Wednesday, December 11, 2013
Temptations on the Thames
HTBS’s recent and lively stories about “Fuller’s Head of the River Fours” bring to mind just what riverside breweries can do for rowers – besides sponsoring regattas.
In the 1960s, I rowed in the London School of Economics Boat Club eight from the University of London’s boathouse at Chiswick, a village on the western side of London. From the UL boathouse, when we turned upstream on the Thames to row past the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew, we inhaled the freshest of country air. But when we turned downstream from Chiswick and rowed to Putney Bridge (a reverse of The Boat Race course) we encountered the tempting aromas of breweries.
The eight was always lively on the downstream piece, and gliding with the current we barely broke a sweat. But the four-plus-miles we pulled back upstream from Putney were always a haul; worsened by two mighty distractions. Off Chiswick Eyot, a slim island just past Hammersmith Bridge, we caught whiffs of hops and malt from Fuller’s Chiswick Brewery, a sprawling complex along the shore. On the upstream pull we were tired and thirsty – and now made especially thirsty for beer. (Why we seldom noticed these aromas rowing downstream I can’t explain. Maybe we weren’t yet breathing hard enough?)
Beyond Chiswick our lungs and thirsts cleared for another mile until, just past Barnes Bridge, we neared Mortlake and a looming brick structure that threw its shadow across the river. This was Watney’s Stag Brewery, in those days a Victorian industrial hulk. And its aromas were much closer and much more pungent than Fuller’s.
From Watney’s to the boathouse we had nothing more in mind than beer. But after showers, I discovered an English convenience never known when rowing in the USA. There, just off the locker room, was a bar, maintained by the boatman, and with a lovely river view. The workout and its temptations were now resolved!