Until last year it had only been stopped by the two world wars. And then Covid-19 hit.
“I’m miffed! If for no other reason than I had a great party planned,” says Robertson, of the decision to hold this year’s race, this Sunday, April 4, in Ely rather than in London.
Of course, in the grand scheme of things, one missed party is not the greatest hardship visited by coronavirus but, when being on the Boat Race route was one of the main draws to renting a home, it came asa blow.
“One of the reasons is that it has a big terrace overlooking the Boat Race course. I wanted my friends to come and watch the race and see the crews en route to the finish at Chiswick Bridge but obviously all of my high expectations were scuppered when the Boat Race moved to Ely,” says the 53-year-old.
She moved into the two-bedroom riverside flat in Mortlake last June. She had been cooped up in Hammersmith with her husband, Tony, during the first lockdown so the couple decided to find somewhere with outdoor space, ideally along the river to get a bit of breathing space.
Having grown up in Hammersmith, Robertson discovered a passion for the water aged 13 when she joined the local rowing club, Sons of the Thames. She still considers herself a “Hammersmith girl” and has never moved far from the river.
“Once you’ve had that affinity to rowing and made lifelong friends from it, you never really lose it. My friend told me when I got married and had the rowing blade salute outside the church: ‘Aileen, the river is your blood,’ and that is true. Everything about the river is so evocative and means so much. You don’t lose it. Even though I don’t sit in a boat anymore, I’ll never lose the love of the river.”
And so, determined not to miss out on the chance to throw the ultimate Boat Race party, Robertson, an estate agent, decided to extend her rental contract for another year. “We love a good party and the terrace is the perfect place to do that for the Boat Race.”
Battling Blues are not the only water-borne spectacle that Robertson can enjoy from her flat. She has all sorts of wildlife to be viewed from her terrace.
“I watch the herons catching the eels in the river and until recently we got to see lovely Freddie the seal but sadly, he is no more.” The wildlife makes working from home a pleasure and at the end of the day Robertson can open her two double doors and enjoy the glorious “bright red” sunsets.
“We get the last of the sun. And in the winter, you get lovely mornings when it is cold and misty, and you can hardly see the river because it is covered in fog.”
Robertson has been running a Barnes estate agency from home, while her husband, who works asan instrumentation engineer designing oil platforms, initially missed out on planned projects owing to travel restrictions but has since returned to work.
Throughout this uncertain period, it has been the sights and sounds of the towpath and the local community that has kept Robertson going.
“I see the paddleboarders and rowers on the water, some from my own club, and I give them a wave and a shout out, and we have a chat over the terrace as they pass. It’s brilliant. The towpath below us is busy all the time with people out walking their dogs and we are also next to the White Hart, so you can see the customers sitting outside in the summer.”
Living in Mortlake
“Not a lot of people know about Mortlake, it’s a bit of a hidden gem,” says Emily Poot, lettings manager at the local branch of Marsh and Parsons. “People have started to discover it since the Hammersmith Bridge has been closed, they’re finding they might as well live further along the river.”
The area has always attracted families, with the biggest houses to be found on the roads leading towards Richmond Park. There are several Ofsted outstanding-rated schools nearby and families will wait up to a year and a half to find a home within the catchment area of the most popular.
Since lockdown, Poot has also noticed people relocating to Mortlake from more central areas, including Victoria, Fulham and Hammersmith and even Canary Wharf. Whereas previously some renters might have been put off by the lack of a Tube, Poot says now the priority is for direct outside space and an extra bedroom to convert into a home office.
“We’ve seen a lot of people moving this way who were living in modern flats with easy commutes to their offices who are now looking for characterful cottages and a sense of community near the beautiful local parks and the Thames where they can walk their new lockdown dogs.
“Properties with outside space are getting multiple offers and renting at a premium, but otherwise we’re seeing prices stay fairly settled,”she says.