TV presenter, TV clown and old boat enthusiast Griff Rhys Jones’ series Rivers this week follows the River Lea.
If the Thames is also known as the London River and the Medway is often called London’s Other River, then the Lea must at least claim to be London’s Other Other River.
True to the form of the other programmes in the series it included some fabulous photography interspersed with some comical rubbernecking by GRJ and some interesting historical stuff – and I have to say it was easily the most interesting of the series so far.
I lived for years on the banks of the Lea and frequently used it to travel around – though by bicycle on the towpath in those days rather than by boat, but the programme makers introduced me to several aspects of the river that I hadn’t known anything about, including the large gunpowder works on its banks and the barges that used to carry the dangerous stuff away.
Anyway, the programme included a jolly sequence in which the last remaining gunpowder barge (and incidentally, the last sailing barge to be launched in the heyday of barge building), the Lady of the Lea, came up the river for the first time in a decade, and then had some trouble turning around in the river, which we learned is silting up slowly.
If you’re in the UK, the River Lea episode will be available on the BBC iPlayer for some days to come.