Sunday, September 25, 2022

Reflections, 2022: A flotilla on the River Thames

London The Unfinished City
HMS Belfast and the City of London.

Saturday September 24, 2022.

To honour the passing of HM Queen Elizabeth II and the accession of King Charles III a flotilla of ships sailed along the River Thames as part of a tribute by the river community.

The flotilla of 150+ illuminated boats, of all shapes and sizes, with the rowbarge 'Gloriana' as its centrepiece, began its journey along the River Thames from Albert Bridge. 

Deciding where along the River Thames to view this spectacle was a tough choice; 

Did I stand on one of the bridges and look down on the flotilla? 

Did I pick a spot near the Palace of Westminster, where the river is narrower, allowing for better shots? 

London The Unfinished City
The perfect backdrop.

No. I would stand opposite HM Royal Palace and Fortress of the Tower of London. This would give me an excellent viewpoint of the HMS Belfast and Tower Bridge, with the Tower of London as my backdrop. Besides, the flotilla had to pass through Tower Bridge, which would be raised, and that is always a joy to watch.

London The Unfinished City
The flotilla begins to arrive.

As dusk turned to night the armada of vessels began arriving to the west of Tower Bridge. A tannoy sounded on Tower Bridge and the crowds, who thought that they had picked the perfect spot, had to leave the bridge so that the bascules could be raised.

London The unfinished City
Tower Bridge with her bascules raised.

Once most of the flotilla was within the area, Tower Bridge was raised and the craft made their way through with cheers from the onlooking crowds.

London The Unfinished City
An illuminating sight.

The rowbarge 'Gloriana' was dazzling with lights strung along her length, with her oars illuminated, too.

London The Unfinished City
The rowbarge 'Gloriana' in front of HM Royal Palace and Fortress of the Tower of London.

As 'Gloriana' passed beneath the purple lit and raised Tower Bridge the rest of the flotilla sounded their horns, sirens and whistles. It was an incredible sound.

London The Unfinished City
The rowbarge 'Gloriana' about to pass beneath Tower Bridge.

The Route

After leaving the Albert Bridge the boats passed beneath Chelsea Bridge at 19:00 and continued along the historic waterway and under the various illuminated bridges, passing the iconic landmarks of the city, all the while illuminating the surface of this River Thames. 

It wound its way under Westminster Bridge at 19:30, with the Palace of Westminster lit up in all of its glory, before continuing along the river, passing the crowds who looked down from the bridges or stood on the embankments, until flowing beneath the MillenniuM Footbridge, with St Paul's Cathedral making the perfect backdrop.

The flotilla began arriving at Tower Bridge just after 20:15.

A short video I made of the flotilla can be found on my YouTube Channel.

Thames Festival Trust

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