Have you ever wondered what is on the little islands doted along the River Thames?
We can’t usually go on most them – they are homes for wildlife and can be very dangerous - it would be tricky to get to most of them anyway.
In fact there is only one which the public can freely visit of eight between Chiswick and Richmond - and it even has its own museum.
However, sometimes there are special organised visits to some of the others for volunteers helping with conservation, or as part of the annual Thames TideFest festival.
This year Thames TideFest, which celebrates the tidal Thames, takes place on Sunday, September 2.
It includes organised visits to Oliver's Island and Lot's Ait.
The festival also is running the Windrush Cruises, which are four hour-long boat trips around the Thames Tideway islands, from Kew Pier on the historic Thames launch the “Windrush”.
The 2018 programme is being launched on the weekend of Saturday, June 16 and you will be able to see it and book event for these and more on line at www.thamestidefest.net .
If we can't get to the islands we can see the them if we are taking a stroll along the Thames Path or maybe sitting in the garden of a riverside pub nearby.
Most of islands are called an ait or eyot, which means a small island and is a term especially used when referring to river islands in the Thames.
We discovered what are on eight islands between Chiswick and Richmond and how, if it is possible, we can get to go on some of them.
It is possible to walk to Chiswick Eyot at low tide but it is a local nature reserve and the land, which floods every high tide and is easily washed into the river, is fragile and dangerous so people are asked not to. In fact, although it the island about 3.26 acres in size, it used to be bigger. The tide can also come in quick so you might find yourself stranded and people have had to be rescued by the lifeboat in the past.
The island is the last remaining withy bed on the Thames and its willow shoots were used for making baskets from at least the mid-1800s until the mid-1930s.
It is cared for the Old Chiswick Preservation Society and Thames 21, which works to care for London waterways. If you really would like to go to it you can volunteer to help out on a conservation day. The most recent ones where held between November 2017 and March 2018 when work was carried out to restore the site. There are no future conservation dates planned yet but you can look out for any and find out more at www.ocps.btck.co.u k and www.thames21.org.uk .
The island is also roughly the half way point of the Oxford and Cambridge Boat Races, so you might have heard it mentioned while watching it on TV.
The nine-acre island opposite Kew and Stand-on-the-Green gets its name because it is said Oliver Cromwell once took refuge there and used a secret tunnel from the island to the Bulls Head pub, where, rumour had it, he had his headquarters. However, it said today there is no truth in the story he took refuge at the island and no evidence of a tunnel has ever been found.
In the 18th century a toll booth was put up on the island to charge boats passing by and help fund improvements to the river’s navigation.
Today, the long thin island, which looks like a clump of trees from the shore, is owned and manged by the Port of London Authority.
It is home to wildlife including a variety of birds, the Thames door snail and bats.
You aren't normally allowed to go on the island but you will be able to visit it on an organised trip as part of 2018 Thames Tidefest Festival on September 2, and hear about the long history and its current environmental importance. You will get there by kayak.
There are a limited number spaces for the five trips to this normally out of bounds site led by archaeologist Dr Fiona Haughey and in past years they have always sold out quickly so you are advised to get your tickets as soon as possible, which you can do via the website www.thamestidefest.net . It costs £5 and is for people aged over 16 only.
Although no one lives on this island in the Borough of Richmond anymore, in the 18th century it had its own pub called the Swan or Three Swans. There are said to still be steps from this time leading down to the river where people would cross to the pub.
In the 1920s trees were planted on the island to block the view of the gasworks from Kew Gardens. In the middle is a gap known as Hog Hole which divides the island.
Today the island is covered by willows and alder and is home to a bird sanctuary and heronry. It is not an island you can visit.
Right next to Brentford Ait is the smaller and privately owned Lot’s Ait, which is home to Lot's Ait Boatyard.
The boatyard was one of the last tidal boatyards to be closed in the early 1970s but it was restored this decade and now John’s Boat Works Ltd operates from the boatyard with its workshops and tidal dock.
Before its boatbuilding days, Lot’s Ait was used for the growing of willows to make baskets and cattle fodder. It is also home to the two-lipped door snail and a thriving community of boat dwellers.
The island has featured in Humphrey Bogart’s 1951 film, The African Queen, the 2017 British action thriller film Stratton and Lot’s Ait Boatworks featured in an episode of George Clarke's Amazing Spaces.
You will be able to discover Lot's Ait on organised trips as part of the 2018 Thames Tidefest on September 2 and learn about its importance of this small island on the Thames. There are three trips during the day, suitable for age 12 and over, and tickets are £3. You should get in quick to book tickets on line at www.thamestidefest.net .
Near Old Isleworth and the towpath alongside Kew Gardens, Isleworth Ait is a London Wildlife Trust reserve and has a tall canopy of trees on ground regularly soaked by high tides. It is an undisturbed sanctuary for birds and several rare mollusc populations.
You can’t go there unless you were to join a Wildlife Trust Workday - there are none scheduled currently but if you are interested in taking part in one in the future you can email firstname.lastname@example.org and London Wildlife Trust can keep you informed of future days or keep an eye on the website at www.wildlondon.org.uk .
Meanwhile, the best views of the island are from Church Street in Isleworth and the pubs , London Apprentice and Town Wharf on the Thames footpath. You can get a bus to South Street and Twickenham Road or train to Isleworth station.
Between Richmond Bridge and Richmond Railway Bridge, Corporation Island is a heavily wooded island and home to herons. Just downstream are two small islands called Flowerpot Islands which only have one or two trees in the middle of each. It is not an island you are able to visit.
The island which is overlooked by Richmond on one side, was bought by Richmond-based Joseph Glover in 1872, who sparked a scandal when he considered selling it to Pears soap so they could put up advertising hoarding.
It was bought by a Richmond Hill resident who sold it to the Richmond Corporation with the terms it was to never be developed.
Apparently its rubble excavated from London Tube tunnels in the 19th century made it the height it is today. It is not an island you can visit.
Eel Pie Island
This is actually an island which you can regularly visit – there are 50 houses with 120 residents on the island and it has its own museum. You reach the island, which is opposite the Ham House & Garden area of the Thames, by a footbridge
Eel Pie Island has a long history – it’s the largest island in the London part of the River Thames and there are rumours Henry VII used it as a courting ground. It became popular with day trippers by the middle of the 17th century and famous for its eel pies made from eels caught locally.
The Rolling Stones, The Who, Pink Floyd, David Bowie, Genies, Rod Stewart, and Black Sabbath all played at the 19 century Eel Pie Island Hotel before it closed and then burned down in 1971.
You can visit Eel Pie Island museum which is open between Thursdays and Sundays from 10am to 6pm.
TideFest on September 2 is running five Talk & Walk sessions at the Eel Pie Island Museum. The 20-minute guided tour of the museum will be followed by an illustrated walk along the embankment using archive photos to compare then and now.
Tickets are £5 each (free to Eel Pie island Museum members) and you can book on online at TideFest website www.thamestidefest.net .