By Len A.Hynds

As a seven year old, the great river Thames was a magical place for me. It was involved in so many stories that I had been told, or read myself as I learnt to read at an early age. I used to sit astride the large cannon on the promenade at the Tower of London, just above traitor's gate, where so many people had been rowed beneath that promenade, to their certain death on traitors hill with that large curved axe. I could visualise the raiding Vikings not being able to pass the fortified old London Bridge, and digging a canal round it through Southwark.

Thames Beach Near St Pauls I could see the flames as London burnt in the great fire, and the heads of traitors impaled on poles on that old London Bridge. I could visualise Dickens stories of the bleak mud flats of Kent, the murders and convicts , the street scenes in Oliver Twist and the many things that had happened on or near that old River Thames, which had poured down 215 miles from a stream in Wiltshire , bringing with it washed away earth, which lined the banks with mud for many miles at low tide.

But up on the higher reaches where it flowed gently, my head was full of tales of Wind In The Willows, Alice In Wonderland, those battles between Romans and ancient Britons, those of King Arthur fighting the incoming Saxons, the civil war between Charles the first and Cromwell’s roundheads, and so many other stories. But it was a place of adventure and from an early age I would be forced to sit on the bank at Puddle Dock whilst my brother Charlie 10 and Alf at 8 would leap across moored barges with wooden swords attacking fictitious pirates.

I was not allowed to join them at the age of 4, but when I was 5 years old I would be considered old enough. In those days there were still quite a lot of sailing ships moored up along the river which evoked all sorts of fascinating stories in my young mind.

Some worthy gentleman in the city had sand poured onto the mud just below the Tower of London and we as youngsters if it was safe with no policemen about would swim in that muddy water, with no clothes on of course, and run sometimes if chased along the bank.

Poor mum would have gone spare if she had known. Happy days!

A truly magical river with its long history. An inspiration to so many writers over the years.