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on the Canals and Rivers of the UK

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Our guide to the waterways of the UK in detail.

The River Thames.

The Thames in its total navigable length of over 146 miles takes many different forms.


The upper Thames from Lechlade to Oxford.

Navigation on the River Thames begins at the junction with the Thames and Severn canal just to the west of Lechlade. The river in this stretch is narrow and often meanders extravagantly. It is very beautiful and quiet as it travels its way through the country. Any settlement is rare. The nine locks are spread out and all hand operated by their lock keepers. It can only be travelled slowly because of the numerous very sharp bends. It is definitely a section of river to unwind on.

This twenty-eight mile long stretch finishes when you arrive at the outskirts of Oxford at King's lock just above which is the entrance to Duke's cut which will take boats over the mile to connect with the Oxford canal.



After passing the entrance to Duke's cut across to the Oxford canal for four miles the Thames runs parallel to but well separated from the city of Oxford. At first very narrow then very broad but shallow at the edges. Both locks on this stretch are at the upper end. As the river reaches the edge of the built up area Sheepwash channel goes off to the East to connect with the bottom of the Oxford canal.

The river now has housing on both banks, it passes under the very low Osney Bridge and goes down Osney lock, it twist around under several bridges before going under Folly bridge past moored pleasure steamers.

The final stretch through Oxford is once again broad and accompanied by fields but it is rarely quiet. It is the home of the racing boats, everything from a single up to racing eight's can be seen in this stretch above Ifley lock.


Oxford to Reading.

The river is now broad, we will usually stay breasted up for this stretch. of thirty-seven miles and twelve well spread out keeper operated locks. Several towns and villages are passed through, Abingdon, Dorchester, Wallingford and Goring. We usually take the chance to have lunch on the move and to stop at some of the towns for an hours visit ashore.

The river is surrounded by fields and woods for most of the stretch. Only for the last three miles as we approach Reading itself does civilisation return as housing closes in.


Reading to Weybridge.

This stretch in it's forty-three miles has seventeen locks. It is well described as the Royal River passing through

As a result again we will have lunch on the move and stop for brief visits to some of these attractions. If guests so wish we can also cruise before and during Breakfast to make time for longer visits ashore.

Finally we arrive at Weybridge. Along the way are numerous rowing centres, pleasure boats and steamers of all styles and sizes.


Weybridge to Teddington.

This eleven mile stretch of the lock is broad and developed. Along its banks Londoners have developed houses to move out to. The grandest being Hampton Court which has it's own moorings and we usually moor here for half a day to give the chance of a visit.

There are just three locks on this stretch, the last being Teddington were the tidal stretch of the Thames starts.


Tidal River.

There are two stretches travelled by canal boats. The first is from Teddington five miles down to Brentford and the entrance to the bottom end of the Grand Union canal. This stretch passes Ricnmond and alongside Kew gardens but we are unable to stop of this tidal stretch as we need to navigate with the tidal as directed by the keepers.

The second fifteen mile stretch goes from Brentfor right through the heart of the city of London to come off the River Thames at Limehouse docks which their connection to the Lee & Sort navigation or via Regents canal back to the Grand Union canal. As this is tidal we are not able to stop on the passage and again our timing will be controlled by the lock keepers as to when we start. This can be a spectacular cruise through London. It is however busy with commercial traffic and a tricky stretch of river. So if we offer it, it will be with a pilot abroad to ensure our safety.

After Limehouse the Thames continues to grow as it heads towards the Thames estuary out of the normal cruising area of canal boats. So we do not cruise on the river down here.




Unfortunately we will not be on this river in 2012 during our cruises.

However we are cruising on other canals and rivers in 2012, details of these cruises can be found at

routes for 2012.


Some pictures of this river?

Teddington to Weybridge. / Reading to Oxford / Oxford / Oxford to Lechlade.


More information from Reed Boats about this river.

A history of this river.


Find our information about other canals and rivers on the canal index page.



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