Thames Explorer Challenge – answers

Check your answers to see where you were right (or wrong)

1. Traitor’s Gate

6 arrow slits – 3 either side of the gate.

For your information…

The Tower is also home to a flock of ravens who live in a special aviary inside the grounds. It is said that if the ravens ever leave the Tower the Kingdom of England will fall!

Stone to build the tower was transported up the Thames. The Thames is the longest river that flows only through England. From its source (beginning) in the Cotswold Hills it runs for 344km before flowing from its mouth (end) into the North Sea. The mouth of the River Thames is a whopping 20km wide! However, the River Severn is the longest river in the whole of the UK. It’s 10km longer than the River Thames and it flows through both England AND Wales.

2. Old Billingsgate

Golden fish.

For your information…

Between the Tower of London and Old Billingsgate (Points 1 and 2) there is a long building facing the River Thames – The Custom House. Built in 1813, it’s an impressive building with tall columns on the outside. In 1825, due to shoddy workmanship the building nearly collapsed, and it had to be rebuilt. In the past the captains of ships, sailing up the River Thames into London with their goods and cargo had to stop here in order to pay their taxes to the king or queen.

3. St Magnus-the-Martyr Church

Ask for the coastguard!

For your information…

If you face Thames here and look to your right-hand side and you’ll see London Bridge – one of thirty-three bridges carrying roads, railways and people across the Thames in London (the name is written on one of its support piers). The bridge you can see today was opened in 1973 and it’s the newest of nine bridges called London Bridge that have crossed the river at or near this point since the Romans founded the city of London (Londinium) nearly two thousand years ago.

Between St Magnus the Martyr Church and Cannon Bridge you can spot Fishmongers’ Hall. This building is the headquarters of the Worshipful Company of Fishmongers (sellers of fish), one of the livery companies of the City of London. The livery companies (there are one hundred and ten of them in total) are London’s ancient trade associations and used to be very powerful in the business life of the City of London and trade on the River Thames.

4. Cannon Bridge

The fourth letter is K (Pickfords Wharf)

For your information…

On the west side of Cannon Bridge, near the entrance to the foot tunnel that takes the Thames Path under Cannon Street Station, you can see some green cannons. These are naval cannons, used on Royal Navy Ships in the early 19th Century and were brought here when this kind of gun went out of fashion.

A little to the west of Cannon Bridge is Walbrook Wharf. This is named after the Walbrook, a tributary of the River Thames (a tributary is a smaller stream or river that joins a larger river, the joining place of two rivers is the confluence). The Walbrook used to flow through the City of London and into the River Thames at this point but the stream has long since disappeared from site – covered over by the buildings of London. The Thames flowing through London still has many tributaries feeding it however most were covered over to reclaim land or to disguise the problems that came about when they were turned into open sewers. They include the Fleet, the Tyburn, the Effra and the Westbourne.

If you walk west from Cannon Bridge you will pass Walbrook Wharf where cargoes of rubbish are loaded into steel containers. These containers are then loaded onto barges (large flat-bottomed boats) using cranes. The barges are then towed by tugboats down the river Thames for disposal. Don’t forget the 4 r’s – refuse, reuse, repair, recycle.

5. Queenhithe Dock and Wall Mosaic

According to the mural, bananas were not unloaded at Queenhithe

For your information…

The Queenhithe Dock mosaic shows many different kinds of birds and fish associated with the Thames. The birds in the mosaic include: [great] crested grebe, coot, cormorant, mallard, wagtails, heron, gull, greylag goose. The fish you can see on the mosaic are: tench, smelt, pike, loach, shad, [European] eel (glass, yellow and silver), gudgeon, grey mullet, flounder, dace. In fact there are one hundred and twenty five species of fish that call the tidal Thames their home.

6. Millennium Measure Glass Obelisk

The 7th letter of the missing word is L.

For your information…

The fish motif lampposts alongside the riverbank wall here were designed by architect George Vulliamy in the 1860s. In truth it is not clear if the creatures writhing around the lampstands are fish or dolphins. What do you think?

The thick concrete wall that runs along the riverbank here and all along the tidal Thames forms part of the flood defences to stop high water spilling over and flooding the streets and buildings of London. The water level in the Thames can rise dramatically as tidal sea water floods inland twice a day. Tides are caused by Moon’s gravity pulling water towards it in a hump. As the earth spins it moves into the water hump – a high tide. As the earth is also pulled towards the moon a second hump of water forms at the other side of the earth, hence there are two high, and two low tides on waterways around the world every day, and at different times every day. When the sun, moon and earth align (full moon or new moon) the pull on the humps of water is particularly strong leading to very high tides called spring tides or springs (nothing to do with the season spring). Click here to see a simple but effective explanation of this.

On the subject of flooding – the Thames Barrier (15km towards the sea) was designed to be raised when the threat of flooding becomes a real danger to London. It first came into operation in 1982 and was designed to be raised only a few times a year, however in recent years it has had to be raised 50 times. Plans to replace it are underway.

7. Shakespeare’s Globe

The gates were made by the Worshipful Company of Blacksmiths

For your information…

The site of the original Globe Theatre is about 115 metres from the bank of the River Thames. However, when it was first built in 1599 it was much closer to the bank of the River Thames. This is because during the five hundred years since the original Globe Theatre was built the Thames in London has been made narrower to make space for wharves and riverside buildings as well as underground train lines and sewers. In Tudor times, Southwark had a reputation as a bawdy recreational area with activities such as bear baiting (Bear Pit Lane is just round the corner), gaming, drinking, houses of ill repute and theatres. The original Globe Theatre went up in flames when a theatrical canon set light to the stage in 1613. According to some sources nobody was injured except for one man whose burning trousers were extinguished using a bottle of ale.

8. Anchors at the Golden Hinde

Circle and square

For your information…

The full size reconstruction of the Golden Hinde has sat at St Mary Overie Dock since 1996. It was built after much reserach using traditional methods in Appledore, Devon. The original was built for Sir Francis Drake between 1577 and 1580 to circumnavigate the globe. Orginally called the “Pelican” she was renamed mid voyage by Drake in 1578 to honour his princiap sponsor, Sir Christopher Hatton, whose crest was a golden hinde (female deer). You can pay to go on the replica where you will find the ship is incredibly cramped – even the captains cabin is astonishingly small.

9. HMS Belfast

HMS Belfast is paited black below the waterline

For your information…

HMS Belfast is now a museum and is defiantly worth a visit. Successive parts of it have been opened up over the years and being a closed area its a great place to take children. HMS Belfast was one of 10 Town-class cruisers commissioned by the Royal Navy (the Royal Navy discontinued the cruiser class due to advancements in naval warfare). Named after the capital city of Northern Ireland, Belfast, she was appropriately launched in 1938 on St. Patrick’s day. She served in many parts of the world until she was “reduced to disposal” to await scrapping in 1971. She played some important roles during world war 2, including the Normandy invasions and after some debate permission was granted to allow her to be preserved as a museum.

10. City Hall

23 (number 5 is missing)

For your information…

From city hall you can see what is probably the most famous bridge in the world – Tower Bridge. Completed in 1894, it can raise and lower the roadways on each side of the bridge to allow tall ships to travel freely up and down the River. The roadways are still raised for ships around one thousand times every year. In 1952 a double decker bus was passing over the bridge when the bridge started to raise! The quick-thinking driver accelerated, and the bus jumped the 0.9 metre gap that had already opened up between the two parts of the bridge. Luckily, everyone on the bus was OK.Most of the time Tower Bridge only raises the road on both sides of the bridge just high enough to allow a ship of boat through. There is only one occasion the two roadways are always raised to their maximum height. This is when the Queen or King is sailing through!