The Annual Thames Draw-Off

Every year the half-tide lock at Richmond is kept in the raised position for several weeks, meaning that the stretch of river upstream as far as Teddington empties completely at low tide in the annual Thames Draw-Off.

The procedure allows essential river works to be carried out, such as dredging and excavating, which would otherwise be impossible with normal water levels.

The draw-off also gives our apprentices the chance to get a unique perspective on this reach, by visiting the important landmarks and examining the river contours to see how it might behave at different stages of the tide.

Last November a small group assembled at Teddington, under the keen eye of our training officer, Alex Hickman, before walking three miles downstream to Richmond.

With Journeyman Freemen also on hand to answer questions the group visited Teddington Lock, which includes the largest and smallest locks on the entire river. They went on past the obelisk which marks the boundary between the jurisdiction of the PLA (downstream), and the Environment Agency (upstream), before passing Eel Pie Island, where many vessels had been left high and dry by the low water level.

But the river bed wasn’t as exposed as it might have been, as a sustained period of heavy rain meant the landwater coming over Teddington Weir kept as much as six feet of water on the reach.

More light rain was in evidence as the group passed by Hammerton’s Ferry on their way to Richmond Bridge, and ultimately to the lock, where they heard a detailed description of its operation, before making their way home.

Robert Treharne-Jones 9 January 2019

The Company of Watermen and Lightermen, 16 - 18 St-Mary-at-Hill, London, EC3R 8EF

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