Generally speaking the Crane is an amiable river. On its 9 mile journey from the source in North Hyde Road, Hayes, where it connects with Yeading Brook, to its exit into the Thames at Isleworth there is nothing to interrupt its leisurely progress. All is peace… until the final contrary kilometre. Twice a day, every day, the River Crane slows to a complete halt and then begins to turn back on itself. Instead of continuing on towards the Thames it moves in reverse, picking up speed, depth and sometimes ferocity.
Head of the Crane
Mouth of the Crane
From Moormead Park down to its confluence with the Thames at Railshead our reach of the Crane is tidal. Twice a day, every day, as the Thames receives the incoming tide from the North Sea, the Crane in its turn begins to back up and show its muscle. This is the time that shoals of fish come swarming up the river, that paddlers decide to get out of the water and boat owners wait for the rising tide to lift their keels. They know that on a really high tide it is possible for a small boat with an outboard to navigate down the lower Crane and up the Thames as far as Teddington Lock with still enough water in the Crane for mooring on return. They also know that with a really high tide and heavy rain their gardens may briefly flood.
“It is very nice to have a river at the bottom of your garden. It is not very nice to have your garden at the bottom of the river.”
A North St Margarets Resident
This twice daily progression of water, back and forth, is a reminder that for all our technology we live in a natural world driven by forces beyond our control… and that can include our own private affairs. In life things just happen and there is little that we can do about it. In compensation things in life are often not as grim as they first seem. The poet Arthur Hugh Clough, who was born nearly 200 years ago on New Year’s Day 1819, uses the image of an incoming tide to describe how even the bleakest of outlooks can be cruelly deceptive and misleading. A favourite poem of Winston Churchill, ‘Say Not the Struggle Naught Availeth’ is about optimism.
Look, the land is bright! Have a Happy New Year
Say not the struggle naught availeth,
The labour and the wounds are vain,
The enemy faints not, nor faileth,
And as things have been they remain.
If hopes were dupes, fears may be liars;
It may be, in yon smoke conceal’d,
Your comrades chase e’en now the fliers,
And, but for you, possess the field.
For while the tired waves, vainly breaking,
Seem here no painful inch to gain,
Far back, through creeks and inlets making,
Comes silent, flooding in, the main.
And not by eastern windows only,
When daylight comes, comes in the light;
In front the sun climbs slow, how slowly!
But westward, look, the land is bright!
ARTHUR HUGH CLOUGH born 1st January 1819 “Say Not the Struggle Naught Availeth.”
— from Martyn Day