Friday, 11 September 2015

Totally Thames

This week we have been on two outings, both of which involved the river Thames.  On Wednesday, there was a flotilla of boats to celebrate the Queen's becoming the longest reigning British monarch ever, or, to put it bluntly, not being dead yet.  Tower Bridge was due to open at noon as a mark of respect, so we went up there on the Northern Line, and decided to watch from the middle of London Bridge.  This proved not very practical, as HMS Belfast had a friend visiting, so you actually got a better view from the far side of the bridge.
The Bridge duly opened and the flotilla - not a very impressive one - passed under it, and then under London Bridge. 

We were amazed how busy London River is these days - time was, you scarcely saw a boat on it, but this time, the flotilla was almost lost in the stream of barges, tourist boats and others that were going up and down stream.

After lunch in the nearest Prets (I do like their coffee!), we headed home on the bus.

Today's excursion was rather more exciting; it was organised by the Zoological Society of London, and was called "Thames Alive".  I'd seen this advertised on-line, and thought it looked interesting, so booked tickets for it.  These were free, it was basically a matter of signing up so they knew how many people to expect, and could limit numbers, if necessary.  I had received about three emails from them saying Not To Be Late, and we were a bit panicky as we needed to be there for 9:30 and Strand on the Green is quite some distance from here!  Citymapper suggested we pick up the train from Queenstown Road Station, which we hadn't done before (and I don't actually care if I don't do it again, as the platforms are very narrow, and even sitting down I felt slightly off-balance), and it turned out to be nearer the station than we'd thought, so we were there in plenty of time to put on wellies (me) or walking boots (the Swan Whisperer - he does own wellies but his, and my best pair, are in the motor home!) and gather on the Thames foreshore. 
The first thing was dipping, rather like pond dipping, to find out what sort of invertebrates there were - mostly freshwater shrimps, but also a couple of estuarine prawns, some leeches, etc, and probably loads of algae, etc. 

After this, some of the ZSL people went out in a boat to put out a seine net to see what sort of fish they would catch. 

These proved to be two or three varieties of rather small fish - apparently, it does depend on the time of year, and, of course, whether you are where it is more maritime or more fresh water.  But it was interesting.  The ZSL were disappointed not to have caught a flounder, as we had seen a cormorant eating one earlier, but as they had to trawl slightly further upstream than they'd anticipated, due to a fallen tree blocking the place they'd wanted, it's perhaps not too surprising. 

I'm not too sure what the purpose of the day was, other than to educate the interested public; there was no attempt to catalogue or count the specimens, which were just returned to their natural habitat.  I rather suspect it was to get volunteers for future surveys - apparently there is a lot of volunteer work to be done with the society.

So anyway, that was the end of that, and we came away to have a good wash and a coffee and croissant at the local Café Rouge - it proved more cost-effective to have their coffee-and-croissant option than to have either separately - before getting the train back from Kew Bridge.

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