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Midway through my walk along Hadrian’s Wall I got a message from my brother-in-law to say that he was treating my sister to a trip to Ireland for her 50th birthday ๐ŸŽ‚ ๐Ÿฅณ Hoorah! And would I be able to join them? Would I just!!! โ˜บโ˜บ

This is a significant birthday and definitely needs to be celebrated in outstanding fashion.

25 x 2!!

It’s kind of a circle too; it will be 20 years since I flew to Ireland from South Africa to celebrate her 30th birthday …. a journey that changed the course of my life and ultimately my daughter’s life too.

Now they’re flying over from South Africa and I’m flying from the UK.

Isn’t it interesting, the many twists and turns of life, and how an action you take one day/month/year can have unexpected consequences.

I’m delighted and really excited to see them again – it’s been 5 years since I was last in SA, and with Covid-19 I had no plans to travel there for the foreseeable future…mostly because SA is still on the UK’s ‘red list’ and I would have had to quarantine for 2 weeks on my return at an extortionate cost in a hotel room.

But it seems that Ireland has less draconian and inwardlooking rules than the UK and you can visit as long as you’re vaccinated.

So it was with much excitement that I booked my flight to Ireland and on 7th October we will be meeting in Dublin, along with my daughter, son-in-law and grandson to celebrate my sister’s 50th and tag on the 20th anniversary ๐Ÿ˜€ of my new life in the northern hemisphere. Although 50 beats 20 any day ๐Ÿ˜๐Ÿ˜

It’s with much excitement that I’m counting the days. โ˜บ ๐Ÿ—“

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When I bought the Kruger National Park challenge in March I had it in mind to honour the memory of my brother Arnold, who should have been 66 years old today; 08/08/21. He died in his mid-20s nearly 40 years ago under very sad circumstances.

Kruger National Park virtual challenge
Kruger National Park virtual challenge – starter bib

So I figured I would hold it till 1 August before starting the challenge and try to walk 66 kms by his birthday. As well as which, I was born in South Africa and one of my most enduring childhood memories was a visit to the Kruger National Park when we were teenagers…probably about 13 or 14 at the time. My Dad, his 2nd wife, me (the eldest) my brother (6 months younger than me – adopted by my Dad when he remarried), my sister 3.5 years younger than me and my much younger brother who was a baby at the time.

As we drove along the very long narrow dusty road heading towards the gates of the camp, after a long day of driving, my little brother threw up all over my older brother…I was wearing a very fancy patterned two piece pant-suit; a mini-skirt length top and bell-bottoms at the time, blue with coloured squares (I think I wrote about this some time back under a different context)…anyway, my brother had on a bright orange shirt and khaki trousers, which now had vomit all over them. A quick stop at the side of the road and we progressed with everyone affected cleaned up and my brother wearing the pants of my suit and looking both sheepish and colourful.

I can’t recall the name of the camp, but I do remember that we had a fantastic view of a massive waterhole from the dining room. We had a fantastic time and managed to see a lot of game on our drives, as well as in the compound when the animals from outside the fence decided to join the animals inside the fence!!! But of all the exciting things we saw, that episode with the clothes and the eggs we had for breakfast are my best memories.

And so I kicked off on 1 August and got my first postcard

Once again, the amount of information they provide with each postcard is amazing, and so fascinating. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I have

On the southeast coast of South Africa and bordered by Lesotho, Eswatini and Mozambique is the province of Kwazulu-Natal.  Known for its beaches, mountainous region and large savannahs with big game, this province is also home to the Zulu nation.  Kwazulu-Natal is made up of two separate provinces, KwaZulu and Natal, that merged in 1994.  KwaZulu was a semi-independent area intended as a homeland for the Zulu people whose ancestors were part of the Zulu Kingdom.

The Zulu Kingdom was a monarchy from 1816-1897 which grew to prominence under the leadership of Shaka Zulu, the illegitimate son of Senzangakhona, the Chief of the Zulu clan.  Senzangakhona had 14 sons, 4 of them ruled as kings.  Although Shaka was the oldest, due to his illegitimacy he did not have any claim as successor to his father.  When Senzangakhona died in 1816, his legitimate heir Sigujana took over but his rule was short-lived as Shaka had him assassinated and became king.  He in turn was killed 12 years later by another brother, Dingane who 12 years later was overthrown by his brother Mpande, who ruled for the next 32 years.  Mpandeโ€™s son, Cetshwayo, succeeded him in 1873 for the next five years.  

Cetshwayo was the leader during the Anglo-Zulu War of 1879.  Fought over several bloody battles between the British Empire and the Zulu Kingdom, the war lasted less than six months.  The first significant battle was at Isandlwana in January 1879 where 20,000 Zulu warriors attacked the British forces of less than 2,000 soldiers.  Defeating the British, a contingent of Zulu warriors broke off from the main force and proceeded towards Rorkeโ€™s Drift, which would become the second main battle on the same day.  Having been pre-warned of the Zulu advances, the British were prepared for the assault.  Vastly outnumbered with guns blazing, the British held their position.  After 12 hours of fighting, the Zulu warriors retreated.  Several more battles were fought over the coming months until the British moved into the royal village where they inflicted the final defeat.  By August, Cetshwayo was captured, deposed and exiled.  He was the last king of an independent Zulu nation.  Today Cetshwayoโ€™s descendant Goodwill Zwelithini is the 8th reigning monarch of the Zulu nation.

My journey begins in the town of Hluhluwe.  Located in the north of Kwazulu-Natal between iSimangaliso Wetland Park and Hluhluweโ€“iMfolozi Park, this small town is known for its big game, national parks and production of 95% of South Africaโ€™s pineapples.  It has a population of less than 4,000 residents, yet it is considered a travel hub for Kwazulu-Natal. 

Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Park is a major attraction for the big 5 game: elephant, rhino, buffalo, lion and leopard.  Located southwest of Hluhluwe, the park is the oldest nature reserve in Africa consisting of 96,000 hectares.  Established in 1895 as a park, the area was originally a royal hunting ground for the Zulu Kingdom.  The reserve was setup to protect the endangered white rhinoceroses and now has the largest population in the world (approx. 1000).  The park is also the only one in Kwazulu-Natal where all five big game animals can be found.

Located northeast to Hluhluwe is the 1,270sq mi (3,280km2) iSimangaliso Wetland Park.  The park is rich in fauna and flora due to the โ€œdifferent ecosystems within the park, ranging from coral reefs and sandy beaches to subtropical dune forests, savannahs, and wetlandsโ€.  A wonderful array of animals co-habitate here both on land and in the ocean such as: elephant, leopard, rhino, buffalo, hippos, whales, dolphins, leatherback and loggerhead turtles and crocodiles. The park was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1999.

The park also contains the 140sq mi (350km2) estuarine Lake St Lucia.  It was named in 1575 on the day of the feast of Saint Lucy.  Nearly 2,200 plant species have been identified in the lakeโ€™s system such as the Sausage-tree, bearing sausage-like fruits 1-2ft long (30-60cm) and purplish-green flowers. It is also an ideal environment for mangrove trees, six different species have been recorded.  Other delightful flora are the Prickly Tree Hibiscus with its yellow flowers, Maputaland Cycad with its red flowers, Impala-lily with its delicate pink flowers and the Cape honeysuckle.

And so, over a period of 7 days I managed to achieve my goal of walking 66kms; 1 for each year that he would have been…had he lived.

I miss my brother, and although we were not blood relatives I adored him and he me. We got up to a lot of mischief as children and one of the few photos I have of him is when there were just the 5 of us; my cousin Yvonne, me, my cousin Brian, my brother Arnold and my sister Susanne. My family expanded a lot after this photo was taken, what with remarriages and another 4 sisters and 1 brother.

family and relationships
me, my brother, my sister, and cousins

The rest of the challenge will be completed during my jaunt along the Northumberland Coast Path and Hadrian’s Wall, both of which are long enough to ‘possibly’ allow me to complete this challenge before I return home. Although I have to say that the temptation to buy a 2nd Hadrian’s Wall challenge and complete the virtual walk whilst walking the actual wall is VERY strong!! LOL… I’ll decide by the 09th of September before I start my actual walk…it will all depend on how many km’s I manage to complete before then since the Kruger challenge has to be finished by 30/09/21 because the organisers changed the medal and made the route shorter. But I want the original medal, so…onwards into the breech dear friends, onwards!

Meanwhile, if you’re looking for me, I’m kicking up dust in the Kruger National Park… ๐Ÿ™‚

Here are some of the scenes from my 7 walks

walking the kruger national park
Day 1 Sunday 01.08.2021
walking the kruger national park
Day 2 Monday 02.08.21
walking the kruger national park
Day 3 Wednesday 04.08.21
walking the kruger national park
Day 4 Thursday 05.08.21
walking the kruger national park
Day 5 Friday 06.08.21
walking the kruger national park
Day 6 Saturday 07.08.21
walking the kruger national park
Day 7 Sunday 08.08.21

Day 3 I ended up hip deep in a ditch sky-high with brambles…still not sure how I got out, there’s a long story behind the cows on day 4 and there’s one particular scene that I just love and photograph it every day when I walk that route. The houses in this area are stunning…and I get house envy when I see some of them, and I love that quote from Day 1.

The above scenes are round and about the farmlands of Faversham. They recently harvested one of the fields nearby, hence the tractor and the harvester.

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Four years ago I read in the news about this young lad, Alex Ellis-Roswell from Canterbury What an extraordinary venture; a 9,500 mile, 3-year walk around the UK coast, including N.Ireland, from Minnis Bay to Minnis Bay, raising funds for and visiting more than 200 RNLI stations along the way, and raising more than ยฃ65,000 for the life-saving charity. Astounding. I had not heard of anyone walking the entire UK coast, and didn’t realise it was even a thing.

At the time I was not long back from walking the Camino Portuguese from Porto to Santiago, 174 miles, and my efforts felt quite piddling in comparison. I was totally awed at his efforts.

I’ve always loved walking, and walked a lot in my early 20s when I lived in Hillbrow, Johannesburg, but from when I had my baby and acquired a car and a husband in 1980, I didn’t do much by way of walking at all. Life went by, I had a car, and although we travelled a lot around South Africa walking was just part of a day or an outing and not the focus of the outing.

In 2001 I had the absolute joy and good fortune to spend 6 months in the Rep. of Ireland with my younger sister and her hubby. While there, my love of walking was rekindled and played a part in my decision to return to the UK full time…which I duly did in April 2002, albeit to Ireland first for 4 months till September. During my time in Ireland; 2001 and 2002, we walked everywhere, weekend jaunts across country, along the east coast in mid-winter (mostly because there wasn’t anything else to do LOL) and wonderful walks in historic Glendalough National Park in County Wicklow, and my midnight returns to home after an evening in Dublin.

When I relocated to the UK in September 2002, before starting work, I did a 6 week housesit; a penthouse in Hampstead Village with a rooftop view of London, lots of walking opportunities with Hampstead Heath nearby and the historic village of Hampstead.

When we, my daughter and I, eventually settled in Richmond in 2010 I started walking the Thames Path in various directions as well as many many walks in the City of London (eventually covering 95% of all the roads, lanes and alleyways) and City of Westminster, with occasional sojourns to other areas. I even started up a business (now defunct): 3 Days in London which involved guided tours (only a few because I really did not enjoy guiding people around the city LOL).

In 2011 I had the bright idea of following Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales route from Southwark Cathedral to Canterbury Cathedral and in 2014 we moved to Broadstairs, where my coastal path jaunts began. Along the many ‘ways’ during the years from when I first arrived in the UK, the Camino de Santiago seeped into my consciousness from varying angles; my Dad and a couple of siblings cycled the French route (at different times), I met a lady who had walked the French route and loved it (she gave me my 1st scallop shell), I saw the film with Martin Sheen and books on the Camino started to make themselves known. And so my ‘dream’ of walking the Camino germinated. Initially I thought I’d walk it in 2016, having decided on the Portuguese coastal route as my preferred ‘way’, and to that end I started practising by taking lengthy walks along the coast to Margate or Ramsgate and further afield to Sandwich. Finally in 2017 I felt ready and walked the Portuguese Coastal Route to Santiago in September of that year.

Since then I’ve completed a number of long distance walks and my reading matter has turned to books about people who have done amazing walks. Shortly after reading ‘The Salt Path’ by Raynor Winn, I was inspired to set myself the challenge of walking the entire English Coast Path; coincidentally whilst I was walking between Sandwich and Walmer one day last year. And so the idea was born, and now that I have a specific target, I’ve started walking sections with purpose (I will write up about those stages in due course).

During the preceding years I’ve been inspired by epic adventures embarked upon by people like Steven Fabes who cycled 6 continents and covered 80,000 km on his bike. And Ben Fogle’s many adventures with ‘New Lives in the Wild’ TV shows, Steve Backsall’s many epic adventures (not that I envy any of his adventures thank you!!), Michael Palin’s many wonderful travels around the world, Michael Portillo’s ‘Great British Railway Journeys’, and Julia Bradbury’s many amazing walking adventures in the UK.

Way back in my South African past, a boyfriend at the time gave me the book ‘Full Tilt: From Dublin to Delhi’ by Dervla Murphy, which I devoured at the time, never imagining that I would one day actually live in Dublin! I loved her story and I think it probably ignited a small flame that was later nourished to become a passion; travel.

During lockdown in 2020, for 7 weeks between March and April, I was lucky enough to be working and living in a tiny village in Somerset; Nether Stowey, where I was able to indulge my walking escapades despite lockdown because there was hardly anyone around and I seldom encountered a soul during my 2 hourly breaks from working.

My daughter introduced me to the ‘addictive’ Conqueror Challenges in April of 2020 and working towards those goals has kept me motivated.

that’s me! The Conqueror – conquering the world, walk by walk LOL

I also started looking to find more people who were walking the UK coast and somewhere along the line, via Facebook I found and started following Chris Walks the UK. At the time he was safely ensconced on a remote and unoccupied Scottish island where he stayed for much of lockdown. Following his journey both then and now, I’m totally inspired by his fortitude and strength. Having started the journey in the midst of depression 5 years ago (apparently Sunday was his 5th anniversary, so I’ve added the link to reflect that), a former Veteran of the Armed Forces, he was then and still is raising funds for SSAFA and has met the 2 loves of his life along the way; 1st Jet, a beautiful greyhound, and then Kate a beautiful young woman who popped over one day to say hello and never left. I love their daily posts and am in so much admiration for how they cope with obstacles.

Slowly, during my travels, I stumbled across other walks; the Two Saints Way, St Cuthbert’s Way and St Oswald’s Way, Great Glen Way, The West Highland Way, Hadrian’s Wall, and as I came to learn about more and more walks, I started buying the Cicerone Guide Books. Now, with a whole long list of walks I now want to do, I joined the UK Long Distance Hiking page on facebook, to get ideas and advice, occasionally discover new routes to walk (oh my lord! Like I need any more!), and while scrolling through the posts a couple of days ago I stumbled across Tracey Elizabeth Hannam, an amazing woman with an interesting story who is currently walking the UK coast. I saw one of her posts; a poem that she wrote and it resonated so strongly that I asked her if I could share it here…..and she has agreed.

Here is the link to her facebook page and the poem that caught at my soul

.. Thoughts..a poem

What am I thinking is my life shrinking I need to get out,
Where am I going am I happy knowing as I start to shout,
I’m feeling quite trapped being part of the rat race as they call it..
I’m trying to fit in but I can’t begin as I simply deplore it,
As I try to escape, suffocated in this place I know I must go,
To the sand and the sea I feel it beckoning me and now that I know,
I must be out in the wild like a inquisitive child seeing new things each day,,
Sleep on the earth in a tent, many happy days spent loving the way,
How my new life has changed simply been rearranged by thoughts in my head,
Of times I couldn’t breathe, there was a hidden need to be out here instead,
My eyes now open to see this new happy me away from the grind,
Of a regimented past life, sometimes trouble and strife but now cleared from my mind,
Medicine not in a pill but walking up a hill is healing my soul,
Prescribed by Dr. me as I began to see I needed a new goal,
And I’ll never look back to that old beaten track that stopped me from growing,
I’ll look right ahead never to dread this new me I’m knowing,
Leading the way not afraid to say to others too,
Don’t settle for less cause you are the best ..refresh and renewโ€ฆ๐Ÿ’œโค

Copyright: Tracey Hannam .. 31/7/21

Tracey Hannam – Long Distance Hiker, so inspiring

During my research into other long distance UK coastal walkers I came across this fantastic website https://www.britishwalks.org/walks/Named/CoastWalk/Links.php an amazing resource listing the many people who have already walked the coast or are currently walking.

There is something quite extraordinary about a person who decides, for such a variety of reasons, to up sticks and walk for thousands of kms/miles, sometimes for years on end. Carrying the bare minimum, yet loaded with a lot of stuff to carry, they put one foot in front of the other, enduring pain and discomfort, all the weather types you can imagine, blisters, scrapes and falls, a lack of home comforts, facing some of the hardest days anyone could imagine – and yet, they just keep on going, loving that life despite the hardships, and rejoicing in the beauty of new places.

I find it so inspiring and totally awesome.

For me it’s the sheer freedom of the path, of the unknown, of starting at one place and ending at another that leads me on….

English Coast Path

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Wow, what an amazing milestone to reach.

I’d like to extend a massive, humongous, enormous ๐Ÿ˜Š๐Ÿ˜Š๐Ÿ˜Š thank you to every single person who has stopped to read what I have to say. You are all very much appreciated.

When I first started blogging nearly 12 years ago, I had no idea what to write about and no idea of the journey I would go on.

It’s been fits and starts with massive gaps inbetween where I just didn’t get to write, and other times when I’m able to write every day.

I first started this blog on 21 October 2009, my sister’s birthday as it happens, although the coincidence has no relevance, it was just the date I started.

https://notjustagranny.co.uk/2009/10/21/hello-world/

I had another blog before this one, but I really can’t remember what happened to it ๐Ÿ˜…๐Ÿ˜•

Over the years I’ve developed a passion for walking, so of course those adventures have become my main theme. Travel too, and there are loads of posts about my travels over the years. I also, unbelievably, have 143 posts in draft ๐Ÿค”๐Ÿค”๐Ÿค” Most of which are probably quite irrelevant by now.

Some of my posts have passed under the net unnoticed and unread, but others have garnered a substantial number of views.

The all time favourite seems to have been Twickenham on a hot summer day written on 11 July 2010, and still gets views all these years later. Weird.

The most popular day was 26.12.2012, and I still have no idea why!! I’ve written 956 posts ๐Ÿ˜ฎ๐Ÿ˜ฎ some verbose, others just a brief jot, and 52,000 people have visited my site…quite accidentally I’m sure ๐Ÿ˜๐Ÿ˜ and headed out quicker than a jack rabbit. But many have stayed, read a while and left comments (which I totally love โคโค) and I thank you for that. I’ve also had to block quite a few nuisance callers, and once I installed akismet, it reduced the huge volume of spam comments I used to get ๐Ÿ˜ฑ๐Ÿ˜ฑ๐Ÿ˜ฑ

Although I’ve learned a lot in the interim, I still haven’t quite come to grips with keywords, key phrases and ranking. Possibly because my posts are mostly so random with no real theme, order or organisation. My biggest beef is the developers that keep ‘improving’ their programmes and when they do that, I’m left back at square one trying to relearn everything. Drives me mad. I’m not a fan of the current upgrade, and a few choice words fall like pearls from my lips from time to time ๐Ÿ˜๐Ÿ˜๐Ÿ˜

Since I started the blog I’ve become a granny, seen my daughter married to an amazing man, moved to the coast, travelled extensively around the UK, both for my job and my personal desires, been to a royal wedding, become a British citizen, met new friends, become an aunt to 7 kiddies, attended the 2012 London Olympics and lived through the insanity that was/is Brexit, flown in a helicopter and a Spitfire, attended the 2016 400th anniversary of the Great Fire of London and the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta, amongst much else. But those are the highlights.

My passions are the same, I’m 12 years older, albeit not much wiser…and my bones creak at lot more than they did back then!

Thank you all for dropping by and visiting, I appreciate you one and all. ๐Ÿ˜Š๐Ÿ˜Š

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This is a very short post (hoorah I hear you shout ๐Ÿ˜๐Ÿ˜๐Ÿคช) but I just saw this on Facebook and I found it SO powerful that I simply have to share it.

The words are absolutely spot on and I wonder why it is that we feel the need to control time.

I follow the Regenerative Conciousness Community on Facebook and they often post some really thought-provoking and powerful messages.

And as I think about the words above and feel them, I get quite panicky at how restrictive our need to control time actually is. I understand the fundamental need to do so, but it is quite restrictive.

When I was involved in the personal development environment 14 years ago, I remember working through a process during which we identified our highest value/s. Mine was freedom. So I guess that’s why those words have induced a feeling of panic.

And now I’m going to shut up ๐Ÿ˜‚๐Ÿ˜‚๐Ÿ˜‚ this is turning into one of those posts where I go off on a tangent.

I wonder what your thoughts are on the above quote?

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I saw this image in one of the pages I follow on Facebook and it brought back memories of my teenage years.

That’s how short I used to wear my dresses ๐Ÿ‘—๐Ÿ˜…๐Ÿคญ๐Ÿคญ๐Ÿคญ

I sent it onto my daughter and sisters, with the following memory; none of them would remember me in mini skirts! It caused a fair amount of hilarity, so I thought I should share it with you too ๐Ÿ˜๐Ÿ˜๐Ÿ˜‰

I was about 19 years old, and remember one day walking to work from Hillbrow into Central Johannesburg – I had on a very short, beautiful pale blue/turquoise dress with a white edging pattern & a little bolero jacket to match, with a teeny tiny lacy blue & white petticoat (maximum 6 inches length) & the highest platform shoes (blue – a fiend for colour coordination ๐Ÿ™„๐Ÿ™„).

As I was walking, obviously attracting a lot of attention (I was very skinny in those days), I felt something tickling the tops of my thighs. I felt around but couldn’t identify what it was. This went on for a few minutes as I walked. Suddenly I realised that it was my petticoat sliding down. The waist elastic had snapped ๐Ÿ˜‚๐Ÿ˜‚๐Ÿคช

So I stopped, wriggled the offending article down to my ankles (I didn’t dare bend over with my extremely high shoes – would have been a faceplant). When the ‘slip’ reached the ground, I daintily stepped out of it, crouched down very carefully, picked it up, stuffed it in my bag & haughtily walked on ๐Ÿ˜ head held high!!

The incident attracted a lot of attention.

At least my underwear was colour coordinated. My Mother used to say: “always wear clean underwear, you never know when you might get hit by a bus, you at least want clean underwear “. You might be dead, but at least your panties are clean ๐Ÿ˜‚๐Ÿ˜‚๐Ÿ˜‚I went one step further and colour coordinated ๐Ÿ˜๐Ÿ˜๐Ÿ˜

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From the Kent Battle of Britain page on Facebook:

Eighty-one years ago today the Battle of Britain officially started, 10th July 1940.

Please spare a thought for all those who participated, from all Nations. Many would be killed during the Battle, some would die months later from wounds and burns sustained during those critical months, some would be killed later in the war. Others would carry their mental and physical scars for the rest of their lives.

We believe that only one Allied Battle of Britain airmen is alive today, Paddy Hemingway. Paddy celebrates his 102nd Birthday next week. We are not aware of any Luftwaffe airmen that survive from the Battle.

2938 Allied Airmen were entitled to wear the ‘clasp’ as a Battle of Britain airmen. 544 were killed or died from wounds sustained in the Battle. 795 further airmen would be killed by the end of the war.

All they ask is to be rememberedโ€ฆ.

Please ‘like’ and ‘share’ this, and the Kent Battle of Britain Museum page, and help us commemorate our Heroes ‘The Few’. Thank you

One of my absolute favourite memorials in London is the Battle of Britain memorial on Embankment in Westminster, opposite the London Eye.

Battle of Britain Memorial in London

Perched above the White Cliffs of Dover you will find the memorial to The Few at Capel-le-Ferne.

‘Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few’. Winston Churchill. 20 August 1940.

Referring to the ongoing efforts of the Royal Air Force and Polish fighter crews No. 303 Squadron RAF who were at the time fighting the Battle of Britain, the pivotal air battle with the German Luftwaffe, with Britain expecting an invasion. Pilots who fought in the battle have been known as The Few ever since; at times being specially commemorated on 15 September, “Battle of Britain Day”.

The Sculpture
His view across The English Channel to France ๐Ÿ‡ซ๐Ÿ‡ท

Still one of my favourite places to have visited in my travels around England.

I remember seeing a film, in my late teens, back in South Africa called The Battle of Britain. It had a profound effect on me and I sobbed for days after, and never imagined that one day, not only would I be living in Britain, but that I would fall in love with London and see all these amazing places. I certainly NEVER imagined for even 1 second that I would one day become a British citizen.

Here’s to The Few, from all corners of the world, long may they be remembered…

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I was quite amused by this article shared on a walking page on facebook.

https://www.cicerone.co.uk/a-question-of-stiles-rural-ingenuity-or-hazardous-obstacle

It totally reminded me of my walk along The Pilgrim’s Way back in 2018 and 2020…I cannot tell you how many, many stiles, of all shapes, sizes, state of decay or disrepair, and levels of navigable ability I encountered over the week of my final stages. At one point at the end of a very long day, near Detling, I literally sat down on the step of what was thankfully the last stile of the day for 30 minutes and just refused to climb it…my mind was bent!! I just couldn’t face having to hoik myself and my backpack, which by then felt like it weighed in at 5 tons, over the damn stile!! I seriously considered just parking myself in the surrounding field and staying there for the night….except…creepy crawlies and things that go bump in the night.

Walking the Pilgrim's Way
Another mile, another stile – near Detling alongside the motorway, not a very comfortable seat

In the space of 25 minutes, early evening, after walking for 10 hours, I encountered 1 kissing gate and 4 stiles, two of which were no more than 2 minutes apart! I kid you not!! So not funny! LOL I had just 3 hours earlier squeezed myself through another kissing gate…most times, as the article suggests, you have to just take the backpack off, throw it over (or lower it carefully depending on how fed-up you are) and squeeze through.

and then, just to really make my day….I had to climb this flight of stairs straight after, only to discover that I would be walking right next to a very busy motorway. What I said on seeing these stairs…. I’ll leave to your imagination

Oh! and may I just say…I did this walk between lockdowns in 2020! At a time when we were allowed to travel, albeit not hugely encouraged…I hardly saw a soul most days, and only encountered my airbnb hosts in a controlled environment. Just saying….as they say. I got some seriously nasty flack from someone I don’t even know on facebook…which is why my profile is private…

Other than that…what has been your experience with stiles? I’m truly grateful that so far there are none on the Thames Path and I’ve encountered only kissing gates so far on The Saxon Shore Way. The English Coast Path is also mostly free of stiles…probably coz you can’t farm on the beach. Or can you?

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Stage 4 : Richmond to Hampton Court 23.04.2021 – 18.14 kms – 4 hours 47 min – 28,390 steps – elevation 40 meters

As with Stage 3 I was on what felt like home ground today…

When I planned my day trips I saved this section especially for today; from Richmond to Hampton Court…my 2 most favourite places. When we lived in St Margaret’s, a stone’s throw from Richmond, I used to practically live at Hampton Court Palace. I was a member of the Historic Royal Palaces, and Hampton Court was an easy bus ride away….

This was also the shortest distance I’d planned. Initially I had planned to meet up with my daughter and family and spend the day in Hampton Court, but of course lockdown changed all that, besides which the rail tickets were exorbitant (๐Ÿคฃ๐Ÿคฃ๐Ÿคฃmy autocorrect said: extortionate!! – too right!).

I was well excited for this section – I’ve walked this section so many times and it was all so very familiar to me…which made it more special – pretty much both sides of the river actually.

I’ve also had the joy and privilege of having travelled along the river on one of the boats in the 2014 Tudor Pull flotilla and on one of the boats following the 2012 Olympic Torch from Hampton Court to Kew (where the boat I was on returned upriver). Incredibly exciting.

Three cheers for the Gloriana – Tudor Pull 2014 the copyright for this video belongs to myself

Setting off really early from Ramsgate I arrived at Richmond station at just after 12noon. I set MapMyWalk and headed back towards Richmond Green. I planned on walking through the palace grounds enroute to the river.

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The Green, Richmond – in summer you can watch a game of cricket or many other events that take place

The palace has such an extraordinary history and much I like did when we lived in the area, I walked through the grounds as often as possible. Although the current buildings are but a shadow of their former glory, it is still a thrill to walk through the same gate as did kings and queens of England.

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Richmond Palace

The buildings are now privately owned, but hark back to more regal times; Palace Gate House, The King’s Wardrobe, the Trumpeter’s House & Lodge, Trumpeter’s Inn, the road I was on: Old Palace Yard. Just thrilling ๐Ÿ™‚

Walking the Thames Path, Richmond Palace
Walking the Thames Path, Richmond Palace
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Richmond Palace, home to kings and queens of yore

Following Old Palace Lane I passed the ever so popular row of cottages dating back to the first half of the 19th century. They’re all painted white and on the whole have a splendid display of wisteria adorning the walls. It’s almost an attraction in itself.

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Beautiful houses in Richmond; hung with wisteria – an attraction in itself

Back on the Thames Path

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Goodbye Kew, hello Richmond, see you soon Ham House

Reaching the river, I set off upstream along Cholmondeley Walk towards the bridge.

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Cholmondeley Walk, Richmond – heading upstream

As I reached the riverside an ice-cream van beckoned …so of course, since it was already midday, I bought myself a soft-serve with a flake…after all, why not? I stopped a couple of young ladies and asked them to please take a photo… Richmond, my favourite place outside of the City of London (well one of my ‘many’ favourite places LOL).

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start the day with an ice-cream? why not, it’s my birthday
Walking the Thames Path
St George’s Day – happy birthday from the days when I still had my 3 Days in London business ๐Ÿ™‚

Knock knock… I always tap each bridge at the end of my walk to say hello…I’ve arrived at my destination.

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Looking back at Richmond Bridge – upstream side

Of course I stopped to take some photos and the I was off….from this point onwards the path becomes very rural and you pass fields of cows, grassy parks, lots of leafy green trees and a long swathe of woodland.

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islands in the stream – passing Petersham meadows on the left, heading upstream
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riverside walking – the path gets very rural along this stretch

Not too far along and you will reach the magnificent Ham House.

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Old Father Thames lounging about in front of Ham House; a fabulous 16th century mansion – a must visit

Ham House, a 17th-century house set in formal gardens on the banks of the River Thames was completed by 1610 by Thomas Vavasour, an Elizabethan courtier and Knight Marshal to James I. It came to prominence during the 1670s as the home of Elizabeth (Murray) Maitland, the Duchess of Lauderdale and Countess of Dysart and her 2nd husband John Maitland, the Duke of Lauderdale. Managed by the National Trust, it is claimed to be “unique in Europe as the most complete survival of 17th century fashion and power” – the house retains many of it’s original Jacobean features and furniture. I have visited on a couple of occasions in the past, and can highly recommend a visit if you are in the area. It is magnificent, as are the gardens. Ham House has featured in quite a few films, namely; The Young Victoria (2009), An Englishman in New York (2009), Anna Karenina (2012) and Downton Abbey (2019) to name but a few. A statue of Father Thames, designed by the sculptor John Bacon in 1775, resides on the lawns at the front of the house leading up to the front door.

The view from the main gates stretches along a narrow road towards the river, and as I headed back to the Thames path I was lucky enough to mythical beast being led past.

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mythical beasts haunt the byways – what a beauty

Across the river, and almost opposite Ham House is Marble Hill House. Another magnificent historical house.  A Grade I listed Palladian villa, located in Twickenham it was built between 1724 and 1729 as the home of Henrietta Howard, Countess of Suffolk, mistress of King George II when he was Prince of Wales, who lived there until her death in July 1767. Marble Hill House is a museum and managed by English Heritage. Also so well worth a visit. You can reach that side of the river via the Hammerton’s Ferry – a fun ride across the river….

Although I couldn’t see it from the Ham side of the river, you will also find Orleans House Gallery – Orleans House was a Palladian villa built by the architect John James in 1710 near the Thames at Twickenham for the politician and diplomat James Johnston. It was subsequently named after the Duc d’Orlรฉans who stayed there in the early 19th century. And if you have the time and venture further inland (so to speak) you will find the extraordinary Strawberry Hill House (booking essential, oh my gosh….it’s exquisite). Strawberry Hill Houseโ€™s story begins in 1747, when Horace Walpole discovered and purchased โ€˜Choppโ€™d Straw Hallโ€™, one of the last remaining sites available on the banks of the Thames in fashionable Twickenham. He set about transforming what was then a couple of cottages into his vision of a โ€˜little Gothic castleโ€™ with pinnacles, battlements and a round tower. Thus Strawberry Hill House was born โ€“ the House became a tourist attraction in Walpoleโ€™s lifetime and beyond. Independently owned, this house is a must visit if you’re in the area and have the time.

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an overview of where I was and what there is to see – Richmond

And now that I’ve given you a virtual tour of these most magnificent houses, back the the Thames Path and some more lovely houses and a superb pub across the river

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looking across the river to Twickenham – The White Swan Pub is a super place for outdoor dining

On my right hand side (on the day, looking upstream) and fronting Twickenham old town is Eel Pie Island, a dual purpose island with a small nature reserve and boat yards, a number of houses, an eclectic mix of people amongst whom are a number of artists and was once famous for being the site of the Eel Pie Island Hotel, originally a genteel 19th-century three-storey building that later hosted ballroom dancing during the 1920s and 1930s, various jazz bands and then, in the 1960s, rock and R&B groups; including The Rolling Stones, The Who, Pink Floyd and Black Sabbath and Genesis, amongst many others. If you’re interested there’s loads of info on wikipedia.

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Eel Pie Island on the left looking downstream towards Richmond

I once lived in a gypsy caravan on the banks of the river on Eel Pie Island…only for about 4 months, but it was ever so amazing, and noisy LOL – besides the people at the pubs, the geese and ducks in the morning…woww! The island can be accessed via footbridge from the Twickenham side of the river and every year the artists open their studios for visitors.

Onwards…the path along this section is so beautiful and peaceful, with greenery everywhere you look. I was lucky to have the most amazing weather and the river ran cool and blue to my right as I marched along…..at peace with the world. At 13:40 I found a shady spot to relax and enjoy some tea and a sandwich.

To my left and stretching from Richmond as far as Teddington Lock and ending just before Kingston are the Ham Lands Nature Reserve; this beautiful 72-hectare nature reserve lies in the bend of the River Thames between Richmond and Kingston. The site is a mix of habitats, mainly woodland, scrub, grassland and wetlands that contain a diversity of plants and animals, including numerous rare species that are hard to find in London. There are meadow wildflowers that attract bees and butterflies and the reserve is teaming with bird life.

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huge swathes of land are left wild and natural for nature to enjoy

Heading towards Teddington Lock I passed a small branch of the Thames where I spotted some youngsters enjoying an outings on canoes; one of the Forest Schools – Little Squirrels at Thames Young Mariners. I’d love for my grandson to go to a Forest School.

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Forest Schools and water activities

On the right hand side I spotted the Teddington Obelisk and suddenly there it was; Teddington Lock.

How did I get there so quickly? LOL From Richmond Green to Teddington Lock (dating to 1857) took just 1.5 hours! Much quicker than I expected. Unfortunately access to the lock was closed so instead I climbed up to the bridge and viewed the lock from both the lock and the weir sides of the river. If I had crossed right over I would have found The Anglers Pub, a mid-18th century pub where I have enjoyed a good meal in the past. But not today….time was marching on, and so should I.

Back on the path I noticed one of the Port of London Authority motor boats go by. The River Thames is managed by the PLA from source right up to Teddington Lock; the river is considered to be the tidal right up to this lock; ergo part of the North Sea. Below Teddington Lock (about 55 miles or 89 kilometres upstream of the Thames Estuary), the river is subject to tidal activity from the North Sea. Before the lock was installed, the river was tidal as far as Staines, about 16 miles (26 km) upstream. Brooks, canals and rivers, within an area of 3,842 square miles (9,951 km2), combine to form 38 main tributaries feeding the Thames between its source and Teddington Lock. ref wikipedia

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Port of London authority taking care of the lock

The PLA’sย responsibilityย extends from aย pointย marked by an obelisk just downstream of Teddington Lock (the upstream limit of the tidal river) to the end of the Kent/Essex strait of the North Sea (between Margate to the south and Gunfleet Lighthouse, near Frinton-on-Sea, to the north,) a total of about 95 miles (150 km) ref wikipedia.

All the way long the Thames Path from Richmond (and in fact pretty much from Putney the previous day) I found trees abloom with spring blossoms and flowers. The bluebells in particular seems to be wantonly prolific this year.

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besides the gorgeous weather, the fields were abloom with colour and blossoms

This whole area is just stunning and with the glorious weather I felt on top of the world.

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like the Camino, you learn to spot even the smallest sign that you’re going in the right direction

I spotted a direction marker on high : Kingston 1/4 mile and Hampton Court 3 miles. Bring it on!

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nearing Kingston

I passed a beautiful old building on my left with the British Coat of Arms adoring the wall, but I didn’t think to stop and look at the building properly to find out more. (if you happen to know what this is or was, please leave a comment ๐Ÿ™‚ )

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wish I knew what this building is

Suddenly and without further ado, the greenery ended and I was back in concrete and suburbia. I had reached the outskirts of Kingston. Just past the building above I noticed a mama and papa duck guiding their babies ๐Ÿ™‚ sweet

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Mummy and Daddy herding the kids… what a ruckus they made ๐Ÿ™‚

I stopped off for a quick 10 minute rest in the Canbury Community Gardens. I’ve visited these lovely gardens previously when at a booking in Surbiton. It was now just on 14:50 and seriously I was amazed at how quickly I had reached Kingston.

A fantastic town to visit, Kingston was built at the first crossing point of the Thames upstream from London Bridge and a bridge still exists at the same site. It was this ‘great bridge’ that gave it its early importance in the 13th century. Kingston was occupied by the Romans, and later it was either a royal residence or a royal demesne. There is a record of a council held there in 838, at which Egbert of Wessex, King of Wessex, and his son Ethelwulf of Wessex were present. In the Domesday Book it was held by William the Conqueror. Kingston was called Cyninges tun in 838 AD, Chingestune in 1086, Kingeston in 1164, Kyngeston super Tamisiam in 1321 and Kingestowne upon Thames in 1589. The name means ‘the king’s manor or estate’ from the Old English words cyning and tun. It belonged to the king in Saxon times and was the earliest royal borough. According to the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, two tenth-century kings were consecrated in Kingston: ร†thelstan (925), and ร†thelred the Unready (978). There are certain other kings who are said to have been crowned there. The town of Kingston was granted a charter by King John in 1200, but the oldest one to survive is from 1208. The ancient market is still held daily in the Market Place, including today such produce as fish, jewellery, exotic foods, local foods and flowers. ref wikipedia We’ll be hearing more about bad King John later on in the journey; Stage 6 when I reach Magna Carta Island (which isn’t actually an island) enroute to Windsor.

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an alternative throne! Canvey Gardens, Kingston

I love Kingston, it’s history is absolutely fascinating. There is so much to see here if you are a history fanatic, as well as some wonderful modern features. Continuing on my way I passed a beautiful memorial to a young girl; Rosie Mitchell, just 15 years old.

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in memorium ๐Ÿ˜ฆ

I passed some hoardings and stopped to photograph the stunning artworks that adorned the walls. How talented some people are!

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fabulous street art, Kingston

Within the town, but not too far from the river, you will find Out of Order by David Mach, a sculpture in the form of twelve disused red telephone boxes that have been tipped up to lean against one another in an arrangement resembling dominoes.

Passing John Lewis building and just before the bridge is small plaza where on your left you can see a fabulous mural of Kingston and just before the bridge in the basement of John Lewis, a preserved 14th century undercroft (cellar) – a beautiful chequer board pattern of chalk blocks and flints, with half of its roof still surviving.

It’s at this point that you want to be crossing the river to the north side….back into Richmond-Upon-Thames. The reason for that is because if you stay on the south bank of the Thames Path you will once again encounter a lot of diversions….namely the Thames Sailing Club and Hart’s Boatyard and a minor reservoir and you’d have to walk along the very busy Portsmouth Road, as well past as a long row of houses.

So since I did not wish to walk along that road I crossed over via Kingston Bridge; aka Horse Fair Bridge and then left onto Barge Walk, which would take me along a lovely rural and shady route right up until Hampton Court Palace. Until Putney Bridge was opened in 1729, Kingston Bridge was the only crossing of the river between London Bridge and Staines Bridge. According to 16th-century antiquarian John Leland, the bridge existed in the centuries when Anglo-Saxon England existed (after Roman Britain and before 1066 Norman invasion). Kingston is known to have had a bridge as early as 1193; a flimsy wooden structure replaced by the current bridge in 1828.

The Barge Walk, a lovely wide riverside path, runs for 5 kms and follows a curve in the river offering lovely views of the river and the opposite bank, taking you from Kingston Bridge all the way to Hampton Court Bridge, enroute passing Raven’s Ait Island on the left (many a wedding reception is held on the island), and Hampton Court Home Park on the right. This historic towpath has been part of the Hampton Court estate for 500 years!

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‘You are here’ – bottom left hand side – where I was near Kingston Bridge…

There was a quicker way to reach the palace…diagonally across from Kington Bridge is Hampton Court palace ๐Ÿ™‚

It was wonderful to be able to stretch my legs and just walk. Although the Barge Walk is a shared path, there is plenty of space for everyone.

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Barge Walk – alongside Home Park; Hampton Court Palace
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ring for the ferry – Surbiton on the opposite side of the river

Lined with trees and natural habitat, Barge Walk takes you right into the bosom of nature with birdsong from every tree, butterflies and bees flitting here and there, cherry trees heavy with pink spring time blossoms.

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looking across the river to Surbiton and the reason you want to walk on the Hampton Court side of the Thames Path
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You are here (on the right near the island) – Home Park map, Hampton Court Palace

About midway there is a small gateway above a short flight of steps that will take you into the Home Park. I recall a most embarrassing incident that occurred here one fine day on one of my many walks along this section of the river… involving my bottom and stinging nettles – the operative word being ‘stinging’!! I’ll leave it to your imagination to figure out what happened!! LOL

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Home Park, looking a little bereft of greenery

Soon I reached the perimeter of the palace proper….a lovely red brick wall that led to the magnificent Tijou Screen, designed by French master blacksmith, Jean Tijou in 1690.

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beautiful trees provide shady respite on a hot day, the Barge Walk at Hampton Court – nearing the palace now
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approaching the Tijou Gates at Hampton Court Palace – in the distance Hampton Court Bridge

Finally, what I had looked forward to the whole day; first view of the beautiful Baroque palace and gardens.

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The Baroque Palace at Hampton Court

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The stunning Tijou Gates at Hampton Court Palace

Hampton Court Palace is a Grade I listed royal palace in the London Borough of Richmond upon Thames. Building of the (old) palace began in 1514 for Cardinal Thomas Wolsey, the chief minister of King Henry VIII. Although it seemed like such a very long way it is only 12 miles (19.3 kilometres) upstream of central London. Along with St James’ Palace, it is one of only two surviving palaces out of the many the king owned. Managed by the Historic Royal Palaces charity, the palace is currently in the possession of Queen Elizabeth II and the Crown.  King William III’s massive rebuilding and expansion work, which was intended to rival the Palace of Versailles, destroyed much of the Tudor palace. His work ceased in 1694, leaving the palace in two distinct contrasting architectural styles, domestic Tudor and Baroque. King George II was the last monarch to reside in the palace.

So near now to my journey’s end, it was just on 16:50 when I rounded the final corner to behold the extraordinary Tudor Palace; the wonderful Tudor Great Gatehouse. In the forecourt of the palace is where the Tudor Pull begins it’s historic journey downstream to the Tower of London. As I mentioned earlier, I had the great good fortune, via my dear friend Joe, Captain of the Trinity Tide, to participate in the flotilla one year. It was amazing. I must try to find some of the photos…they are all uploaded to an external hard-drive somewhere in my storage.

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Hampton Court Palace – the extraordinary Tudor Palace

The history of the palace is longer than my arm, so I won’t go into too much detail, suffice to say, it is magnificent and next to the Tower of London and Dover Castle, it is my absolute favourite palace in England and I practically lived here I visited so often. Do have a look on wikipedia if you want to find out more, it’s absolutely fascinating.

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Hampton Court Bridge ๐Ÿ™‚ hoorah

Heading up onto Hampton Court Bridge I stopped off at the ice-cream cart to buy my 2nd soft-serve and flake of the day! Only 2 you might say…..well I didn’t really have time for more LOL – it took me exactly 4 hours from bridge to bridge.

I quickly checked the train times and since I had a bit of time available I stopped on the bridge to admire the view…and then it was homeward bound. I was ever so keen to make the most of the glorious weather and just keep walking, but then I would only have gotten home on the last train….tomorrow would have to suffice.

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stunning poppies in the forecourt of Hampton Court Station

Did I ever say how much I love walking?

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He who feared he would not succeed sat still

There is no fear that I will ever sit still…..unless I’m watching a movie of course, or reading a book….although I don’t have much time for those atm. LOL

Stage 5; Hampton Court to Staines to follow shortly. What I was now finding is that it was taking me half the day just to reach my start point, so after Stage 5 I’m going to plan two-day stages and sleep over wherever suits best on the 1st day. I’m hoping to do Staines to Windsor on one day and Windsor to Maidenhead on another. Dates to be determined.

In case you missed the start of my journey as I walk the Thames Path from sea to source….

Prelude to walking the Thames Path

Stage 1a – walking the Thames Path : Erith to the Thames Barrier

Stage 1b – walking the Thames Path : Thames Barrier to Greenwich

Stage 2 – walking the Thames Path : Greenwich to Battersea Park

Stage 3 – walking the Thames Path : Battersea Park to Richmond

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Stage 3 : Battersea Park to Richmond 21.04.2021 – 27.02 kms – 6 hours 24 min – 40,316 steps – elevation 82 meters

Battersea Park to Richmond – what a joy. I was totally excited about this section of the Thames Path because it passes some of the places I love so much.

I left home fairly early and caught the train to Battersea Park station and retraced my steps to Rosery Gate.

Gatehouse Battersea Park – back where I ended..

Once in the park I followed the signs for the Thames Path till I reached Chelsea Gate and stopping only to take a photo of the bridge.

The Thames Path ๐Ÿ˜๐Ÿ˜ through Battersea Park

, I set off along the Sri Chinmoy Peace Mile. What a splendid section of the path, wide open space and stunning views of the river (in my opinion, the whole path should be like this ๐Ÿ˜‰)

The Sri Chinmoy Peace Mile – I forgot to actually take a photo of the mile ๐Ÿค”๐Ÿค”

As you head upstream with the river on your right you will arrive at the magnificent London Peace Pagoda. This beautiful structure is worth a few minutes of your time. Walk right around it to appreciate the sheer magnificence of this wonderful place – the Pagoda is dedicated to the realisation of Universal Peace. It’s beautiful.

The London Peace Pagoda
London Peace Pagoda

Never one to follow a straight route, I often go off-piste to explore and today, after viewing the Peace Pagoda i walked across to the fabulous fountains, and then back again.

Fountains in Battersea Park

Next up the stunning Albert Bridge – another of my favourite bridges, it looks ever so pretty when lit up at night. I stopped to take a pic of the guard house – Albert Bridge Notice ‘All troops must break step when marching over this bridge’ – that always gives me a chuckle when reading it….

Albert Bridge
All Troops must break step….

The path along this section is really lovely, well paved and clean as it passes office and apartment blocks on the left. I crossed a wee creek; Ransome’s Dock, via a footbridge, then stopped to look at the fabulous Atrate barge/sailing ship moored alongside the banks. I soon reached Battersea Bridge where I briefly stopped to photograph the beautiful swan sculpture by Catherine Marr-Johnson, these very naturalistic swans are captured in the act of taking flight…across the Thames…

Atrate
Swans taking flight…

The next Thames Path signpost read: Wandsworth Park 2.5 miles (4km) – okay so another hour then. Passing through an open space is another interesting sculpture: ‘In Town’ of a man, woman and child by John Ravera.

In Town – John Ravera

The pathway along this section is beautifully paved, wide and clean, passing a number of apartment blocks on the left and a view across the river to Chelsea Harbour Pier from whence Queen Elizabeth II set sail along the Thames for her Diamond Jubilee in 2012 (OMG!! that was 9 years ago…feels like just recently… where does the time go?).

The varied path…

Going strong at this stage I passed some fabulous houseboats moored alongside the banks and soon reached St. Mary’s Church Battersea, made famous by JWM Turner who painted scenes of the church from the opposite banks of the river.

St. Mary’s Church, Battersea

Parked in front of the church was a little coffee and sandwich trailer – @thefeelgoodbkry : The Feel Good BakeryFor every Feel Good sandwich you buy, a child in need of food will receive a free meal. Thatโ€™s it. Simple. โ€˜One Small Sandwich for man, one giant sandwich for mankindโ€™. I stopped to buy some coffee and a sweet treat, and got to chatting to the chap managing the show who told me more, so I did a bit of research and found more information on their website: We are a charitable bakery and youth development programme creating job opportunities for young people in South West London, simultaneously feeding children in Kenya and Romania one sandwich at a time through our “one-for-one” scheme. What a brilliant scheme.

The Feel Good Bakery

The church was open, so never one to miss an opportunity I popped in for a quick look around. St. Mary’s is the oldest church in Battersea and the original church was built around 800AD, the current church completed in 1777, designed by Joseph Dixon. The church has strong connections with art and literature through the artist and poet William Blake, who married Catherine Boucher there on 17 August 1782. ref wikipedia The interior was quite simple in relation to some of the churches I’ve visited, and the stained glass windows are exquisite. One such window commemorated Benedict Arnold who was ‘Sometime General in the arm of George Washington. So a strong American connection and the window depicts the American flag alongside the British flag.

St Mary’s Church Battersea

Outside, the view across the river from the little park is so peaceful. I could have stayed the day, but instead I sat on one of the benches for a short while to enjoy my coffee and pastry.

View from the porch of St. Mary’s

Setting off again I stopped a bit further on to look back and the tide was well out. Next up Battersea Railway Bridge…onwards

Looking back…

I passed the London Heliport which brought back joyous memories of my 60th birthday when my daughter surprised me with a helicopter flight over London for my birthday. It also brought back a memory of my father; it was the last time I spoke to him. He died a few years later. As I got back to the riverside after the diversion round the heliport and the hotel, I was treated to a helicopter coming in to land. ๐Ÿ™‚

London Helicopters

The path was still beautifully wide and paved, with attractive residential apartments lining the route. I don’t mind the type of development where the designers et al have had the courtesy to leave the path unhindered and free for walking.

Battersea Reach. It’s many years since I walked along this section of the river and I was pleasantly surprised. Besides the lovely ‘pathway’, the Thames Tidal planting added a wonderful element of nature to the area; the planting has seen the reintroduction of native plant species by planting them into the new river bank.

Tidal planting on the Thames

I passed Wandsworth Bridge and followed the path until my route was once again blocked by a great big industrial site. Ugh. And so another diversion, this time around the Western Riverside Waste Authority complex and then heading back to the river after crossing the River Wandle; it wasn’t very pretty and looked dark and forlorn with the tide out.

Poor River Wandle

The sign suggested that the next section was called ‘Riverside Walk’, but it was closed off for some dortbif construction. Instead, I meandered between high-rise apartment blocks and business premises passing some interesting sculptures.

Highrise living in Wandsworth

And then Wandsworth Park at the far end of which I had another diversion around a row of residential houses that lead right down to the banks of the river a small church and so to Putney Bridge. The route took me past some lovely houses and through an interesting open space.

Diversion in Wandsworth Park
The acorn sticker shows the way
Putney Bridge is in view

Wandsworth Park; a Grade II listed Edwardian park, is lovely, albeit not as lush as some of the parks you find dotted along the Thames. I did find the magnificent avenue of Lime and Plane trees absolutely stunning and stopped to puzzle over the sculpture – Pygmalion by Alan Thornhill. One of a number of similar sculptures dotted around on the Putney Sculpture Trail. I can’t say that they are they type of sculptures that appeal to me, but I’m guessing some people may like them.

Trees Wandsworth Park
Sculptures by Alan Thornhill
St Mary’s next to Putney Bridge – love the sundial

Once passed Putney Bridge the Thames Path became more rural with a lot more trees and greenery and gravel instead of paving or metalled surfaces. Its wonderful walking along these sections; fresh air, birdsong, flowers and peace….blissful.

Rural Thames path

I passed the Steve Fairbairn memorial on the Mile Post; a stone obelisk popularly known as the Mile Post, is exactly one mile from the Putney end of the Championship Course. I thought about my friend Joe who is Captain of the Trinity Tide for Trinity House in London. I’ve often watched the various London races he and his crew participate in on the Thames.

Memorial to Steve Fairbairn

Ahead of me I could see a gorgeous red-brick building with a domed tower….intrigued I wondered what it was – it’s a Harrods furniture depository LOL Such a fancy word and building for storing furniture…but hey it’s Harrods!

Harrods furniture depository

I saw lots of rowers on the river at this stage, many of the rowing clubs line the banks of the Thames from here on. The waters are a LOT calmer than in central London, with a lot less traffic so it makes a suitable environment for practising, and I could hear the various megaphones amplifying the coach’s voices. I love watching rowers on the river, but with time marching on, I had to march on too: it was already 3pm by now. I did however stop for my 2nd short break to eat and replenish.

Putney

The beautiful, albeit fragile Hammersmith Bridge is currently closed to all traffic due to structural weakness and repairs going on. The 133-year old bridge is made of cast iron which is brittle and can shatter. So for the forseeable future it is structurally unsafe. She is quite old after all; built in 1824!!

Hammersmith Bridge

Welcome to Richmond Upon Thames – why thank you!!! Yes!! At 15:18 I finally reached the border of Richmond. Whoo whoo not long to go now till journey’s end and my favourite place in Greater London. Richmond U-T is twinned with Fonteinebleau in France, Konstanz in Germany and Richmond, Virginia USA. Across the river I could see some of the pretty Georgian and Victorian houses that face the river. Richmond is an area with a rich tapestry of history.

Welcome to Richmond Upon Thames

On my walk, at various places, I noticed quite a few sad little memorials: remembering people who had drowned in the river. The Thames is deceptive and on the surface does not give an indication of the dangerous and fast currents just below. I’ve seen a large car being lifted up and carried off from a slipway in Richmond before…..the river is tidal and powerful and sometimes people forget that…with tragic consequences. Just across from that memorial is a sad little memorial to Freddie the Seal who was viciously attacked by a dog off it’s leash.

Memorial to Freddie the Seal

Dog owners KNOW that they are meant to keep their animals on a leash, but no! “oh, he’s never done that before” or “oh, my dog would never behave like that” until they do! And it always comes as ‘such’ a surprise!! The culprit’s owner in this instance actually got off with her misdemeanour….The owner of the dog which brutally mauled a popular Putney seal to death will not face charges, the Metropolitan Police has confirmed. Of course she won’t, she’s a barrister! Ugh. Makes me so mad. Why isn’t she facing charges…other people have??? Anyway, I digress. This type of injustice makes me furious. Stupid woman.

Back to the river…

The pathway is delicious at this stage, soft gritty gravel beneath your feet, lush green trees on both sides, Loverly!! I saw a memorial bench to David and Margaret Sharp “who did so much to create the Thames Path” Thank you ๐Ÿ™‚

Thank you David and Margaret

All too soon though you reach urban conglomeration again LOL and boof back to the metalled surfaces…hell on the feet. With Barnes Railway Bridge behind me and Chiswick Bridge just 1.3 miles ahead it was now 16:12 and in reality I still had quite a way to go before reaching Richmond Bridge.

Urban development, not always pretty

Not long after I reached Chiswick Bridge where the annual Oxford/Cambridge race; The Boat Race, passes the finish line. Many a year have I stood near the bridge to watch the end of the race as well as the preceding Watermen’s Race. In most years over 250,000 people watch the race from the banks of the river between Putney and Mortlake.

Budweiser – excellent location for a brewery
And a pub next door ๐Ÿ˜„๐Ÿ˜„๐Ÿป๐Ÿป
This is the spot where I would stand to watch the race finishes – Chiswick Bridge
Walking the Thames Path
Joe Lane Capt of the Trinity Tide and crew at the 2014 Boat Race

Not a brilliant image, I pulled it off instagram since I don’t have a copy in my storage – however….

Kew Bridge and Gardens was now just 2 miles ahead of me. I cannot tell you how many times I have walked this stretch of the river….it is beautiful. When we lived in Richmond I would often stroll along the banks of the Thames from Richmond Lock to Chiswick Bridge, just because I could. This stretch of the river as well as from Richmond Bridge to Hampton Court is so familiar to me and it felt really good to be walking here again.

At Kew Pier I noticed a concrete key-shaped sculpture….on investigation I found it is called ‘Cayho’ by Marc Folds. It’s really quite odd that I’ve never seen it before although it’s been there since 2000. I guess we see different things at different times. According to the sculptor, it’s called CAYHO, the AngloSaxon name for Kew – ‘key shaped piece of land’. How cool is that!

CAYHO

The Thames Path is a mostly shared space and you will cross ‘paths’ with fellow walkers, joggers, runners and cyclists, dog-walkers, parents pushing strollers or running after escaping toddlers.

Along this stretch of the river is where you will start to see some of the many little islands in the stream…there are dozens of islands dotting the path of the Thames; large and small, unoccupied and residential/business islands, eyots or aits. Many offer a refuge for wildlife, which personally I think is the best use for them.

Islands and rowers

Hello Kew! So nice to see yew!! ๐Ÿ™‚ Oh how much I love Kew.

The Pink Palace – Kew Gardens. My heartbeat escalated…yayyy I’m nearly there. By now it was 17:03 and I had been walking since 12:05pm. I have to say this again – this section of the river is absolutely gorgeous..any time of the year. Lush leafy trees, thick green grass, and heavenly views of the river…sunset on a clear night from this area is fab.u.lous! Its equally gorgeous in winter when the trees have shed their foliage, and of course spring and autumn are splendid.

Kew Palace – the Pink Palace

Kew Palace is the smallest of all the royal palaces, originally built as a fashionable mansion for wealthy London silk merchant, Samuel Fortrey in 1631. In the 1720s, the royal family, George II and Queen Caroline and their children arrived and took leases on the palace and several other houses in the near vicinity. It was a place where they could be private, domestic, and live normal lives unencumbered by the trappings of ceremony and deference. The gardens were cultivated as an idyllic pleasure ground. Later the house became a refuge for George III, when he fell ill and was thought to have become mad.

Kew Gardens is absolutely magnificent with so much to see and do. Their annual orchid festival is a feast of colour, you could never imagine there were so many varieties of orchids. I really must visit again. At this point the pathway is wide with edges m’dear! Ever so posh territory now! Hah! Here too, gorgeous clumps of bluebells decorated the verges…seriously, I’m sure the colours of the flowers are more vibrant this year! All flowers and blossoms….they all seems so much brighter.

A peek at Kew Gardens near the riverside

I stopped briefly to look back and in the far distance I could see the apartment block towers of Putney, or is it Barnes? Across the river is Syon House, not visible from here, but you can see the pretty pink structure that is the Old Pavillion in Old Isleworth, close to Syon Park.

Across the river, the Old Pavilion

Within a few minutes I was walking past Richmond Lock – the first of the locks on the tidal Thames, it controls the river at high tide and prevents, mostly, flooding of Richmond and higher places upstream. However…if you lived in Richmond, Twickenham or St Margaret’s, you’ll know for sure that at high tide, cars that are parked along the riverside get swamped, and I’ve even seen a car lifted up by the river from a slipway and sent sailing off towards the sea…it would likely get stuck at the lock, but just imagine your car sailing down the river and through London central!!

I’ve had some hilarious moments at high tide, and one time had to be rescued off the metal barrier after I decided it would be a good idea to walk along it to access the bridge. I very quickly realised the folly of my endeavour hanging precariously over the top rail till the gentleman who lived in the nearest barge waded through the water in his knee high wellies and carried me off. My daughter captured the incident on camera for posterity ๐Ÿคช๐Ÿคช๐Ÿคช๐Ÿคช Although she was laughing so much I’m surprised she was able to keep the camera steady.

Richmond Lock

Then I was crossing the Greenwich Meridian line that runs across through the Old Deer Park (a fragment of the land connected to Richmond Palace, named from the hunting park created by James I in 1604) and marked with a metallic strip across the path so you don’t miss it. The Kingโ€™s Observatory, located in the Old Deer Park, Richmond Surrey, was commissioned in 1769 by King George III, a keen amateur astronomer. The Observatory cupola, housing its telescope, is now the oldest of its type in the world.

Old Deer Park, hunting ground of Kings and Queens
Greenwich Mean Time

I soon passed The Swan Pub and Asgill House and remembered so many happy evenings and days in this area; sitting on the edge of the riverside, legs dangling towards the river and watching as it rose quickly, higher and higher till it touched your feet and you had to move pretty pronto or get a wet bottom LOL I also remember walking, no shoes on, along this section of the path wading through the water at high tide. Many of the businesses that line the path have high water marks on their doors where the high tide had intruded.

The Swan Pub, Richmond and Asgill House

That path, Cholmondeley Walk, in the bottom left image is sometimes under 2-3 feet of water at high tide.

I had planned to meet a friend from instagram at the bridge at 6pm, and it was now just after…so I hurried along, passing a couple dancing to flamenco music…the charms of the Richmond Riverside. Always something musical happening.

Dancing at Richmond Riverside

And then…journey’s end!! Hoorah! At exactly 18:04 I touched the bridge…..I had made it. Stage 3 done and dusted.

Richmond Bridge

I was glad though that it wasn’t high tide right then or I’d have had to make a big diversion through town. Veevs and I connected at last and because it was already quite late, we headed for the station via The Green, but first a short diversion to go past Richmond Palace.

Richmond Palace

Richmond Palace is a fantastic place, albeit a lot smaller than it was originally, once a royal home erected about 1501 by Henry VII of England (n 1509 Henry VII died at Richmond Palace), Richmond Palace was a favourite home of Queen Elizabeth, who died there on 24 March 1603. It remained a residence of the kings and queens of England until the death of Charles I in 1649 after which it was sold and eventually fell into disrepair. Only vestigial traces survive, most notably the Gatehouse, the King’s Wardrobe, The Trumpeter’s House etc…all now private residences. It even has connections to Chaucer:  In 1368 Geoffrey Chaucer served as a yeoman at Sheen. Queen Mary I, after her marriage to Phillip II of Spain, spent her honeymoon there. Richmond Palace was one of the first buildings in history to be equipped with a flushing lavatory, invented by Elizabeth I’s godson, Sir John Harington. There is so much history attached to the palace and I can’t possibly list it all, so I’ve added a link to wikipedia in case you’re interested to read more than just the snippets I’ve included above.

I bought my ticket home and we had just enough time for a quick chat while I quenched my thirst with a hot chocolate ๐Ÿ™‚ of course. I think I deserved it.

Battersea Park to Richmond. What a terrific walk and section of the river. Although I was squeezed for time and didn’t have much chance to dilly dally, I did stop a few times for short breaks. The riverside from Putney onwards is so inviting and if you can find a free bench to sit on, there are lots of little spaces and hollows where you could find a fallen log or boulder to sit on and while away the time.

Read more about Stage 2 of my walk along the Thames Path

Stage 4 – Richmond to Hampton Court. Bring it on! Another of my most favourite sections of the river.

“The Thames is liquid history”. John Burns

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