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 A Walk on the Wild (Life) Side

WE ARE so lucky here in Kingston to live close to the beautiful River Thames. The river provides a wonderful spectacle the whole year round but it comes into its own during the summer months when a stroll along one of the towpaths can present the walker with an abundance of wildlife and the chance to enjoy everything that nature has to offer.

The Thames is probably cleaner now than it has been for decades - thanks largely to organisations like Thames21, which organises regular litter picks along the riverbank and to groups like the London and Surrey Wildlife Trusts which carry out vital conservation work along the river and organise educational visits so that youngsters can learn to protect and enjoy the wildlife that surrounds them.

Here at The Guide, we particularly love the sight of the occasional kingfisher, that iconic angler which nests on riverbanks and islands all the way along the Thames.

There is nothing so uplifting as catching a glimpse of that flash of blue and gold as a kingfisher dives into the water in search of small fish. They are stunningly beautiful creatures and although timid by nature, anyone prepared to sit and watch an area of tree-lined riverbank for a while may well be lucky enough to see one.

We always remember the story of Jim the ancient angler, a regular correspondent, who told the story of sitting with his fishing rod waiting for something to nibble at his line.

"I was just enjoying the sunshine and watching the river gently flowing past when I was somewhat startled when a kingfisher landed on the end of my fishing rod and just sat there for a moment or two, studying the water for prey," he said.

"I was desperate to take a photo of it, but my camera was in my fishing bag and I knew that if I moved it would certainly take flight - so I just enjoyed the sight of it."

In fact, there are dozens of birds that call the Thames home ranging from mute swans through mallards, Canada geese, coots, moorhens and grebes.

And, of course, the stately heron which can often be seen standing very still in shallow water waiting for its lunch to swim by!

Under the water, the London Wildlife Trust reports that there are now no fewer than 125 different species of fish to be found in the Thames from the estuary mouth to Teddington Lock.

Those species include bream, perch, pike, roach, rudd, chub, carp, trout and barbel. And although not as common as it used to be, there are still occasional sitings of salmon as far upriver as Molesey Lock.

Eels also used to be a common sight in the Thames - how do you think Eel Pie Island in Twickenham came by its name? But these days they are regarded as critically endangered and fewer numbers are now undertaking their annual migration up the Thames between April and October.

Other visitors however are making determined comebacks. Seal numbers in the Thames estuary have increased back to their natural levels thanks to a conservation project and have been seen as far up river as Teddington Lock.

Famously, in 2006, a northern bottlenose whale came up the Thames before getting stranded at Battersea, while pods of dolphins and porpoises were spotted near Tower Bridge and Bermondsey in 2013.

So next time you have a spare hour or two, head off to the Thames towpath nearest to you and spend some time seeing how many different species you can spot.

Better still, take a camera with you and snap some photos - if you send them in to us, we'll try to include them in a future edition of The Guide.

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What's On...

Events, shows, concerts, sporting occassions - month by month in your area -
What's On
Jun 27
Pride in London: Pride Day. London - various Celebration of sexual diversity, including the Pride parade (www.prideinlondon.org)
Jul 6-12
Pride in London: Pride Day Celebration of sexual diversity, including the Pride Parade. www.prideinlondon.org
Jul 11
The Gin to My Tonic Festival Kempton Park Fantastic celebration of all things gin! (www.kempton.co.uk)
Aug 15
Sunbury Regatta Rivermead Island, Sunbury (www.sunburyregatta.com)