Organisations as potential users
River Thames Society is concerned with all aspects of the entire River Thames. The Society has a number of branches; the nearest to Twickenham is the Upper Tideway branch (Teddington to Putney bridge), which holds meetings, organises visits and publishes a sponsored newsletter.
Inland Waterways Association is a campaigning organisation, more broadly based than the River Thames Society. It is concerned with all navigations throughout the UK and it is open to all, whether walkers, boaters, anglers, etc. The Middlesex branch organises monthly talks and the Association also sponsors waterway restoration projects through its volunteers in the Waterway Recovery Group.
They are concerned either with specific types of craft or more general and wider based, and they include the National Association of Boat Owners, the Dutch Barge Association and the Residential Boat Owners Association. All have members moored locally.
There are a number of societies for owners of vintage craft. Many were built locally and gatherings of these craft have been held at Port Hampton and Trowlock Island. They include the Association of Dunkirk Little Ships, an association of vessels used in the evacuation of Dunkirk in 1940, which has particularly strong local connections, as many of the fleet of "little ships" were assembled at Tough's boatyard. The ADLS holds gatherings in support of other organisations such as the RNLI.
Thames Explorer Trust based at Corney Reach, Chiswick. The Trust promotes education and the Thames for children and adults, school projects linked to the National curriculum, and runs summer schools and field trips to other sites.
The River Thames Boat Project. The locally based vessel Richmond Venturer is the focus of the group's activity, and small groups, children, the disabled and the elderly are enabled to cruise on the river in a specially adapted former Dutch motor barge. The project was instigated in the Borough.
River User Group Number 9 (Teddington to the Tower) is one of a number of Thames groups covering the length of the river, acting as a liaison between the Port of London Authority, the Environment Agency, yacht and rowing clubs, anglers, businesses etc. to discuss matters of concern to all river users.
Thames Landscape Strategy is a partnership of local authorities and agencies concerned with influencing the river landscape in the long term, focused at present with the area Hampton to Kew, using other groups on projects such as the British Trust for Conservation Volunteers.
"Friends' organisations" linked to museums include the Docklands History Group (hosted by the Museum of London), the Friends of the London Canal Museum, and the Friends of the National Maritime Museum.
The easiest way to get afloat is to take the ferry at Marble Hill Park across to Ham House, or hire a boat from Richmond or Marble Hill. At Hammertons Ferry there are approximately 12 rowing boats and 3 canoes available for hire, and an additional five motorboats, four electrically powered, will be added to the fleet during 2000. Hammertons is one of the few surviving public ferries.
Visitors may also pass through the length of the Borough on a passenger launch from central London and locally from Kew, Richmond, Kingston and Hampton Court. Passenger craft vary considerably in size, capacity and comfort, and it is not possible at present to embark or disembark at Twickenham.
Twickenham Rowing Club, based on Eel Pie Island immediately opposite The Embankment, is one of the earliest established clubs on this reach, with premises extensively used daily, every week throughout the year. It is a highly active organisation which has expanded in recent years, particularly the ladies' section. Their two boat-transporter trailers are usually stored on The Embankment, and other craft come and go during the course of the year.
Twickenham Yacht Club is located on three mainland sites and leased midstream moorings in the backwater off the downstream bird sanctuary on Eel Pie Island. The upper dinghy park leased from the Mary Wallace Theatre is accessed from Twickenham draw dock by the Church. The Sunday race fleet boats are stored in the lower dinghy park on the riverside.
There is a well-established canoe club at Petersham Road, Richmond, and another at Teddington whose members train and use the reach extensively.
The slipway or draw dock and the watermen's steps are also used by the Francis Francis Fishing Club who operate from fishing punts. These eight craft are by tradition moored alongside the wall of The Embankment, including the section near the bath site.
Local powered craft
There are a number of moorings in the vicinity licenced by the Port of London Authority to riparian property owners, including the commercial boatyards. Richmond Yacht Club with premises on Eel Pie Island has a programme of social events, and members' craft are based at a variety of locations.
Visiting cruising craft
Vessels from the east coast, Medway, or the Continent require a short-term licence from the Environment Agency to proceed above Teddington, and they may wish to remain in the Twickenham area to go through the lock early in the morning. The popularity of the Thames, Oxford Canal, Grand Union Canal "ring of waterways" has enabled an increasing number of canal-based narrow boats to pass through the area, and with the introduction at the beginning of 2000 of a co-ordinated "Gold Licence" there is every likelihood of this activity expanding.
Visiting craft are by no means all privately owned. The nearest boat hire bases are at Thames Ditton and at Southall on the Grand Union Canal. Further afield there are hire boats on the Wey Navigation and at various points along the Grand Union Canal and the Thames.
However, before it is practical to encourage the more intrepid visitor to come to Twickenham by water, there is a need for adequate mooring facilities for visiting craft with sufficient depth of water at maintained level.
During the summer months, the watermen's steps outside the Barmy Arms are busy with small boats visiting the pub or seeking shops or a garage for petrol. Local boat owners are not infrequently quizzed by passers-by as to the availability of boats for hire in the locality or just, "How can I get to the other side?" Visitors are curious about the history of Eel Pie Island and the "naked ladies" statuary in York House Gardens.
There is amazement when high spring tides inundate sections of the roadway, and bafflement when the river virtually drains away during the annual "draw off" when the sluices are left raised at Richmond half lock. Children and adults alike are fascinated by the opportunity to walk on the exposed riverbed discovering crabs, mussels, and waterborne debris.
As evidenced by the many questions asked by visitors and local residents alike, the river is a constant source of curiosity and fascination. Whatever the weather, the Warren footpath, the riverside and The Embankment are alive with visitors on foot, with prams or on bicycles.