Roving Reporter Nicola interviewed Changeable River Thames from its ancient muddy bed in London.

OK, so there are lots of different aspects to me. My personality changes depending where you see me. My waters have a life, a beginning and an end, and in between I keep changing.

My source in the West is joyful and innocent. Then as I progress towards London, I start picking up all this detritus, which bogs me down and makes me tired. Once my waters hit London, they become so murky that I think anything inside of me might struggle to survive.

Here in London I’ve seen a lot. I’ve put up with a lot. I’ve put up with people building bridges across me, and walls around me. And I endure the actions of a few who are spoiling the fun by littering or treating me wrong.

I let them do their thing. But I think it is “taking the mick” – going too far when they start pumping sewage into me, killing the ecosystems that live in my waters. And there’s not much I can do about it.

Where once I was vibrant and full of life, recently because of pollution I’ve been going through a bad patch. It’s why I am feeling grumpy, old, and sluggish. Trying to make the most of what I’ve got.

Now summer is here. My eyes are kind of opening up as if I've been sleeping a while. I’m starting to come out of this difficult slump. It’s not like I’m dancing. I’m not dance-floor vibrant yet. I’m just picking up the pace and starting to enjoy life a bit.

My magnetic pull  

People have always been drawn to me. They come to me and empty their sorrows and sadness into me, hoping I will wipe them away. They walk along my banks and talk about life, and open up to their feelings, which naturally I pick up on. They take strength from me. During lockdown I was a lifeline for them.

I think people are starting to enjoy me again. Those living on houseboats, or canoeing, or competing in rowing races, take pleasure from my waters. Others sit alongside me and watch the boats go by, waving happily, taking joy from what I provide. I embrace it all.

Free again, upstream  

You should see me upstream. I’m lush and vibrant, quiet in spots, and picturesque. I like to meander as if I don’t really know where I’m going. So much life is found in me. Fish, seals, even whales occasionally. Here my waters are free, almost innocent.

Once I’ve reached the Thames Estuary and Canvey Island in Essex, my waters become joyful as I start to pour into the sea. Then I have the last laugh because now I am free.

Changeable River Thames speaks


River Thames was interpreted by

Tom Goodinge, an urban boy through and through, who has lived within a mile of the Thames all his life. “ Whenever I’ve had difficulties or been broken up with, I’ve gone to sit alone by the river. It's where I’ve also taken friends to talk about their own problems or break ups.”

Tom says to River Thames

You have an openness and calmness that soothes people and opens them up. Just as people need help when they’re going through a difficult, sludgy period of life. Similarly, we need to do our best to help preserve you and keep you clean. If only everyone could join together to keep this promise.

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Tom was invited by Nicola Gale after they met at the gym and had a chat about surviving lockdown.

Cover photo edited. Original by Cattan2011.