Once termed ‘liquid history’, the River Thames, for better or worse, has always been at the heart of London life. Nowadays, the bustling riverside has more than its share of iconic structures, from Tower Bridge to the Globe theatre and the Tate modern, so it’s hardly surprising that visitors to the UK capital take to the water to see the capital’s landmark sites.
There are a number of river cruises to choose from and even a cool, fast catamaran which runs between the Tate Britain and the Tate Modern galleries, but you may not know that there’s one way of crossing the Thames for free. Even in the 20th century, the Thames was a working river and although nowadays barges have been replaced by sightseeing boats, one trace of the original river traffic remains; the Woolwich Free Ferry.
Its origins date back to the 14th century when Greenwich was a fishing village. The free ferry service, first established in the late 1880s, still runs from 6.10-22.00 from Mondays-Thursdays, 6.10-20.00 on Fridays and Saturdays, and from 11.30-19.00 on Sundays. Although it carries over 1 million vehicles a year, you won’t find many foot passengers on board so it’s an opportunity to grab a bench to yourself and enjoy a view of that major engineering feat, the Thames Barrier.
The future of the ferry is uncertain and this is likely to be the only free ride you’ll find on the Thames, so enjoy it while you can! The nearest underground stations are Woolwich Arsenal and King George V (DLR). Visit www.greenwich.gov.uk/Greenwich/Travel/LocalTravelServices/woolwichFerry for more information.