The River Thames is so much more than meets the (London) eye. Welcome to the ultimate English river adventure.
The River Thames is England’s most iconic river, hands down. Not only is it perfectly idyllic with quaint villages and lush countryside from source to sea, but we bet you didn’t know just how much there is to do along the riverbanks. Kayak your way through medieval market towns, cycle through the charming village of Bampton (where Downton Abbey was filmed), go wild swimming or try your luck at punting—all with the knowledge of a local guide. After an active day, spend your evenings in cosy pubs and traditional inns enjoying classic English grub and banter. This is quintessential English countryside at its best.
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All children aged 5 to 17 years old must provide proof of vaccination (if eligible), proof of recovery or a negative COVID-19 test.
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Now that would be telling... only kidding. Thames Head is located in a field near the village of Kemble in Gloucestershire. The springs are seasonal and you have the best chance of seeing them on a wet day or after a big downpour. The location can change slightly depending on water levels but trying to find them is half the fun, right?
Believe it or not, the River Thames is considered one of the cleanest city rivers in the world. The murky colour of the water might make you think otherwise, but the brown colour is because it’s a muddy river with a silt riverbank. The Thames was once declared biologically dead, but after changes to London’s sewage system and big cleanup efforts, it’s thriving once again with many wildlife species returning to the waters.
There are a surprising number of animals that live in the Thames. Along with over 125 species of fish including eel, trout and sole, you might also see porpoises, dolphins and seals. This hasn’t always been the case. It was only after extensive river cleanup and wildlife conservation projects that these species started to return and thrive. Above the water you’ll find mute swans, grey herons, kingfishers and coots – and of course the iconic mallard, AKA “the duck”.
The River Thames runs for 235 miles (354 kilometres) from Kemble in Gloucestershire to the North Sea in Kent. The major towns and cities it passes through include Oxford, Reading, Maidenhead, Windsor, Slough, Windsor and London.
The Thames is a popular wild swimming spot. The swimming conditions and environment generally get nicer the further west you go. Like with any wild swimming (or swimming in general) it’s important to be aware of the risks and hazards, know your limits and follow the latest safety advice. The Port of London Authority (PLA) does not recommend swimming in the tidal Thames unless you are an experienced open-water swimmer due to powerful tides and undercurrents. If you want to swim in the tidal Thames you need to register for a permit.
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