Dirty Old Father Cleans Up Act

Christopher Fowler
It seems that times have changed for Old Father Thames. In 1957 it was filthy and stank of rotten eggs, and was declared biologically dead thanks to soaring pollution levels. The Thames was paying the price for decades of human use — and not for the first time. The "Great Stink" of 1858 was a killer, and the stench of human waste along the riverbanks forced Parliament to drench its curtains in chloride of lime and almost prompted the city's law courts' evacuation to St Albans. A century and a half later, the Thames has just won an environmental award. Last week, the International River Symposium announced the Thames was the winner of its International Theiss River Prize, awarding the Environment Agency £218,000. With 125 different species of fish, 400 invertebrates and a selection of seals, otters and dolphins to be spotted, the Thames has achieved a transformation of staggering proportions. Eighty per cent of the river is now judged to have "very good" or "good" water quality, while the past five years have seen almost 400 habitat enhancement projects and more than 40 miles of river restored. Below my window, the canal has reed beds of herons, moorhens, geese and ducks living where a mire of mud and rusting junk had existed as late as the 1980s, and fishermen line the banks (are there any fisherwomen? I honestly don't think I've ever sees one). The Thameside walk is now the most popular walk in London. Now if we can just clear out the city jogging crowd, who don't understand that this is London, where you're not required to exercise in lycra because there are more interesting things to do. Save it for Sydney.


Helen Martin (not verified) Tue, 19/10/2010 - 18:29

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Walking by the Thames is certainly pleasant, being on it is even more so and the environment agency deserves the prize, indeed.
Recreational fisher persons? There are certainly women here who fish. Calligraphers travel quite a bit, surprisingly, and we often carry our gear in tackle boxes with scissor lift trays. One year we were meeting in California and an airport security guard was heard to remark that there must be a women's fishing competition, given the large number of boxes. But where were the rod cases? That was the year we were introduced to expandable carrying tubes so going back he would have seen the missing cases.
There was a flurry in our media over what you call a female who fishes and the conclusion was that you just call them all 'fishers'. If you say that the riverbank is lined with fishers most people would expect to see little furry animals. Of course the media of the time was agonizing over crews on commercial fish boats where the little furry animals would be rare.