Planning the next stage of the Thames path – 07 November 2021

It’s the morning of the third section of my walk along the Thames from Kingston-upon-Thames onwards.

Rucksack on the floor
My rucksack & 2 water bottles ready to go

What I’ve done so far and what adjustments I made

I’ll be taking it slower in these couple of next sections than I did for the first two sections. I’m planning fewer miles a day to make it easier on my feet and also to allow for long transport time on day one and limited day light at this time of the year. The sun will set in Chertsey at 16:26 on Sunday.

The aim is to go to Chertsey by the end of the first day (Sunday) then to Windsor the next day (Monday) and to Marlow the following day (Tuesday), so that’s three days walk along the Thames.

After the first two sections of the walklast month, I had to rest my feet (well, my right foot) for a few weeks and skip a couple of weekends of walking as I was in a lot of pain when walking. I even had an x ray. But all was good thankfully.

I’ve also bought myself some new trail shoes, because I realised that I had walked over 500 miles in the previous ones, which might explain the pain.

So I would encourage people to want to do this walk to get some good comfy shoes for the first couple of days when you spend so long on pavements or even break the first two sections up in three sections/days, which is advised in some of the guides.

Updates

I’ll be updating each day as much as possible on my walks on the blog and posting photos.

For the first two days at least of this trip, I’ve reverted to bring only my phone camera (iPhone) rather than the DSLR camera. I will consider whether to use the camera again on Tuesday – after I’ve gone back home overnight. As it’s only a day trip or not an overnight stay, I will have less to carry do might be able to ‘afford’ the camera weight. As Sunday to Monday involves an overnight stay in Chertsey, I carry additional items along with me for the two days such as a wash bag and my PJs.

OS maps used for these sections (Kingston to Marlow)

Explorer 161 and Explorer 160

Chertsey to Windsor on OS explorer 160

What I look forward to the most

  • Getting outdoors.
  • Seeing new sights.
  • Fresh air.

Thames Path – Putney Bridge to Kingston Bridge (section 2)

It’s the morning of day two, after checking maps and a quick breakfast at a café, I have made my way back to Putney bridge a bit later than yesterday.

The idea behind a later start was that any cafés or toilets or pubs on the way should be open by the time I reach them this time.
This side of London is such a sharp contrast to the start of my walk yesterday.
Not only it’s not foggy today, but more than the weather, the change of surroundings such as the boat houses, rowers, rowing boats, and ducks have replaced the industrial concrete factories and seagulls.

I left behind the concrete pavements to now follow what has become a towpath along the Thames, a track with leaves and occasionally mud. It’s Sunday morning so there are many dog walkers, families, runners and cyclists on the path.

In contrast to yesterday there isn’t as much variety on my walk. On my left are woods, sometimes houses or boat houses and, later on, Kew Gardens; on my right is the Thames with rowing boats and canal boats.

The walk features a nature reserve called ‘Leg’O’Mutton’ , Hammermith Bridge, Harrod’s Village and furniture depository too. Then I also went past Kew Gardens and Old Deer Park with its obelisk.

Isleworth, near Kew (North bank)

Hunger was setting in as I approached Richmond Bridge, so I was planning stop at a pub called the White Swan. But they were full so I carried on.

Richmond felt like a seaside town with its ‘beach’ by the bridge, the seagulls, an ice cream van, people waiting for food, and people going about their Sunday by the boats.
I stopped there for lunch, taking about an hour’s break. My feet were extremely sore.
Richmond has a lot of cafés and restaurants. If I had to do the walk again, I would definitely aim to get there for lunchtime.


On the way towards Ham House which is National Trust property, Petersham Meadows were looking really pretty, with some cows lying in the field.

At the risk of repeating myself, my feet were really sore since after lunch.
I went past Eel Pie Island. I read in my guide book was named after a dish they used today serve in the hotel, which has since been destroyed.

I stopped by the Ham Lands’ nature reserve because my feet hurt so much. I took ibuprofen with some water, I took off my hoodie and went on.

Despite the discomfort, I really enjoyed the area of Teddington and the locks.

Around 15:00 I approached Kingston upon Thames. Since the Ham Lands’ natural reserve, I have seen quite a few fishermen. I hadn’t seen any yesterday or in the morning.

I could see Kingston bridge in the distance, the sun was shining, and I was looking forward to dinner later with my friend Marieke who had joined me in London.

Just going past Steven’s Eyot, I observed more canal boats moored there, people feeding seagulls and swans and ducks and pigeons. On my left Canbury Gardens seemed such a beautiful lively park, lined up with benches, overlooking the Thames, Making it a very pleasant last little stretch of today’s walk towards the bridge.

I have completed day 2 of the Thames Path trail upstream. I walked from the Putney Bridge to Kingston Bridge in 6 hours.
I covered about 14 miles (22.8 km). The previous day it took me 9 hours for 23.5 miles (37.9 km). So that’s 15h of walk for 37.5 miles (60.7 km).
I’m so glad I gave this a start and look forward to the next stretch in a few weeks.

Now to get a train back to London.

Thames Path – The Thames Barrier to Putney Bridge (section 1)

Before the walk

It was a dark morning out when I left my hotel room to St Pancras to find my train towards Charlton.

It’s such a great feeling to embark onto a new little adventure: the unknown and excitement blend into a great positive energy.


I then walked for about 20 minutes from the station to the Thames Barrier, stopping to get water to refill my bottles, and passed through an industrial estate with pretty inconsiderate parking blocking the pavement and lorries going past so it was not a very scenic start of my day.

However, as I walked up the steps towards the start of the Thames path, overlooking the Barrier, I looked back and enjoyed the avenue of trees.
I also saw a cute cherry tree in the middle of the industrial estate. I’m not sure my photo captured its beauty and how outstanding it felt.

The Thames Barrier area also displays a lot of heritage and educational artefacts that can be observed as you approach the area on foot. There’s also a memorial to those who lost their lives building the Barrier.
If you want to know more about the barrier and how it works, head to the Environment Agency site. The future of the barrier, due to the impact of climate change is an important topic with massive impact. It’s worth a read.

The start of the walk

It was foggy but you could still just about see the other bank just as I started my walk. The morning then became so foggy you couldn’t see the other bank of the Thames once I got started on the walk . What struck me as I started my walk along this 180 miles path is the juxtaposition of the industrial area needing the Thames water, and the water and wildlife from the Thames, with in between the Thames Path with trees, blending the industrial to the natural alongside to concrete factories.

As I begin my journey along the Thames Path, it strikes me how reading blogs and books will never be enough to understand a route. And if you’re lucky enough to come here yourself and experience the route, you will be able to get your own feel for the good, the bad and the ugly.

I can’t recommend enough that you retrace my steps, or rather make your own steps, be it upstream or downstream along this path.

My initial progress is extremely slow as I stopped a lot to take many pictures. I imagined my rate of taking pictures will reduce as I walk along the path. I suspect I should take the opportunity for this foggy morning where we cannot see much to pick up my pace, and take fewer pictures but enjoy the experience on the walk itself.

However, as I walk along the tidal Thames, with its beaches and concrete factories, I reflect on the need for our ever demanding growing consumerism, the need for these concrete factories to produce new concrete for roads and infrastructures that we demand in our daily lives. Those very infrastructures that we rely on and that I rely on to organise this walk.

I arrived at the Greenwich Peninsula. Just before the Greenwich Yacht Club, as you turn the corner towards the ecology park along the Jubilee Greenway, this burned motorbike or small moped ironically lays across the floor, on the path.

I progressed to a more residential part of my walk along the Olympian Way, along the Thames, with a lot of newer buildings. As it is Saturday morning, there are many walkers, walking dogs, walking in families, even though the weather is quite foggy.
I had no idea about the Emirates cable cars you can use to cross the Thames. I couldn’t see the other end as the cable cars disappeared in the foggy sky above the Thames. In some ways I felt I missed out on a lot of sights because of the fog that morning.
I come to the first challenge of my walk. I have been carrying and drinking a water bottle, which didn’t fit in my backpacks’ two water bottles. So I come to a point where I need the toilet, and I do not know where to go. It seems everything (pubs/cafés) only opens after 10:00. I imagine this is going to be a bigger challenge as I progress through the walk if it’s already a challenge in London!

At this point in my walk as I walk past the huge O2 building, my thoughts are mostly around my lack of pace so far, but also the noticing the sounds around me, the constant murmur of the construct concrete factories that I have left behind, the sound of the Thames here in London, added to the odd cacophony of birds on the sandy tidal banks of the Thames.

Greenwich peninsula

I stopped at the Riverside Garden Café for a coffee and using the toilet. I ended up staying for a delicious second breakfast. I had smashed avocado with chilli on sourdough bread and poached eggs, which should keep me going for at least three hours.

Luckily, as I left the café, the sun started to come out and I can now see the other bank of the Thames, unable to take further pictures. At this point, I’m also moving onto a nice little residential area with lovely little streets, and a few more pubs and the Cutty Sark.
Shortly after this, I came across people queuing for a food bank. Suddenly I felt terrible for having had that second breakfast in a middle class café. I haven’t shifted that feeling since.

As I pass the Cutty Sark and the Old Royal Naval Collage, the promenade is getting busier with local walkers and the sun is truly shining. The noises have switched from the industrial humming of the Thames to the tidal noise and a lot of voices talking in different languages. An older man practises Tai Chi on a basketball court, people chat with each other in the street; altogether giving a sense of a lively community.

After Canada Wharf, my navigation hasn’t been perfect as the Thames Path wasn’t fully accessible and I took a detour around the back streets, allowing me to discover Twinkle Park, and Sayes Court Park (and its mulberry tree – see my pictures) as well as some engineering and heritage features (boundary stone, gauge house, hydraulic pumps, etc.). I discovered the Greenwich tunnel too. I eventually re-joined the path at the Salt Quay pub from where I could see the Shard and other buildings from the rest of London, in the distance. I stay here a while enjoying the views and taking pictures of the lock and of the local sculptures.

I came across families enjoying Surrey Docks Farms, just before reaching Tower Bridge. Then I found a link with home (Swindon) as the Brunel Engine House houses the Brunel museum. I’m familiar with Brunel as he influenced the Swindon (and broader local area such as Bristol) history, and I’ve visited the SS Great Britain in Bristol too.

Southwark

I arrived to what is usually my favourite part of London, but as I turn the corner from Tower Bridge, there were a lot of people around, suddenly.

There were literally hundreds of people everywhere when I reached Borough Market. No social distancing and people blowing their nose and coughing which all triggered a bit of irrational post-Covid social anxiety. I kept walking for a few kilometres, past the Golden Hinde and Winchester Palace (see photos) until I found a quiet café, in the back of the Oxo Tower. I changed my socks, washed my hands a lot, ordered lunch and sat for a while. I felt better.

I should really have expected it. A sunny Saturday in a capital city along the river… but it’s the first time since before the start if the pandemic that I found myself in such crowds.

Once I passed the London Eye and Westminster Bridge things were a little quieter.

Something that’s been humbling me was the wall of hearts Southbank opposite the Houses of Parliament. It’s the National Covid Memorial Wall, with thousands of people’s names, who died of COVID-19 in the last 18 months. These were lives that have been lost; staunch reminder of the pandemic still being here.

Lambeth, Vauxhall and Battersea

It’s definitely been quieter, on the other side of Lambert’s bridge, as I’d hoped, which was really pleasant. The sun was still out, although most of the afternoon had been in the shade of the buildings on this side of the Thames. I have been very lucky with the weather. On the Albert Embankment, I came across Lambeth Basaveshwara statue, then I went through the Riverside gardens and past ‘The Tower’.
Unfortunately more detours awaited as the Thames Path was closed in places due to construction work.

The Battersea Power Station area has been completed regenerated and it was quite busy. It seems it’s the latest place to be in London?
Battersea Park was very pleasant but at that point, I won’t lie, my feet hurt quite a lot. I focus on reaching Putney Bridge there, and observe some wildlife, ducks on the water, and I look forward to sitting down and having dinner soon.

As I arrive in Putney and finished crossing the park, I have packed away my DSLR camera. I think it’s getting me tired and carrying the weight on my neck and I don’t think the photos I especially worth it compared to my iPhone so I decide to just try with the iPhone on the next day.

Wandworth and Putney

I reached Putney Bridge: day 1 of the Thames path is done!
I walked from the Thames Barrier to Putney Bridge in exactly 9 hours and 32 seconds. I had planned to cover 30.5 km as that’s the distance my guidebook said it was…but with all the construction work, the multiple detours meant I covered 37.91 km (23.56 miles).

Apart from the crowds from Borough Market to Westminster Bridge, I’ve really enjoyed the walk and I’ve been very lucky with the weather too. Once the fog lifted, it’s been sunny and warm all day.
Now to have a veggie pizza and a glass of Italian white wine in Putney before I head back to my hotel to rest for the next leg the next day.

Thames Barrier picture by Tom Wheatley

Take a walk on the Thames side

Planning the Thames Path walk.

As I mentioned in my previous post, I’ve done long walks before and parts of National Trails but never a whole Trail.

I’ve decided to walk the Thames Path. But I can’t take many days off work for it so I’ll be walking it over some weekends between now and the summer, over about 12 to 15 days.
I’ve read up about various options and I decided to walk it in sections, and upstream.

Timing and planning

As I work remotely but my job (office) is based in London, I will use the opportunity to be in London for work in October, to start my walk from the Thames Barrier (tomorrow!). I’ll walk for the weekend then I’ll go to work on Monday and Tuesday.

The official National Trail website recommends the walk downstream so I find this book best to organise my walk, with the narrative around the upstream. I like the book as I’m reading about what I’ll see in my walks in advance, so I can hopefully remember some facts etc. as I go along my day.

Note, if you use this link to purchase this book, I will get a small commission from Amazon.

I have got three OS Explorer maps numbers 161, 162, and 173.

OS Explorer maps for day 1&2 of the walk

Note, if you use this link to purchase any of these items, I will get a small commission from Amazon.

The plan is to walk from Thames Barrier to Putney Bridge on day 1 and Putney to Kingston Bridge on day 2. I have no idea whether I can do this, what pace I’ll keep and whether I’ll cover this distance in two days, but I’ll have a go!
It’s 32km (20miles) on day 1 and 22km (14miles) on day 2.

Accommodation and transport

After initially choosing to use the coach to London, I decided to opt for a train trip on the Friday night, four night in a cheap (for London) but clean hotel and train back home on Tuesday evening.
I’ll be take the Tube and but to the start of the path at the Thames Barrier visitor centre tomorrow morning and coming back to my hotel on the Tube at night, then back to where I stopped on the Tube and back to the hotel again on the train and Tube on Sunday evening.

I’ll update you on how that worked out.


Photography

I’m not a naturally gifted photographer but I’ve decided to give a DSLR camera a go. That’s the model I have (borrowed from my boyfriend): Nikon D3200. I’ll also probably take a few pictures on my iPhone.

Packing

I’m packing today for the weekend and two days at work so I need to bring everything as well as keeping it light. I’m going to compile a list of kit I’m using for this walk and post it under the ‘Gear‘ category of this blog in the next week or so.

Tracking

I’m also looking into how I can get tracking of my route to share live from my Garmin but I’ve not worked this out yet. Watch this space 🙂

If you have tips or suggestions regarding the route, comment and let me know please.
I’m off to London today and will update on my walk this weekend.


Ystradfellte: the four waterfalls walk

Walked with: Rod, James and Missy.

How I got there: car.

Map: https://www.strava.com/activities/6018335114

This was a trial hike in a few different ways. My first hike in a while, the first one I decided to document and the first one I tried to take photos on the DSLR camera (Nikon) rather than my phone.

We set off a couple of hours later than planned and arrived at Ystradfellte at about 12:00. I’d hoped to park at the pub The New Inn so we could eat there on the way back but the pub has clear signs not to park there, and it was closed. We’d passed a car park but that had a sign indicating it was full so we drove further and ended parking in a farmer’s field (they charged us £5 for the day) near the official parking called Cwm Porth. ///testy.different.chestnuts

There a cool cave, worth a look at before you start the walk. It’s called Porth yr Ogof and it’s just below the car park in the woods: ///rope.neon.mealtime

We then set off on the walk.
At this point, it’s past 12:00 and we haven’t had lunch. I didn’t mind too much because I’d been unwell in the morning so wasn’t too hungry. I’d had a slice of toast around 09:30 while walking the dog, at home, before we got in the car.
I’d brought some cereal bars so I gave one each to Rod and James , and I ate my yummy Trek oat bar.

As you’ll see on the map above, we made a few detours but it was a good walk and we’ll worth it for the beautiful sights.

At one point on the path, I fell on my backside and landed badly, hurting my shoulder – the bicep pain was horrible. It lasted for days after the fall, actually. As I write this, it still hurts when I use my right arm. With the lack of food, I became extremely tired. Then I lost Rod and James (they had my bag and mobile phone in my bag) so I got a little upset with exhaustion and pain.

But we carried on. We stopped a few times and I got my second Trek bar out; we shared it, just before the last stretch back to the car park.

We had good weather all along, which was quite lucky.

I’ll go back and do this walk again, starting earlier, taking food with me and maybe do it in the other direction.
I consider this one as a rehearsal 🙂

Are you ready boots?

My name is Aurélie and I like walking.

Here. I’ve said it! 🙂
Plenty of people enjoy walking and there are tons of fab blogs out there about hiking and walking so you may wonder why I feel the need to write publicly about my small (mostly) local adventures.

First, I feel that I would like to share my walks and get tips and advice on future walks too, from more experienced walkers.
I’ve completed a few ultra-marathon walks with the Threshold trail series: Race to the Stones (twice), Race to the Tower and Race to the King. They are amazing, well-supported events, which I very much recommend. I have also walked along the Ridgeway a few times, and done part of the North Cornwall coastal path which is absolutely beautiful! I walk mostly solo or in organised walks so my kit does vary and so far, although I’m not adverse to camping, I’ve only ever stayed in booked accommodations on my walks (apart from one night in a tent on Race to the Stones, the very first time) so I’m still a beginner hiker and I have a lot to learn.
I do sometimes walk with the family too. My partner and I have five children between us. We are also long-term dog-sitting currently so we sometimes walk with beautiful Missy, super cute Schnauzer (you’ll see pictures of her in a blog post soon).
I’m inspired by a lot of other hikers and one of my inspiration is my friend Jen who walked LEJOG solo a few years back.

I have also had a few questions from friends recently regarding planning days-out (solo, in groups and as a family) as well as longer walks so I thought I’d share my own tips and hope to share downloadable checklists and kit lists soon, too. I’d like to connect with other walkers and get recommendations from you all too, so I hope you feel you can comment on the posts or email me to suggest future topics or questions you have.

Another reason is that I talk a lot. I mean A LOT! This way, writing about my walks channels my narrative and saves my friends and family from my ramblings (see what I did, here?).

Finally, I’ve decided to try a DSLR camera (I’m borrowing this from my boyfriend) and although I’m not good at photography, I thought I’d use it to document my walks as I’m planning longer walks. I’ll also share photos taken on my phone (iPhone 12 Pro Max).

I hope to keep up the blogging so I can share my Thames Path adventures over the next few months, as I’m planning to walk the Thames Path upstream, over a dozen walking days or so. I have planned a ‘Walk Across Wiltshire’ 3-day walk that I couldn’t do last year so I’m hoping to share this with you, too, soon.
I’m going to start the blog with sharing retrospectively a couple of shorter but lovely recent walks and posting about my preparation for the Thames Path walk.