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It is still the subject of various debates about its course, nomenclature and history. Its usually quoted source is at Thames Head (at grid reference ST980994), about a mile north of the village of Kemble and near the town of Cirencester, in the Cotswolds.
The catchment area covers a large part of South Eastern and Western England and the river is fed by over 20 tributaries.
The river contains over 80 islands, and having both seawater and freshwater stretches supports a variety of wildlife.
It has a special significance in flowing through London, the capital of the United Kingdom, although London only touches a short part of its course.
The river is tidal in London with a rise and fall of 7 metres (23 ft) and becomes non-tidal at Teddington Lock.
The river gives its name to the Thames Valley (Wikipedia page ), a region of England centred around the river between Oxford and West London, the Thames Gateway, the area centred around the tidal Thames, and the Thames Estuary to the east of London.
The River Thames is the second longest river in the United Kingdom and the longest river entirely in England, rising at Thames Head in Gloucestershire, and flowing into the North Sea at the Thames Estuary.
The river has supported human activity from its source to its mouth for thousands of years providing habitation, water power, food and drink.
It has also acted as a major highway both for international trade through the Port of London, and internally along its length and connecting to the British canal system.