Tower Bridge Moorings offers an alternative lifestyle to London living, creating a sustainable community built on the water. The floating village consists of historic boats, complete with lush gardens. Manager Teresa Lundquist gives us a tour.

London’s Tower Bridge presides over a sparkling River Thames on a crisp spring afternoon. It’s an iconic image – one that would sit comfortably on a postcard.

In its shadow below, however, appears a scene a little more surprising for a city like London. On the water is a flotilla of more than 40 historic boats strung together in a block and decorated by gardens ready to explode into a riot of color.

This is Tower Bridge Moorings, a floating village created to offer people an alternative and sustainable way to live in central London. Boats have been docking here since the 19th century but after architect Nicholas Lacey bought the moorings more than 30 years ago, it became a permanent space for its community.

Bushes on the boats in Tower Bridge Moorings
Green retreat on the Thames.

Today, Tower Bridge Moorings is home to more than 100 residents who can either bring their own boats to the moorings or rent one from the management company. Most of the boats here are Dutch barges. Each resident connects their home to one of the permanent barges, which form the infrastructure of the design.

Apart from creating the shape of the village, the barges have narrow walkways on their roofs so residents can explore their community. These walkways are framed with carefully planted trees and bushes, creating the illusion of exploring a waterborne forest.

A community afloat

“If one boat moves, we all move,” says Teresa Lundquist, who manages the moorings – an observation testament to the closeness of the community here. Although Teresa is quick to point out that it’s not intrusive. “Everyone maintains their privacy, so it’s a very good balance,” she adds, blinking in the sunshine.

Teresa Ludnquist at the floating village
Teresa Lundquist manages the floating village.

The community may be close but it is also diverse. “We have the Noah’s Ark of professions here,” says Teresa with a smile. “Doctors, architects, journalists, photographers, IT people, a chef, and a famous novelist. People exchange favors all the time, like, if I pick up the kids from school, will you help me out with my plumbing?”

Suffice to say, the waiting list to live here is long, but the moorings haven’t always been regarded positively. Teresa laughs at the recollection of being called “river rats” by their neighbors on the riverbank.

However, this perception quickly changed when they saw the positive impact the Tower Bridge Moorings had on this stretch of the river. The initiative has been widely cited to have contributed to the area’s regeneration.

Boats landing in Tower Bridge Moorings
A quiet day in the neighborhood.
Portrait of Teresa Lundquist
Teresa Lundquist is convinced of the initiative’s impact.

From green to gold

One of the gardeners greets Teresa warmly and points out a patch of flowering daffodils on one of the garden barges. Above, quince trees stand ready to break into blossom. They bend down to inspect the plants more closely and clear a rogue twig into a recycling bin.

Tower Bridge Moorings takes great pride in its gardens, which have been awarded gold status by the local Southwark Council. Even the residential boats are aflame with budding plants, everyone keen to make their own contribution to the floating garden. Twice a year, the public is invited to explore the gardens.

Residents offer tea and cake on the ArtsArk, a floating platform that forms part of the moorings, where events and performances are hosted. If they’re lucky, they might get a taste of the jam one of the residents makes from the quince trees in the garden. Or even some honey from the bee hives perched atop another barge.

The ArtsArk in Tower Bridge Moorings
Cultural gatherings take place on the ArtsArk.
Decoration of the ArtsArk
House boat in Tower Bridge Moorings
House boat on the River Thames
Gardens on the swimming platform
Planted footpath in Tower Bridge Moorings
Flowering plant on the swimming village
Waste seperation in Tower Bridge Moorings
View over the Tower Bridge

“It is more of an alternative lifestyle here,” says Teresa. “That’s what most of the people feel here – that they’ve been drawn together by a common love of a community in the city, outside the city. You walk through the gate and you forget where you are, despite Tower Bridge being right over there.”

She points in its direction, the ArtsArk rocking gently beneath. “We want to continue to be a happy place … to be recognized for what we are and to be an inspiration to others.”