Imagine a lovely, warm afternoon in London, right by the Cutty Sark in Greenwich. You can see the O2 Dome, Greenwich Observatory, and the stunning National Maritime Museum in front of you. If you look behind you, you are treated to views of Canary Wharf, the Shard and the Gherkin. London's landmarks are laid out in front of you, and the best part? No dawdling groups, screaming children or furious commuters impeding your view. But how have you avoided the typical London scrum? Why, you’re on the River Thames, of course!
The Thames rolls furiously through our city dividing north from south, but the majority of London’s inhabitants have little or no relationship with it. This need not be the case. Moo Canoes, a new company, is offering Londoners the chance to become acquainted with their city’s lifeblood and get out on the river in one of their two-person, bovine-printed canoes or kayaks.
Organised public tours run from Moo Canoes’ base in Limehouse and can take you east towards Greenwich (which we did), or west towards Tower Bridge, and then back again. Katy and Alfie, Moo Canoes’ directors-slash-instructors provide basic training before you hit the water and accompany you the entire way to help you avoid the wharfs, whales (unlikely) and most importantly, the Thames Clipper services.
These public tours are timed so that the tide helps you in both directions and although we certainly had slightly aching shoulders (and bizarrely, thumbs) the following morning, it is absolutely suitable for beginners. You are free to meander down the river at your own pace, enjoy the views and stop to wave at all the passers-by. Think London isn’t a friendly city? Try this, nearly everyone gives you a wave.
Will you get wet? Yes. Soaking? No. Water does occasionally spray in from the side of the vessel and also drops off the edge of your paddles, but the chances of you getting a real drenching are slim. At no point are you required to wade in or out of the river and you would have to do the Macarena standing up whilst hula-hooping in the kayak to be able to capsize.
In short, it is a truly lovely way to experience London. On a sight-seeing level it is fantastic, with unhindered views of many of the city’s famous landmarks, but it is also incredibly peaceful and allows you to feel a rather special connection with London. And not a shopping trolley, cadaver or condom in sight, really. Try it.
Moo Canoes also offer private and bespoke tours tailored to your needs, as well as canoe/kayak hire on London’s canals. Prices are £49pp for a Thames Tour (including all equipment, a main meal and a drink), kayak hire is £30 (2 hours) / £45 (4 hours) and canoe hire is £40 (2 hours) / £60 (4 hours). The next public tour is taking place on Saturday 18 May. All instructors are BCU (British Canoe Union) accredited. Age restrictions apply.
Photos courtesy of Tim James Medley.