In the 1950s it was declared biologically dead – a heavily polluted river that was a far cry from the days when it was admired by William Wordsworth, Claude Monet and the Three Men in a Boat of Jerome K Jerome’s book. Now the Thames and its tributaries teem with 125 fish species including salmon, trout, sole and bass.
The resurgence was rewarded yesterday when the river was given a top global conservation prize for its dramatic recovery.
The International Thiess river prize is awarded annually in Australia and comes with prize money of A$350,000 (£218,000).
That the Thames triumphed over competition from the mighty Amazon and idyllic rural waterways such as the Piddle in Dorset, can be explained by the prize’s focus on restored and well-managed rivers. “The Thames has 13 million people living along it and it’s still got quite a bit of industry,” said a spokesman for the Environment Agency, which manages the river. “The Piddle and the Amazon don’t have those environmental pressures – the sewage, the industry.”
The agency plans to spend the prize on further restoration work and a project to twin the Thames with a river in the developing world which needs restoration.