7 Ways We Could Put The Thames To Better Use

Chloe Koura
By Chloe Koura Last edited 94 months ago

Last Updated 12 August 2016

7 Ways We Could Put The Thames To Better Use

Fireworks, fairs, boat races and concerts are just a few examples of what's happened on the river Thames, but it could be used so much more. We've come up with seven ways to fully take advantage of our city's waterway.

Floating lido

There's one in Paris, there's one in Istanbul, hopefully there'll be one in London one day. Thames Baths ran a Kickstarter campaign to build a natural floating lido on the Thames, open year-round. £142,000 has already been raised, but further funds are needed.

Tracey Emin supported the project, which features two pools (a training pool and 25m pool) that would be filled with filtered Thames water. The architecture firm behind the project, Studio Octopi, proposed to build a series of Thames lidos, with the first two being at Blackfriars Bridge and in Shadwell.

Martin Garside from Port of London Authority says the chance of a floating lido, although unlikely, is possible.

Since the Thames rises and falls by up to 7m, a lido would have to move up and down, as would its walkway attached to the land. We're excited to see if this ever happens, but you don't need a lido to swim in the Thames...

Studio Octopi's proposed Thames lido.


Swimming in the Thames is becoming increasingly popular, with 100 swimmers regularly meeting for the summer season of Thames Tidal Swims, but it's no easy feat. Due to the current and tide, swimming in the river is only for confident swimmers, and swimming in some areas is forbidden entirely.

Comedian David Walliams famously swam the full 140 mile length of the Thames in 2011 to raise money for Sport Relief. He was accompanied by a support team, and even then he suffered for his efforts.

If swimming doesn't float your boat, paddleboarding and rowing are other ways to try a sport on the river. You might struggle with surfing since the waves aren't quite big enough, but this didn't stop Andy White who paddled with his hands for two hours from his home to Putney to work in Moorgate every day.

Totally Thames's Great River Familiarisation Swim, 2015.

Thames-based art

Art inspired by and featuring the Thames is common, but art in the river itself is something entirely different. The Rising Tide by Jason deCaires Taylor in 2015 featured sculptures of people submerged by the (rising) tide, and this September, Ik-Joong Kang's huge multimedia instillation Floating Dreams will be in the middle of the river by Millennium Bridge. Totally Thames Festival is a good way to see how Thames affects the creative world, through paintings, photography, cabaret and parades on the river.

There are several floating cinemas, offering both al fresco and indoor screenings - try watching Jaws or Pirates of the Caribbean at St Katharine Docks. If you fancy your own private cinema, HMS Belfast is permanently moored near City Hall and has an on board cinema available for hire.

Floating Dreams by Ik-Joong Kang.

Drinking water

Yes we're serious. After all, you can buy bottled London air — Shoreditch apparently has aromas of an unpaid social media internship and over-priced American cereal. Once distilled, we're sure the Thames water would become the healthy hipster's beverage of choice, all the more so for being locally sourced.

Thirsty? Photo by Torsten Reimer from Londonist Flickr pool.


While the Thames is used at the moment for moving freight (Tilbury in Essex look after 36.3% of Thames cargo), there's room for so much more than the five million tonnes that are currently transported along the river every year. The Portland stone used to build St Paul's Cathedral was brought by barges down the Thames.

Carrying more freight along the Thames will get lorries and vans off the roads. This means less congestion on the roads, and depending on the direction of the moving tide, cargo could have an advanced speed. Transporting freight by boat is also good for the environment - it produces as little as 6% of the carbon dioxide emission that lorry-carried freight produces.

More cargo should be carried down the Thames. Photo by psyxjaw from Londonist Flickr pool.

Uber for boats

There's UberYACHT in Dubai and UberBOAT in Istanbul, so we think it's high time London had our own equivalent. Yes there's the Woolwich Ferry, but it's not quite the same as having your own speedboat at the touch of the button.

In the meantime, use Thames Clippers for your daily commute - scenic, quick and a lot more relaxing than an overcrowded tube.

Take the Thames Clipper to work. Photo by 35mmMan from Londonist Flickr pool.

Sea life spotting

Due to pollution levels, the river Thames was deemed biologically dead in 1957 because of low oxygen levels. However almost 60 years later there are over 400 habitats, home to 125 types of fish, seals (over 2000 have been spotted since 2004) and even the odd 7 tonne bottle-nosed whale. Here's a guide to what lives in the Thames.

On the riverbanks, there are more than 400 invertebrate species, and plenty of birds. Find out more about the wildlife of the river with the Zoological Society of London and London Wildlife Trust, which hold events such as wildlife hunts in rockpools and citizen scientist eel monitoring projects.

The whale in the Thames. Photo by naughton from Londonist Flickr pool.

The Port of London Authority looks after 95 miles of the river Thames (including the the 55-mile long stretch of the river from Teddington Lock in south west London to the Thames Estuary, known as theTidal Thames). The PLA is responsible for the safety of Thames users, protecting the environment, and promoting the Thames, and you can find out more about the Thames Vision project here.

Let us know what you think the Thames should be used for in the comments below.