Putney Gets New Embankment And Boat Race Marker

By M@ Last edited 9 months ago

Last Updated 04 October 2023

Putney Gets New Embankment And Boat Race Marker
Wide view of new embankment at Putney

A short section of new embankment has opened near Putney Bridge.

Stroll along the Putney embankment, past the marker for the boat race, and you'll notice the river has got a bit further away. It isn't the river that's moved, but the pavement. You've now got a bonus 50o m2 of space to spread out.

This brand new bit of London is the first of seven "mini parks" to be reclaimed from the river as part of the Thames Tideway Tunnel project. Also known as the supersewer, this 25km tunnel will intercept around 95% of waste water that would otherwise be released into the Thames (read our full guide here).

Jutting out into the thames
The new section of embankment jutting out into the Thames. The final touches to the roadway are still being put in place, behind

As mini-parks go, it's a bit barren. Not a single planter, weed or blade of grass intrudes upon the cool Cornish granite (cut, incidentally, from the same quarry as the stones of Putney Bridge, some 140 years ago). That said, a couple of mature plane trees lean towards the site from across the road, so it's not entirely barren.

What's effectively a stone platform jutting out into the river is relieved here and there with interventions. Some handsome stone-and-wood benches offer views of Putney Bridge. The most noticeable feature is the "sculptural bronze ventilation column" that rises from one corner like a discarded Olympic torch.

Side view showing the stone kiosk, boat race marker and ventilation shaft
Side view showing the stone kiosk, boat race marker and ventilation shaft

Meanwhile, Glaswegian artist Claire Barclay has contributed a trio of site-specific works collectively called Water Finds a Level. Look out for the bronze oars along the eastern railings, and the relief sculpture of a Thames skiff on the stone kiosk.

A view of Putney Bridge with the thames and an oar-shaped handrail
Note the oar handrail

Arguably the most significant of the three works, though, is the strip of bronze that marks the starting line for the University Boat Races. On the line is printed "The Best Leveller is the River we have in Common" and "The Tide and the Wind Direct our Paths". Readers of a geeky persuasion may be interested to learn that this is written in a Doves font — this is the typeface that was famously hurled into the Thames at Hammersmith, before being retrieved many years later.

University Boat Races marker

So, that's the first Thames mini-park officially open. Eventually, there will be seven along the route of the sewer. The remaining six are at Chelsea, Heathwall Pumping Station (Nine Elms), Albert Embankment (near MI6), Victoria Embankment, Blackfriars Bridge and King Edward Memorial Park (Shadwell).