Glorious idea that could put Walton on tourist map

The royal barge Gloriana, presented to the Queen as a gift to mark her Diamond Jubillee by Lord Sterling and others, has been seeking a permanent home ever since she led the river pageant during the jubilee celebrations in 2012.

THE royal barge Gloriana, presented to the Queen as a gift to mark her Diamond Jubillee by Lord Sterling and others, has been seeking a permanent home ever since she led the river pageant during the jubilee celebrations in 2012.

But plans to provide that home in the London Borough of Richmond upon Thames foundered earlier this month when the council scrapped a proposal to build her a mooring dock beside Orleans Gardens, Twickenham.

The council proposals were for the construction of a covered dock on the site of a children’s playground that would have been the size of a row of seven terraced houses and would have cost in the order of £3million.

Local residents reacted angrily to the idea saying that they wanted to preserve the playground and that the buildings would have been wholly out of proportion in an area, which,  they argued was effectively Green Belt land.

And it would certainly have taken a substantial structure to keep the barge undercover.

Gloriana is a 28.6-metre-long (94 ft) rowing barge. It accommodates a crew of 18 oarsmen but it can also be driven by an inboard engine and can carry an additional 34 passengers and crew.

According to Lord Sterling, the design is inspired Canaletto’s London paintings of 18th-century barges.

She was built in Brentrford with construction starting in November 2011 under the direction of master shipwright Mark Edwards.

Why do I mention this? Well, because of a suggestion that has come from regular reader of this column, Julian Nowell from Walton who has been following the debate about a permanent home for the barge.

Julian wrote to me saying: “Having just heard that Richmond have refused to berth The Gloriana, wouldn’t it be a good idea to berth it here in Walton?

“We have no specific tourist attractions on our stretch of the Thames and plenty of river space in which to moor it.

“Perhaps you could champion the idea in a future issue of Riverwatch as I am sure it would prove a tourist magnet, especially as we already have three marinas in the immediate area.

“On reflection, I think a mooring at Cowey Sale would be ideal, as many people congregate there, especially at weekends.

“I have also written to our MP, and hope he may encourage the idea…we live in hope…!”

I have to say I really like the idea and I’m sure Julian is quite right when he suggests that finding a permanent home for Gloriana would draw people to the area.

Of course, there are many issues that would have to be addressed – deciding whether the barge would need a permanent covered mooring (which has planning implications) and providing first class security for the vessel to ensure that she remains safe.

But you can always find reasons NOT to do something – the trick surely is to see and opportunity and to seize it with enthusiasm.

I’d be really interested to hear what other readers think of Julian’s idea – let’s see if there is enough backing to push this forward, if not at Cowey Sale then perhaps in one of our big marinas…?

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