Riverside charm and cheer in Chiswick
When you think of London what springs to mind? Sprawling metropolis? Concrete jungle? Now imagine it’s Spring. The warm sun is glistening on the water as you walk along the river. Cormorants are ducking under the water, catching fish. A group of scullers power their way along the Tideway. And the lush green banks make it feel so rural, it’s hard to believe you’re just moments away from the hustle and bustle of city life.
Welcome to Chiswick Lifeboat Station’s patch along the River Thames in west London – a 12-mile stretch which runs from Richmond Lock in the west to Chelsea Bridge and Battersea Power Station in the east.
Chiswick is one of four RNLI lifeboat stations along the River Thames. The stations were introduced on 2 January 2002 following the tragedy of the Marchioness disaster on 20 August 1989, in which 51 people lost their lives.
Today Chiswick is one of our busiest lifeboat stations in the UK and Republic of Ireland, second only to its close neighbour, Tower. Last year crew launched 219 times, rescued 116 people and saved 11 lives.
With its cold temperature, rapid pace, changing tides and heavy traffic, the River Thames in London can be an incredibly dangerous place.
Speed is of the essence when there’s an emergency on the river and with a 90-second launch requirement, a crew is always on duty at Chiswick, 24 hours a day, 365 days of the year.
But the Thames can also be a wonderfully peaceful haven to escape the Big Smoke, offering an eclectic mix of tranquil oasis and vibrant riverside living.
And in the words of Josh MacRae, ‘when the weather is fine it must be a sign for messing about on [and around] the river.’
So I visited our Chiswick Lifeboat Station recently to meet the crew and ask them what they recommend to see and do in their patch.
Originally a fishing village, Chiswick has retained its village charm both riverside and in town and has a little bit of something for everyone.
Historic pubs, buildings, parks and gardens line the banks along Chiswick RNLI’s patch of the river and wildlife and flora are in abundance.
Flanked by the Thames Towpath on its north and south banks, the river is popular with dog walkers, joggers and cyclists. While rowing and sculling clubs and river cruises make the most of being out on the water.
Chiswick Crew Member Duncan McKean has lived in Chiswick for 12 years. He says:
‘Chiswick’s a wonderful little haven in one of the world’s biggest, busiest cities.
‘It has a lovely almost village feel to it and a vibrant and active community. There are lots of societies and clubs to get involved with.
‘Practically it’s well-connected - just at the start of the M4 and close to the M25, M1 and M40. It has good tube, bus and rail connections, making central London easily accessible.
‘Once here, buses are the best way of getting around. Most bus routes connect to at least one or more tube or rail stations so getting in, out and around Chiswick is a breeze.
‘But one word of warning – don’t drive. Parking in Chiswick is a complete nightmare and most areas have controlled parking for residents only.’
So what to do first?
What do you love about Chiswick’s patch?
The club caters for all levels of sweep rowing and sculling, from competitive rowers to those who simply want to row for fun and fitness.
Here’s what Tessa loves about Chiswick RNLI’s patch:
‘I love the cormorants catching fish, the heron sentinels on the banks, and seeing the RNLI dash off.
‘I love the fact that when I am sculling up to Chiswick Reach against a stiffening tide, the RNLI are there.’