is true, two-thirds of the water consumed by the London population comes from the river.

The River Thames Great Stink was once so bad parliament was suspended

Drinking Thames River water has not always been a good idea, as prior to London’s sewer system being installed, it was the destination for most of the city’s waste. It got so bad in 1858, it was deemed The Great Stink and parliament was forced to be suspended, leading to the act that enabled the sewers to be built.

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Part of the river is tidal

The section of the River Thames from Teddington to the Thames Estuary is tidal, meaning it has similar characteristics to the North Sea into which it flows.

There are 44 locks along the Thames

From St John’s Lock in Gloucestershire to Teddington Lock in Greater London, there are 44 of these water navigation systems at various points along the River Thames.

World Pooh Sticks Championships are held on the River Thames

A much-loved childhood game, Pooh Sticks is played on rivers and streams across the globe regularly. But the most important tournament in the sport that originates from the A A Milne classic book, The House at Pooh Corner, is staged at Day’s Lock on the Thames every year.

Plenty of wildlife inhabits the river

Not only are there no fewer than 119 species of fish in the Thames, it’s also home to otters, river voles and eels.

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The Thames has more bridges than you’d think

You’re bound to be aware of Tower Bridge, London Bridge and perhaps even the Millennium Bridge, but there’s actually in excess of 200 structures spanning the Thames.

Westminster Bridge is painted a recognisable colour

The paint used on Westminster Bridge is the exact same hue as the leather on the benches in the House of Commons. Now that’s pretty good accessorising – a bit like making sure your belt matches your shoes!

London Bridge was in fact falling down

There have been many incarnations of London Bridge since the first one that was constructed in 1176. Often piled high with buildings and in varying states of disrepair, they were often falling down. The famous nursery rhyme does not refer to just one of these instances, but all of them.

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The Thames Path is the longest riverside walk in Europe

It’s possible to follow the Thames Path for a whopping 296 kilometres, making it the longest hike along a river anywhere in Europe. There’s plenty to see along the way, including countryside and of course, The City of London.

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