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Wandsworth to London Bridge

This is a rather busier stretch of river than previous sections, and you are almost guaranteed to see commercial traffic. Look out for trains of lighters full of London's rubbish, and coasters carrying aggregate. Most of this traffic movement is restricted to a couple of hours either side of high water, as they use the tides to help them in and out of London.

As you pass under Battersea Railway Bridge, you will see the entrance to Chelsea Harbour on the Middlesex bank, followed by Chelsea Creek. In times past this was the entrance to the little known, and short lived, Kensington Canal. Dug in 1827-8, the canal only lasted until 1845 when it was filled in and used for part of the West London Railway.

Possibly the most exclusive (and expensive) houseboats on the Thames are the next feature, lined up along Cheyne Walk just before the rather tastefully redecorated Battersea Bridge.

Passing under Albert Bridge, by far the pinkest bridge in town, note the central pier that was added in the 1970's. How well it blends with the graceful curves of the suspension bridge . . .

The PLA moorings at Cadogan Pier are immediately below the bridge, and offer a variety of moorings from the main walk-on pier, to the swinging buoys just upriver.

Between Chelsea Bridge and the Grosvenor (or Victoria) Railway Bridge you will see the entrance to the Grosvenor Canal on the Middlesex bank. This was constructed in 1725 by the Chelsea Waterworks Company, but most has long since been filled in and built on. The short remaining stretch has remained as a dock used by Westminster City Council for transferring refuse into lighters. However this is scheduled to end very soon, as WCC have decided to put all their rubbish onto the road, rather than send it by river. In the meantime, watch out for strings of lighters which may be entering or leaving around high water.

On the Surrey bank you will see the forlorn hulk of Battersea Power Station, still waiting for someone to actually do something with it.


Battersea Power Station

Be prepared to meet sailing dinghies in this stretch, as you pass the Westminster Boating Base pier on the Middlesex side.

Next you have the privilege of a close up view of one of London's secrets. Or eight of them to be precise! Vauxhall Bridge boasts bronze figures of heroic size on each of the granite piers. Almost invisible from anywhere but the river, you will find Pottery, Engineering, Architecture and Agriculture upstream, and Science, Fine Arts, Local Government and Education downstream.

Once you pass Westminster bridge, you are likely to meet a considerable number of passenger boats. These tend to move surprisingly fast, and can leave an unpleasant wake as they pass. To preserve your crockery it is often advisable to turn so that you cross the wake at 90 degrees, otherwise just hang on - it will soon pass! Watch out for trip boats about to leave their moorings, and listen out for their sound signals.

Now you are really in the heart of London, but the view is completely unlike any that you would get from the roads, or even walking along the riverside. On the Middlesex shore look out for the buildings of Whitehall, looking more like Prague than London with their turreted roofs! On the Surrey shore you will see workings of the Jubilee Line underground extension, with a conveyor belt dropping the spoil into lighters for transportation downriver, followed by the the much maligned South Bank Centre as you pass under Hungerford Bridge.

As you pass Bankside Power Station, soon to be the Tate Gallery's new home, be sure to look on the opposite bank for a stunning view up to St Paul's Cathedral.


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