Islands represent freedom, independence and creativity. They appear and disappear over time, according to weather events, water flow and intervention by people. Islands have an enduring and often romantic appeal. Being closer to nature, at the mercy of the elements and somewhere as distinctive as an island makes us feel alive.
Often associated with seas and oceans, fewer people realise there are islands on rivers too. When we discovered there are up to 200 islands on the River Thames – the iconic river that runs through the centre of London and beyond – we had to find out more.
A surprising number of the islands on the River Thames are inhabited. Often home to creative communities and those who enjoy living unconventional lifestyles, London’s islanders are intrepid and spirited, with remarkable vision. They’ve set up home and live full, inspiring and original lives in the middle of the river. While some can drive or walk to their homes via bridges, others row in boats, reaching the mainland under their own steam.
This is a book of lives lived in the extraordinary setting of the River Thames islands. They may not have palm trees or white sandy beaches, but each one of London’s islands has an idyllic appeal in its own way. We follow the river from Canvey Island in Essex to Monkey Island in Berkshire, uncovering incredible stories of extraordinary events from centuries past, and hearing from the people who live on the islands today.
We want you to feel inspired by those who actively choose the unexpected. Whether you find a city island to live on like our friends in this book, or take some of their spirit away with you, choosing a different way of living can be positively liberating. Island dreams are possible – even in the city.