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Posts Tagged ‘national trails England’

Stage 6 – Staines-Upon-Thames to Windsor 11.06.2021 – 20.46 kms – 6 hours 57 minutes – 39,770 steps – elevation 73 meters

After a really hectic week of walking and taking my grandson on outings, plus a 19 km jaunt along the Saxon Shore Way and a brief visit to Sheppey Island, on Thursday 10th June I impulsively decided to walk another 2 stages of the Thames Path! I had planned on going up to London on Saturday 12th for Trooping the Colour, but fortunately I thought to check their website, only to discover that due to the continued lockdown, they had decided to hold the ceremony in Windsor again this year. And at that moment I decided to do the next 2 stages of the Thames Path; Staines-Upon-Thames to Windsor on the 11th and Windsor to Maidenhead on the 12th. Change of plans…

Walking the Saxon Shore Way
Walking the Saxon Shore Way

I quickly rejigged my calendar and rearranged my weekend plans, then a mad scramble to book accommodation ensued and at literally just on 9pm Thursday night I secured an Airbnb booking close to The Long Walk. I hastily packed my backpack with the absolute minimum requirements and prepared some food for the next day. Hoorah! I was off on the next 2 stages of my adventure. As mentioned in Stage 5, it was taking longer and longer to reach my starting point (the end point of my previous stage) and made more sense to stay overnight on day 1 and pick up again on day 2. The idea this time was to walk Stage 6: Staines to Windsor, stay overnight, watch as much of Trooping the Colour as I could see

after which I set off at approximately 1pm for Maidenhead, planning/hoping to arrive there relatively early for the long trip home. However, due to faffing around at the Three Store in Windsor for 2 hours, I missed the earlier train! LOL

The plans of mice and (wo)men….do not always work to plan! But that’s what I love about my life…I can change my plans any time I like 🙂

I left home early to get the 09:25 train as advised previously by the station attendant, and travelled to Staines via Vauxhall. Here things went a little awry…trains were either late, cancelled altogether or didn’t stop at the station. Total chaos reigned. Eventually sometime after 12noon, I finally boarded a train bound for Weybridge, stopping at Staines and arrived at just after 1pm. I made haste towards the river, reaching the railway bridge at 13:11 (now 34 minutes behind schedule!)

Staines Railway Bridge

Staines was the end of the tidal Thames until 1812 when the downstream locks were built. Staines Railway Bridge was built in 1856 and painted with yellow stripes in 1995 to stop swans from flying into it. ref Cicerone guide book.

Following the same route as when I first reached Staines on the 24th April at the end of Stage 5, I stopped to photograph the houses by the riverside that I passed at that time

So pretty, and there’s Staines Bridge in the distance
Reminds me of Bermuda, so gorgeous and a fab view

Then a quick photoshoot (of course 😁😁) of all the interesting sculptures and the London Stone

The London Stone

The London Stone marks the end of the City of London’s river jurisdiction (1197-1857) and although it has been moved a few times in the area, it has stood in Staines-Upon-Thames since 1285. The Lord Mayor of London made an annual visit to touch the stone with a sword. (the London Stone at Staines, built in 1285 marked the customs limit of the Thames and the City of London’s jurisdiction – the Corporation acquired these rights from the Crown in 1197 in the reign of King Richard I and held them until 1857 when the Thames Conservancy was formed).

After saying hello to the bridge, I meandered along the north bank and found a shady spot opposite Church Island to have my lunch.

Perfect view, Church Island to my right and the opposite bank where I’ll soon be walking

It was so relaxing just sitting watching the river and the world go by, that I could have stayed all day.

Top pic behind me. Bottom pic looking towards Church Island

I didn’t tarry too long, time was passing and so I set off back to the bridge

Thames Path Over Bridge – sounds like the title of a book 😄

Following the instructions in the guide book I crossed over to the opposite bank and went in search of a City of London coal tax post, which the author said was opposite the London stone…it wasn’t…I used up 2.92 kms and 30 minutes searching for it before giving up and continuing my walk – but not before photographing a couple of items that could possibly have been it, but weren’t….

#notthecoaltaxpost

I did eventually come across what I suspect is what he was talking about….but it wasn’t opposite the London Stone!! it was in fact, a way further upstream of the bridge on the south bank, whereas the London Stone is downstream of the bridge on the north bank. Hmmm

I was really excited to be walking along this section and looking forward to visiting the Magna Carta memorial…which I thought was on an island but wasn’t. It was actually very easy to visit once I knew how!! LOL As with all things you read in the guide books, the reality is very different to what you imagine it would be like. But that was still to come…also a lot further along than I imagined.

I would also be passing from Surrey into Berkshire on this stage, the 4th county since I started my journey at 1. Erith in Kent 2. Greater London 3. Surrey and 4. Berkshire. Of course there are a greater number of boroughs that I passed through.

Even though Staines is quite far from London, especially if you follow the course of the river, there is still a tremendous amount of history alongside the banks, and as I had discovered at Walton-Upon-Thames, the Vikings travelled the distance to plunder the abbeys. In 871 Vikings, from the word vikingr meaning raider or explorer, attacked Reading before making their way along the Thames to London at the end of the year. Setting off from Staines across the fields they sacked Chertsey Abbey, setting fire to the buildings and stealing valuables. It is said that Abbot Beocca, Presbyter Ethor and 90 monks were murdered, however, it is unclear whether the deaths all occurred in the 871 raid, or whether the number is a total from three attacks on the abbey. ref Chertsey Museum

The brick path from the bridge to the river’s edge is lovely and quite decorative. The path from here onwards is also very rural with lots of beautiful green trees and rich undergrowth and I passed through many shady copses and open fields, as well as alongside cultivated gardens that ran right down to the riverside.

The paved pathway leading to the river and the Thames Path
Onwards….Windsor, I’m on my way!!

Crossing a lovely arched bridge over a little inlet

You can now see Church Island on the right from a different angle – LOVE that house!

a minute later I plunged into a world of leafy green foliage and shade.

Blissful walking environment

This continued for a few minutes and lo and behold….the City of London Coal Tax post…at least I think it was! I did a bit of research and found this on wikipedia Coaltax posts are boundary marker posts found in southern England. They were erected in the 1860s and form an irregular loop between 12 and 18 miles from London to mark the points where taxes on coal were due to the Corporation of London. There were originally around 280 posts of which around 210 remain. So yes, I do believe this was (possibly) the coal tax post…

Coal Tax post me thinks!

The path continued with the river in close proximity through leafy green glades, past islands, across bridges, past creeks and canal boats. Tall trees abounded and provided the most glorious shade as the gravel path wound it’s way; turning this way and that way (reminded me of the nursery rhyme that my grandson loves)

the bridge before the bridge…the hum of traffic from the M25 was already quite loud

I soon reached and passed beneath Runneymede Bridge and the M25….the traffic noise was astounding and jarred on the senses. I did though enjoy the image presented by the architecture of the underpass.

I saw an information board that told me about a Bronze Age Settlement that has been discovered in 1975 during development of the M25 motorway. Fragments of pottery dating to 750BC were spotted by local archaeologists. Before the Runnymede Bridge excavations, little was known about late prehistoric South East England prior to the Iron Age. From the artefacts discovered, it is clear that the river played a fundamental role in the lives of our Bronze Age ancestors. Excavation has shown that the site includes a large number of post holes and a wattle and daub spread including a double row of in-situ pile driven timber uprights forming a river frontage. The finds recovered include part of a spearhead and socketed axe fragment, pins, ‘buttons’, rings, possible pommel, two pairs of tweezers, amber beads, spindle whorls, a loom weight and worked bone objects. This bronze assemblage was dated to the 9th-8th century BC.

now just a field of wild flowers…but haunted by the spirits of our ancestors

Absolutely fascinating! It gave me goosebumps to look out over the field of wild grasses and flowers and try to imagine the people who lived there so many centuries before. Magic

A short few paces on and I passed the first of the locks on this section; Bell Weir Lock – a pretty little island. The lock is named after its very first lock keeper, Charles Bell, who was employed by the Thames Navigation Commissioners in 1917. He earned a good wage of £4 per month, but for this he had to provide his own residence. He already owned a house close by, so he had no problems. Charles fought in the first World War but sadly, he didn’t return. His wife was believed to have taken over the job. Several years ago a rare bald eagle was sighted here. At the same time an Irish landowner had lost one and discovered it was the same bird! He travelled to Bell Weir, caught the bird and took it home to Ireland.

Bell Weir Lock

Imagine my delight when I spotted the fantastic Magna Carta mural on the wall of the Lockmaster’s house – brought back many wonderful memories of being a part of the Magna Carta flotilla from Datchet via Windsor to Runneymede meadows back in 2015! Again thanks to my very special friend Joe Lane who invited me along to join them on the Trinity Tide. A magical day and a great honour to be part of the celebrations. I was in a daze of delight the whole day!

Magna Carta

Prominent in my thoughts the whole day was how I was going to reach the Magna Carta Memorial – I could be forgiven for being confused when looking at the picture board!! It caused just a little bit (a lot) of stress…in fact I thought I had bypassed it altogether! but no….if I had but studied the board a little closer, I would have seen that the memorial was still to come and very accessible.

Across the river I spotted a really beautiful building, looked like a hotel really, and what appeared to be a weir with probably a pump house….but no matter how much searching I’ve done on google maps and the web, I am quite unable to find out what it is….intriguing and more than a little frustrating to not know what it is!.

what is this place?

As with the Stage 5, there are some stunning houses on very large properties along this section of the river. I saw one in particular that I just loved!

oh my word…how much I love this house

Near the Runnymede Boatyard I saw a number of quirky canal boats moored alongside the banks…absolutely gorgeous. Clearly they are more permanent residents if the gardens are anything to go by. They provided a stunning array of colours and designs. Apparently there is a mile of these boats along this stretch. Woww.

It looks so quaint and quirky, each boat completely different to the next
how different a lifestyle this must be…away from the noise of civilization, but close to your neighbour!

Here the path changes again and runs alongside the river across from ‘The Island’ which according to google maps is not a complete island….there were however some gorgeous houses that fronted the river…wow. That side of the river is Wraysbury. It looks really lovely.

I soon reached the Runnymede Pleasure Grounds and rather than taking a shortcut across the field to the statue of Queen Elizabeth II, I followed the path as it rounded a rather large bend in the river. One thing for sure that I’m learning about this river; The Thames, is that it is anything but straight!!

Runnymead Pleasure Grounds

It is an incredibly beautiful stretch (kind of a horse-shoe shape) and by and by I reached the QEII statue. I loved the history timelines engraved on the flagstones and endeavoured to photograph them all…hah!

Looks more like Princess Anne than Queen Elizabeth II
the dates freak me out LOL
Magna Carta – meaning: Great Charter. I love how French sounds so exotic, but translated into English…so simple (boring LOL)

I’m not entirely sure that the essence of the Magna Carta is upheld today…

leaving Runnymead Pleasure Grounds behind me

Runnymede – I was getting closer to the memorial, but still for the life of me I could not see it. I didn’t dare use my google maps function on my phone coz it chews battery life, and even though I had a spare charger, I have a fear of losing battery power….so I just carried on and hope for the best. I needn’t have worried.

If you haven’t yet been to the Magna Carta Memorial and you happen to be walking the Thames Path, and wondering where the memorial is and how to get there…it is a lot easier than I thought.

I got really excited when I saw this sign!!

When the barons gathered here in 1215 to meet King John on Runnymede, they had to ford the river at Staines – the first bridge was built 7 years later. ref Cicerone guidebook.

Across the river I could see a small section of the Ankerwycke Abbey. But sadly not the Yew Tree…I’ll have to go back and approach from the other side of the river some other time.

the ruins of Ankerwyke Abbey

Meanwhile….I was getting closer to achieving my dream of visiting the Magna Carta Memorial….6 years is a long wait!

And finally, there it was. And so easy to get to LOL after all my stress of missing it.

Simply cross the road at the traffic lights by the National Trust buildings and a short walk across the fields and there it was

cross here 🙂
follow this path

It was ever so worth the extra 2.5 km walk there and back. I met a delightful couple who were visiting the site, and we ended up chatting for well over 30 minutes while they asked questions, and I regaled them with snippets from my many journeys around the UK on the Camino. The lady of the couple said she was really keen to take up with long distance walking but didn’t want to go on her own….and I’m like “OMG that’s my ideal scenario!” She was already a member of Ramblers, but wanted to try something a little less crowded. She happened to say that one of the things with walking in a big group, is that you have to keep to their schedule…and that is exactly why I walk on my own. If I want to go off on a tangent to explore or spend an hour in a particular spot…then I am answerable to no-one.

Back to the memorial….it was everything I imagined and more. I got very emotional standing there and thought of my friend Joe (he has no idea just how very grateful I am that he invited me along, it was certainly one of the highlights of my life in the UK).

The Magna Carta Memorial – Symbol of Freedom Under Law

I took my time to read the information boards at the gate, walked around the memorial in a clockwise direction and mounted the steps to read the engravings. Absolutely thrilling.

enroute to the Magna Carta memorial is this amazing oak tree planted in 1987 with soil from Jamestown, Virginia

From there, and on the way back to the road I first stopped to admire the sculpture in the field; the 12 chairs depicting the barons at their meeting with King John…they are terrific

a lovely ensemble of decorative chairs representing the barons

And then I visited the J F Kennedy Memorial which is beautiful and worth the fairly steep climb.

a tiny piece of America in England

On my way back to the gates I noticed a lot of yellow ribbons tied to the branches of some trees, fluttering in the wind. Intrigued I walked over for a closer look, and as with the memorial on the Albert Embankment on Stage 2 through London, my heart contracted and I was close to tears. Each ribbon depicts someone who has died from Covid-19. Oh my gosh, so so sad…and really heart-wrenching to see the hundreds of ribbons each with a name and a date. I saw a ribbon lying on the ground all spattered with mud, so picked it up and dusted it off as best I could, then tied it back onto the branch. These memorials really bring home the reality of the staggering number of people who have died since March 2020.

incredibly poignant, and a real whack to the heart

Feeling pensive, and grateful for my health, I meandered over to the National Trust tearoom, only to find them locking the door!! LOL my luck., I should have stopped there first…but then I will have missed that lovely couple I chatted to earlier. Cést la vie. I used the facilities instead and hope I could find some water somewhere…it was another hot day and I had already used up all my supplies.

Back at the river, at the boatyard, as I walked past two gentlemen sat on the riverside, I asked if they knew where I could top up my water…what a gentleman….he gave me a bottle of water 🙂 I could have kissed him…but then he might have turned into a frog! I was delighted to spot a wee bunny in a field to my left…I had to backtrack to get a photo to show my grandson, and amazed that the bunny actually stayed put and allowed me to snap away… I thought for sure it would bound off into the undergrowth at my approach. But the fence…

Boom! Suddenly I was in Old Windsor. whoo hoo!! time 16:47 and I had been walking and exploring for nearly 4 hours. I had wanted to visit the old church mentioned in the guide book, but frankly I was quite tired by then, so decided to leave it for another time.

Old Windsor

The first Windsor, what we now know as old Windsor, grew up just to the south west of this lock. It was a fortified, national centre for the Saxons. Edward the Confessor had his palace only 3oo meters from here. After the Norman Conquest, King William continued to use Kingsbury, its church and surrounding buildings as a council place and hunting centre. The name Windsor may derive from ‘windles ora’ meaning a bank with a windlass.

The path ran right alongside the river here and there were some splendid boats moored up on the opposite bank of the river.

Dark gloomy clouds hung heavy on the horizon and I hoped that I wasn’t going to be subjected to a shower (not yet anyway).

I’ve said this before….and it’s worth repeating, the Thames Path is varied!!

Check this cute little canalboat…in the background on the opposite bank is a capsized boat. Poor old thing. I saw quite a few dilapidated and abandoned boats alongside the river bank. I often wonder why they have just been left there to rot.

Up and down, around and switchback, the path is a bit like a rollercoaster, and took me through some beautiful green areas.

Suddenly I reached Old Windsor Lock…getting closer to ‘new’ Windsor!!

Walking the Thames Path
Old Windsor Lock – look at the diagram of the river LOL twisting and winding

Continuing on my way I passed what I mistakenly thought was the Albert Bridge – it was in fact Ham Lane leading to Ham Island, which on closer inspection via google maps appears to have been created by another cut-through to avoid a large bend in the river… another section to try and walk at some stage then! Apparently I was walking in an area called Saint George’s Farm – okayyy, cool!

I walked over to the middle of the bridge to capture the scene upstream and downstream – looks the same either way.

This section of the path wound it’s way through shoulder height grasses and wild flowers – a home for the bees and butterflies. Magical.

I was just about to sit down at this bench when a little black and white spaniel came bounding out of the underbrush trailing all manner of greenery and nearly gave me heart-failure LOL It bounded off along the path and joined an elderly gentleman I had seen walking ahead of me – one of very few people I encountered on the path.

I spent a few minutes at the bench relaxing, enjoying some welcome tea and sandwich and soaking up the tranquillity…birdsong the only sounds.

Albert Bridge. Here I had to cross over to the north bank once again because her Maj owns the next section all the way into town…so there! Prince Albert’s Walk m’dear!

I stopped at the top of the bridge to photograph the river, it’s so beautiful and looks so tranquil. Just around that bend, and another larger loop in the river, but not too far upstream is Windsor Castle and my bed for the night. Hoorah!

Around that bend…and the next 😉

Down and around and under the bridge I was now on the north side of the river. The bridge design is really pretty.

Albert Bridge

After crossing beneath the bridge the path meandered along past overgrown edges, a veritable plethora of plants. Over the fence a farmers field edged with a corridor of wild flowers for birds, bees and butterflies and all our wonderful wildlife that need this kind of habitat to thrive. Poppies waved their bright red heads, a stunning palette against the multi-colours of green.

In the distance I could see the red tiled roof of the farmhouse of Southlea Farm (Slough) … I’m nearing Datchet now.

On my left a thick line of shrubs covered in spider webs…a bit like a dusty cloak. I’ve always been intrigued by these webs so did a bit of research…as it turns out, it’s caterpillars that build these webs. Who knew 🤔🤔

Soon the path turned away from the river, although along this short section I couldn’t really see the river anyway the undergrowth and overgrowth was so thick…but I knew it was there. Just before the B3021, the path took a sharp left (do not go through the gate said the guidebook, but turn left) and so I walked into Datchet.

It was horrible, lots of traffic, a very narrow pathway, overgrown hedges almost pushing you to step onto the roadway.

I ended up skirting a very very narrow verge since I hadn’t been able to cross the road. The guidebook didn’t say anything about crossing over so I carried on assuming the sidewalk would continue….it didn’t. Fortunately no big trucks came past and I managed to reach safety without mishap.

looking back – not fun to walk on what turned out to be the wrong side of the road…but I got through

A brief excursion onto The Green, which was not on the official Thames Path, but it looked pretty and offered brief respite from the traffic.

From there I did cross over the road, only to have to cross back over again not much further on. The guidebook could be updated here with more information. As it is, I just navigated by my nose until I spotted a direction marker pointing me in the right direction.

check out that traffic….I had to squeeze my way across

Along a short path, across a wee bridge alongside the Dachet Golf Club and once again I was plunged into a world of green, the traffic now barely a whisper.

Across the river, now visible again, I could see her Maj’s secret hideaway LOL

Do you think Her Majesty hides away here sometimes?

Anddd another flight of stairs..this time onto Victoria Bridge, and once again I returned to the south bank of the Thames. Looking back downstream from the top of the bridge the difference in vegetation between the two sides of the river is quite remarkable. On the left: an overgrown jungle of trees, shrubbery, flowers and grasses, and to my right her Maj’s perfectly manicured lawns, the trees marching in an orderly row evenly paced as they disappear around the bend. Someone needs to tell herself that we need wildlife corridors for the birds and the bees!

Her Majesty’s Lawns vs Nature

Hoorah!!! My first glimpse of Windsor Castle! From Victoria Bridge

I followed the directions in the guide book, although it wasn’t really necessary…but

Then things took a turn for the worse…actually not really, it just felt like that at the time. By this time I was tired and footsore, desperate for a cup of tea and in no mood to be redirected around construction sites. How inconsiderate of them to go and put up fencing and stuff.. LOL grumpy granny was out her box!!

Home Park….and here I had to force my way through a jungle of overgrowth my panga swiping left and right to forge a way through….LOL sorry my mind went off on a tangent there. As you may well imagine, my vocabulary once again took a turn for the worse…if I were a witch, workmen would be dropping around me like flies! Turns out they’re repairing Black Potts Ait bridge.. or something like that.

Diversion is the spice (chilli 🌶) of life

Once past the fencing I made my way diagonally across Home Park to the river and met up with the Thames Path once again. Very pretty along this section…so much green and so tranquil.

I walked beneath the railway line just as a train rumbled past. So glad I don’t have to rush to catch a train home tonight!

still going in the right direction!

I passed Romney Lock, but from the state of it I’d say it’s not in much use anymore.

Romney Lock

A metalled road soon took over from the lovely gravel pathway and hey ho, back in the urban jungle once again.

And there just ahead of me!!!! Wheyyy heyy heyyy my next sighting of Windsor Castle!! Hoorah.

Relax Lizzie, I’m almost there, put the kettle on sweetie 🙂 So exciting to finally see the towers of the castle. But first I had to traverse this metalled road and pass some ugly industrial sites/sights!!

The path suddenly veered away to the right and thankfully I was once again surrounded by green with a small canal to my right. After looking at google maps I can see that it’s a small cut-away from the main river that splits around Romney Lock.

Walking alongside the Thames (Thameside) I could see Windsor Bridge in the distance…not long to go now!

Windsor Bridge in the distance
Stopping to look back from whence I had come…the railway bridge in the distance

Lookie lookie!!!! What can I see? Without further ado, I was there…in Windsor. Glimpses of the castle as I walked towards the bridge

Knock knock! I’m here…..journey’s end! Hoorah. Windsor Bridge: designed by Charles Hollis and opened in 1824. Freed from tolls by the action of Joseph Taylor in 1898. Closed to vehicles in 1970. How sensible.

Windsor Bridge

Just across the bridge is Eton where our bonnie Princes William and Harry attended college. I mean why not? Granny’s pad was just up the road…makes sense really.

Looking towards Eton

I passed this really gorgeous old building on my way in…

Bell and The Dragon – serving food since the 11th century

And still light enough to have a bit of an explore and and ice-cream – come on! you knew there would be an ice-cream at the end of this! Actually, I asked a chap walking by if he would please take a photo of me with my ice-cream, in front of the castle… as you know, my selfies are not that good. But I’m not quite sure he got the idea of a good photo…and much of the pavement, my feet and legs are in the pic, but not much of the top of the castle. Oh well. I did a selfie anyway…rubbish as always. I might concede defeat and get one of those gadgets that allows you to take selfies when you have short arms. Oh wait! I have one. My daughter bought it for me. I hate it! LOL

if I look like I’m grimacing, it’s because I was – come on already, just take the photo!!

Windsor Castle. As castles go, this one is superb! Talk about intimidating! But it’s also beautiful and I love it! A quick few pics and then it was time to find my Airbnb.

Windsor Castle : Windsor Castle is the oldest and largest occupied castle in the world. Founded by William the Conqueror in the 11th century, it has since been the home of 39 monarchs. Today The Queen spends most of her private weekends at the Castle. In fact she was home this weekend for her Official Birthday Parade and to meet President Joe Biden and Dr Jill Biden.

I had messaged my host ahead to say that I would be there about 7pm, as it turns out I got there just on 8pm! Usually when I get to a ‘new’ place I always check in and then go out and explore…but not tonight! My fabulous host made me a much appreciated cup of tea and I had my cup-a-soup and a slice of bread. Then sat in her garden for 30 minutes or so just to unwind, after which I bade them goodnight, had a shower and fell into bed….absolutely knackered!

Another fantastic day! Gosh I do love walking. Even though my feet ache and I feel like I’ve been run over by a truck by day’s end, I love to discover new places, sights and scenes. Once again I had it all; fantastic weather, wonderful scenery – albeit very different to stage 5, pretty bridges, a few locks, and a historic and world-famous castle at the end of the day…and an ice-cream. I am just a bit put-out though…Lizzie forgot I was coming and made other arrangements. So rude!

What a wonderful day!!

May I add as a caveat to what I said about walking on my own…the only exceptions I’m prepared to make are walking with two of my younger sisters who are both seasoned long-distance walkers/cyclists/hikers and understand the dynamics.

My favourite travel quote

If you missed the beginning of my journey, I started Stage 1 from Erith

I continued my journey with Stage 7 on 12th June…post hopefully to follow soon 😉🚶‍♀️🚶‍♀️

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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 🙂 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 ‘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! 😃 – 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 🐕😍 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 ☺💙

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

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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..🚶‍♀️🚶‍♀️

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 😉) 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 😀

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 🙄🙄

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!! 🙂 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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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 (🤣🤣🤣my 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.

walking the thames path
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.

walking the thames path
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 🙂

Walking the Thames Path, Richmond Palace
Walking the Thames Path, Richmond Palace
walking the thames path
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 🙂

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’Orléans 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 House’s story begins in 1747, when Horace Walpole discovered and purchased ‘Chopp’d Straw Hall’, 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 ‘little Gothic castle’ with pinnacles, battlements and a round tower. Thus Strawberry Hill House was born – the House became a tourist attraction in Walpole’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.

walking the thames path
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

walking the thames path
Port of London authority taking care of the lock

The PLA’s responsibility extends from a point 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 🙂 )

walking the thames path
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 🙂 sweet

walking the thames path
Mummy and Daddy herding the kids… what a ruckus they made 🙂

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: Æthelstan (925), and Æthelred 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.

walking the thames path
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.

walking the thames path
in memorium 😦

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

walking the thames path
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!

walking the thames path, hampton court palace
‘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 🙂

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.

walking the thames path, hampton court palace
Barge Walk – alongside Home Park; Hampton Court Palace
walking the thames path, hampton court palace
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.

walking the thames path, hampton court palace
looking across the river to Surbiton and the reason you want to walk on the Hampton Court side of the Thames Path
walking the thames path, hampton court palace
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

walking the thames path, hampton court palace
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.

walking the thames path, hampton court palace
beautiful trees provide shady respite on a hot day, the Barge Walk at Hampton Court – nearing the palace now
walking the thames path, hampton court palace
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.

walking the thames path, hampton court palace
The Baroque Palace at Hampton Court

walking the thames path, hampton court palace
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.

walking the thames path, hampton court palace
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.

walking the thames path, hampton court palace
Hampton Court Bridge 🙂 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.

walking the thames path, hampton court palace
stunning poppies in the forecourt of Hampton Court Station

Did I ever say how much I love walking?

walking the thames path
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 😝😝 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 😉)

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

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. That’s it. Simple. ‘One Small Sandwich for man, one giant sandwich for mankind’. 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. 🙂

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 🙂

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 😄😄🍻🍻
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!! 🙂 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 🤪🤪🤪🤪 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 King’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 🙂 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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Stage 2 : Greenwich to Battersea Park 18.04.2021 – 22.01 kms – 6 hours 20 min – 38,376 steps – elevation 102 meters

As mentioned in my progress report this stage too was longer than I originally planned, but I wanted to push through as far as possible and thereby get further along and also shorten a later day’s journey.

I left home at 07:50 for the 08:16 train to London via London Bridge and onto Greenwich arriving at Greenwich station by 10:40. As I left the exit of the station I noticed an interesting art installation; a number of bicycles had been attached to the roof above my head! Cool idea!!

walking the thames path
interesting idea for unused bicycles

I set MapMyWalk and off I went…. back to the riverside for the next stage of my walk along the Thames Path, heading upstream.

First a quick visit to Cutty Sark and of course another photo LOL a daytime pic of the foot tunnel entrance and a view upstream – I’m on my way!!!

tide is out – I’m heading upstream

Having planned on walking as far as Vauxhall, due to my extra section to Greenwich yesterday, by the time I reached Vauxhall Bridge it was still relatively early so I pushed on to Battersea Park….a place I love and the District area where my paternal Grandfather was born (hence my ability to get British citizenship).

Today’s walk was no less winding and twisting than yesterday’s and there were a lot more diversions…it looks like I was drunk if you look at the gps trail LOL

When you see this configuration, you can be sure of a diversion

I was VERY pleased to note than since the last time I walked this section (2017) there was now a walkway directly along the Thames Path; and the Greenwich Reach Swing Bridge has been added to cross Deptford Creek, without having to divert along the A200. I subsequently had a look on google and apparently it was opened in 2015 (?) – but I genuinely don’t remember it being there in 2017….maybe it was closed on the day, because I do remember having to divert and walk along the busy road.

I stopped at the wonderful statue of Peter the Great and had a photo done!! 😃 we have Russian heritage from my maternal grandfather, so yeah, maybe we’re related 😉

walking the thames path
Peter the Great and Cindy the Elder 😁

Across the river was Canary Wharf. It’s amazing how often you get a view of that area as you traverse the path. Tower Bridge 4.25miles 🙂

Thames Path and Canary Wharf

Looking back I could see the masts of the Cutty Sark faintly visible on the skyline.

There were numerous diversions, one of which took me well away from the riverside and past ‘Twinkle Park’ 🙂 cute name and very pretty.

From there you take a huge diversion through Deptford and eventually walking through Sayes Court Park, Lower Pepys Park and Pepys Park where you finally meet the river again. Ugh.

On closer inspection it would appear that the original route has more recently (?) been bricked off?? I wish I could remember the route from 2017.

I’m pretty certain I remember walking through a gap in the wall, then going right along a very narrow pathway before turning left again towards Twinkle Park – perhaps I’m mistaken.

There’s a lovely tree in Sayes Court Park that I noticed; a mulberry tree believed to have been planted in John Evelyn’s garden in 1698 by the Russian Tsar, Peter the Great, who stayed in Sayes Court during his trip to England, as art of the Grand Embassy. Amazing that it hasn’t been sacrificed on the altar of progress!!

Deptford is one of the most historic areas of greater London, and so well worth a visit. a snippet: the small fishing village of Deptford became an important supply centre for the Royal Navy in the 16th century after King Henry VIII established a shipbuilding dockyard there. Around 350 Navy vessels were built in Deptford between 1545 and 1869. They wouldn’t recognise the place now!

Deptford history

At St George’s Square I noted an information board about Sir Francis Drake: Explorer Sir Francis Drake is best remembered as the first Englishman to circumnavigate the globe in his ship The Golden Hinde. Drake’s three-year voyage around the world from 1577-1580 made him one of the most famous men in Western Europe. Upon his return to Deptford, he was knighted by Queen Elizabeth I. The flight of stairs leading from the river to Foreshore are consequently known as ‘Drake’s Steps’. I had a quick look and they are quite unattractive.

Drake’s steps

You can see a replica of the Golden Hinde near Southwark Cathedral.

And on I went, zig zagging back and forth through industrial, maritime and residential areas diverting back and forth. The river Thames may be 215 miles (346 km) long, but the path I’m sure, is a LOT longer!!!

Another diversion

On I went passing South Dock Rotherhithe. Rotherhithe is another incredibly historic area and worth exploring when you have the time.

I soon reached Surrey Docks Farm – it’s ever so cute and with the partial lifting of lockdown, there were a lot of people visiting and sitting out in the sun drinking tea and eating cake and things. Kids ran around and the animals seemed bewildered at all the noise after the relative quiet of lockdown. I will take my grandson here to visit in 2022.

Surrey Docks Farm, Rotherhithe

There are so many interesting places to see along this stretch of the river with lots of little creeks and docks to be navigated, and I crossed numerous small bridges.

Bridges and diversions

The bridge at Lavender Pond Nature Reserve was quite fancy and I was grateful that these crossings allow you to traverse these places without having to divert. Like Deptford, Rotherhithe has so much history it’s quite extraordinary. You will also find sculptures and maritime relics dotted at various places along the path.

Then I passed Salt Quay and was reminded of the times I’ve stayed at the YHA nearby on many of my previous trips to London. It’s a perfect location for fantastic views of the river, and very close to Tower Bridge should you decide to walk alongside the river into central London.

Salt Quay, Rotherhithe

Here, beneath your feet you will find the Rotherhithe Tunnel, although you don’t actually see it since it passes below ground. I was excited to reach Cumberland Wharf Park because I knew what I would find; one of my favourite sculptures – The Pilgrim’s Pocket. An adorable sculpture of a Man (pilgrim) and a boy reading the Sunshine Weekly. Needless to say I took a lot of photos….I have lost count of how many photos I have of this sculpture!! There are story boards telling more about the history, well worth a read.

Next up the Brunel Museum. A small but fascinating museum, and especially if you go on the tour of the shaft. I remember when it opened many years ago, I was one of the first to visit with the rest of the group. We had to climb down some rickety stairs and scaffolding. Quite the adventure, but ever so much fun. Not for the fainthearted or people with a fear of heights. The Midnight Apothecary was open for bookings…socially distanced of course. Also a fun event if you’re with a good crowd.

Brunel Museum, Rotherhithe

Just a few metres along is the famous Mayflower Pub. It is said that the pilgrim fathers sailed from a dock nearby on the ship of the same name; The Mayflower. Mayflower was an English ship that transported a group of English families known today as the Pilgrims from England to the New World in 1620. After a gruelling 10 weeks at sea, Mayflower, with 102 passengers and a crew of about 30, reached America, dropping anchor near the tip of Cape Cod, Massachusetts, on November 21, 1620. ref wikipedia

Mayflower Pub, Rotherhithe

And then a short walk and opposite is St Mary’s Rotherhithe. I stopped to say ‘hello’. Master Christopher Jones Jr. Captain of the 1620 voyage of the Pilgrim ship Mayflower. He did however die in Rotherhithe, 5 March 1622 (52 years of age) and is buried in the church. After Christopher Jones died in 1622 the Mayflower lay idle on the mud flats of the River Thames near Rotherhithe and was reported in many books to be a “rotting hulk”. A sad end for a famous ship.

Back at the riverside you can see Tower Bridge (hoorah), The Shard, the the towers of London, as well as the bloody awful Walkie Talkie building. What a monstrosity. urgh. At this point I decided that since it was 1pm my feet deserved a rest and my belly some food. I tend to not eat much when walking, and neglect to feed the old belly. I had literally just reached the King’s Stairs Gardens where I could see lots of people stretched out on the grassy knoll, all sensibly socially-distanced of course, so made my way to the top of the mound and reclined on the grass, shoes and socks off and jacket under my head. I enjoyed my small picnic – same fare as the day before. Then I had a quick shut eye.

Is there anything more pleasant than lying on the grass in the sunshine

Setting off again at 2pm I made my way past The Angel Pub and stopped (for the gazillionth time) at the remnants of King Edward III’s Manor House. It’s super awesome to find these links with the past and brilliant that they survive and have not been ripped up for a block of flats.

King Edward III Manor House

Then I paid a visit to Dr Salter and family…a very sad story; his only daughter Alice died in 1910 at the age of 8 from scarlet fever. If you’ve never heard of Dr. Alfred Salter, it’s worth reading up on him and his wife…amazing couple.

Doctor Salter’s Daydream

From here again we have various diversions due to industrial development at the riverside, but in this instance it gives you the opportunity to walk past The Old Justice pub where Sir Paul McCartney, MBE, musician & songwriter, used the interiors and exteriors of this public house as locations in his film “Give My Returns to Broad Street” and for the music video to his hit single “No More Lonely Nights”.

Old Justice Pub & Paul McCartney

I occasionally encountered the Thames Tideway Tunnel construction sites and not too far along was another such. They’re mostly boarded up, but there are terrific information boards telling you about what they’re doing and why. Moving sewerage is the short answer!! LOL It’s quite an enormous enterprise really, but then Greater London does host quite a lot of people. I stopped to study the maps for a bit and to marvel at just how long the Thames River is.

The Harpy Houseboat looked resplendent in red and blue as I whizzed on by, eager now to reach Tower Bridge. The crossing at St Saviour’s Dock was thankfully open or I’d have had another diversion to navigate.

And voila Butler’s Wharf. A truly superb place with lots of little restaurants, interesting sculptures, maritime relics and of course a fab view of Tower Bridge, and when the tide is out, a little beach to do some mud-larking.

Butler’s Wharf and Tower Bridge

Hiding away in Courage Yard is the delightful sculptural fountain – ‘Waterfall’ by Antony Donaldson. Shad Thames is another fantastic place to while away the time.

Waterfall, Courage Yard

Finally I reached the bridge and promptly bought a much needed soft-serve ice-cream with flake – of course LOL. The time was now 14:35 and I had left Greenwich Station at 10:40. 3 hours of walking….not too bad eh.

Tower Bridge – 1st of many bridges from London to Hampton Court

A short video showing various features along the Thames Path between Greenwich and Tower Bridge.

After a short break I set off once again. How lucky I was to have such amazing weather!!

From here I pretty much photographed ALL the main attractions and ALL the bridges LOL I won’t share them all (“Whew”, I hear you say 😁😁)…instead I’ve created a short video so you can see some of the amazing places along the banks of the Thames from Tower Bridge to Lambeth Bridge.

Of course I had to stop and capture an image of another of my favourite London sculptures; The Navigators, David Kemp at Hay’s Galleria.

The Navigators, Hay’s Galleria

Approaching London Bridge I chose to walk the back streets and past Southwark Cathedral, but first my favourite quote:

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

By now I was walking through another favourite area; Southwark – soooo much history it’s mind-blowing. Southwark Cathedral, The Golden Hinde, Winchester Place, The Clink Prison, The Anchor Pub (from whence Samuel Pepys observed The Great Fire of London in 1666), The Globe Theatre and then Tate Modern. By now I had a fab view of St Paul’s Cathedral. I was dying to cross the river for a quick visit….but time was marching on, so I did too. Next time.

St Paul’s Cathedral, City of London

An ever so popular area in front of the Tate Modern where you can usually catch a busker or watch the chaps with their bubbles, which the kiddies love.

We all love bubbles

I tried walking along the South Bank, but it was incredibly busy and I felt quite crowded out. I got as far as Waterloo Bridge before deciding I’d had quite enough of the crowds thank you – but first a photo of the famous open air book market.

Waterloo Bridge book market – not much social distancing going on there!

Crossing the river to the north bank

Downstream from Waterloo Bridge

I snuck into the Victoria Embankment Gardens. Ever so glad I did…..it was a haven of tranquillity and ablaze with splendid colour. The flower beds here in spring time are absolutely marvellous with hundreds of colourful tulips.

I stopped for a brief respite and to snack while enjoying the late afternoon sunshine and peace, another of my favourite sculptures nearby; The Memorial to Arthur Sullivan by William Goscombe John. It’s ever so beautiful.

Alfred Sullivan memorial in Victoria Embankment Gardens

Then off again…still on the north bank till I reached Westminster Bridge where I returned to the South Bank. Along the way passing two of my favourite memorials; The Battle of Britain and Boudicca, and the White Lion sculpture at Westminster Bridge.

I stopped to take a pic of Big Ben but it’s mostly covered with cladding…oh well. I’ve got ‘hundreds’ of photos of the tower!!

Once more across the river, opposite, the Houses of Parliament / Palace of Westminster looked dark and menacing – the sun was at just that angle.

Houses of Parliament, Westminster

I then followed the Albert Embankment towards Vauxhall Bridge.

Just outside St Thomas’s Hospital I noticed hundreds of hearts with names and dates painted along the wall of St Thomas’s Hospital boundary and thought “oh how lovely” without realising the significance. I was struck dumb and reduced to tears when I realised that is was a Covid-19 memorial and all those names I could see were of people who had died from the virus. It was shattering 💔💔💔

Covid-19 memorial, Albert Embankment

After pausing for a few minutes to pay my respects, I continued towards Lambeth Bridge where I passed Lambeth Palace; home to the Archbishop of Canterbury. That never makes sense to me…..he lives in London? – Canterbury is in Kent near the coast?? Like the Palace of Winchester in Southwark?? Daft.

Lambeth Palace

I was now passing through Nine Elms and making good progress. Passing the International Maritime Organisation I stopped for a quick pic of the International Memorial to Seafarers – Sculpture by Michael Sandle at the International Maritime Organisation.

International Memorial to Seafarers

At 16:51 I reached Vauxhall Bridge.

Diversion at Vauxhall

Due to the path being obstructed by apartment blocks, MI6 and of course further along the old Battersea Power Station on the next section of the river, I crossed over the river to the north bank at Vauxhall Bridge

I had a fab view of MI6 – you know James’s Bond’s old haunt!! Back in the City of Westminster I popped into the small Pimlico Gardens where I saw an interesting sculpture; The Helmsman – by Andre Wallace. These sculptures always fascinate me…the mind of an artist!!! How they visualise these things is just amazing.

The Helmsman

Not too much further and I was passing Battersea Power Station. I have to admit that I find it really strange to look at now with all the new developments that surround it.

Ex-Battersea Power Station

And boom!!! 17:27 and I could see Chelsea Bridge just ahead of me! Looking back I had a fine view of the downstream skyline as well as the Battersea Power Station and the Grosvenor Railway Bridge.

Chelsea Bridge

And then finally I was crossing the river towards Battersea Park and reached the Chelsea Gate at just on 17:36 ! Hoorah. To my surprise the Thames Path makes it’s way through the park, so following the signs I made my way towards Rosery Gate and the station…home time!!!

I switched mapmywalk off when I reached the platform: 6 hours, 19 minutes and 46 seconds LOL

The Shard, London Bridge – I’m on my way home

What a terrific day. Boy my feet were sore….. but although my feet were aching (38,376 steps!!) my heart was full of joy! I just love London and the day was absolutely glorious. I could not have wished for a better day. Stage 2 done and dusted. I then had a two day break; time with the family, before picking up again on 21st for Stage 3…..watch this space 🙂 Battersea Park to Richmond.

In case you missed the previous 2 posts:

Stage 1a – Walking the Thames Path; Erith to the Thames Barrier

Stage 1b – Walking the Thames Path; Thames Barrier to Greenwich

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Stage 1 (b) : Thames Barrier to Greenwich 17.04.2021 – 9.21 kms – 2 hours 34 min – 15,763 steps – elevation: 32 meters

Leaving the Thames Barrier at just on 15:13 I made my way through the covered walkway, the barrier to my right. Along the concrete wall of the walkway they have noted some interesting facts and show the level of the river with the barrier closed, on 2 particular dates. Further along is a carved mural, ‘A Profile of the River Thames’, showing the many names of towns, bridges, locks and places of interest from sea to source along the River Thames with the relevant elevation above sea-level. I tried to photograph as many as I could. It was so cool to see the names of places I had already passed and the names of places still to come….most of which as I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I’ve already encountered. After Staines the elevation increases quite substantially.

LOL I just had a look for some information on Google maps, and the barrier is described as “Giant moveable dam with a visitor centre”. OMG seriously. Google you need to get educated!! If you go to wikipedia you will see that: The Thames Barrier is one of the largest movable flood barriers in the world… not a ruddy dam!! The Thames Barrier spans 520 metres across the River Thames near Woolwich, and protects 125 square kilometres of central London from flooding caused by tidal surges. Ref http://www.gov.uk

The Thames Barrier - walking the Thames Path
The Thames Barrier – walking the Thames Path

I soon left the tunnel and the first of many markers along the route told me that it was 4.5miles (7.2kms) to the Greenwich Foot Tunnel. The barrier really is a remarkable construction. A couple more photos of the barrier as it receded into the distance and my history, and all too soon I reached the Tarmac Charlton Asphalt Plant. Ugly industrial plant with unattractive fencing and lots of metal shutes jutting out into the river. This is a very industrialised section of the path; much like downstream near Erith.

walking the thames path
Ugly concrete works next to the Thames Path

The Thames Barrier was now 1 mile behind me and Cutty Sark 2.25miles ahead. Whoo hoo, not that far. But I was beginning to flag, my feet were starting to make uncomfortable noises and I still had the O2 peninsula to traverse.

walking the thames path
Well marked route – you cannot get lost

Along this section of the river too there are a lot of information boards providing snippets of history and information about the area in relation to the river

walking the thames path
Story board telling you more about the area and features of the path

I passed the ever so pretty and welcome Greenwich Peninsula Ecology Park; a tiny piece of watery paradise. I strolled along a couple of the boardwalks for a closer look and then…onwards

walking the thames path
Greenwich Peninsula Ecology Park – a delightful haven of nature

Occasionally I stopped to look back at how far I had come. Looking ahead I could see the Greenwich Cable Car structure in the distance…and whilst I walked debated the folly/fun of stopping for a ride across the river. When I got closer to the entrance, the queue of people waiting to get on decided me – another time. I’ve ridden it a few times in the past, so not missing out on anything. But it would have been lovely to share an aerial view of the river with you.

walking the thames path
as I got closer I toyed with the idea of having a ride….I didn’t LOL

A very well marked path

walking the thames path
useful to know the distances to the next place

I could see Anthony Gormley’s ‘Quantum Cloud’ in the distance getting closer with each step. That man sure does get around, but at least it’s not another image of his naked body and bits!! LOL

walking the thames path
Quantum Cloud – Anthony Gormley

I passed some more storyboards showing a timeline of the history of the river from 8,000 BC till more current times, and included interesting snippets of events worldwide that occurred during the same period. It’s fascinating to read these boards and I wished I had more time to stop and read them all, but the clock was moving forward at a pace, so I had to up my pace if I wanted to actually get to Greenwich in time for a train to get me home before midnight!!

There are a lot of new residential developments in Greenwich and as I neared the O2 I passed a very large complex of new (to me) high-rise buildings, in front of one of which was a stunning sculpture of a Mermaid and what looks like a sea-dragon wrapped a round her, but on closer inspection appears to be the sea rolled around her form. It’s absolutely beautiful. Apparently it is one of Damien Hurst’s sculptures and is located on The Tide (a free-to-visit five-kilometre elevated walkway) – and an improvement on some of the stuff he’s done in the past.

walking the thames path
absolutely stunning sculpture

Soon I reached the O2 arena and had a quick look around. Not much has changed here except that the fountains were not playing. I stopped briefly to photograph a couple of the flagstones that are inscribed with information like: 4282 km to the North Pole – Across England sea and ice. Or By the time you have read this the earth will have spun you 1450m.

Walking the Thames path
By the time you have read this…

And At 11:06hrs on the 17th May each year the mast shadow is centred on this stone. Of course I had to photograph ‘The Mast’ too; a tall swirling spike steel sculpture about which I have not been able to find ANY information regardless of my numerous Google searches. If you happen to know…please leave a comment. Also, I’m not entirely sure it is The Mast, but since I couldn’t see anything else that looked like a mast…

walking the thames path
I wonder what they’ll do if the earth shifts on it’s axis? move the stone?

I could see there was a line of people climbing the O2 which reminded me of when I climbed the O2 some years ago – a gift from my daughter, it was amazing. I wonder if I could still climb it today LOL I’d love to take my grandson up.

walking the thames path
Climbing the O2 – a brilliant outing if you have a head for heights and strong legs LOL

I then passed a really weird looking sculpture ‘Liberty Grip’ by Gary Hume. It was while researching this particular image that I found a site listing all the sculptures that these sculptures are part of: The Line – London’s first dedicated contemporary art walk. It looks amazing and I shall have to visit again and do the walk (of course). I’ve included the link here if you are interested in finding out more about these sculptures on the Greenwich Peninsula

walking the thames path
there are plenty of sculptures along the Thames Path, some fab some weird

The Thames Path along these sections is brilliant; well paved, clean, attractive, lots of beautiful buildings, green lawns, trees and tidal terraces alongside the edges of the river – I found this really interesting link if you’re keen to find out more Estuary Edges along the River Thames. It seems that the powers that be are starting to take more care of the river and the wildlife that inhabit it.

walking the thames path
much needed regeneration of the Thames Banks and river
walking the thames path
you can see the reeds beds to the right. It’s really interesting how they install them

Another decorative National Cycle Route marker

walking the thames path
I love these cycle route markers…I have a whole collection of them photographed

Not long after I left the O2 Arena area I came upon an open tarmac area next to the Greenwich Peninsula Golf Range, and congregated thereupon was a massive group of cyclists, of varying ages; teens to tweens I’m guessing. All very boisterous, crowding and shoving and shouting, and there in the middle were 2 young girls in skimpy outfits doing a ‘Grease’ scenario, right down to the colourful handkerchiefs… and at the far end a row of cyclists lined up – I chuckled to myself as I made my way through the throng, heckled every step of the way for not observing their desire to race along the pathway, and not getting out the way. Sorry boys, places to go, things to see.

walking the thames path
Grease is the word LOL

The next Thames Path marker told me that I was now 1.25 miles from the Cutty Sark and the Foot Tunnel and 6 miles from Tower Bridge – I was tempted to keep going to Tower Bridge, but it was late and by now I was seriously footsore.

walking the thames path
Tower Bridge 6 m! should I? or maybe not!

The path twists and turns as it winds it’s snaking way through all manner of landscape. If nothing else, the path offers a varied landscape.

walking the thames path
shared space; walkers, cyclists, joggers, runners….and a narrow corridor..

I saw someone fishing, very comfortably too I might add from a bench, and just around a leafy green corner I spotted a young woman sitting on an open space just over the fence and on the banks of the river…it looked so tranquil and perfect that I could have happily joined her. A terrific place to sit and read a book.

walking the thames path
the perfect place to chill and read a book

And yet another variation, around every corner a surprise

walking the thames path
I love it when the path is wide and well-paved

Looking back I could see the O2 Arena now some distance behind me and across the river the Towers of Babel aka Canary Wharf.

walking the thames path
looking back is an optical illusion. The O2 looks close as the crow flies

And thennnnn…whoo hoo – Greenwich!!! I had made it. I reached the Cutty Sark Pub at 17:03:54 🙂 And now it was getting really busy. People thronged the path, now a wide boulevard rather than a path, strollers, dog-walkers, parents with strollers, kiddies running around screaming, joggers, cyclists (trying to weave their way through the throng), all out enjoying the lovely afternoon sunshine. It was truly one of London’s best days.

walking the thames path
whoo hoo not far to go now. Love the old buildings in Greenwich – just look at that date
walking the thames path
lovely to see so many people out again

I passed a brick wall with some intriguing sculptures telling a story about a boy named Sam – I did some research and found that it’s ‘A Thames Tale’ : Wall art by Amanda Hinge in Greenwich. It’s really lovely and I wish I’d had more time to read it all.

I then passed the diminutive Trinity Hospital with the towering Greenwich Electric Power Station just behind it. Apparently named the ‘Heavenly Twins’ for the two great chimneys…although there are in fact 4 chimneys.

walking the thames path
nearly 5.10pm and look it’s still light…best time of the year to walk

I meandered along a narrow cobbled pathway between old brick houses; looking for all the world like I had stepped back in time to the Victorian ages. You could just imagine the gas lamps flickering and fluttering at night in the wind. Did I ever say how much I love Greenwich?

walking the thames path
Imagine living on a street that looks like it’s straight out of Mary Poppins
walking the thames path
colourful painting on the Trafalgar Tavern wall

I soon passed The Trafalgar Tavern and a statue of himself; Horatio Nelson, hero of the Battle of Gibraltar. The Battle of Trafalgar took place on 21 October 1805 during the Napoleonic War (1803–1815), as Napoleon Bonaparte and his armies tried to conquer Europe. Unfortunately Nelson met his Waterloo at this battle and was shot by an enemy sniper when he stepped out on deck to survey the battle. ref wikipedia.

walking the thames path
Hello Nelson! how nice to see you…means I’m nearly at journey’s end

Once again I stopped to look back at how far I had come. Distance is an optical illusion at many points along the River Thames as is coils and winds it’s way through London, and although you cover many miles from point A to B, the distance looks less, due to the shape of the river. Apparently, due to of the bends of the river, the Greenwich waterfront is as long as 8.5 miles.

Walking the Thames path
Far away downstream…

Royal Greenwich! Oh how much I love this place. One of London’s 4 UNESCO World Heritage sites, Greenwich has a history as long as your arm or longer…. it has seen kings and queens, pirates and heroes, played a part in WW1 and WW2 and hosted a palace where one of England’s most notorious kings; Henry VIII was born. There are scant remains of the Palace of Placentia, and today the fabulous Royal Naval College stands above the area.

walking the thames path
Hoorah! Greenwich – oodles of history on that direction marker

Royal Greenwich is home to time; the Greenwich Meridian – the location of the Greenwich prime meridian, on which all Coordinated Universal Time is based. The prime meridian running through Greenwich and the Greenwich Observatory is where the designation Greenwich Mean Time, or GMT began, and on which all world times are based. I’ve met the Meridian Line in a couple of places, namely; Oxted – a market town in Surrey, along The Pilgrim’s Way on the North Downs, and near Richmond on the Thames Path.

Royal Greenwich, with a plethora of Grade 1 and Grade 2 listed buildings, museums, the Royal Observatory (Christopher Wren and Robert Hooke), The Naval College (designed by Christopher Wren), The Queen’s House (by Inigo Jones), and the Cutty Sark along with dozens of other places of interest, has so much to offer that you need multiple visits to make the most of it all. It even has 2 castles nearby: Vanbrugh Castle, and Severndroog Castle and a palace: Eltham Palace (fabulous place, you must visit). There are numerous churches to visit, one of which, designed by the famous architect Nicholas Hawksmoor, is St Alfege. In Charles Dickens’s novel Our Mutual Friend, Bella Wilfer marries John Rokesmith in St Alfege Church. The medieval church which stood there before the current 18th century church was dedicated to St Alfege who was martyred by the Danes on 19th April 1012. Henry VIII was baptized there in 1491.

walking the thames path
where once staood a palace…Royal Naval College, Greenwich

History enough to satisfy any history buff.

walking the thames path
a superb museum if you’re visiting. absolutely brilliant maritime objects they have

The evening was absolutely beautiful and it was so lovely to see some many people about…

walking the thames path
perfect evening to be relaxing at the riverside

And then the beautiful, most famous, sometimes ill-fated, and celebrated tall-mast sailing ship; the Cutty Sark, a Victorian tea clipper – sitting resplendent above her glass enclosed dome – looking for all the world as if she is sailing the open seas once more.

walking the thames path
the ever so beautiful Cutty Sark, an icon

Nearby are the famous glass-domed Greenwich Foot Tunnels constructed between 1899 and 1902; still used today and linking Greenwich with Millwall on the opposite bank of the river. It’s a must visit, even just for the thrill of walking beneath the riverbed.

Walking the Thames path
If you can’t walk over it, walk beneath it

It was now 17:19, the sun was beginning to set, so I decided at this juncture to end my journey here and pick it up again on the morrow.

Walking the Thames path
The Greenwich Foot Tunnel

I meandered a bit taking photos of the things I’ve photographed dozens of times before LOL and then I went on the hunt for food…although there are a number of brands; coffee shops and restaurants scattered about, I am loathe to use the big chains for my meals whilst walking and prefer instead to use independents or smaller chains.

First I wandered through the food market on the raised area near the Cutty Sark but saw nothing that was of interest, so strolled along the streets until there, at the traffic lights near the market I spied Jack the Chipper! I am an old fashioned girl at heart when it comes to food, and love nothing more than a hefty portion of fresh hot chips, and that is just what I got – the chips had literally just come out of the fryer, so I ordered a ‘small’ box of hot chips to go. I got more than I bargained for and there was enough for two….but guess what? I ate them all LOL nothing like walking for 6 hours to build up and appetite.

I made my way to St Alfege’s church which was just around the corner and there I sat in the graveyard, the setting sun warm on my shoulders and enjoyed my delicious box of hot chips. Yum! Thus ended Stage 1 of my journey along the Thames Path; in a graveyard…but not permanently LOL

walking the thames path
Jack the Chipper…..whenever I visit Greenwich I will be sure to buy my meal here

By the time I finished eating it was just after 6pm, so I set off for the station…time to go home, have a hot shower and fall into bed.

Enroute to the station I quickly dashed across the road to photograph the rather marvellous sundial on the corner and then it was off to the station where I caught the 18:17 train home via STP.

walking the thames path
in the mean time; Greenwich Mean Time 🙂 loved this
Greenwich Mean Time – love a good sundial

Stage 1 done and dusted – What a marvellous day and I’m SO glad that I decided to walk onto Greenwich from the Thames Barrier, it was a most satisfactory day/distance and brought my total from home to station (and the reverse) and station to station Erith to Greenwich to: 27.08 kms (16.93 miles) – 6 hours 47 min – 41,812 steps – elevation: 46 meters to be precise. Not too shabby really.

Stage 2: Greenwich to Vauxhall Bridge (or further if I can) – post to follow shortly

Postscript: I had planned on doing 6 stages from Erith to Staines-Upon-Thames, but by adding on the section from The Thames Barrier to Greenwich, and again for Stage 2 going further from Vauxhall to Battersea Park, I managed to the distance in 5 stages from Erith to Staine-Upon-Thames. But more on that to follow.

Quote: “If you go to London now, not everything is beautiful, but it’s amazingly better than it was. And the Thames is certainly a lot better; there are fish in the Thames”. Freeman Dyson.

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Okay so here’s the thing….I have learned over time to not expect plans I make to actually happen, so that when they don’t happen I’m not too disappointed, make a different plan and hope for the best. Post 2020 I just ‘pivot’. LOL Damn I love that word. Rishi may be a CONservative but that phrase of his should go down as the ultimate useful/useless phrase of Covid-19 history.

You know I was ‘planning’ on walking the next stage of the Saxon Shore Way today? Well yesterday afternoon while at my daughter’s house I got the shakes….hands and knees. And no, Elvis wasn’t in the building haha… I felt ‘off’ if that makes sense, not poorly or ill, just off. I put it down to the 2nd covid innoculation jab I had on Monday, because after the reaction I had back in February, I was kinda waiting for some sort of reaction this time around too. Didn’t think much more of it, and went to bed (rather late) and slept like a log.

Woke up a bit later than usual this morning and still felt a bit offish and really tired. The weather had turned and it was raining and icy cold so I decided to have a bed day instead and catch up on some online stuff I wanted to do and later some chores that needed doing in town. Trying to listen to my body, now that it’s another year older!! So I had a cup of tea while relaxing in bed and started preparing some videos of things I saw along the Thames Path. As usual I took between 100-200 photos each day, and since I can’t share them all online, I decided I would make a few short videos instead, and share them separately till I’ve completed the various write-ups.

But as the morning wore on I realised that something else was amiss….my eye felt a bit funny, the back of my head felt tender and my jaw felt sore….oh gawd!! I took one look in the mirror and my fears were confirmed. My damn parotid gland was swollen again. Ugh. The first time this happened (October 2019) I ended up overnight in A&E on a drip and then hospital for 3 days on a drip of strong antibiotics. It looked like I had been stung by a swarm of wasps…I kid you not. I looked bloody awful.

It happened again in December 2019 while I was at a booking in the deep south of Somerset with the nearest surgery 20 kilometres away. An emergency dash to the surgery in my client’s car and a double dose of very strong antibiotics brought it back under control. A few months later (during the initial Covid lockdown) it swelled up again and after speaking to the doctor he agreed to give me antibiotics, but said that I had to have a proper check-up if it happened again.

So, it wasn’t the jab that made me feel off, but this blessed gland. I’m currently waiting for a call back from the surgery…so figured I may as well write up while I’m waiting. So now that I’ve blathered on for the last ??? minutes, here are the videos I made of some of the interesting things I saw along the Thames Path last month. Mostly the sculptures because they are all so beautiful, but not of the main attractions which I’ll save for the posts.

Stage 1a – Erith to the Thames Barrier (tune The Departure – Nisei23)

Stage 1a – Erith to the Thames Barrier

Stage 1b – Thames Barrier to Greenwich (tune The Shine – Jahzzar )

Stage 1b – Thames Barrier to Greenwich

Stage 2 – Greenwich to Battersea Park (tune Alive – Jahzzar)

Stage 2 – Greenwich to Battersea Park

Stage 3 – Battersea Park to Richmond (tune Let’s Just Get Through – Doctor Turtle)

Stage 3 – Battersea Park to Richmond

Stage 4 – Richmond to Hampton Court (tune Happy Birthday to you – Blue Monkey Music) of course

Stage 4 – Richmond to Hampton Court – this day was also my birthday, hence the tune LOL

Stage 5 – Hampton Court to Staines-Upon-Thames (tune Water in the Creek – Josh Woodward)

Stage 5 – Hampton Court to Staines-Upon-Thames

I made these off PhotoGrid; used their free music and tried to choose music that was relevant to the day. I hope you enjoy them. Although the quality isn’t brilliant, it’s quick and easy to make the videos from their app.

So be good kids. I will try to get the Thames Path posts up asap. I’m working on them…..

p.s. I just got a call from the Doc…antibiotics it is because of course it’s now too late for an appointment. Seriously. He said I must phone for an appointment when it swells up again…’hello!!’ that’s what I did this morning!! Anyway, next time it swells up again I’m just going to go straight to A&E for an ultrasound because I can’t be having this nonsense and the gland doesn’t swell up to suit the Doctor’s schedule. gahhh

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Finally after talking about it for years, and planning for the last few months, I started Walking the Thames Path – in honour of reaching my OAP status; I’m now officially a Pensioner!! Best part of that…free bus pass. Oh and my pension pay-outs, although I won’t be retiring anytime soon on that!! But it will be good to get some of my hard-earned money back from HMRC

As mentioned in a previous post, due to current Covid-19 lockdown restrictions I was unable to proceed with my original plans to walk the whole of the Thames Path over a period of 3 weeks. So instead I took Rishi’s advice and pivoted LOL. Not that I want to take advice from a CONservative government representative, but nonetheless, I had to re-plan my plans….so to that end I decided to walk the first 5 stages as day trips…

I will, going forward, write in detail and share images from each day’s walk but for now I thought I’d give you a progress report, showing where I started and ended and how far I walked each day. I did 5 stages and make super progress reaching my target of walking from Erith in Kent to Staines-Upon-Thames in Surrey.

I had the most superb weather on 4 days of 5 and had a wonderful time just walking and exploring. My distances are not accurate to the mile according to measured distances because I tend to go off-piste and explore a church or building I may spot along the way, I also head off the path to take photos of things I may see in the distance, and for the sake of my ‘boots on’ walking challenges, I start measuring my kms from the minute my feet hit the platform at the relevant station/s, as well as my walk from home to the station (1.25kms each way). I’d love to measure just how much walking I do in transit, but that would just get too complicated….suffice to say that the walk from the platform at St Pancras via the Victoria Line underground passage, would I’m sure, add another couple of kms.

The timings too are not at all related to anything you may find in a guide book or online, because firstly I’m a slow stroller (although my daughter would contest that!!), I stop frequently to take photos of things that may interest me or I wish to share, and I stop quite often to rest my feet for 10-15 minutes a time or even 30 minutes if the mood takes me and I don’t have a deadline to meet. Or it’s a sunny day and I feel like just lying in the sun.

Planning the day trips wasn’t necessarily the easiest way of doing this because I had to take account of train times so I could get home before midnight LOL and also calculate the cheapest way to do the walk….e.g. buy a return ticket from point A to B after morning peak time, and then work out to which station I had to buy a single ticket to fill the gap between point C and point B. This was not only for timings but budgets as well. Although I did originally budget to use the cheaper train routes, I decided by day 2 that speed of transport was more important than food, so I increased my travel budget and reduced my food budget, and took sandwiches plus nibbles and fruit and a flask of tea with me. There’s also the issue of battery life on my phone. It seems to reduce rather rapidly because of all the photos I take….and the highspeed train has charging points. Also I’m not a great ‘staring out the window’ traveller and prefer to actually ‘do something’ while I’m travelling. So I move photos to dropbox and edit those I want to share….

So, in all I did 5 stages starting at Erith on 17th and reached Staines on the 24th. I didn’t walk consecutive days but had a 2 day break in between to rest and take my grandson out, and a one day break to spend with the family to celebrate my birthday. We had awesome fun – went to The Old Bake House in Broadstairs for breakfast, then a ramble on the beach, and a game of mini-golf which was hilarious…my grandson went crazy with his stick, whacking the ball all over. This was followed by crepes and fruit juice. Delicious, and a fantastic day.

without further ado…

Stage 1 : Erith to Greenwich. 17.04.2021 – 27.08 kms – 6 hours 47 min – 41,812 steps – elevation: 46 meters

I had originally planned to walk as far as the Thames Barrier which is the official starting point of the long-distance Thames Path route, but it was a beautiful day and I was having such a good time that I decided to push on to Greenwich, and thereby shorten my next day’s walking. This section was new to me. Although I have in the past walked from the Thames Barrier to Greenwich, the path from Erith to the barrier was completely new ground. The original section from Erith to the barrier was not the most scenic and there are a lot of really ugly industrial buildings and a sewerage plant (yes it smelled), but the path was amazingly straightforward, albeit bloody boring concrete a lot of the way.

walking the thames path
Stage 1 – Erith to the Thames Barrier – Walking the Thames Path
walking the thames path
Stage 1 – Thames Barrier to Greenwich – Walking the Thames Path

Stage 2 : Greenwich to Battersea Park 18.04.2021 – 24.51 kms – 6 hours 20 min – 38,376 steps – elevation 102 meters

Again this day was longer than I originally planned, but I wanted to push through as far as possible and thereby get further along and also shorten a later day’s journey. I’ve walked this whole route dozens of times over the years, different sections at different times and absolutely love (almost) every inch of it. I did NOT like the diversions…..it’s so inconsiderate of developers to buy up property that runs alongside the river and build bloody apartments, thereby blocking people from walking along the riverside. This section also runs through the centre of London and has the most bridges, so I stopped a lot for photos. LOL Also in London’s past the riverside was very industrial as since the Thames is a marine hotbed, there are a lot of old buildings and wharves etc that hog the riverside. hmmm.

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Stage 2 – Greenwich to Battersea Park – Walking the Thames Path

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

This day nearly bloody killed me LOL. It was much further than I calculated, or perhaps it felt like it because I started off already tired, and had a deadline for my train back home. It was though, one of the best days, walking familiar paths and passing familiar places where I spent many a happy hour walking in the past, and I got to meet a friend from instagram for a brief hello in Richmond. And despite my plans, I missed my train at St Pancras by literally 1 minute…as I got to the ticket barriers, I heard the doors being locked – ho hum!! ‘Hold that train!’ LOL

walking the thames path
Stage 3 – Battersea Park to Richmond – Walking the Thames Path

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

This day I had planned in celebration of my birthday. We used to live in St Margarets near Richmond and as with the previous stage, I often walked along sections of the Thames Path at different times; and in every season, including in the snow from Twickenham Bridge to Kew… 🙂 I also wanted to reach Hampton Court Palace on my birthday because it is my absolute favourite palace in the world and although I wouldn’t have time to actually visit, just walking past would make me happy. It was a belting hot day, so I had 2 ice-creams on the way…one in Richmond as I started and one in Hampton Court as I finished. Just because. My daughter had given me £5 to buy a tea and cake along the way, but I felt ice-creams were more appropriate…also I could eat and walk!

walking the thames path
Stage 4 – Richmond to Hampton Court – Walking the Thames Path

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

Staines is infamous for being the ‘hometown’ of Ali G (Sacha Cohen Baron for those who don’t know, who was actually born in Hammersmith). Again this was a long day and because I only had 6 hours to walk this stretch, I really had to push myself. I was also quite tired by then and found the final stretch between Shepperton and Staines really difficult. I was tempted to quit at Shepperton , but I loathe quitting and felt like I would be letting myself down if I did and it would mean either an extra day later on, or longer sections going forward. This section was new territory for me and I decided to take the guide book along…just in case – I didn’t need it. The path is well marked all the way from Erith. The stretch from Richmond to Staines is quite rural and if you didn’t know there were towns nearby, you’d think you were right out in the countryside. I missed my deadline by 47 minutes, but still managed to get an earlier train from STP

walking the thames path
Stage 5 – Hampton Court to Staines-Upon-Thames – Walking the Thames Path

What an amazing journey so far. The history of the River Thames is quite extraordinary and I discovered that the Vikings actually sailed right up the river as far as Chertsey, possibly further. We tend to think of them as coastal raiders and certainly they raided London a fair bit, but to my surprise they went as far as Chertsey…to raid the abbey. It was wonderful to revisit places I’d been before but not seen for years. Discovering new places and sections of my beloved river was a real treat. So even though I was really disappointed to not be able to walk The Thames Path in one go, in retrospect this is as good a way to ‘walk the walk’ as any. Frankly, I was quite exhausted by the 5th stage, and grateful I didn’t have to walk again for a while….how long that while will be is anyone’s guess. I have a few work bookings coming up, a few babysitting commitments and of course time with my grandson is more important than anything else and I try to spend as much time with him as possible between bookings…also I have 3 big walks planned for August/September that will take me away for nearly 6 weeks and those need to be saved up for. I have diarised another few days into my calendar to possibly do another 2 or maybe 3 day trips and then I’ll complete the rest of the walk in April 2022. Mostly because the accommodation is thin on the ground and VERY expensive. In comparison to accommodation on the Camino, it’s actually quite extortionate, but I’m guessing they don’t have that many guests and walkers staying over, so to charge £120 per night is reasonable – but WELL out of my price range. I’ll save the overnight excursions for out of season.

I will endeavour to write up and share images from these 5 stages as soon as possible. I subsequently created a preview; some short videos to show some of the fabulous sculptures and scenes of the river.

Meanwhile I’ve planned dates to continue walking sections of the Saxon Shore Way so I can get that under my belt, and of course my epic ‘walking the whole English Coast’ – I have a few dates diarised to fit some more days in for that as well this year. I hope to complete the Kent and Sussex coastline by end of 2021. I’ll still do small sections of other counties where and when I get the opportunity with work travel. Talking of which, I really must get to write up about the section of the South West Coast Path I recently walked….from Berry Head to Paignton and Paignton to Torquay. Super awesome walk and soooo beautiful. More on that later….

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Right then, after years and years of thinking about it, I’m now in the actual planning stages of walking the Thames Path – from sea to source.

Edit: 09/03 – I realized I should have titled this post as ‘Walking the Thames Path’, not river…I don’t have the right shoes for walking the river 😉

I mentioned in an earlier post that I was keen to walk it for my birthday; that comes up in April. So since the government have decreed (at this juncture), that from 12th April: UK domestic holidays away from home permitted….I’m off!! I’m also grateful to note that hairdressers will be opening too….I really need to chop my hair off, it’s working on my nerves, mostly because it has no style due to the fact that I HAVE been chopping it off for the last 15 months!! LOL

Anyway, back to the Thames Path. When I finally decided to do this walk, I bought the book and immediately started reading. Unfortunately the guide takes us from sea (almost) to source and not the other way around. So to that end (as mentioned in said earlier post), I have decided that I shall temporarily, purely to suit the occasion, reinvent myself as an adventurer who has stumbled across this great big river and want to find the source….a bit like Levison Wood except in reverse…and he of course explored the Nile….at 6,650kms, that’s a different kettle of fish (no pun intended). The Thames’ 346kms is just a Sunday stroll in comparison.

So, what is the River Thames!? According to Britannica: “River Thames, ancient Tamesis or Tamesa, also called (in Oxford, England) River Isis, chief river of southern England. Rising in the Cotswold Hills, its basin covers an area of approximately 5,500 square miles (14,250 square km). The traditional source at Thames Head, which is dry for much of the year, is marked by a stone in a field 356 feet (108.5 metres) above sea level and 3 miles (5 km) southwest of the town of Cirencester.

However, there is some dispute, and apparently, “some think a tributary, the River Churn, has a better claim to being the source; it rises near the village of Seven Springs (700 feet [213 metres] above sea level), just south of Cheltenham”.

Seven Springs features in the long-running argument over the true source of the River Thames. Two plaques at the site read “Hic tuus o Tamesine Pater septemgeminus fons” (Latin for “Here, O Father Thames, is your sevenfold spring”). Seven Springs is further from the mouth of the Thames than the medieval-preferred source at Thames Head near Kemble. In 2012 Coberley Parish Council posted a notice, on site, that “Seven Springs is certainly one of the sources of the River Thames and is held by many to be the ultimate source.” ref wikipedia

So, I guess I shall have to visit both…or shall I walk there? Hmmm. I think I’ll decide closer to the time depending on how footsore and weary I am after walking for 14 days – with a backpack. It’s an extra 33+kms which will add an extra 2 days to my journey, and the River Churn on google maps looks quite small, but after visiting google earth last night I determined that there are pathways pretty much along the whole length, barring a few farmers fields, some roads and a the odd house that appears to border the river….If I decide at the time to walk that extra 33kms (20.6 miles), then I’ll just go and deal with whatever confronts me when I get there – pretty much like I do on all my walks….just go! Of course that sometimes requires detours etc, but it’s the journey…

Meanwhile, I’m putting in loads of walking by following my Conqueror Challenges, and reading up on the route. There are loads of fantastic villages and towns along the route, some of which I have already visited and of course as mentioned in that article I have walked a large section of the Thames Path, the tidal section between Gravesend and Teddington Lock and further afield to Hampton Court.

I’ve kinda toyed with the idea of ‘maybe’ skipping out the tidal section since I’ve ‘been there, done that’, but it doesn’t feel right somehow…so I guess I shall just have to plan to walk the whole thing. I often read about people who do some walks, like the French Camino, in sections over the years, but I just know that’s no good for me…I likely won’t get back to finish off. There’s always something else to do. Mind you having said that, I did finally manage to complete The Pilgrim’s Way, but only because I made a spur of the moment decision to just do it….or else it would still be outstanding….which is was… outstanding that is 😁

So a little more about the River Thames:

The River Thames is England’s longest river at 346 kms (216.25 miles) – (albeit disputed coz of the tributary) the River Severn at 354km is the longest in the United Kingdom. So if they did add the River Churn’s 33kms (20.62miles), the Thames would indeed be the longest.

The River Thames flows from the source at Thames Head near the hamlet of Kemble in an easterly direction and after 366.4 kms (229 miles) it flows into the North Sea into the Thames Estuary near Southend-on-Sea. Now, kindly note that I am not about to walk from Southend-on-Sea as this adds on an extra 20km which would require ANOTHER 2 days….and I don’t have all the time in the world. I’ll simply add that section to when I walk the Essex coast (which as a matter of interest is 560 kms (350 miles).

The River Thames flows through 8 counties: Gloucestershire, Wiltshire, Oxfordshire, Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, Surrey, Essex, and Kent.

Besides all the smaller towns, the River Thames flows through or alongside: Lechlade (where you can find the famous Father Thames sculpture), Oxford, Reading, Henley-on-Thames (famous for the annual regatta), Maidenhead, Windsor (where the Queen sometimes lives) and Eton (famous for it’s posh totty school), Molesey (near Hampton Court). Including the smaller towns and villages…26 in all.

In Greater London the Thames passes Hampton Court Palace, Surbiton, Kingston Upon Thames, Teddington (where the tidal Thames ends at the lock), Richmond, Kew, Chiswick, Barnes, Hammersmith, Fulham, Putney, Wandsworth, Battersea (where my paternal grandfather was born) and Chelsea.

Continuing through central London: Pimlico, Lambeth, Vauxhall, it then passes the Palace of Westminster and the London Eye amongst many other landmarks of the City of Westminster, then between The City of London and Southwark till it reaches the world-famous Tower of London.

Into the lower reaches: the river passes through some of the most historic areas: Bermondsey, Wapping, Shadwell, Limehouse, Rotherhithe (from whence the Mayflower carrying pilgrims to the New World set sail), Millwall, Deptford, Royal Greenwich (where Henry VIII was born – the Palace of Placentia as were his daughters Mary & Elizabeth, while his son was born at Hampton Court Palace) and home of the Prime Meridian and Greenwich Mean Time, then Blackwall, Charlton and Silvertown and finally through the Thames Barrier – which is where the Guidebook starts the journey, and onto the the sea. The Thames Barrier is the largest moveable flood barrier in the world.

The River Thames is crossed by over 200 bridges, 27 tunnels, six public ferries, one cable car link, and one ford. There are 30 bridges from Tower Bridge to Teddington Lock – arguably the most famous of those being London Bridge (the first bridge to cross the Thames built by the Romans in 50 AD which was a wooden structure), and Tower Bridge (often misnamed as London Bridge).

There are around 180 islands altogether on the Thames, 45 of which are inhabited – some of the islands have animal, bird or food names; Monkey Island, Frog Island, Lower Horse Island, Buck Island, Swan Island, Heron Island, Raven’s Ait, Ham Island, Eel Pie Island (I briefly lived in a gypsy caravan on Eel Pie Island in Richmond in 2011), there’s even a Pharoah’s Island and Queen’s Eyot, and the famous Magna Carta Island.

The Thames has frozen over at least 23 times between 1309 and 1814, and on five occasions the ice was strong enough to hold a fair on the river, the first known ‘frost fair’ on the River Thames was in AD 695. There are a few famous paintings depicting the frost fairs on the Thames in London from the 17th century.

The River Thames is also known as the River Isis in Oxford.

Many species make the River Thames their home; birds, fish, eels, seals (Thames estuary)and even dolphins

A number of famous painters have depicted the Thames in their paintings: Turner, Monet, Canaletto and Whistler, amongst others.

The River Thames began its life in the Jurassic Period – between 170 and 140 million years ago, has changed it’s course over millenia and once flowed into the River Rhine in Germany. Courtesy of wikipedia: For most of the Early Pleistocene the Ancestral Thames was the main river with, at its maximum extent, a catchment area that extended into Wales alongside the Chiltern Hills, through southern East Anglia and finally into Doggerland (now the North Sea), where it joined the ancestral Rhine.

I’m still dithering about whether to start my journey at The Thames Barrier or from Gravesend. If I do start from Gravesend it will mean adding on an extra 2 days, whereas I could rather add on those 2 days at the end to follow the River Churn to Seven Springs. I’ve already walked from Southwark to Gravesend when following Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales route to Canterbury…..so, I need to make a decision and soon… my start date is 19th April!!

I’m really looking forward to discovering more about the places along the river from Hampton Court onwards to the source.

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