Take a stroll along the Thames to discover hidden gems, as told by history expert and guide Lorie Church.

City of London Dragon

This fine silver dragon is the heraldic mascot of the City of London. On each wing is painted a Cross of St George. Thirteen of these magnificent beasts are dotted around the City to mark its boundary. Weirdly, Arizona also possesses one that accompanied the then dismantled London Bridge when it was sold and shipped Stateside in 1971. 

 

Somerset House 

Somerset House is well known for ice-skating in the Winter, joyful water fountains in the Summer and a seasonal cycle of events and exhibitions.  

There is also a terrace area where you can grab coffee or cake and gaze out over the mighty Thames. When sat on this terrace, you are in the same place that Canaletto painted his two Thames masterpieces 270 years ago. These paintings are now part of Her Majesty’s collection.

 

Cleopatra’s Needle

These sphinx benches have been a feature of the Thames path since 1877. They are often thought to be in response to Cleopatra’s Needle, in fact they predate the obelisk by one year. The thoughtful Victorians raised each bench on a pedestal, allowing for views of the river.  

 

Golden Jubilee Bridges

For more than 1700 years (from 50AD to 1729), there was only one bridge in London to cross the Thames, now there are 35. The youngest of these are the Jubilee Bridges erected to commemorate the Golden Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II in 2002. The bridges sit on both sides of the Hungerford Railway Bridge and connect the north bank to the south bank. As well as being the newest, the bridges are also the busiest: 17,000,002 feet will walk over them in 2019.

 

Royal Air Force Memorial 

A poignant place to end your river walk is in the memorial gardens behind the Ministry of Defence building. Here you will find statues to honour the fallen of the Korean, Iraq and Afghanistan wars. On the river is the Royal Air Force Memorial, a handsome golden eagle perched on a zodiacal globe atop a plinth hewn from the same stone as the cenotaph.

 

photos Sam Rockman