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Facts about The River Thames for Kids

The River Thames flows through southern England. It is the longest river entirely in England and the second longest in the United Kingdom, behind the River Severn. While it is best known because its lower reaches flow through central London, the river flows alongside several other towns and cities, including Oxford, Reading, Henley-on-Thames, Windsor, Kingston upon Thames and Richmond.

  • The river gives its name to several geographical and political entities, including the Thames Valley, a region of England around the river between Oxford and west London, the Thames Gateway, the area centerd on the tidal Thames, and the Thames Estuary to the east of London.
  • With a total length of 215 miles, the Thames is the longest river entirely in England and the second longest in the United Kingdom.
  • It rises at Thames Head in Gloucestershire, and flows into the North Sea at the Thames Estuary via London, the country’s capital where it is particularly deep and navigable; the Thames drains the whole of Greater London.
  • Its tidal section includes most of its London stretch with a rise and fall of 23 ft; tides reaching up to Teddington Lock.
  • Having both seawater and freshwater stretches, the River Thames supports a variety of wildlife.
  • This gave the name to a settlement on its banks, which became known as Londinium, from the Indo-European roots *pleu- “flow” and *-nedi “river” meaning something like the flowing river or the wide flowing unfordable river.
  • Seven Springs near Cheltenham, where the river Churn rises, is also sometimes quoted as the Thames’ source, as this location is furthest from the mouth, and adds some 14 miles to the length.
  • Minor redefining and widening of the main channel around Oxford, Abingdon and Marlow took place before 1850 since which specific cuts to ease navigation have assisted cutting journey distances.
  • Due to stiff penalties applicable on the non-tidal river, which is a drinking water source before treatment, sanitary sewer overflow from the many sewage works covering the upper Thames basin is rare in the non-tidal Thames.
  • London Bridge is now used as the basis for published tide tables giving the times of high tide.
  • Tide tables are published by the Port of London Authority and are available online.
  • The River Thames contains over 80 islands ranging from the large estuarial marshlands of the Isle of Sheppey, Isle of Grain and Canvey Island to small tree-covered islets like Rose Isle in Oxfordshire and Headpile Eyot in Berkshire.
  • Railway development in the 19th century resulted in a spate of bridge building including Blackfriars Railway Bridge and Charing Cross (Hungerford) Railway Bridge in central London, and the spectacular railway bridges by Isambard Kingdom Brunel at Maidenhead Railway Bridge, Gatehampton Railway Bridge and Moulsford Railway Bridge.