River Walks Festival

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The River Walks Festival ran last month – a celebration of London’s rivers. Footprints of London told the stories of these rivers and how they have helped shape London history. 

The festival opened with a talk by author Caitlin Davies about her new book Downstream A History and Celebration of Swimming in the Thames at the historic Prospect of Whitby pub in Wapping

neil sinclair prospect of whitby

Neil Sinclair opens the River Walks Festival at the Prospect of Whitby

Caitlin told many great stories of those who have braved the Thames waters, including Agnes Beckwith, the champion lady swimmer of the Victorian period, who Caitlin is currently writing a novel about.

Caitlin Davies

Caitlin Davies talking about Agnes Beckwith

The walks kicked off the next day with Jenni and Dave leading an epic two part walk along the River Tyburn.  The people who completed the walk had a great time when they reached the Thames, and they were to become familiar faces during the festival.

river tyburn walk

We received this great comment about this walk

“Yesterday I did two linked walks with Footprints of London as part of their River Walks’ Festival and had a great day following the route of the now hidden Tyburn River from Hampstead all the way down to Pimlico. Jenni Bowley and David Brown were great guides: the perfect blend of confidence and kindness, with a very clear enthusiasm for what they do and a wealth of researched knowledge and practical experience that really made me feel like I was in safe hands!”

We dedicated April 23rd to Shakespeare, it being his birthday and being one of the Thames Banksides famous residents. Neil Sinclair led the second walk of the day –

“It’s not often you’re upstaged by a court jester. But that’s what happened, briefly, during my River Festival walk Shakespeare on Bankside.

The walk was timed to coincide with Shakespeare’s birthday celebrations on 23rd April. And our timing was near perfect. An actor dressed as Touchstone from As You Like It pranced in front of the Shakespeare memorial in Southwark Cathedral just as I  began to wax lyrical about the theatrical connections between the bard and what was, in his day, St Saviour’s parish church.
Touchstone is one of the many characters from Shakespeare’s plays to be depicted in the splendid stained-glass window memorial in the south aisle of the cathedral’s nave.”
shakespeare memorial2
Rob and Jenni were lucky enough to have ITV news economics editor Richard Edgar along on their day long walk along the River Fleet
richard edgar
All the people who came along on Tina’s walk and foreshore session went home with an interesting find from the Thames. The event was made in conjunction with Thames Discovery archaeologist Nathalie. As well as the archaeological finds they took these great photographs
queenhithe bird queenhithe missb queenhithe ropequeenhithe tina
Rob headed further east on his walk looking at Maritime Blackwall, and visited the Leamouth peninsula – home to many interesting and surprising sculptures, like this “taxi tree”
leamouth peninsula
Here’s what one person said about the walk
“This is a great walk to a part of London few of us have ventured, or even knew existed”

Jen would like to congratulate her Moselle Mosey group on their singing of the Tottenham Toad.

This is a 400 year-old folk song about a Tottenham lad (toad) who’s courting an Enfield lass (squirrel) but the Moselle keeps flooding and causing him problems. An appropriate ditty as we followed the course of the river along Tottenham High Road.

The Tottenham Toad came walking up the road,

With his feet a-swimming in the sea,

‘Pretty little squirrel with her tail in a curl,

They’ve all got a wife, but me.’

There’ll be another chance to learn this song when Jen leads the next Moselle Mosey later in the summer.”

moselle mosey

Rob is lucky enough to have a personalised steam engine at the start of his Industrial History of the River Lea walk!

Robert steam engine stratford

People on the walk heard about the amazing history of innovation along the River Lea – it has a claim to be the home of the industrial revolution  as strong as any other place in Britain. As one of the walkers said

“Who would have thought that industrial architecture of the Lea Valley could prove so interesting.”

The River Lea splits into three different tributaries in the area and on the walk Rob showed people some remains of the banks of the now buried Channelsea River

Channelsea River

The River Walks Festival finished with Sue’s walk looking at Canning Town and beyond. As well as some moving stories from wartime Canning Town the walk took in some visual high points like the Royal Victoria Dock Bridge and Thames Barrier Park

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Down by the Thames Barrier was a great place to end the festival, after 88 miles of walks along 9 of London’s rivers it felt like the end to a journey. Thank you to all the people who came on the walks. Obviously we will have lots more walks throughout the summer, but our next themed festival of walks will be Literary Footprints on 8th-22nd October




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  • Andrew Mahoney

    I attended 12 of these walks and throughly enjoyed them all. The highlight was definitely the Mosselle – even if Jen did get upstaged by a Ferret at one point!!.

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