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Archive for June 27th, 2021

Stage 5 : Hampton Court to Staines-Upon-Thames 24.04.2021 – 25.16 kms – 6 hours 47 min – 40,560 steps – elevation 43 meters

Hot on the heels of Stage 4 between Richmond and Hampton Court, from here on I was breaking new ground. Except for brief forays along the banks of the Thames at Windsor, Oxford, Henley-on-Thames and Reading when visiting those places or working there, I have never walked along the banks of the river beyond Hampton Court. A whole new adventure awaited; places to go and things to see!

As mentioned in Stage 4, it was now taking longer and longer to get to my starting point and the train tickets were getting to the point where it would cost more or less the same to stay in an AirBnb overnight as pay for a daily ticket. So after this stage I will continue my journey in 2 day increments or more…probably a 4 day stint would be good at some stage.

I arrived at Hampton Court Station just after 10:40 having discovered via a very helpful station assistant in Ramsgate, that if I bought a same day return, I could in fact leave before 09:35, and also…today was Saturday, so I could leave much earlier than usual; which I duly did.

Walking the Thames Path
Good morning Hampton Court Bridge

Because it was still relatively early I decided to have a short excursion onto the little promontory for a quick sandwich and some tea; Cigarette Island Park, juts out into the Thames and offers superb views of the river and the palace. Not sure I like the name of the park…but still, it’s pretty and cool and green.

Walking the Thames Path
Fab view of the palace and river for breakfast

Now in East Molesey on the south bank of the Thames, after my tea and yum yums, I set off into the wild blue yonder…what will I find? First off some photos of the area, and a brief history…Hampton Court Bridge was opened in 1866 at the expense of a local man who lived in the area, Thomas Newland Allen (his coat of arms adorns the bridge). Originally a toll bridge, allowing Mr Allen to recoup his outlay, it was bought by the Metropolitan Board of Works in 1876, and the toll was lifted…I believe the locals were pleased – the National Anthem was played by the band of the 3rd Surrey Militia and there was a firework display!! I can’t imagine them doing that today!!

Walking the Thames Path
East Molesey – I just love this little house/store
Walking the Thames Path
Coat of Arms – Thomas Newland Allen. Love this design

Looking across the bridge to the Mitre Hotel (I had tea and scones with jam and cream there one day), I was reminded of the history of the hotel : the all new Mitre Hotel where quirky British sensibility meets elegant authentic luxury on the banks of the Thames…as it says on their website πŸ™‚ Origins date back to the reign of Henry VIII. The building has been reconstructed since 1665 and is Grade II Listed as a mid-18th century edifice by Historic England. It is widely reported that The Mitre was built in 1665 at the direction of Charles II as a β€˜hostel for visitors to the Palace’. The Mitre is on the site of The Toy, which originally stood on the opposite side of the road, near the Trophy Gates of the Palace… and is mentioned in 1653 in the Parliamentary survey of Hampton Court as a Victualling House. This house was famous for the convivial meetings held there by the “Toy Club”, of which William IV, then Duke of Clarence, was President. ref wikipedia

Walking the Thames Path
Mitre Hotel

Moving on, within a few paces I encountered my first lock of the day; East Molesey.

Walking the Thames Path
Molesey Lock

A stone’s throw from Hampton Court Palace is Molesey Lock, built relatively recently in 1815 by the Corporation of London. Before this lock was built, Hurst Park (on the south bank by the lock) was known as Moulsey Hurst. During droughts, the Thames was liable to become too shallow for river craft to pass through. The heavily laden barges were held up, sometimes for weeks at a time while the bargemen waited for the weather to turn. When it did, the higher water levels allowed the barges to float through. The lock’s 1905 rebuild was carried out to accommodate the long 200ft naval craft built at Platt’s Eyot, just upstream of the lock. Between the 1800s and early 1900s, Molesey was probably the most popular lock on the Thames – on summer Sundays. ref their site

Walking the Thames Path
Molesey Lock

I was ever so lucky to have another fine spring, almost summer’s day with blue skies, puffy white clouds and a soft breeze that kept me cool for most of the day.

Walking the Thames Path
Lovely open pathway makes for easy walking

Heading towards Walton-on-Thames, the path is wide and very rural. I don’t often have ‘house envy’ having already owned a couple of houses back in South Africa and all the accompanying headaches, but oh my word….look at those houseboats! whoa. It looks heavenly, although I’m sure it’s probably quite noisy living on the river.

Walking the Thames Path
Fab.U.lous houseboats

Again I was enchanted by the fabulous cherry blossoms and the many bluebells along the route. They really are gorgeous, just a shame they don’t last long.

Walking the Thames Path
Cherry Blossom 🌸
lots of wonderful bluebells have flowered along the path…

I passed alongside Hurst Park and stopped briefly to look at what to expect ahead

Walking the Thames Path
Hurst Park – you are here! πŸ˜ƒ – heading upstream, river to my right

A little further on and I was amused by the antics of a little browney beige dog. He was splashing around in the river, then bounding out, running ahead of his entourage, hiding behind overgrowth on the river banks and when his ‘servants’ neared, he would bound into the river, splash about and jumping out run ahead and do the same all over again. It was ever so cute and went on for quite a while. He had so much fun! Lucky dog, I wished I could just jump in and splash about….approaching midday, it was getting quite hot.

Walking the Thames Path
Cute dog πŸ•πŸ˜ had so much fun

At the next Thames Path direction marker, I could see Garrick’s Temple to Shakespeare across the river. I worked in Hampton once some years ago, so had the pleasure of visiting that little park on one of my many walks. Nearby is Garrick’s Villa where he lived : David Garrick became the lessee in 1754 and then bought the property in October that year, making it his country retreat and a place of recreation where he and his wife frequently entertained their friends. He embarked on extensive alterations inside the house and, either now or at a later stage, employed Robert Adam to re-design the facade in the classical style then in vogue. The house has a fascinating history if you’d like to learn more.

Walking the Thames Path
Garrick’s Temple to Shakespeare

The path runs alongside the river here without too much urbanisation, but with terrific views across the waters to Hampton. Garrick’s Ait on my right, I could see St Mary’s Parish Church across the river.

Walking the Thames Path
St. Mary’s Church, Hampton

Not much further along and I discovered the remarkable Memorial Sundial in Buckingham Gardens in West Molesey. I spent some time here reading as many of the plaques as I could see. The sun was right overhead and almost blinding, but it looks absolutely fascinating. Did you know that the Vikings sailed this far up the river!?? Apparently to raid Chertsey Abbey! Wow. Seriously, after all the stuff I’ve read about the Thames and London etc, I never knew that they travelled so far inland. I have not been able to find much information beyond this website about this amazing memorial, but there are some super images on the web.

Walking the Thames Path
Memorial Sundial West Molesey

Hurst Park has a fantastic variety of wild life; fish and birds in particular. The river upstream of London is so much healthier for them.

The path too is super, wide and open albeit without much shade, which is always appreciated on a hot day. I got sunburned despite lashings of sunscreen.

Walking the Thames Path
So easy to follow…

A little further on and across the river from me was Platt’s Eyot, which sadly just 10 days later suffered a terrible fire that destroyed the warehouses and boat yard. Sadly one of the boats destroyed was one of the last remaining Dunkirk evacuation vessels.

Walking the Thames Path
Platt’s Eyot – no idea at the time it would burn to the ground in just a few short days

I loved all the canal boats tied up alongside the banks of the river…it must be such a different lifestyle living on a boat on the river. I think I’d like to try it out for a few months at some stage – perhaps when my grandson is older, then he can come visit and stay too β˜ΊπŸ’™

Walking the Thames Path
Loved the canalboats…so quirky
Walking the Thames Path
Lots of trees…no proper shade

Although you can’t really see it from the Thames Path, to my left are a lot of bodies of water…the Molesey Reservoirs Nature Reserve, Queen Elizabeth II Storage Reservoir, Bessborough Reservoir, Walton Advanced Water Treatment Works and Island Barn Reservoir, and across the river Sunnyside Reservoir and the Thames Water Hampton Water Treatment Works…..I was ignorant of all until I started looking at my photos on google maps LOL.

There are a lot of islands along this stretch of the river…and locks, and weirs. The path is well marked and you will see frequent direction markers.

Walking the Thames Path
Ya can’t get lost!!
Walking the Thames Path
Secretive islands. That water looks incredibly tempting!

Next up was Sunbury Lock and weir. First built in 1812 Sunbury Lock is a lock complex of the River Thames near Walton-on-Thames, the 3rd lowest of 44 on the non-tidal reaches.

Walking the Thames Path
Sunbury Lock

I do love the lock masters houses! They are so pretty and so quaint. I spent a few minutes at each lock and for sure it’s a busy job being a Lockmaster! One of the qualities you would truly need is patience!! Did you know that they’re on duty from 9am to 6pm each day with an hour for lunch between 1pm to 2pm!.

Walking the Thames Path
Sunbury Lock..such a quaint house

I didn’t stop much along this stretch and I didn’t take many photos…mostly because the scenery was much the same; a long open path, few trees, and the river. A rare spot of shade and a bench…time for break

walking the thames path
the guardians of the path – I really enjoyed the Thames Path along this section…wide and easy walking
Walking the Thames Path
A bench is always a good place for a rest..

There are a lot of really fancy houses along this stretch, on both sides of the river, some with gardens that stretch right down to the waterside. Oh and a pub! I was tempted to stop for a coke, but since I had refreshments I carried on till I found a bench under a shady tree and stopped there.

Walking the Thames Path
The Weir Pub – tempted to stop for a coke
Walking the Thames Path
The Weir

Nearing Walton-Upon-Thames I noticed a lot of swans on the river. They seem to be more prolific the closer you get to Windsor. Did you know that Queen Elizabeth II owns all the swans in England. According to the official Royal Family website, the Crown has held the right to claim ownership of all unmarked mute swans swimming in open waters across the country since the 12th Century. Some of the swans are owned by the Vintners and Dyers, but are marked by those companies.

Walking the Thames Path
All the Queen’s swans? Swans galore

I continued beneath the lovely Walton Bridge and along the Desborough Cut. Manmade and formed alongside the Thames in order to ‘cut’ out a lengthy double bend in the river…I felt a little bit cheated really. LOL I will probably go back one day and walk that section..πŸšΆβ€β™€οΈπŸšΆβ€β™€οΈ

Walking the Thames Path
Walton Bridge

As I neared the ferry I noticed a stunningly beautiful, albeit dilapidated house (a 13-bedroom mansion actually), on a small island….this was D’Oyly Carte Island I had read about in the guide book. I chatted to someone about the house and apparently it’s recently been bought and will be restored to it’s former glory. Quite right too, it’s beautiful. If I were a rich (wo)man, I’d buy it…. The house has links to Gilbert & Sullivan : Richard D’Oyly Carte, born in 1844, was a London theatre impresario who brought together dramatist WS Gilbert and composer Arthur Sullivan. A key theatreland figure in the latter part of the Victorian era, he built the Savoy Theatre in London and founded the D’Oyly Carte Opera Company.

walking the thames path
D’Oyly Carte Island – my dream house

After oohing and ahhing and just dying to cross the footbridge that leads to the island, I continued on my ‘wey’ LOL (get it…wey πŸ˜‰) and soon reached the juncture where the River Wey joins the Thames and at this point took the ferry across to the north bank and Shepperton.

If you look at the river on google maps at this point it’s like spagetti junction with the two rivers joining forces and weaving around islands and locks.

Walking the Thames Path
Spagetti Junction.. Walking the Thames Path

It was good fun…I love crossing the river by ferry and take every opportunity to do so. I arrived at the ferry point at the same time as a family with two children. They read the notice that said you had to ring the bell to summons the ferry from the opposite bank, but they were a bit timid and didn’t ring it very loudly…so I humoured them and rang it vigorously 😁😁 they nearly had hysterics! But, it worked…the ferry crossed over and picked us up. Hoorah!

walking the thames path
the ferry to Shepperton at spagetti junction
don’t pay the ferry man till he gets you to the other side…
safely across the Thames, now in Shepperton

Safely across the river I headed upstream on what was now the north bank…my ultimate destination: Staines-Upon-Thames.

I passed Shepperton Lock on the left and felt sad that due to covid the tearoom was still closed, I would have stopped for tea for sure. I remember having tea there once many years ago…the view of the river is superb.

Shepperton Lock
Story of the river – when sorting through my images and reading these boards more closely, I was amused to note that they also called this section ‘spagetti junction’

I passed Pharaoh’s Island, so named after it was purchased by the Treasury to give to Admiral Nelson after the Battle of the Nile (1798). It’s fantastic how some of these islands got their names. It used to be called Dog Island, but Pharaoh sounds much more interesting.

love, love love this houseboat..moored alongside Pharaoh’s Island
the river is now on my left hand side till Staines Upon Thames

Reaching Ryepeck Meadow Moorings I saw some fantastic boathouses…oh my gosh. Stunning. Lots of beautiful flowers lined the banks

another fantastic houseboat. I wonder what draws people to this type of lifestyle? It’s compact..
a glorious splash of colour…so glad April is spring in the northern hemisphere
Walking the Thames Path
Fantastic houseboat – I’d live here πŸ˜€

The river curves and winds it’s way along, the path so close you could sit and dangle your hot, tired feet, in the cool, refreshing water…if only!! Maybe next time…although in reality, the water was quite a way down and I would have had to have long legs, which I don’t πŸ™„πŸ™„

Ahead was a lovely green open space; Dumsey Meadow, but sadly few trees for respite from the baking sun. Mad dogs and Englishmen and all that springs to mind!

Dumsey Meadow – I was hoping for a shady break…

Hoorah! Chertsey Bridge…offered a brief respite from the sun! They need to put a couple of benches here..I’m sure they’d be well used.

Chertsey Bridge offered a brief respite – a couple of benches would be lovely

Follow the acorn!! Back to suburbia and a busy road – although I managed to get most of the way past before any traffic.

walking the thames path
back to suburbia

And ahead Chertsey Lock and weir.

Chertsey Lock and weir

I soon passed under the M3

M3 I believe…although very noisy, at least it offered a brief respite from the sun

Ahead of me Laleham Park where I stopped for a short while to rest my poor feet, get some relief from the sun and have something to eat and drink. As I was walking towards the park a few horse and carts came clopping past.

absolutely beautiful animals…

I was a bit slow on the uptake and only managed to capture a very short snippet of film as they went past

but I did see the horses further up in Laleham Park cooling down in the river.

having a well-deserved swim at Laleham Park

Back to urban living and the often metalled surfaces that are so hard on the feet! Gosh, there are some gorgeous houses here. There are loads of direction markers too, so you can’t get lost.

another direction marker, another metalled surface, on the outskirts of Staines
Walking the Thames Path
Large houses…Laleham!

Hoorah! Staines 1.3/4 miles (2.8 kms) my feet rejoiced 🀭🀭

Walking the Thames Path
Staines!! Not too far to go

Penton Hook Lock soon hove into view (who makes up these names?) – I asked for a top-up of my water, but no-one had any taps available. There’s a huge marina here on the opposite side of the river… water water everywhere and nary a drop to drink! Bah humbug to covid. Penton Hook Lock, at 266 ft (81m) is the 3rd longest lock on the river, the 6th lowest lock of 44 on the non-tidal reaches of the River Thames. It faces an island which was, until its construction, a pronounced meander (a hook) and located on the site of its seasonal cutoff. It is against the left bank, marking the church parish medieval border of Laleham and Staines upon Thames in Surrey, for many centuries. Until 1965 their county was Middlesex.

Walking the Thames Path
Penton Hook Lock

Although the next few kilometres were quite residential, the houses were mostly set in large gardens and didn’t intrude on the path, which was lovely and wide and easy to walk on. I much prefer gravel to metalled surfaces.

Walking the Thames Path
Lovely wide gravel path

I passed a lovely old church; St Peter’s that I simply had to photograph…love these buildings.

walking the thames path
St Peter’s Church, Staines-Upon-Thames

I was now on the outskirts of Staines, and nearing my destination….time 16:56 and I had been walking pretty much non-stop for 5 hours, except for brief stops as mentioned, which are seldom more than 10 minutes at a time.

2 minutes after passing St Peter’s Church I had my first view of the Staines-Upon-Thames railway bridge! Hoorah – soon I’d be crossing that bridge on my way home!

walking the thames path staines railway bridge
Staines Railway Bridge!! I could just see the Staines Bridge in the distance…whoop whoop

Back on urban territory I was soon in the thick of things, traffic, metalled surface etc etc….albeit a very pretty environment I must say. Enroute along the riverside path I passed by the Mercure Thames Lodge where I was meant to have stayed before the reality of the lockdown restrictions still in place hit home, and I had to cancel all my bookings 😦 It’s a gorgeous location, but ever so pricey over the period after lockdown.

walking the thames path
where I was meant to stay if my plans had worked out…ahhh but lockdown rules! urgh

I walked by some absolutely gorgeous houses that reminded me of Bermuda…love those balconies and the flowers – just stunning. And finally…Memorial Gardens and so very near the end of today’s journey; Stage 5 of Walking the Thames Path!

walking the thames path
I was well excited by now…soooo close to journey’s end

In the memorial gardens I saw a fabulous statue; The Swanmaster – he who counts the swans for The Queen during Swan Upping, a totally bizarre word for a really tricky job. Swan Upping still takes place once a year on the River Thames.  The Swan Uppers weigh and measure the cygnets and check them for any signs of injury, commonly caused by fishing hooks and line.  The young cygnets are ringed with individual identification numbers that denote their ownership if they belong to the Vintners or the Dyers livery companies; the cygnets’ ownership is determined by their parentage. However, all Crown birds are left unmarked.  The Queen retains the right to claim ownership of any unmarked mute swan swimming in open waters, but this right is mainly exercised on certain stretches of the River Thames. ref their website. If you’d like to know more about swan upping, have a look at their website. It’s really interesting. I’ve been to both the the Worshipful Company of Vintners’ and the Worshipful Company of Dyers’ Halls during Open House in September. If you ever get a chance to go, do, it’s well worth the trip. The Vintners’ Hall in particular is absolutely stunning.

walking the thames path
The Swan Master 1983 Staines-Upon-Thames by Diana Thomson FRBS

The Dancing Fountains – this must look gorgeous when the waterfountain is on

walking the thames path, staines upon thames
Dancing Fountain

Abstract sculpture of a swan – trying to save on battery by now, I didn’t stop to look at who the artist is, I figured I’d find it on the www…but no, not yet! Do you know who the artist is?

walking the thames path
Interesting sculpture…I think it’s mean to depict a swan

The London Stone!! I had waited a long time to see this!

walking the thames path
The London Stone – ever since I first got the guide book, I’ve looked forward to reach this point

Andddd Staines Bridge – knock knock at 17:09. whoo hoo. I’m here!

walking the thames path, staines upon thames
and I’m here – knock, knock!! πŸ™‚ Staines Bridge

What an amazing day! I had it all; history, fabulous view of the river, an amazing sundial, stunning houseboats, mysterious islands, quirky canal boats, locks and weirs, a ferry ride, passed through some terrific parks, saw interesting sculptures and the London Stone! a mostly amazing path – easy to navigate, blue skies, sunshine, a soft breeze from time to time, 172 photos, and boo hoo no ice-cream LOL I literally didn’t see any ice-cream vendors the whole way from East Molesey to SuT.

It was lovely to see so many people out and about enjoying the sunshine. The Thames Path is very much a shared path and along this section there were a number of places where families could have picnics, kiddies could run about and play, and enjoy the fresh air and our fabulous river. Watersports on the upper reaches of the Thames are hugely popular and you will often see kyakers, canoeists, rowers and of course all the fancy speedboats. You can take a ride along the river on a commercial ‘steam’ boat at a number of places along the river pretty much from Richmond. And you will frequently see canal boats chugging by…I’m often tempted to call out and ask for a ride LOL Of course with spring in the air, there was much flitting about and trilling songs from the birdlife and since the river is so much less polluted here, you will spot many a heron in the shallows, amongst much else…swans in particular are plentiful. It’s just wonderful.

I’m ever so pleased with my progress and sooo grateful for the fabulous weather! Long may it last!

I managed to get the 17:38 train and home by 9pm. hoorah. So Stage 6 and 7….when shall I do those I wonder?

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