Tales along The River Bank
Words Jo Suzie Smyth
A national emblem, famous the world over, the historic River Thames snakes its way along a 184-mile route through some of our most beautiful countryside, meandering around the most charming of villages and on through the outskirts and then the very heart of London, sometimes underground.
Fortunately for us living close by, there are many varied and entertaining places to visit, year round activities and historic seasonal events – most of which offer a fantastic opportunity for family outings and trips. Whether you’re looking for peace and quiet, a walk, to experience history, a pub lunch, a day at the races or a memorable boat trip – you’re sure to find it on the River Thames.
Ankeryke (The Thames Path)
National Trail (nationaltrail.co.uk/thames-path/routes).
Once past Old Windsor you reach Runnymede, a place of immense historic and symbolic importance as it was here that the Magna Carta was signed by King John in June 1215. Travel a little further, to the opposite side of the river, and you’ll find Ankerwyke, open all year round with an ancient 2,500 year old yew tree and the remains of a Benedictine priory to discover. According to popular belief, it was beneath this tree that King Henry VIII courted Anne Boleyn, and some reports suggest that he even proposed in its shadow. With a wonderful array of wildlife and a wide variety of trees, Ankerwycke is the perfect spot for a historical and fun family walk.
Royal Windsor Racecourse (Windsor-racecourse.co.uk)
Families can enjoy the famous Monday Night Racing (gates open at 15.50 with the first race of seven at 17.50). Under 18s go free when accompanied by an adult.
Longridge Activity Centre (alfvillages.org.uk/alf-villages/longridge/)
They provide a range of exciting water sports and land-based activities aimed at young people of all abilities. Enjoy twelve acres of beautiful water meadows and their very own island! Develop water skills as well as leadership, self-discipline, confidence and respect. Day and residential courses available.
Self Drive Day Boat Hire (kriscruisers.co.uk/day-boats.html).
Enjoy the River Thames from the water under your own steam in day boats seating from 2-12 people – as well as luxury holiday cruisers sleeping between 2 and 10 people.
Farley Meadows, Henley on Thames
Thames Traditional Boat Festival, 14-16 July (tradboatfestival.com).
Enjoy a nostalgic day out at one of the biggest boating events in Europe. 12s and under free entry, 13-17s half price, free car park.
Sunbury Lock to Abington Bridge
Oxon, 17-21 July, Swan Upping (royal.uk/swan-upping-2016-18-22-july)
This is the historic annual census of the swan population on the River Thames, led by David Barber, The Queens’s Swan Marker, and plays an important role in the conservation of the mute swan. Check out the full schedule and catch up with the magnificent Royal Swan Uppers who wear the scarlet uniform of Her Majesty The Queen and travel in traditional rowing skiffs.
London Kayak Tours (londonkayaktours.co.uk)
The tours offer kayak trips that are run by British Canoe Union instructors, who will guide you through a unique experience on the river, suitable for experienced kayakers or novices. Also available from Windsor and Regents Canal (NW8).
Ham House and Garden (nationaltrust.org.uk/ham-house-and-garden).
Perched on the southern banks of the River, Ham House has plenty going on during the Summer holidays to keep the little ones busy! Enjoy craft activities, children’s trails, storytelling and loads more.
South Bank (southbanklondon.com)
This is London’s lively cultural district, home to national centres for arts, film and performance. Families can enjoy the London Eye, Sea Life London Aquarium, The London Dungeon and Jubilee Gardens – alongside a wealth of family friendly cafes, restaurants and shops.
Kingston Rotary Dragon Boat Challenge, 16 July (kingstonrotaryclub.org.uk/event/dragon-boat-challenge/)
This is a great day out by the river! Hundreds of competitors in up to 60 teams battle it out to determine who makes it into the exciting six boat final for the Challenge Cup. Makret stalls, sideshows, bouncy castle and rides for the kids make this a fantastic, fun-filled day!
The London Wetland Centre (wwt.org.uk/wetland-centres/London/)
This is an urban oasis for wildlife and people, where you can stroll among the lakes, ponds and gardens. It’s a fantastic and inspiring day out for the kids with an adventure playground, Pond Zone and indoor Discovery Centre. Think zip wires, climbing all, giant water vole tunnels and an underwater camera!
There’s loads to do here – climb over the roof of the massive O2, fly in a cable car across the Thames, land an airliner in a fantastic flight simulator, stand at the start of time, whizz down the river in a high-powered boat, wander some world-class museums or simply stroll in the park or along the river!