The City of London

Nick talks about the history of The Thames and then is shown around a houseboat on the river. Later, he meets some artists who create incredible images of London in the future.

Do the Preparation task first. Then watch the video. Next go to Task and do the activity. If you need help, you can read the Transcript at any time.


Before you watch

Think about the following questions:

  • Why are rivers important in a town or city?
  • Do you have a famous river in your country?
  • Would you like to live on the river? Why / Why not?

Now, watch the video to find out more about the River Thames.



This is the River Thames. It is almost 346 kilometres long, and is the second longest river in Great Britain. It flows through London, and it’s this part of the river that most tourists see.  

But there’s more to the Thames than a trip down the river. 

The Romans built a settlement on the River Thames, and over the centuries it grew into the City of London, with a huge port. Ships from around the world brought food, goods and people to the capital. 

But by the 1980’s, most of the docks had closed and the area became run-down.

A lot of money has been invested in this huge riverside area. And today it’s known as ‘Docklands’.  

The old warehouses are now attractive apartments. There are new office buildings, shopping centres and leisure facilities, too. People enjoy living and working by the river.

People also enjoy living on the water! This is a houseboat on the Thames. 


Nick: Hi Alistair.

Alistair: Hey Nick, welcome aboard.

Nick: Thank you. So why do you live on a houseboat? 

Alistair: I love being close to the water. And it’s a brilliant place to invite friends over. 

Nick: What’s it like to live on a boat? 

Alistair: In the summer, it’s beautiful. And in the winter, it’s a bit cold. 

Nick: Could you give me a tour?  

Alistair: Please. Follow me. So this is the kitchen. The bedroom.

Nick: I like it. What’s the best thing about living on the river? 

Alistair: For me, it’s being so close to nature.  And it’s really cheap.

Nick: Is there anything you miss about living on dry land? 

Alistair: I miss not being able to grow my own food and not having a garden. 

Nick: Do you think you will ever move?

Alistair: Only if I have to leave London. It’s a really brilliant place to live in the city.


The Thames has seen a lot of changes over the years. But perhaps the biggest change is still to come. 

This image is of the River Thames frozen over. It’s not a real photograph. It’s been created digitally. It shows the effect climate change may have on the river if temperatures drop significantly.

They were created by two illustrators: Didier Madoc-Jones and Robert Graves.  


Nick: Didier, Tell us about this exhibition.

Didier: We wanted to create postcards from the future – well-known views of London – to show people how it might look with the effects of climate change.

Nick: Why does this one show the Thames frozen over?

Gareth: Well, some scientists think we might experience a new mini ice age with very cold winters and in the summer we’d experience flooding due to melting ice sheets. 

Nick: Do you think that could really happen?

Didier: Nobody really knows. The point of the exhibition was to get people thinking about climate change and the future of London.


The River Thames has changed over the centuries, and will continue to do so. But hopefully it will always be here for both local people and tourists to enjoy and explore.



Task 1

Comprehension Task

Fill in the gaps in the sentences with the words from the box.


Task 2

Comprehension Task

Read the questions about the video and select the right answers.


Take your language skills and your career to the next level
Get unlimited access to our self-study courses for only £5.99/month.

Language level

Submitted by May Thida Su on Sat, 03/04/2021 - 05:28

I don't really know the meaning of " But there's more to the Thames than a trip down the river ".... Please answer me ..

Hello May Thida Su,

This is a variant of the idiom 'there's more to... than meets the eye'. It means that something (here, the river Thames) is more complex or interesting than just one aspect might suggest.


You can find a definition an explanation in any good dictionary:



The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by May Thida Su on Tue, 30/03/2021 - 15:57

Hello Dear team.... I have some questions.... 1. What means " to bring a plus one " in " Let me know if you want to bring a plus one " ? 2. What means " A friend has organized our catering " ? 3. What means " diverse city " ? I'll thank to you all ........

Hello May Thida Su,

Bringing a plus-one means bringing a friend or partner. For example, you might invite your friend to a party and they might want to bring their boyfriend with them; in this case the boyfriend would be their plus-one.


A friend has organised our catering means that a friend took charge of ordering and paying for the food and drink.


A diverse city is one with a wide range of people: different religions, different ethnicities, different nationalities, different languages etc. Londone and New York are examples of very diverse cities. You can meet people of all kinds of backgrounds in those cities.



The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Aymen Aouali on Wed, 19/08/2020 - 23:47

Hello from tunisia This video made me love London , it looks beautiful and nice city.

Submitted by Kostya B on Fri, 21/12/2018 - 19:21

The rivers needs to the plants to grow and for people to drink, washing e.t.c. There is a Volga River in my country which is the most famous. I would like to live in a river if there will be the necessary conditions, of course.

Submitted by Edith Ayala Ramos on Mon, 29/10/2018 - 02:53

Hello from Mexico I really enjoyed this lesson, I have practiced and improve listening and grammar skills... It's an excellent topic because I have learned about present perfect and something about London life. Best regards! Edith Ayala

Submitted by Armandito on Fri, 07/09/2018 - 19:36

hello everybody. I love these videos. It is such an amazing material. I´ve got something I´d like to ask. It´s really hard for me to understand when at 0.45¨ he says " with a huge port". That made me go to the transcript. I´d really appreciate if someone could explain to me how he connects these word to sound like that. Some teachers say that you don´t have to understand all the words in a phase because you can get the main idea by the context, but in this case, I am missing an important detail. so what do you recommend me to help me to became a better English listener?.

Hello Armandito,

As I hear it, there are three main parts here: 'with a', 'huge' and 'port'. The first two words sound as if they are one and the 'th' in 'with' is reduced to something more like a 'd' or perhaps is even almost omitted, which makes it difficult to hear.

The word 'huge' is pronounced with an intonation that is common when we want emphasise how large something is. This is a bit redundant, really, as 'huge' is already a strong adjective, but this is the way people speak.

Finally, the final 't' in 'port' is also difficult to hear, coming as it does at the end of the sentence and after the word 'huge', which has been emphasised with intonation.

Does that help?

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by btriton on Tue, 29/05/2018 - 19:15

London looks very nice. I like it and I would want to line in a houseboat on the Thames river.

Submitted by MrRequena on Mon, 28/05/2018 - 09:15

I love London and anything that has to do with this city. I have never lived there though. I have visited it so many times, and I still haven't seen everything I would like to see there. It has got so many things to offer. "When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford. " Samuel Johnson

Submitted by XuMinHa on Mon, 12/03/2018 - 16:26

In the transcript (time code 3:20 - 3:22) Gareth said: "Well, some scientists think we might experience a new mini ice age with very cold winters and in the summer we’d experience flooding due to melting ice sheets. " What does "we’d experience" stand for? It stands for we would, right? why the first sentence he uses " might" and then he doesn't use " might"?

Hello XuMinHa,

'Would' here is used to describe a hypothetical future. The speaker uses 'might' to suggest a future possibility and then goes on to describe it in hypothetical terms. There is an implied if-clause in the sentence:

Some people think we might experience... If this were true then we would experience... 



The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by moein on Tue, 21/11/2017 - 05:42

In the transcript: "And today it's know as ‘Docklands’." should be "And today it's known as ‘Docklands’."

Hello moein,

Yes, you're right. Thanks very much for telling us about this mistake.

I've just fixed it and LearnEnglish is a better place now, thanks to you!

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by SonuKumar on Fri, 15/09/2017 - 11:35

Sir, Do you think I could know about the instrumental music played in this video ?

Hello SonuKumar,

I'm afraid I can't tell you anything about the music used. Generally the music for these videos is specially made for us by studio musicians and is not taken from elsewhere.


Best wishes,


The LearnEnglish Team

This site is marvelous! I'm learning a lot! better than load of schools here in my city!

Submitted by Ephesus on Mon, 28/08/2017 - 13:29

The rivers are very important in human history which its times goes back to our oldest anchestors. Riviers calls and brings people to live specially settling first towns and ancient cities. We can see and understand life began side by rivers as ragular ppl need fresh water to drink, clean and cook foods, get shower and cleans our bodies, given water to animals etc many area river water has been used. Every city has a river side by own its location. You cannot build your city seaside without a river pass near that city cause you cannot live just drinking salty sea waters. At least you need a drinkeable water to live and survive. We can say, example; Nile river is so important for ancient Egypt kings and emperors and they build their cities, kingdoms, emperoror pyramides around Nile river. An another samples; Euphrat and Tigris river builded the first human civilisations, cities either. Other rivers and its cities can be say; Thames-London, Amazon river Brasil, yellow river China, Danube gives a long line all europen way and finally embrace and reach to black sea where ending point. In my country several river name I can type here; Yes beginning points of legendary Euphrat and Tigris in eastern Turkey and both goes down to Mesopotamia terras the neighbour countries Syria and Irak up to Basra bay. Other river names, Meandros River, Redriver, Beskonak River, Amanos, Ceyhan and Seyhan river some of them.

Submitted by lethuhuongueh on Fri, 25/08/2017 - 01:33

Hi, Could you explain to me the meaning of "Run-down" in this sentence: "But by the 1980’s, most of the docks had closed and the area became run-down." I didn't really get it. Thank you.

Submitted by Adriancatanescu on Fri, 14/07/2017 - 14:20

Hello everybody, yes I have a famous river in my country the name of this river is Danube, this River it goes through seven country and four capitals,it's start in Germany somewhere in the mountain and it's ends in my country where is overflowinge in the Dark sea. If I would like to living on the River in a boat, no way. I think it's too complicated for me to live there and I think you don't have all the facilities that you can have in appropriate house, I like to go to the to ride the boat on the River or on the sea but I don't like to live there

Submitted by Ali Bin on Sat, 18/03/2017 - 16:13

thank you we understand you teacher thank you for stiven and two guys ... ^_^ i visited my uncle house there times this week ^_^

Submitted by Haseeq1143 on Sun, 26/02/2017 - 23:18

Hello British Council, Question 6 in Task 1 says, When water gets very cold it freezes but when it warms up again, it starts to melt. Generally, the verb "start" follows a gerund, like start melting. Can you please explain the usage of "start to melt" in the question? Regards, Haseeb

Hello Haseeq1143,

Some verbs are followed by to + infinitive, some by verb-ing and some can be followed by either.

'Start' is a verb which can be followed by either form. Like 'begin' and 'continue', it can be followed by either to + infinitive or verb-ing with no change in meaning. This is quite unusual: generally verbs which can be followed by either form have a different meaning with each.

You can read more about verbs followed by these forms on this page and this page.


Best wishes,


The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by STEPHANE ROTH on Wed, 15/02/2017 - 20:15

Rivers bring water to the city, are good for communication and transport. There are two main rivers in my country : Dumbea River and Tontouta River, but there are many others. I'd like to live on a river for a short time but not for life. I don't know why.