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Posts Tagged ‘walking solo’

Last year, 2020, inbetween lockdowns, and somewhere between Sandwich and Deal, on a practice walk for my now started Thames Path jaunt, and having just finished reading The Salt Path, by Raynor Winn, I was inspired to attempt to walk the WHOLE of the English Coast….in stages – you know how I love my stages πŸ˜‰πŸšΆβ€β™€οΈπŸšΆβ€β™€οΈ

I have already walked from Broadstairs (when we still lived there) to Sandwich, and to Margate – countless times when preparing for my Portuguese Camino in 2016/2017.

Due to my job I also get to work in a variety of locations, and occasionally it’s at the seaside…so I’ve already walked a few sections of the English Coast Path accidentally. But of course, now I’ll have to walk them again, this time with purpose, and that won’t be any hardship.

I reckon it’ll take about 10 years at my current rate, and because I’m still working and following a multitude of other routes!

Actually, I recently had the good fortune to have a booking in Nether Stowey and planned a couple of days in Paignton during which time I walked from Berryhead to Torquay via Brixham over 2 days βœ…βœ… and I also walked as far as Dover last year. (I will eventually get to write about these walks – the scenery is just stunning, and of course the east coast is awash with history – forgive the pun!).

Although I have a penchant for just going on my walks ‘on impulse’, mostly a fair amount of planning has already gone into the ‘idea’ 😁😁 and its usually impulse meets opportunity, and off I go.

I’m walking Hadrian’s Wall in September, so decided to walk the Northumberland coast path from the border with Scotland and part of the Tyne and Wear coastal path. Since I’m up that way….

To that end I’ve ordered the Northumberland Coast Path guidebook and passport (yes!!! To my delight, I discovered that there is a passport to go with it yayyyy πŸ™ƒπŸ™ƒ).

The Northumberland Coast Path

And so planning has begun. Originally (2020) I had planned on walking St Cuthbert’s Way and St Oswald’s Way, both of which are in Northumberland/Scotland, but there are 2 other Saints walks I want to do, and since I have the St Francis’s Way Conqueror Challenge still waiting in the wings, I’m going to try plan those for 2022, and put the mileage towards that challenge. πŸ˜€

I better plan a trip soon…I joined this challenge in December 2020!!

Part of the enjoyment of these walks is the planning. I love to set up the spreadsheet, decide on suitable dates, identify the distance and then start my research : transport, accommodation, weather, food stops, and of course affordability. I usually budget for Β£100 a day all told because accommodation costs are quite expensive. There’s a HUGE difference between the UK prices and Portugal/Spain. Its wayyyy cheaper to travel the Camino than plan a walk in the UK, unless you wild camp, which I have not yet had the courage to do.

First I had to identify all the main towns along the route, which is 100kms +- from Berwick Upon Tweed to Cresswell, and onto Newcastle. Identified and noted – spreadsheet updated.

Then I broke the distance down into ideally 20km walking days to see the how long and where to stay places. Towns/places noted. Some days will be longer than other!!!

Next up: transport. Hmmm. There’s a railway line but it appears to goes direct from Berwick to Newcastle πŸ€”πŸ€”πŸ€” and buses? Also a direct route, and no stops from what I can see (on closer inspection I found a few stops πŸ™„). So possibly basing myself in one place and hopping back and forth like I’m doing with the Thames Path and Saxon Shore Way! Tricky!

Next up: accommodation! I had a look on Airbnb and Booking.com. I nearly had heartfailure at the prices!! Even the YHA in Berwick Upon Tweed are charging Β£99 for 1 night! Restyled as a Hilton then?? Jeez. A more indepth search is required.

What I found during my searches is that accommodation is in short supply, and few and far between, and if available – very expensive!! Gosh, I hope the guide book is waiting for me when I get home!!

So I contemplated the possibility of ‘wild camping’ πŸ• πŸ₯΄πŸ₯΄ I’ve seen loads of people who do this on their long distance walks, but tbh I can’t even consider the idea of carrying a tent, sleeping mat and sleeping bag!! I carried a sleeping bag on my first day of the Pilgrim’s Way and the extra weight nearly destroyed my will to live.

I’ve been toying with the idea of just roughing it and sleeping with my jacket on under my emergency blanket…but I asked myself “what if it rains?” and of course there is this: Wild camping is not allowed in England, so please do not pitch your tent unless you have sought the permission of the landowner. What if I don’t have a tent? LOL

But ‘just in case’ I decided to check the weather patterns for September on the Northumbrian coast… very encouraging. Of course those 8 days, could coincide with my 6 days πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚ so perish the thought!!

I hope my trip coincides with those 22 days…
Q. Weather Northumberland September?
A. On average, it is maximum 16Β° in september in Northumberland and at least around 10Β° degrees. In september there are 8 days of rainfall with a total of 8 mm and then it will be dry 22 days this month in Northumberland’.

Not sure which year this was, but I hope it rings true for 2021 too!! Loving the average temperature!!

Sitting here on Saturday morning waiting for my client to wake up and scrolling despondently through the World Wide Web πŸŒπŸ•Έ I had the bright idea to ask the community on the Long Distance Hiking page on Facebook 😁😁

Voila…I’ve had some lovely responses so far, but not much about accommodation. So, patience being a virtue, I’m keeping my fingers crossed 🀞 and hoping someone has relevant information.

If not, then I’ll have to just wait for the guidebook and hope for the best….other than that, I’ll just wing it. I have a limited amount of time to book my advance rail ticket…

So that was in the morning…. meanwhile I’ve had a few people respond with more information about accommodation and bus routes that I did not find during my searches – change the keywords and success! It seems there are indeed local bus services that ply the coast between towns (of course πŸ™„πŸ™„ silly me, I had wondered how people get around).

I then had the bright idea (yes, I do wake up occasionally) of going back to the Northumberland Coast Path site from which I ordered my guide book, and hey presto! Guess what??? They have a whole section dedicated to the different stages and surprise surprise….accommodation options. However, on closer inspection some of the accommodation listed is well beyond my price range and when there are no prices listed….don’t even bother going there!

So back to the drawing board and fingers crossed by tomorrow I’ll have my route sorted and accommodation identified and booked.

I’ll be sure to keep you posted πŸ˜‰πŸ™ƒ

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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 πŸ™‚ Origins date back to the reign of Henry VIII. The building has been reconstructed since 1665 and is Grade II Listed as a mid-18th century edifice by Historic England. It is widely reported that The Mitre was built in 1665 at the direction of Charles II as a β€˜hostel for visitors to the Palace’. The Mitre is on the site of The Toy, which originally stood on the opposite side of the road, near the Trophy Gates of the Palace… and is mentioned in 1653 in the Parliamentary survey of Hampton Court as a Victualling House. This house was famous for the convivial meetings held there by the “Toy Club”, of which William IV, then Duke of Clarence, was President. ref wikipedia

Walking the Thames Path
Mitre Hotel

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

Walking the Thames Path
Molesey Lock

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

Walking the Thames Path
Molesey Lock

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

Walking the Thames Path
Lovely open pathway makes for easy walking

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

Walking the Thames Path
Fab.U.lous houseboats

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Walking the Thames Path
Garrick’s Temple to Shakespeare

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

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

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

Walking the Thames Path
Memorial Sundial West Molesey

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

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

Walking the Thames Path
So easy to follow…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Walking the Thames Path
Sunbury Lock

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Walking the Thames Path
Walton Bridge

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dumsey Meadow – I was hoping for a shady break…

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

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

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

walking the thames path
back to suburbia

And ahead Chertsey Lock and weir.

Chertsey Lock and weir

I soon passed under the M3

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

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

absolutely beautiful animals…

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

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

having a well-deserved swim at Laleham Park

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

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

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

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

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

Walking the Thames Path
Penton Hook Lock

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

Walking the Thames Path
Lovely wide gravel path

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

walking the thames path, staines upon thames
Dancing Fountain

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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.

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Richmond Palace

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

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

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

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

Back on the Thames Path

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Goodbye Kew, hello Richmond, see you soon Ham House

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

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Cholmondeley Walk, Richmond – heading upstream

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

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

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’OrlΓ©ans 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 β€˜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 β€˜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.

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Eel Pie Island on the left looking downstream towards Richmond

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

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

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

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

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

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Forest Schools and water activities

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

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

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

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Port of London authority taking care of the lock

The PLA’sΒ responsibilityΒ extends from aΒ pointΒ 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 πŸ™‚ )

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wish I knew what this building is

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

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

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: Γ†thelstan (925), and Γ†thelred the Unready (978). There are certain other kings who are said to have been crowned there. The town of Kingston was granted a charter by King John in 1200, but the oldest one to survive is from 1208. The ancient market is still held daily in the Market Place, including today such produce as fish, jewellery, exotic foods, local foods and flowers. ref wikipedia We’ll be hearing more about bad King John later on in the journey; Stage 6 when I reach Magna Carta Island (which isn’t actually an island) enroute to Windsor.

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an alternative throne! Canvey Gardens, Kingston

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

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in memorium 😦

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

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fabulous street art, Kingston

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Home Park, looking a little bereft of greenery

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

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

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

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The Baroque Palace at Hampton Court

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The stunning Tijou Gates at Hampton Court Palace

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

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

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Hampton Court Palace – the extraordinary Tudor Palace

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

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Hampton Court Bridge πŸ™‚ hoorah

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

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

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stunning poppies in the forecourt of Hampton Court Station

Did I ever say how much I love walking?

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He who feared he would not succeed sat still

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

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

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

Prelude to walking the Thames Path

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gatehouse Battersea Park – back where I ended..

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

The Thames Path 😝😝 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 πŸ˜‰)

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

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. β€˜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. πŸ™‚

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 πŸ™‚

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 πŸ˜„πŸ˜„πŸ»πŸ»
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!! πŸ™‚ 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 πŸ€ͺπŸ€ͺπŸ€ͺπŸ€ͺ 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 πŸ™‚ 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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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.

walking the thames path
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… πŸ™‚ 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 Β£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 Β£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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Today I’m on my way….heading home.

Its really nice to be able to say ‘home’, even though it’s a room in a shared house, its a base and home – for now. Although it was quite suitable in the past to stay in a b&b or guesthouse between jobs, the security of having a base is so much better.

Part of the reason I enjoyed staying at b&bs etc was because I used to travel between jobs, but now my little πŸ’™ lives in Ramsgate and I have a powerful reason to want a base to return to so I can spend precious time with him.

So today has finally arrived after what has, once again, been a very stressful 2 weeks. I’ve had 3 very stressful assignments since the beginning of the year and my goddess I’m tired.

I was hoping to start working again next week, but as has been the case in the last year, the agency do not have much work available. So I’ve accepted a position in Devon that only starts on 31st. Although this will have a slightly negative impact on my income, it does mean I have a good break and space to breathe.

I’ve started the process for claiming my pension, albeit insufficient to even pay my rent, it will give me a wee boost to save for my walking trips. I’ve not worked in the country long enough to qualify for a decent amount, but as the blurb goes….every little bit helps.

So talking of trips, crikey – after much rejigging my dates for my planned πŸ€”πŸ€”πŸ€” Thames Path walk in April, and trying for the last 2 days to squeeze the dates etc, I finally got a decent looking schedule worked out, sat down last night to start changing the dates for the bookings I had already made, only to find that the prices are almost double in May. So that puts paid to that little escapade. Ugh. My head.

Back to square one as they say. I was so upset last night that I just shut my computer, used a few choice words at commercialism 🀬🀬🀬 and went to bed.

So over the next few days I’m going to go back to basics, cancel all the bookings I made for April since I can’t travel then anyway, do a new search. Thank goodness for booking.com where you can reserve a place, but have the option of cancelling within a reasonable time.

However, I am determined to do this trip….

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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 πŸ˜‰

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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I arrived home last night, after a 4.5 hour journey, from a week’s booking in Salisbury. As much as what I really enjoyed exploring the city, and learning more of the history and her green spaces, it was wonderful to be back home.

You cannot underestimate the sheer joy of coming ‘home’ to your own place. It may not be much, but it’s got my stuff in it, and I’m home.

My own duvet…magic

After I’d dropped my bags off, I grabbed my walking poles and immediately set off for a sunset walk to the harbour

Absolutely stunning
A Royal harbour
Can you see the moon?
The sun setting in front of me

and then along the lower promenade

The snow moon rising behind me

before climbing up to the clifftop and a walk to Pegwell Bay.

View of Pegwell Bay from the bottom of the cliffs
From halfway up the path to the top of the cliffs

It was quite dark already by the time I reached the hotel, so I stopped there for a few photos and then walked back along the clifftop.

View from Pegwell Bay hotel
A bit of fun with the moon and the hands and molecules sculpture
One lone boat still has its Christmas lights on

A magical walk with no pressure to get back within 2 hours, and 9.9 kms added to my 2021 Conqueror virtual challenge.

I’m going to start the Ring Road Iceland virtual challenge on Monday 1st March. I’m so looking forward to the postcards, should be amazing. My daughter and I had a fantastic 4 day trip to Iceland in 2014, so I’m really keen to see the information that comes with the postcards.

The Sun Voyager (Icelandic: Sólfar); a sculpture by Jón Gunnar Árnason

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I’m not sure if I mentioned this before πŸ€”πŸ€” but I’m walking the Thames Path for my birthday…its a milestone birthday in as much as according to the government I can officially retire!!!Β  πŸ€ͺπŸ€ͺπŸ€ͺ if only.

Initially I really wanted to walk from source to sea, but have not been able to find a good relevant guide book. The Cicerone books are excellent but they only had a sea to source guide, which has been irritating me.
So I’ve been pondering how I can turn this around so I can enjoy the walk instead of feeling like I’m doing it the wrong way around…

And I just had an idea πŸ’‘ ping the oldΒ  🧠 woke up….I shall pretend I’m an explorer πŸ˜πŸ•΅οΈβ€β™€οΈπŸ•΅οΈβ€β™€οΈπŸšΆπŸ»β€β™€οΈπŸšΆπŸ»β€β™€οΈ who has just stumbled upon this great river, and now I have to follow it to find the mysterious source hidden in the jungle….in reality it’s in a barren field and the stream is mostly dry,πŸ€¦πŸΌβ€β™€οΈπŸ€¦πŸΌβ€β™€οΈ but who’s checking πŸ€·β€β™€οΈπŸ€·β€β™€οΈ this is my adventure and if I say it’s a jungle, then it’s a jungle πŸ’πŸ’πŸ’πŸ†πŸ…πŸ¦πŸ˜πŸ¦’πŸŠπŸ€ͺπŸ€ͺ

Sometimes it helps to be on the verge of senility, you can make up all sorts of πŸ’©πŸ€£πŸ€£πŸ€£

Thames Path…I shall πŸ‘€πŸ‘‰ in April well that’s the plan anyway…the PM may scupper those plans once again, unless I go incognito.

Walking the Thames Path has been a dream of mine ever since we lived in London, and I’m actually quite excited that finally I can bring my dream to fruition πŸ˜ƒπŸ˜ƒ Hoorah

Gravesend
The O2
Bermondsey
City of London – Commemorating the 1666 Great Fire of London in 2016
Westminster
Chelsea
Richmond lock
The Great River Race 2016 Richmond
The Gloriana processing along The Thames during the Tudor Pull near Teddington
Teddington Lock (during my 3 Days in London days)

Over the years I’ve walked sections of the Thames Path from Gravesend to Hampton Court and I initially toyed with the idea of skipping this section, which will take me 3 days of solid walking at approximately 20/5 kms per day, BUT I know myself too well…I won’t feel as if I’ve ‘actually’ walked the whole Thames Path unless I walk the whole route.

So, according to the guide, the path starts at the Thames Barrier, so that’s where I shall start my adventure…

The Thames Barrier

Did you know that the River Thames, a tidal river, is considered to be part of the English Coast right up until Teddington Lock ….

All I need now is for everyone to 🀞🀞🀞 that we don’t go into another lockdown before 20th April…thank you πŸ˜‰

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I reached this stage on 19 January, so not too far behind the last stage…either I was walking a lot more, or the distance to this stage was shorter. Of course all I have to do is check the details on the postcard!! In real life, from 1st January to the 19th I’d walked 128km which is just over 80 miles. Not too bad.

And doesn’t that water look amazing. Reminds me of the sea along the Thanet coastline when the water gets cloudy from the chalk after a storm…

Defined as “a populated area less than a town”, Otematata is more of a holiday town nowadays when it’s small population of around 180 explodes to 5,000 during the summer season. With easy access to both Lake Benmore, downstream Lake Aviemore and nearby hiking trails (known as tramping in NZ), holiday makers swarm to the area for camping, water skiing, boating, fishing, swimming and cycling among other activities.

Stage 6
Stage 6

Otematata sprung up in 1958 as a base for construction workers of the Benmore and Aviemore Dams. Within a year the population grew to 450 and at its peak it was as high as 4,000 residents. Built by the Ministry of Works the town had all the necessary facilities and services such as schools, clubs, pub, cinema and mall. The 1,500 strong workforce of engineers, builders, electricians, concreters and truckies spent seven years building the dam. Once the dam was finished, as it often happens with these kind of projects, the town was slowly dismantled. The houses that were trucked into town were years later trucked out and moved to Twizel for the next project. Benmore Dam is the largest earth-filled dam in NZ and the largest of eight in the Waitaki hydro scheme. As the second largest hydro station in the country, Benmore generates sufficient electricity to cover nearly 300,000 NZ homes.

Leaving Otematata, I travelled north on a sealed pathway alongside the Waitaki River until I reached the massive Benmore Dam and stood atop it with a bird’s eye view of the lake to the north and the river to the south. When the lake is over capacity, the floodgates open to release the water down a spillway and to prevent erosion a lip was inserted at the end to deflect the water. The spillway can handle ten times the normal river flow thereby allowing it to cope with severe flooding.

I skirted around the shore on a narrow sealed road to Deep Stream Track on Lake Aviemore for a walk along a flooded canyon. The deep green water was quite inviting for a swim but I settled for a picnic under a shaded tree enjoying the tranquility of this location and the reflection of the hills on the water.

A little further I crossed the Aviemore Dam back onto the State Highway and was relieved to be travelling on an off-road path beside the main road all the way to Waitaki Dam. Aviemore Dam was built in 1968 and the construction was on uneven ground because the Waitangi Fault runs beneath it. Although at the time of construction the fault was considered inactive, in the 2000s the fault was upgraded to dormant and as such the dam was reinforced against earthquakes and potential landslides. Because of the fault the dam is a mixed structure being part solid rock topped with concrete on the north side and earth-fill where the fault line runs beneath on the south side.

The Waitaki Dam is steeped in NZ history. As the smallest in the Waitaki hydro scheme, it is also the oldest having been built in 1935. Being the first dam to be built on the South Island, it was also the last to use pick and shovel. These archaic tools were retained because politicians wanted to reduce the unemployment rate during the Depression Era.

The building of the Waitaki Dam inadvertently played a major role in the birth of the social welfare system. In 1928, the Waitaki Hydro Medical Association together with the Waitaki Hospital Board developed a scheme to deduct monthly fees from wages in order to provide medical and ambulance services to the workers. When two politicians, one a doctor and the other a reverend, took office in 1935, they based the social welfare scheme on the one developed by the dam project.

From here it was a 5mi (8km) journey into Kurow. I heard the Waitaki Valley, which begins in Omarama, is a young winery region with a flair for developing good pinot noir and pinot gris. I’ll be sure to sample some after a hearty meal. I’m thinking fish and chips at the nearest pub.

I could live with fish and chips!! And do my journey continues. Seriously though, reading these emails makes me really really want to walk this route for real….

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