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Posts Tagged ‘the thames barrier’

Stage 1a : Erith to the Thames Barrier 17.04.2021 – 15.37 kms – 4 hours 13 min – 26,049 steps – elevation: 46 meters

Lunch packed, Gemini (walking poles) ready to go with their new feet

I left home in time to get the 08:20 train from RAM to Erith by 10:27, although we arrived a few minutes earlier at 10:20. It’s a long, slow journey and unfortunately not the High Speed with it’s phone charger adaptors, so I sat back and stared out the window…😝😝

Arriving at Erith station I set MapMyWalk to start recording and made my way to the riverside. The walk took me through the suburban jungle, but all was quiet and I only saw a few other people about. Lockdown is still clearly in effect in Erith.

I reached the riverside in about 7 minutes and took some time to photograph the pretty little park and the deep channels forged into the mudflats.

Walking the Thames path
Scenes of the River Thames at Erith

The tide was out so the riverbed was exposed in all it’s glory….or not. The trash as I mentioned in my previous post was there for all to see as it made it’s way out to sea. Ugh

walking the Thames Path
heading upstream – finally I am on the Thames Path; Thamesmead, Woolwich, Greenwich

Heading upstream (of course) I followed the well-marked, albeit ugly concrete pathway that wound it’s tortuous way past rotting jetties, old dilapidated buildings, urban dwellings, construction works, razor wire fences and the many industries that rely on the river for their business…whatever that may be. These concrete and metallic surfaces are not good for the feet (or shoes – I’m on my 2nd pair in 6 months! At ÂĢ70 a pop…I feel like I’m working to buy shoes ðŸĪŠðŸĪŠ)

walking the Thames Path
a tortuous path of concrete and metal

The tediously grey landscape was relieved by a couple of colourful mosaics, sadly damaged, that told of a ‘wildlife superhighway’ and depicted the variety of creatures that make the edges and the waters of the Thames their home.

walking the Thames Path
a pretty, albeit damaged mural depicting the wildlife that live in and on the banks of the River Thames

A few modern windmills (turbines) dotted the landscape and the Crossness Nature Reserve offered a welcome relief to the grey industrial landscape. I spotted a bird-watcher walking around with a enormous camera and tripod over his shoulder.

walking the Thames Path
Crossness Nature Reserve – a welcome relief from the brutal industrialisation

And then the Gadwells as mentioned in my prelude…they really looked as if they were having a wonderful time.

walking the Thames Path
Gadwells enjoying a chemical bath – you can barely see them, but there were dozens

I passed very few walkers or cyclists and a few passed me by. The cyclists do race along, and you can’t walk around a blind corner without checking that a boy racer isn’t about to slam into you! At least most of the regular cyclists ring their bells to warn you of their approach. 🙌🙌🔔

walking the Thames Path
boy racer – cyclists can be a menace, they do race along at speed

I absolutely loved the sketches that hung on the walls at intervals, they provided an interesting view of the river over the centuries. The Crossness Pathway information boards too were so interesting to read.

walking the Thames Path
development of the Thames over the centuries

The sewerage farm is best left unspoken about LOL but I loved the apparently abandoned Victorian building on the site. Clearly progress has been made! or not? Built by Joseph Bazalgette in 1865 it contains the largest rotative beam engines in the world and is a Grade I listed building (probably a good thing or progress would have bashed it down by now). It’s function was not that great…it used to pump south London’s untreated sewerage into the Thames ðŸĪŪðŸĪŪ – the old Crossness Pumping station. This was built as part of the development of London’s sewer systems and operated from 1865 until the 1950s. The engines used to pump sewage directly into the Thames at high tide, the idea being the tide would then carry the sewage out to sea as the river level reduced in the city centre. Ewwww. Good idea…feed it to the fishes that we then eat. ðŸĪĒðŸĪĒ

walking the Thames Path
sewerage plant – new and old
walking the Thames Path
Sludge incinerator, Crossness Sewage Treatment Works

The trash dumped alongside the edges of the river is quite simply appalling. Perhaps the new London Mayor can be petitioned to get a crew in to clean it up!! Although Lord knows it’s an never-ending issue, the more you clear away, the more the numbskulls dump their trash…wherever they please.

walking the Thames Path
pollution on the riverbanks of the Thames…so sad

The nature of the path changes continuously and whilst I didn’t photograph each and every difference in the path, I captured a few for interest….

The closer I got to the Thames Barrier and Greater London, the more greenery made it’s appearance and occassionally I walked alongside trees and grass which provided a welcome relief from the grey dull concrete.

Suddenly as I rounded a bend in the river, there in the distance, on the horizon, I could see the towers of Babel…I mean Canary Wharf! Hoorah!! I’m getting closer. The river up to the Thames Barrier is really wide and with the tide out you could probably walk along sections of the riverbed. Although after my experience with the mudflats at Faversham, I wouldn’t recommend it 😁😁

This seemed like a good place to have a snack, so I spread my eats out and rested here for a while, just enjoying the view and the sunshine.

walking the Thames Path
a good place to stop for a snack – Canary Wharf in the distance

I passed an apartment block at Thamesmead that had a row of four cannon mounted on a ledge leading down to the path. I love seeing these remnants of London’s past history.

walking the Thames Path
warding off the enemy? Cannons at Thamesmead

Next up, the navigation light at Tripcock Ness, and this is where navigation takes on a more serious element and the area has a tragic history; in 1878 Tripcock Ness was the site of the sinking of the Princess Alice after a collision with another vessel that resulted in the loss of over 650 lives.

walking the Thames Path
Tripcock Ness
walking the Thames Path
life on the river gets serious from here onwards

The opposite side of the river is no less industrialised and wherever you look there are jetties jutting out into the river with large container ships moored alongside, tall cranes and buildings line the banks.

walking the Thames Path
the river is wide, the river is deep….the tide was coming in by this stage

As previously mentioned I passed a number of National Cycle Network markers. They are all individually decorated and show distance to places behind or in front of you. Useful if there are no Thames Path markers… albeit not much use when they tell you how far it is to Inverness!!! 😉

walking the Thames Path
National Cycle Network – very useful for distances and directions 🙂 and they’re all so decorative

From this point on, Thamesmead, the area became more residential than industrial and frankly some of the places were so lovely I wouldn’t mind living there myself…the views across the river must be amazing, and a terrific vantage point for watching events like the Tall Ships arriving, or cruise ships leaving.

walking the Thames Path
the path wends it’s way through a suburban jungle

Soon I arrived at Royal Arsenal/Woolwich. One of my favourite places along the Thames Path and I’ve visited a number of times in the past, as well as walked past on my Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales walk from Southwark Cathedral to Canterbury Cathedral in 2017.

walking the Thames Path
Royal Arsenal, Woolwich – fire power; remnants of history

There is so much to see in Royal Arsenal Woolwich, with an incredible history, and you could easily while away the day here. Sadly the fantastic Firepower Museum is no longer located here and has been move to a site close to Stonehenge in Wiltshire. If ever you are out that way, I can recommend a visit….it’s marvellous. But I digress.

walking the Thames Path
Guard Houses at Royal Arsenal, Woolwich

I didn’t tarry long and after taking a few photos of the many cannons and big guns littering the historic waterfront, Anthony Gormley’s ‘Assembly’ and the 1815 Riverside Guardhouses (Guardhouses were built at points on the perimeter; one at the main gate (1787–1788) and a pair by the new wharf circa 1814–1815 are still in place today). One is now a small restaurant and the other a flower shop.

walking the Thames Path
– Anthony Gormley at Woolwich

I continued upstream on my journey towards the Thames Barrier.

There was an interesting little sculpture on top of a wall ‘Elephants are people’. I saw quite a few of these as I progressed. Heading over to Google I entered a few key words and voila, found this site elephants are people

walking the Thames Path
Elephants are People

I noticed a beautiful plaque inserted in the paving ‘Millenium Heritage Trail’. I love discovering little features like this.

walking the Thames Path
Historic Woolwich – a fantastic place to explore

Next up, a (new since I was last there), development of apartment blocks. At least the developers have gone some way to making it look attractive with an array of fountains in the forecourt. On the opposite side are another set of many-storied apartment blocks being built.

walking the Thames Path
Urban landscapes along the Thames Path

Soon I passed the ferry and encountered my first annoying diversion: ‘footpath closed’. Ugh!! I loathe those developers that buy up tracts of land right up to the riverside and build something or other right at the edge…so inconsiderate and I cursed them ðŸ˜ĪðŸ˜Ī🧙‍♀ïļ This closed footpath required a diversion along a busy road (by the amount of traffic, you could tell – lockdown is well and truly over in Woolwich).

walking the Thames Path
Don’t pay the ferry man till he gets you to the other side?? – I wonder if that would work?
walking the Thames Path
ugh.

Back at the riverside, I stopped briefly to chat to a couple of ladies who were walking jauntily along. I asked them where they were heading, and where they started….Erith!! Crikey. They left more or less the same time as I did, how did I not see them before? Anyway, they had decided that morning, on impulse, to walk to Greenwich from Erith. No prior training and wearing sandals. LOL eish. I would not want to know how they felt the next day…

Then to my delight not much further on I spied the world famous Thames Barrier – still a fair way off but getting closer.

walking the Thames Path
the river is wide, the river is deep

I had to pass through an industrial estate, but fortunately they had some marvellous storyboards lining the building…so I stopped briefly for a read. At this point the Thames Path winds it way through residential and industrial.

walking the Thames Path
dull, ugly industrial landscapes

And at 14:16:40 I arrived at the Thames Barrier! Hoorah! After searching for the public toilets, thankfully open, I made my way to the benches that line the grassy area in front of the riverside facing the Thames Barrier and had some lunch.

walking the Thames Path
Hoorah! The Thames Barrier
walking the Thames Path
lunch at the Thames Barrier

Afterwards I made myself comfortable on the benches next to the building that houses some of the mechanics of the barrier, removed my shoes and socks, put my jacket under my head and had a 30 minute snooze. Bliss.

The day was absolutely gorgeous and since I was still well early and not in the mood to head home just yet, I decided there and then to continue to Greenwich, or as far as my feet would take me. So to that end at 15:13:16 I captured the immortal sign: ‘Thames Path National Trail – 180 miles from the Thames Barrier to the river’s source’ – and then some, if you count the dispute about where the true source is: Kemble or Seven Springs. I’m going to opt for both and after I’ve been to Cricklade/Kemble (eventually) I’m planning on walking the next 31 miles over 2 days to Seven Springs.

walking the Thames Path
walking the Thames Path – 180 miles form Thames Barrier to the river’s source

Without further ado, I set off towards Greenwich. It had been a most satisfactory day so far and I was pleased with the distance I had travelled: 15.37 kms (9.6 miles) – 4 hours 13 min

Walking the Thames Path – Stage 1b to follow shortly : Thames Barrier to Greenwich.

postscript: I had planned on putting my ‘mileage’ towards my Mt. Kilimanjaro (Tanzania – 97.1km) Virtual Challenge, but by the end of Stage 5, because I had walked so much further than expected, I put the km towards The Cabot Trail (Canada – 299.4km). So, although I didn’t walk the full length of the Thames Path (294kms/184miles) this time around, I will add my walks along the Saxon Shore Way and the English Coast Path when I get to do them.

One thing I do want to note in retrospect is that walking the Thames Path sounds very romantic, and you mostly see images on the net or blogs of previous walkers, showing the pretty rural villages and meadows or attractive cities that the Thames flows through, from source to sea, but you seldom see the reality of the downstream areas. You kinda get this idea that the path is a pretty, perhaps dusty but attractive route that follows the river as it wends it’s way downstream…and on the upper reaches it certainly does pass through some gorgeous villages, but without doubt there are a lot of residential and business properties too, and there are some really ugly and very unpleasant areas as you near the estuary.

walking the Thames Path
walking the Thames Path is not always pretty

Quote: Below us the Thames grew lighter, and all around below were the shadows – the dark shadows of buildings and bridges that formed the base of this dreadful masterpiece. Ernie Pyle

You do occasionally get a little splash of colour to relive the grey…nature always finds a way

walking the Thames Path
walking the Thames Path

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