Thursday, September 08, 2011

Tides and Thames

I have the greatest admiration for David Walliams and his charity raising swims but when his PR company contacted me a few weeks ago to inquire whether I could follow him along the Thames with an aircraft banner, I did remark that I feared he wouldn't make the full distance. In particular, the heavy rainfall of the last week will have triggered considerable drainage, so not a time, I would have thought to go swimming in Father Thames.

I competed in the Windsor triathlon in 1997 and the mile-long swim took us along the Thames from the old town. I think everyone I spoke with viewed the muddy water with some trepidation. After seeing a large dead rat float past my face during the race, I made sure to start a course of antibiotics when I arrived home; I had made the point of going to see my doctor before the race. The London event later that same year had the swim in the black waters of Docklands and didn't seem so bad although it was bitterly cold in the water and somewhat faster with no current to fight.

I can't imagine a sustained immersion in the Thames, even in these modern cleaner times, as the personal health risks from a variety of risk factors, such a e-coli and Weils disease  are far too high in my opinion. So why his advisors didn't talk Walliams out of the project, I can't quite understand.

Walliams is swimming downstream and so if he works the tidal flow he will at times be moving very quickly. If he completes the challenge, my admiration for the man and his remarkable physical and mental determination, will grow even further.

The subject of rivers leads me on rather loosely to the topic of flooding and I'm giving a BBC Radio Kent interview this morning on the start of work on Margate's new coastal defences.

Roughly every hundred years or so, tides and low pressure conspire to deliver a giant storm surge, as in 1897 and 1953 (pictured) and the new work along the seafront at Margate is designed to protect the Old Town against the risk of one of these flooding events occurring in the next 50 years.

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