Head of the River Race 2019

Veterans' Head of the River 2019
Tony Rowland Rowing the Vesta Head

Many of my friends will know that I have a passion in life, wait for it…. no, not that, it’s rowing.  For many months, I have been training hard, running, rowing on the indoor rowing machine and cross training with games such as squash.  Why do I put myself through this self-inflicted torture? Well, I love sitting in a boat and paddling down a stretch of water early in the morning, come rain or shine, looking at the wildlife, or being at a regatta, when there’s a race on.  The feeling during a race is exhilarating!

For many of the public, the rowing calendar highlight is the Oxford and Cambridge Boat Race, which will take place this weekend.  On the 7th April 2019, at approximately 2.16pm. Oxford and Cambridge will partake in the 165th “Varsity Boat Race”. As a precursor there will be the Goldie Vs Isis Race beforehand, to give the first inkling of how both University crews are performing, but as ever the main event will be the main race which follows.  Many of you will no doubt be glued to the television, to watch the boat race as it unfolds. Perhaps more so this year than ever before, because of the continuing success Great Britain is currently enjoying at the various international regattas they go to.

You may well ask, well what has this got to do with property? Confession, not a lot, but last weekend I was in London rowing the Vesta Head and I could not help but notice the wide diversity of property that sits alongside the River Thames.  I thought I would take a brief look at some of them, so that when you watch the “Boat Race” on telly, you will be able to recognise the various landmarks. Whilst there visiting the city it was also fascinating to see the amount of construction work that is still taking place in the Capital City.

The boat race starts at Putney Bridge, the crews boating outside London Rowing Club. This is a substantial brick constructed clubhouse built in 1856 and still forms a centre of excellence for rowing, the original purpose of the club being to win events at Henley Royal Regatta. The next landmark on the Middlesex side of the river is Craven Cottage, home to Fulham Football Club.  Its large white coloured stadium dominates the skyline for almost the first mile of the course. You cannot miss it visually.

Just past the milepost, on the Surrey side lies “The Harrods Depository”. Built in 1894, the building still retains its striking orange and red colouration and its distinctive terracotta tiles advertising its name. As a nation we seem to have become besotted with apartments. They are everywhere and even this building has been converted into a mixture of apartments and commercial premises following its sale for £52.5 million back in 2001 by Mohamed Al Fayed.

Not so noticeable, just before Hammersmith Bridge, sits the Riverside Film Studios. The Triumph Film Company, which subsequently sold it to the BBC in 1954, purchased this former engineering factory in 1933.  The studios are famous for producing classics such as Dr Who, Dixon of Dock Green, and Z Cars. I am showing my age, because I can remember most of these being shown in black and white on a television powered by valves.

The first bridge the crews pass under is Hammersmith Bridge, an ornate suspension bridge spanning 422 feet, built by Sir Joseph Bazalgette in 1887. The bridge is quite weak, and has been a focal point for a number of terrorist attacks, surviving the last one in 1996, when 32lb of Semtex explosive failed to detonate.

By now, both crews will be into their stride, looking for the next feature, this being Chiswick Eyot. The island is much eroded and only becomes an island at high tide. Originally the island was used for the growing of grass and osiers (basket willows used to make baskets furniture and carts).  Now a nature reserve, the most notable feature is a green pole erected at one end of the island.

Barnes Bridge is the next major feature for the crews to pass under. Constructed of cast iron, the three arch bridge was built by Joseph Locke and Thomas Brassey to carry the Windsor, Staines and South-Western Railway’s line from Barnes to Feltham. Sadly the bridge is closed to pedestrian traffic on the day of the boat race, but the crews will be glad to see it, because they know they are in the closing stages of the race.

Just before the finish on the Surrey side lies the Stag Brewery, which produces Budweiser, Bud Ice and Michelob beers. This is an enormous building, showing the volume of beer produced.

The finish post for the race is located just before Chiswick Bridge, outside Tideway Scullers Club. The crews will pass under Chiswick Bridge, before turning and returning to Anglian and Mortlake Rowing Club. The course distance is 4 miles 374 yards, or 6,779 metres and I can confirm that having completed the same race last weekend in the Vesta Head of the River on several occasions by the time you have finished the race, you will certainly know you have taken some exercise. And unlike us, they don’t have to paddle back to their home boathouse.

I hope you found the brief look at the Thames interesting? At least you will recognise a few of the landmark features if you watch the race on television on Sunday and I promise I will return to property matters in the next few weeks. For myself, I just look forward to a quiet paddle on the River Avon, practicing for the Spring Regatta.

Tony Rowland SBK TLG


Tony Rowland BSc(Hons) MSc MRICS