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Report: A journey down the Thames

Ian Tittley gave a very interesting talk to members based on his detailed knowledge of the River Thames. After explaining that his main interest was as a Marine Biologist in which capacity he had walked its banks many times up to the extent of the tidal reaches at Teddington lock he went on to select various locations from London to the Thames estuary on which to concentrate his illustrations for the evening.

He highlighted the fact that the river had changed a great deal over the ages, mainly as a result of man’s intervention. Evidence of a Bronze age crossing around the modern Vauxhall area had recently been discovered and the Roman’s first bridge who’s line was in turn traced by the mediaeval old London bridge were constructed when it was still a much wider unembanked waterway. He described it as a “Super Highway” used to the advantage of both human and natural life alike.

Many of its smaller estuaries in the city centre such as the Tyburn and Fleet were in modern times now culverted underground and Sir Joseph Bazalegette’s huge undertaking from 1858 onwards to build the extensive London’s sewerage system and create wide solid embankments narrowed the river considerably making it much deeper and faster flowing.

He described some of the many historical uses that had been undertaken over the ages from leisure pursuits such as water pageants and frost fairs and even using the low tide areas as a seaside holiday beach during the 1920’s, to the huge commercial shipping development of the docks as a result of the industrial revolution.

The building of the Thames Barrier in the 1970’s has been man’s latest contribution to control this mighty waterway. His last natural history comment was that the common seaweed known as bladderwrack, hitherto only mainly found on seaside coastal areas could now be found established on most seawalls and modern built structures right up to the centre of London – an example of how natural history also continues to evolve.

Mike Bundock, the Society’s Curator, Archivist and vice Chair expressed his best wishes for a speedy recovery on behalf of members to member and Raffle Organiser Valerie Birch who was at present incapacitated due to a recent fall and period of hospitalisation.

He also announced that the committee had agreed to arrange a Herne Bay History Day on 23rd August to be held at the Beach Creative premises as part of the Herne Bay Summer festival. He said that the intention was to display some of the history of the town using documents and other artefacts held by the Society and for members to be available to answer questions from the public, identify old photographs as well as to record people’s memories of the area. He asked for volunteers from members to help with various aspects of arranging this as well as manning the displays on the day.

The next meeting will be held on Thursday March 20th at the Lower Hall, United Reform Church, High Street, Herne Bay starting with refreshments at 6.30pm ready for commencement at 7pm when David Birch, Society Chairman will share some his extensive knowledge and memories of the town entitled “Behind Closed Doors” Attendance for members is free and visitors are most welcome at £2 per person. For more information contact 01227 362666.

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