Heron Island, Great Barrier Reef, Australia

Saturday 25 September 2010

More excitement on the river

Yet another unexpected sight on the way to the shops on a Saturday morning - here, what looked like a swanmaster's barge from the more genteel part of the river.

All part of the preparations for the Great River Race, in which boats of all shapes and sizes (as long as they're human-powered) are rowed or paddled 21 miles between us and Richmond, clear on the other side of London.

Until recently, it was our teatime that was punctuated with the sounds of a procession of tiring crews being urged on down that last unforgiving mile, and the signal gun marking the finish opposite Greenwich. But now they prefer to go with the rising tide in the other direction, so it was the morning that saw our local pier unusually busy with waiting safety boats, while another small flotilla of them roared excitedly down to Greenwich.

Most of the Isle of Dogs is marshy and low-lying ground and needs the protection of its high embankments, but there are a few spots where slipways remain. At one, normally deserted but for the recycling bins, crowds of people were getting ready to launch. Huge flags and fancy dress were the order of the day for many as the river filled up in the wait for the starting gun.

An hour or two later, the last of the temporary pontoons and Portaloos were trucked away and the slipway returned to its normal deserted, flotsam-strewn peace, with not a sign of its brief time as, well, a hive of activity:

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