Saturday, July 3

Friday Peace

My favorite time of the week is Friday, 8:15PM to 9PM when Eitan finishes swim practice. I drop the boy off at the Putney pool then go for a run on the Thames towpath crossing the river at the Hammersmith Bridge then scooting along the north side including my favorite quarter-mile bend at Fulham where old maples provide cover over the embankment. I thread my way through several council estates and luxury condos, by pubs, a tennis grounds and grassy parks; I pass the River Cafe, one of London's finest restaurants, and the Fulham football stadium. Putney is home to several rowing clubs and a downward slope offers water access- this is where the Oxford-Cambridge race begins. While there are always people - joggers, cyclists, couples or gossiping teenagers smoking fags on a park bench - there are also long stretches of serenity. The late sunset allows me to finish well before dark and afterwards I watch Eitan lap away. I bring an extra Lacoste and towel+my blackberry so I can read the gossips or write emails. Then home, a drink, and late dinner with Sonnet.

In its natural state, the Thames would have been very different - a shallow, meandering stream flowing through a wide bed of river gravels below Richmond Hill not far from us. Following summer storms and winter rains this area would easily flood. Torrents of water would fill the river, spilling across an extensive floodplain of marsh, reed bed and swamp extending inland for many miles. It is believed that a series of 'falls' or rapids were present at Teddington, Glover's Ait and Isleworth.

As human habitation spread, the Thames slowly changed. Wetlands were drained and the river corridor was 'canalised' or narrowed to allow navigation to take place. This caused the tide to extend much further upstream than was natural. Agriculture thrived on the rich soils and more recently large areas of the floodplain were built on. As the river changed wildlife slowly adapted to these artificial environments finding new niches to thrive in. Today, although almost entirely man-made, the river corridor provides some of the best environments in London for a wide diversity of wildlife to flourish.