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Kayakers and paddle boarders are taking advantage of the annual Thames Barrier closure to tackle the river as part of the Totally Thames festival regatta.

What’s happening?

One of the jewels in the crown of East London – the Thames Barrier – is undergoing its annual full tide test closure on Sunday, September 29.

During the closure, the huge gates – which sit between the silver fins – swing into position and, as the tide rises, water levels will build up downstream of the Thames.

It is quite a sight in itself.

And another spectacle comes in its wake this year. The lack of tide upstream significantly reduces some of the river’s most hazardous currents. This means it is safer for human-powered craft. Safer still once motorised boat traffic has been silenced.

The result is the Regatta London, part of the Totally Thames festival, which will see a flotilla of canoes, row boats, kayaks and paddleboards take to the river as never before.

Two Thames routes

There are two routes (the Big Ben and London Crossing) will take in iconic London landmarks including Battersea Power Station and the Houses of Parliament. For those on the London Crossing, the London Eye, HMS Belfast, Tower Bridge and the Old Royal Naval College, Greenwich.

While places on the challenges have all been snapped up, there will be plenty to see for spectators. Those in the east should use Canary Wharf, The O2 and vantage points on Thames riverside between Tower Bridge and Shadwell to watch the racers. Cheer them on – they’re raising money for charity and highlighting environmental issues.

The finish line and the Events Village will be at the Old Royal Naval College, Greenwich, open between 8am and 3pm. The first rowers are expected in Greenwich at 8.45am and the last paddler at midday.

If you’re inspired, it’s coming back in 2020.

For more details go to the website.

What’s to see at Thames Barrier?

The Thames Barrier protects 1.25 million people and a huge amount of London infrastructure. It is built across a 520m stretch of river and its annual test closure offers visitors the chance to see how it works and meet the teams who operate it and protect London from flooding.

Andy Batchelor, Thames Barrier operations manager, said: “The barrier is quite a spectacle and the annual test closure makes an interesting visit for all the family.

“The Thames Barrier View Café and Information Centre will be open all day with guides giving regular talks and providing a running commentary and interviews with staff who work at the Thames Barrier on the riverfront via our PA system, while you take in the spectacular views of the barrier in action.”

8am to 10am See the gates moving and the Thames Barrier closing
8am Café and Information Centre open
1:30pm to 3:30pm Potential for further gate moves (tide dependent)
4pm to 6pm See the gates moving and the Thames Barrier re-opening (tide dependent)
5:30pm Information Centre closes (last entrance at 5pm)