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Archive for May 16th, 2021

Hello…and welcome. Thanks for dropping by. I ‘may’ have mentioned before that I planned to walk the Thames Path to celebrate my 66th birthday, retirement age in the UK and the start of the next phase of my life. Not that I’m planning on actually retiring, but the government does start to give me some of my NI money back 😉 and I do plan to work less and spend more time with my grandson and travelling….gradually the two will be combined.

Ever since my daughter and I lived in Richmond I’ve dreamed of walking the full length of the River Thames, or as much of it as is possible.

“There are two things scarce matched in the universe, the sun in heaven, and the Thames on the earth.” Sir Walter Raleigh.

Over the years I have certainly walked many, many stretches of the Thames between Woolwich and Hampton Court. But the last time I walked the lower reaches of the Thames Path was back in 2017 when I walked Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales route from Southwark Cathedral to Canterbury Cathedral. Although his actual route follows Jamaica Road, I felt that if Chaucer had the option, he would have walked alongside the river rather than clatter along a polluted road, so that’s what I did.

Further to my previous post – the Progress Report, as promised I will start posting what will be 5 posts detailing the start of my journey along the Thames Path. I will mostly share images, because seriously, this river is so gorgeous and holds a really special place in my heart, as well as which she has a long and illustrious history (which I will only touch on briefly for interest sake at certain points. Hopefully the images will give you a fairly good idea of what the Thames Path looks like. Ultimately I will share the follow on stages from Staines-Upon-Thames as and when I get to do them.

The Thames Path is listed as one of the official National Trails in the UK, all denoted with the instantly recognisable acorn symbol.

I was well impressed with the markings and sign posts along the way, and haven’t needed to use the guide book even once between Erith (pronounced Eeerith) and Staines-Upon-Thames. I did however study it to a certain extent before my walk just to get an idea of what to expect, and to try figure out how to traverse the river from south to north at Walton to Shepperton. I love swimming, but hadn’t planned on including that in my journey, although the water on a hot summer’s day looks inviting to soothe achy feet. I needn’t have worried…it was clearly marked and of course the ferry was there. It was also famously featured in H. G. Wells’ novel War of the Worlds. But unless you actually knew the Thames met with the River Wey at this point, you could end up walking the wrong river path.

I could go into more detail about the National Trails but that would take up too much space, so here is a link to their website should you wish to find out more about the National Trails of the UK. There are 16 National Trails in the UK from what I can see; and I’m really keen to walk more of them…..watch this space – we are spoilt for choice.

Although not the official start of The Thames Path, I decided to start at Erith and walk to the Thames Barrier near Woolwich and try to get in as much of the pathway along the Thames as possible. I also decided to walk from sea to source since lockdown restrictions forbade me from staying overnight in hotels until 17th May, and then it wouldn’t be a ‘walk in celebration of my coming of age’ – OAP status is now mine 🙂 LOL

Also it’s relatively easy for me to get to these earlier stages by train from home and make them day trips, albeit a tad pricey (train travel in the UK is not cheap) and long-winded….because it takes roughly 2.5/3 or 4 hours just to get to the relevant station each time to even start the walk! But be that as it may…I was determined to get started and not be put off by the limitations of lockdown, and since we are now allowed to travel farther afield….that is what I did.

I arrived at Erith station by 10:15 on 17th April for Stage 1 of ‘Walking the Thames Path’, and set MapMyWalk ready to go. I’ve been using this walking app since 2016 and it suits my needs. I don’t need much more information than how many kilometres I’ve covered, how long it takes, how many steps I’ve walked and what the elevation is…..

This was the first time I’ve been to Erith and although I didn’t have much time to explore, I can say…I probably wouldn’t want to live there. Sorry to all Erithians who are reading this 😜 I may have a repeat visit at a later stage and explore more, which may change my mind. It does however have the longest pier in London – I guess that’s something! As well as which it was mentioned in the Domesday Book as Lesnes or Lessness. Erith “alias Lysnes” has a written history that goes back to 695, and traces of a pre-historic settlement have been uncovered. So that’s another place added to my Project 101 list! As long as I have feet on the ground in a place mentioned in the Domesday Book it counts…an overnight stay is desirable, but not always attainable, so feet on the ground.

The River Thames is a maritime river and has serviced the City of London and upper reaches for centuries, and the lower reaches onto the Thames Estuary have been brutalised by progress and ‘civilisation’ – it is not pretty. There are of course small pockets of prettiness and it gets better the further upstream you go, but although the path was wide, it was mostly grey, dull and uninspiring concrete.

Gravesend

What was shocking though, albeit not surprising was the amount of trash and pollution that litters the riverbed. Oh what are we doing to this planet???

plastic pollution on the river thames
plastic pollution on the River Thames

Of course the river is also littered with boats, big and small and many a varied jetty strode out into the channel.

jetties jutting out into the river thames - walking the thames path
jetties jutting out into the River Thames – walking the Thames Path

Because the tide was out, I didn’t see any large ships go by, but a few smaller vessels made their way, either up or down stream.

ships on the thames - walking the thames path
ships on the thames – walking the Thames Path

In case you’re a first time reader, just to bring you up to speed….the original plan was to walk the whole length in one go over 2-3 weeks, but Covid lockdown restrictions got in the way, so I had to ‘pivot’ and change my plans. To that end I decided to do the first 6 stages between Erith and Staines by day tripping. As it turned out I did the distance in 5 stages, which is brilliant.

And so, onto Stage 1a – Walking the Thames Path : Erith to the Thames Barrier (this post will follow tomorrow night).

Join me on instagram for more about my long-distance walking adventures

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