One of the absolute joys of life in Berkshire is the Thames.
Most of the county is within a short drive of the mighty river and many people enjoy riverside walks and, in different times, boat trips and fishing.
The magnificent watercourse runs beside villages in the county, including Sonning, Hurley, Wargrave and Bray.
A life by the riverside is a major driver in the popularity of quality of life, as proven with two completely different areas of Berkshire being named as the best places in the country to live.
The river is an integral part of Berkshire life, and, with the help of Henley’s River and Rowing Museum, we’ve found 14 amazing facts about the river.
The Thames is the longest river in England
At 214 miles it’s the longest river in England.
However, the accolade for the longest river in the United Kingdom of course goes to the Severn that stretches 220 miles.
The Ice Age led to the Goring Gap being created
A very long time ago, we’re talking millions of years, the Thames flowed northwest at Goring.
At the end of the last Ice Age, large quantities of meltwater entered the river.
This led to it cutting through the chalky hills to create what is known as the Goring Gap, which means the river now flows southeast.
The source is actually in a Gloucestershire village
The source of the Thames is actually in a group of springs just north of the village of Kemble in Gloucestershire.
There is a stone marking the official sources at Trewsbury Mead. The catch is the spring is mostly dry.
However, the Thames Head group of springs is a few hundred metres away and this is where the water flows from.
Thames Valley is mostly flat
Obviously, there are few hills scattered around Berkshire, but compared to other areas the Thames Valley is pretty flat.
The chalk hill in Windsor is quite an unusual feature, which is why it was deemed an important defence site before the Normans built a castle there.
A man-made channel has been introduced to stop flooding
This is at the Jubilee River in Maidenhead. It was built in the early 2000s and splits the river into two streams around Maidenhead to try to reduce the risk of floods.
It reduces this risk to more than 3,200 homes and contains a number of weirs which can be opened and closed to control water flow.
It was part of mainland Europe
Believe it or not, the Thames was first formed with Britain was still joined to mainland Europe.
It flowed eastwards from the Welsh mountains into the continental river network.
It’s taken 50 million years to shape the Thames as we know it today
It has taken 50 million years of erosion and climate change to shape the Thames into what you see today.
It flows all the way from Gloucestershire to the English Channel.
Nomads were the first settlers in the Thames Valley
Nomadic family groups, whose beliefs were shaped around their dependence on nature and the changing seasons, were the first to settle in the Thames Valley.
Following that, people began to grow crops and keep domesticated animals and settled into larger groups.
These settled communities were more structured and their beliefs and ceremonies were based more on ancestry and the control of land.
People are buried near the Thames
There are burial mounds and barrows near the Thames which may have had ritual meaning.
These include Cock Marsh at Cookham, which has four circular Bronze Age burial mounds.
You can still spot them if you were to visit.
Fierce battles have been fought beside the river
The tranquil, peaceful river you see today hasn’t always been like that.
In fact, in the past it has been the backdrop to some gruesome battles.
As recently as the Second World War, soldiers patrolled the banks.
It has seen battles including the Siege of Reading, where Caversham Bridge was captured, as well as ferocious tear ups during the Iron Age.
Earth banks were used as part of settlement defences
People living the river would build large earth banks around their land and settlements.
In towns like Abingdon and Dorchester, stretches of river formed part of their defences.
The Thames was a border between two tribes
Coins found north and south of the Thames were made by different tribes — the Catuvellauni and Atrebates. This suggests the Thames was a border between their lands.
Iron Age weapons have been found in the Thames
They may have been dropped in the water as a sign of peace or to threaten the neighbouring tribe across the river.
A whale swam up it
Not in Berkshire, but in 2006 a northern bottle-nosed whale swam up and got stuck in the Thames in London.
Other sea-bound mammals to take a shine to the river include a beluga and a humpback whale.
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