Thames Barrier Annual Closure

Of course, I’d totally forgotten this was on yesterday until about lunchtime. They do it every year – not for the benefit of the tourists (of which there were a fair few) but to make sure all the bits are working correctly. The whole barrier’s shut for an entire tide cycle, which creates a surreal ‘lock’ across the Thames. The giant gates, which are on a tilting system, slowly rise through the morning.

London side gets very low indeed; but the sea-side becomes like some sort of mill pond – including sleeping ducks:

About two o’clock, they turn the big swivelly bits in the tilting barriers slowly round so far that the water starts to come back – from underneath, creating a churning, gushing effect.
What amazed me was the number of seagulls who thought their Christmas and birthday had come at once. Hundreds of them swarmed around, waiting for some very surprised fish (who had already been wondering where all the water had gone) to get washed up to the top. There was also the oddest reverse-tide effect:
I’m not really sure why the Yacht Club had decided to hold their regatta a few hundred metres up the way on that particular day, but it must have made for some curious challenges…

Sorry about the pics, btw – borrowed camera that was far too posh for me. Thank heavens for the ‘automatic’ setting…


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