Exploring the Hidden Rivers of London
From Gatwick airport, transfers into London are quick and efficient. Find out here what, apart from the main attractions, you can explore in London.
Many people that arrive in London on the convenient Gatwick airport transfers come to visit the main sights of this great city. The Houses of Parliament, Big Ben and St Paul’s are all iconic attractions, but what you may not realise when driving into the city on your Gatwick airport transfers is that London sits above several 'lost' rivers.
London’s Hidden Waterways
There is no doubting the grandeur of the River Thames, which for centuries has drawn visitors, painters and photographers to be inspired by its elegance and charm. The city's life, however, is breathed into it by more than just the Thames. There are twenty-one main tributaries that flow into the Thames, with many more tributaries of tributaries on top of those! The number of these 'hidden rivers' is actually not known.
Not all of the rivers are really hidden, but as none of them are as distinct as the Thames they flow gently through the city largely unnoticed. The Crane, the Darent, the Mutton Brook and the Pool River all have names that evoke images of rural London, while others such as the Ching and the Silk Stream are somewhat more exotic. Other rivers were hidden on purpose to make way for streets and houses, where once there were trees and countryside.
In times gone by, London needed the rivers to keep drinking water in good supply as well as for mills, tanneries, harbours and other industries. They acted as the sewerage system, initially, until many were covered over because of the debris and filth they carried. The Walbrook tells many a tale of the city’s history and was, in fact, the waterway on which the Romans originally founded London. Over time human skulls, tools and even heads of forgotten idols of gods were dug out of the river.
In the 18th and 19th century, London was growing rapidly and the amount of rivers became a problem. Disease spread and floods were frequent, so more and more of the waterways were buried. The Tyburn and the Effra were hidden under Victorian villas, and the Fleet, which was redesigned by Christopher Wren after the Fire of London, became more and more prone to pollution and was eventually redirected into storm sewer tunnels. Once a haven of activity, the Fleet disappeared completely from view. Many other rivers under the city have also been diverted into the sewer system and can still be seen if you know where to look, under gratings and through culverts.
Other clues as to the location of the rivers are gathered by looking at the shape of London’s hills and valleys. Steep roads such as Pentonville Rise are the sides of the Fleet Valley, and the Oval is oval because it was built into a bend in the Effra.
When you arrive in the city, as you travel in to your accommodation on the Gatwick airport transfers, take a moment to consider that beneath your route, there might be more than at first meets the eye, with the network of forgotten rivers.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Lukas Johannes is a driver for Shuttle Direct. If you’re looking for Gatwick airport transfers, Shuttle Direct provide pre-booked shuttles to major destinations all over Europe. Wherever you travel, Shuttle Direct can make sure that you don’t miss your car on your holiday abroad.