#19 It’s a draw (off)

Written by Shelle

3 January 2022

Every year in the late autumn/early winter, the Port of London Authority lifts the weirs at Richmond and Teddington Locks in order to carry out maintenance on the lock gates and sluices. Basically, both locks are left fully open for a period of four weeks so that, at low tide, the bed of the Thames is exposed. It’s called ‘the draw-off’.

I own a flat in Twickenham overlooking that stretch of the Thames and I remember being quite alarmed the first time I saw this. It genuinely looked like someone had pulled the plug out and only a dribble of water was left between me and the Ham side of the river.

Anyway, Mandy, one of my neighbours – and a regular attendee at my community singing group – challenged me to don my wellies and walk the width of the Thames along the riverbed during the draw-off.

The top of my wellies

Sadly, time and tides didn’t collide for us to find a moment where the water level was low enough for me to get from one side to the other without some mighty strong waders, but we did manage to walk a half mile stretch deep enough for the water to reach the top of my wellies.

This enabled me to stand right under the footbridge to Eel Pie Island. Take a look at the photo – at high tide, the water would be well over my head. The difference in the volume of water from one extreme to the other blows my mind.

We gathered quite a haul of discarded rubbish by the time we’d walked along and back. In fact, we both wished we’d taken a grabber and a bin bag to do some cleaning up – next time.

I’ve lived in this area for some 12/13 years now and I’ve never taken the time to do this, so thank you Mandy for your challenge.

I’m grateful to this year-long campaign for taking me to new places and showing me the world from different perspectives.

Check out my live feed on instagram.

For more information about the annual draw-off, have a quick look at this link.

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