Photo Opportunities -  Number 4

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Photo Opportunity – The River Thames
Between Reading & Cookham

“The river is vastly under-used,” stated John Redmond, Navigation and Recreation Manager for the Environmental Agency, as we started our trip downstream from Reading on the ML Windrush. “Our task is to get more people on the river, but it must be done in the right way! We don’t want soulless developments that bring no life to the riverside.”

To illustrate this John took us to where the Thames meets the Kennet and Avon canal. Here, a large and seemingly empty housing development broods over the water. Certainly the new red brick apartments looked very out of place on the canal banks. One would have expected to see a couple of Café Bars or restaurants but apart from a couple of older pubs there is nothing there to give it life or spirit. Further down river, away from Reading town, things rapidly improve and it suddenly seems to become countryside. Everything is very green, cows and sheep graze in the riverside meadows and cool themselves in slow moving water.

An immense feeling of peace and tranquility overcomes our party. It certainly is a calming experience to be cruising serenely downstream with the sun shining. “More tourism is just what the river needs” said John, as we spoke further. He went on to say that though this is one of the most scenic spots in the country it is also one of the least used. There are the habitual users of the river with their cruisers and their narrow boats but we only saw four or five other boats in the entire trip, adding weight to John’s statement.

The landscape here is mostly flat but hills are always in sight giving some lovely vistas on either bank.

And the opportunities for photographs are endless. The riverbanks are littered with scenic bridges, beautiful homes, fluffy swans and other wildlife, such as grebes, ducks and geese.

Old boats and beautiful trees abound!

Each corner turned brings new pleasures and delightful views. Though admittedly I took artistic license with this one!

Locks are a source of delight with their attractive gardens very carefully laid out. The keepers too are a vast source of information about the river and the countryside around. They would be happy to point any keen photographer in the direction of a good viewpoint or an interesting property in their area.

The ML Windrush in Shiplake lock.

The river needs funds to be kept in it's present healthy condition. Like all environmental projects though, there is always more work than money and an increase in the amount of visitors using the river would bring much needed revenue, which would go a long way in keeping it in pristine condition. We have a view of a lot of pollution in our waters but this certainly not the case this side of London. The ML Windrush’s crew tell us of an increase in their sightings of herons, kingfishers and otters. This is because of the increasing fish stock in these waters. Even salmon are making a comeback and there were certainly some big fish jumping around in front of our boat! A boating holiday would be a great way to explore this stretch of water and definitely with a camera to record the experience and the passing scenery.

About The Environment Agency

The Environment Agency acts as the Guardian of the environment, protecting and improving it for future generations by regulation and direct action. The Agency's Thames region, which embraces the Navigation and Recreation Service provided by the former National Rivers Authority, encourages the pursuit of variety of recreational activities along the 136 miles of the freshwater river Thames for which it is the managing authority. The Thames is an attraction for numerous activities: Anglers, boating enthusiasts, canoeists, dinghy sailors and yachtsmen, holiday makers in hired craft, naturalists, horsemen, swimmers, sub-aqua diver and walkers! The River Thames is more than a leisure destination. It is also an important wildlife habitat and at the same time supplies two thirds of London's drinking water. For more information contact The Environment Agency at Kings Meadow House, Kings Meadow Road, Reading, Berkshire, RG1 8DQ. Tel: 0118 9535 5000

Why Not Hire A Boat?

If you are interested in boating holidays on the Thames we've a few addresses for you to contact -
Upper Thames Passenger Boat Association 01344 890351
Thames Hire Cruiser Association 020 8979 1997

Daily/Hourly Boat Hire Companies

Kris Cruisers 01753 543930
Chertsey Meads Marine Hire Ltd - 01932 564699

Or contact the Environment Agency for a complete list of hire companies.

All photographs and text © 2001 Brian Sharland.

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April 2014
Sophie Martin-Castex


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