The River Thames in London may soon have safe swimming beaches

A brave girl going for a swim in the River Thames near St Paul's Cathedral in Central London

A brave girl going for a swim in the River Thames near St Paul's Cathedral in Central London

I guess she is going to be OK. If wild swimming takes place in the River Thames upstream, as it does, then the biological hazard should be less in the tidal Thames – because the water is salty and salt is a disinfectant. ‘The discovery of a colony of short-snouted seahorses (Hippocampus hippocampus) living in the Thames means that the London river is becoming cleaner, conservationists said…Scientists from the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) have discovered five seahorses during routine conservation surveys in the Thames estuary in the past 18 months, evidence which they say indicates that a breeding population exists.’ The River Thames Website explains the position as follows: ‘The water quality is very good and in fact the tidal Thames is now acknowledged to be one of the cleanest metropolitan rivers in the world’. Thames water is pleasantly warmer than sea water with about 75% of its ‘thermal pollution’ coming from power stations. One man’s thermal pollution is one girl’s heated water. There is also a good supply of mud for her fair skin and she will be able to save money on spa treatments and make a sustainable contribution to combating climate change. One thing which does worry me though is whether she has a sufficient layer of Factor 30 sun screen. If the brave girl is poisoned there will be a public outcry and the River Thames Cleanup, underway since the 1960s, wll then be driven by a popular outcry. I regret that it takes a tragedy to effect reform but as Tertullian remarked, ‘the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church’.

11 thoughts on “The River Thames in London may soon have safe swimming beaches

  1. Christine

    It is interesting to compare notions of urban and wilderness bravery!
    [ ]

    Urban bravery usually results from pitting your wits against the perils of the consequences of population density while wilderness bravery results from pitting your wits against the perils of the extremes of nature.

    Climate change seems to promise a whole new era of bravery combining the best of urban and wilderness bravery!

  2. Tom Turner Post author

    I regret it when other people risk breaking the law but, as a cyclist, it is often necessary to break the law in order to evade other and more serious risks, like being crushed.

  3. Tom Turner Post author

    That’s a great project in Berlin – and if the canopy were mass-produced it could be used to make cycletubes! But I wonder what swim-quality water means. I can easily imagine that public health officials proclaim it is ‘not safe’ but what criteria to they use. Most anywhere must safer for bathing than the Ganges at Varanasi – and yet it is full of bathers. As children we used to swim in the Firth of Forth amongst little brown lumps from the nearby sewage lacerating equipment.

  4. Gordon Evans

    In Germany almost everything is clearly defined. One of the criteria is to have at least 1 metre clear sight at a depth of 1.5 metres and most “natural” waters don’t pass this test, although everyone still swims in them (at their own risk). Just as surfing is not allowed on the captive wave on the Isar, in the middle of Munich, but has turned into a must-see for tourists to the city.

  5. Christine

    Hi Gordon, yes I agree with Tom the Berlin ‘Bathing Ship’ is a great project. The Munich wave is especially quirky, but that is what makes the world such an interesting place!

    Tom, your childhood experiences have probably given you (as is probably also true of the Ganges swimmers) a hardier constitution than most….if you are keen on your vision for Whitehaven Beach on the Thames [, ] don’t give up the dream for anyone!

  6. Tom Turner Post author

    Gordon, that is a brilliant solution to the terrible Health and Safety Problem inflicted on the world by an unholy allianace between insurance companies and lawyers: ban everything but take no steps to enforce the ban. It would be harder if had specially built an Eisbach Wave on the River Lea in London but I think it could and should be done.
    Christine, you are right that Whitehaven Beach is even better than the whitesand beach we are planning on the Thames shore, but we can keep it in mind as a design objective for London’s River.

  7. Gordon Evans

    To its credit, the Munich City Government has actually been trying to legalise use of the wave, but comes up against the problem of the City becoming responsible for any accidents. But the English do seem to me to be market leaders in enforced nanny state bans. The Isar runs through the grassy meadows of the English Garden with an incredible velocity, the park is open 24 hours and there have been several drownings over the years. Were the English Garden to live up to its name they would have fenced the river or rendered it impotent long ago, one only has to think of the sorry tale of the Princess Diana memorial in London. But, it would probably not be possible to design the English Garden in its present form today, on safety grounds.×2000.html


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