Starting on Sunday 1 September a journey with a difference will be taking place.  Taken from the source of the River Thames in the Gloucestershire countryside, a small bottle of Thames water will be passed down from person to person, boat to boat, travelling all the way through to central London and out to sea making this, the first River Thames Relay.

Walkers, swimmers, kayakers, rowers, sailors and many more river users will help the bottle on its journey over 200 miles down the world famous river. The bottle will arrive at Tower Bridge on Sunday 15 September and spend the last night of its journey on Gloriana in St Katharine Docks before sailing out of London towards the sea in the Dunkirk Little Ship, MTB 102.  At the end of its journey the bottle will join the collection in the Museum of Water and tour the UK in 2013/14 and worldwide in 2015.

Also setting off on a journey on Sunday 1 September will be Alan Curr, on a marathon mission to walk 186 miles of the route, from Kemble to the Thames Barrier, in 7 days, raising funds for charity as he goes. Good luck Alan, and good luck to all our River Relay participants - look after that bottle of water!

Follow the journey

The best places to keep up to date with the bottle's journey is via Thames Festival facebook or twitter. See the photos add some of your own.  #ThamesFestival #RiverRelay

The journey and participants

Each day’s journey will take place between 9am and 6pm with handovers at locks or at the end of the day’s journey.  Each Lock-keeper on the journey will ensure the safe passage of the bottle from one side of each lock to the other and, when the day’s journey is over, will keep the bottle in safe surroundings overnight until the journey begins again the next day. For more information on the towns and villages long the route - please visit Visit Thames.


Click to jump:

Day 1: Sun 1 Sept (Thames Source to Cricklade)Day 9: Mon 9 Sept (Caversham to Hambleden)Day 2: Mon 2 Sept (Cricklade to Lechlade)Day 10: Tues 10 Sept (Hambleden to Marlow)Day 3: Tues 3 Sept (Lechlade to Newbridge)Day 11: Wed 11 Sept (Marlow to Boulters Lock)Day 4: Wed 4 Sept (Newbridge to Oxford)Day 12: Thur 12 Sept (Boulters Lock to Windsor)Day 5: Thur 5 Sept (Oxford to Abingdon)Day 13: Fri 13 Sept (Windsor to Shepperton)Day 6: Fri 6 Sept (Abingdon to Benson)Day 14: Sat 14 Sept (Shepperton to Teddington)Day 7: Sat 7 Sept (Benson to Goring)Day 15: Sun 15 Sept (Teddington Lock to Tower Bridge)Day 8: Sun 8 Sept (Goring to Caversham)Out to sea

Day 1: Sunday 1 September

River Thames Source to Cricklade c. 12 miles


The journey begins in Gloucestershire, just south of Cirencester with the local branch of the Ramblers led by Stuart Dyer. The official source of the river is marked by a stone at Thames Head, though for 11 months of the year no water is visible at this point.  Somewhere along the 12-mile walk to Cricklade on the Thames path the first traces of the river will appear and the bottle will be filled.

Day 2: Monday 2 September

Cricklade to Lechlade c. 11 miles


The second day of the journey will be undertaken by the Outdoor Swimming Society.  Founded by Kate Rew in 2006 to promote swimming in rivers and lakes, the OSS now boasts a membership and following of over 17,000 with a calendar of events year-round.  Though the OSS has swum this route many times, it is a long stretch for swimmers and will be split into four sections to cover the distance.

Day 3: Tuesday 3 September

Lechlade to Newbridge c. 16 miles

Kayaks and Canoes

This is the second-longest stretch of the entire relay.  Kayaks and canoes from two clubs, both members of the British Canoe Union, will be taking the bottle from Lechlade down to Newbridge (built in the 14th century). First is Bewl Canoe Club from Tunbridge Wells, Kent. Bewl CC regularly travels the country to paddle new and interesting waters and Thames Festival is delighted that they are making the journey to join in with the relay.  They will take the day to paddle down this section starting at St John’s Lock to Buscot Lock, Grafton Lock, Radcot Lock, Rushey Lock, Shifford Lock and on to Newbridge.

Day 4: Wednesday 4 September

Newbridge to Oxford c.14 miles


Setting off for another day of Kayaking the bottle will be carried by students from Cokethorpe School, a local independent school based just over a mile from Newbridge.  The School has a slipway for their kayaks at Newbridge and very kindly granted Bewl and Highworth canoe clubs permission to disembark here on September 3rd.  The students from Cokethorpe will paddle direct to Osney Lock in Oxford via Northmoor Lock, Pinkhill Lock, Eynsham Lock, King’s Lock and Godstow Lock on what is the second-longest stretch on the non-tidal river.

Day 5: Thursday 5 September

Oxford to Abingdon c. 9 miles

Gondola, 1962 Broads Boat and Electric Sailing Vessel

Today we have three stretches with three handovers to three very different river craft.  Firstly, from Osney Lock to Iffley Lock, will be a Gondola, a craft more regularly seen in the narrow canals of Venice, masterfully guided downstream by Richard Bailey of The Oxford Gondola. There the Gondola will hand over to a more traditional river craft, a 42’ Broads Boat built in 1962.  Named Admiral VII she is one of three or four survivors of craft of this type built by Broom of Brundle from mahogany planking and oak frames. Steve Morgan will take Admiral VII from Iffley Lock to Sandford Lock and pass on the bottle to the Electric Sailing Vessel, Arwyn, for the final leg of today’s journey to Abingdon Lock. Arwyn is a 1960’s Vivacity Sailing Cruiser converted for the Upper Thames with “Sailectric” electric propulsion. Arwyn will be carrying the baton on behalf of the Electric Boat Association, promoting the concept of clean and quiet navigation throughout the world, and the Abbey Sailing Club from Abingdon, which celebrates 80 years of family-friendly sailing this year.

Day 6: Friday 6 September

Abingdon to Benson c. 11 miles


Picking up the bottle from Abingdon Lock will be a mix of crews from two local rowing clubs Abingdon Rowing Club and the City of Oxford Rowing Club, both are represented under the banner of British Rowing.  Travelling to Benson Lock through Culham Lock, Clifton Lock and Day’s Lock . Both clubs will be put through their paces on this section of the relay.

Day 7: Saturday 7 September

Benson to Goring c. 9 miles

Rowers and classic rowing Gig c.1895

Day seven will be split into two sections over three locks.  Section one will be from Benson Lock to Wallingford Bridge and to The Boathouse public house where Graham Hubbard, owner of restored 1895 Thames Rowing Gig, Sylvia, and member of the Thames Traditional Boat Society, will stop off on his way downstream.  Graham will then take the bottle down through Cleeve Lock and to Goring Lock via the unveiling of a Blue Plaque at the old Saunders Boat Yard which is being celebrated at 2.30pm.

Day 8: Sunday 8 September

Goring to Caversham c. 11 miles

Classic rowing and sailing dingy

This long and steady section is undertaken by a craft from the newly opened Racing and River Boat Museum, based at Beale Park. Elizabeth R is a 16' 1954 Looe hire-boat, this traditional clinker launch was restored in 2012 by Jack Livesey & Al Bartlett at the Boat Building Academy in Lyme Regis. Curator Michael Tyler will take the bottle from Goring Lock to Caversham Lock via Whitchurch Lock, which borders with Pangbourne, and Mapledurham Lock with its famous mill.

Day 9: Monday 9 September

Caversham to Hambleden c. 10 miles

Environment Agency launch, Rowing Quad, Riverboat, Thames Vintage boat and rowers

The Environment Agency starts this day’s journey by taking the bottle from Caversham Lock to Sonning Lock in one of their patrol craft which keeps a regular presence on the Thames.  Picking up the bottle at Sonning Lock is the quadruple rowing skiff Sgian Dubh (pronounced Skeean Doo) and another member of the Thames Traditional Boat SocietySgian Dubh’s captain Susan Greenford will pass the bottle on at Shiplake Lock to Lucy Herbert, the Skipper of Rivertime, a river boat which enables disadvantaged and disabled children and adults the opportunity to enjoy the river.  The last section of this day’s relay is along one of the more famous stretches of the River Thames.  From Marsh Lock to Hambleden Lock the bottle will travel through Henley-on-Thames and along the course where the annual Henley Royal Regatta takes place.  Taking charge of the bottle will be David Lister, Commodore of the Thames Vintage Boat Club on board Lady Genevieve, a Saloon launch from the 1920's. Amongst her more famous passengers were Princess Margaret and, in 1947, Princess Elizabeth, accompanied by members from Henley Rowing Club.


Day 10: Tuesday 10 September

Hambleden to Marlow c. 8 miles

Whale Boat and classic rowing Gig c.1895

Transporting the bottle from Hambleden Lock will be Geoff Probert and the Henley Whalers' rowing Whaleboat Molly.  Molly is not officially for catching whales - there are not many to be found in the Thames at this time of year - but for enjoying the water, be it by rowing or sailing.  At Hurley Lock the bottle will be handed back to Graham Hubbard on board the 1895 rowing gig, Sylvia, for a paddle through Temple Lock and on to Marlow Lock for the night.

Day 11: Wednesday 11 September

Marlow to Boulters Lock c. 7 miles

Kayaks and Rowers

From Marlow Lock, Longridge, the Outdoor Activity Centre, will pick up the bottle and carry it down to Cookham Lock.  Open to all ages and families, Longridge offer opportunities to help get people of all abilities on to the water. For the final section in this day’s journey, Maidenhead Rowing Club will take custody of the bottle and row it down the tranquil reach of the Thames between Cookham and Boulters Lock overlooked by Cliveden House.



Day 12: Thursday 12 September

Boulters to Windsor c. 7 miles

Rowers, electric boat and amphibious river craft

Starting the day will once again be Maidenhead Rowing Club, taking the bottle from Boulters Lock to Bray Lock along their usual training route underneath Brunel’s railway bridge and along a stretch of water fronted by some of Berkshire’s most exclusive residences.  From Bray Lock the bottle will be passed over to Pat and Simon Davis, owners of Sparx, the second electric boat featured in the relay and made by the Salters Steamers boat company in Oxford. Sparx will travel through Boveney Lock and Windsor in full view of Windsor Castle and on to Romney Lock  where it will stay the night.

Day 13: Friday 13 September

Windsor to Shepperton c. 13 miles

Traditional river craft, punts and skiffs, motor boat and rowers

It's Friday the 13th and the days get busier! Staines Boat Club, one of the oldest boat clubs on the Thames, will pick up the bottle from Romney Lock. Though a little further upstream from the their home base, they will carry the bottle in a coxed four down to Old Windsor Lock passing alongside Windsor Great Park. From Old Windsor Lock the Wraysbury Skiff and Punting Club will transport the bottle en masse with Staines Boat Club towards Bell Weir Lock.  Here the bottle is passed on to Mr Henry Butt, owner of Jolly Brit, former tender to the Royal Yacht Britannia.  From Penton Hook Lock the bottle will pass into the hands of the Wayfarers Rowing Club, one of the few recreational and touring rowing clubs based in the UK.  The Weyfarers will carry the bottle through Chertsey Lock and on to Shepperton Lock for the night.


Day 14: Saturday 14 September

Shepperton to Teddington c. 11 miles

Slipper Launch, Sailing

The last day of the bottle’s journey on the non-tidal Thames.  A graceful start to the day begins with a journey from Shepperton Lock to Molesey Lock via Sunbury Lock on board Cygnet 11, a 1932 Slipper Launch owned by Paul Dodds and built by Andrews Boathouse in Bourne End. With a mahogany deck, sides and planking she is the only know survivor of a boat of this class. For the final leg of the day, the bottle will be a guest and participant in the Thames Ditton Skiff and Punting Regatta before the Tamesis Club takes the bottle in Thumbelina, a classic river dinghy, for the day’s final short trip to Teddington Lock.

Day 15: Sunday 15 September

Classic and tradition river craft, Paddle Boarders, Steam Tub

Teddington Lock to Tower Bridge c. 21 miles

The bottle finally reaches the tidal Thames.  Roger Gould of the Richmond Bridge Boat Club, will be taking custody of the bottle at Teddington Lock along with a flotilla of classic craft. Leading the first of three stages will be the row barge Jubilant, built for the Queen's Golden Jubilee, with four traditional craft escorting the bottle downstream. Then on to Kew Bridge and handing over to the Paddle Boarders from Active 360 who will paddle the bottle around the loop and on to Chiswick Pier for the final handover of the day.  Taking the last section from Chiswick Pier to Tower Bridge will be James Muggoch, who has lived on the river for more than 50 years, and Steam Tug, Cob.  At 4pm the bottle will arrive at St Katharine Pier, it will be marched by the Sea Cadets to St Katharine Docks and placed on board The Queen’s Rowbarge, Gloriana, after a specially prepared poem is read by a member of the Poetry Society.

Out to sea

The final leg of the bottle’s long journey will be with Richard Basey on board the Dunkirk Little Ship MTB 102. Sailing out from St Katharine Docks, the DLS, which carried General Eisenhower and Winston Churchill as they reviewed the fleet for Operation Overlord in 1944, will sail round the coast to her home in Lowestoft.
The bottle will then be handed to Amy Sharrocks to be its custodian who will display the bottle and tell its story in the Museum of Water.

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