Over the last 20 years the riverfront in central London has been transformed. In many places it used to be dominated by derelict warehouses and seedy streets – not the sort of place for a pleasant stroll. How things have changed! In particular, on both the north and south banks of the Thames between Waterloo Bridge and Tower Bridge the pleasant river paths now make the regenerated river frontage accessible in most areas.
Whilst the path on the south has much of cultural interest (galleries, theatres, a cathedral) and lots of bars and restaurants, the path on the north side is generally much quieter as it borders the business area of the City of London. However, if you venture along the north bank you will be surprised by what you can find. One of my favourite things is not something of great age – it is only 6 years old – but I find that those on our guided walks are delighted by it.
Queen Matilda’s Small Port
Venture between the Millenium Bridge and Southwark Bridge at Queenhithe and you will find, along the side of the only surviving Saxon dock, a 30 metre long mosaic which illustrates the history of London from the visit of Julius Caesar in 55 BC right up to 2012 AD.
The course of the River Thames from the centre of London flows all the way through the timeline on the mosaics, ending with wind farms in the Thames estuary. Spot the river wildlife woven into the illustrations. We often associate mosaics with the ancient Romans – who founded London – but this is a modern artwork created by Southbank Mosaics. It consists of 164 panels which were initially created offsite with the help of 200 volunteers and installed in its final position in 2014. The panels are bordered by friezes into which are embedded fragments of pottery, shells and other small artefacts from the period illustrated in the particular panel. These were found on the Thames foreshore by the volunteers under the supervision of a properly accredited archaeologist. Remember you may collect artefacts from the Thames foreshore, even those just lying on the surface, only if you have obtained a special permit from the Port of Thames Authority.
Although I have seen the mosaic many times, I am amazed how each time I spot a detail for the first time. When we are able to resume our walks join us on our River Thames walk to see this modern artwork which illustrates London’s history in such an accessible way.