Thames Path – Marlow bridge to Henley-on-Thames (section 6)

The weather was grey and a little fresh but it was dry and remained so, which was just right for a ‘shorter’ day’s walk. I planned to cover 8.5 miles for the day and walked 8.97 so that was the most accurate estimate so far in 6 days of walking.

I stopped at Burgers tea room for a morning snack and coffee. It’s a bakery. The history is that it’s been taken over by a Swiss Burger family in 1942 and produce 32 kinds of chocolate. The tea room is lovely. It was easy to get a table without booking although it seemed quite popular from the outside. The staff was lovely too and the coffee reasonably priced.

Brownie & filter coffee at Burgers. Delicious. Affordable.

Just before I started the walk by the Marlow suspension bridge where I stopped last time, I walk past Higginson Park, a beautiful park with a lovely autumn feel.

Higginson Park, Marlow

I passed Bisham church on the other bank, which had great reflections on the Thames.

Bisham church

There was also a goose perched on a tree, calling; I don’t know much about birds but I don’t often see geese perched on trees. I’ve seen them on the ground and I know that they normally nest quite low and I see them flying. However this one was on its own and calling constantly.

Perched goose
Bisham church from the North bank of the Thames

The ground got muddier as I got around Temple Mill Island, but it was still very passable. I was only wearing trail trainers rather than walking shoes and I’ve not had any issues with mud today.

Temple bridge from Temple Lock

I went across over the Temple bridge towards Hurley and then across again at the next bridge.

The muddy path didn’t last very lonng at all.

There were a lot of leaves on the ground which is beautiful at this time of the year, but you do have to watch your footing because you can’t see any lumps in the ground and tree roots,etc.

Shortly after Hurley Lock, I met a lovely couple who were walking the Thames Path downstream. They were doing it non stop. Nicely encouraging

On the other side of the lock, just before the other footbridge to cross back towards Hurley, therewas a water point which may be useful to some of you doing the Thames Path, especially if you’re doing it in a summer for example,

I saw a herd of white deer and a pheasant!

I’ve never seen white deer before so it took me a minute to work out what animals were in front of my eyes!

White deer

I then got stuck in a field full of sheep. There was a gate at the end of the field, but that has a lock on and some barbed wire behind. Obviously, even if I did try to go over the gate, I’d be in another private property. So I followed the edge of the field, all the way back, then headed towards Aston.

Being away from the Thamesside as I progressed towards Aston it feels a little bit more of a drag.

There I went past something that looks like a giant stone Jenga.

And a useless gate with no fencing attached.

The colours of the trees were totally beautiful, in the tones of yellow and orange and reds, juxtaposed with some green, and the grass and the brown branches from the leafless trees . It was beautiful.

In Aston I walked on a tarmac road towards back towards the Thames and I saw a field with a number of birds including ducks, gees, pheasants and small chickens and other birds.

I saw a lot of red kites, circling and calling each other with the very distinctive sound of red kites.

After about six miles, my shoulders were starting to ache. I may need to get a new rucksack.

I just carried on, going past Hambleden Lock and a Marina. I was impressed by the power of the water at Hembeley Lock.

I think went on to Remenham.

As I left Henley business on the North side of the Thames behind me, the path turned back South, towards Henle-on-Thames.

At that point, I started to catch my first glimpse of Henley-on-Thames, lying South, with its tower.

I arrived in Henley in just under 4h from Marlow.

I was hoping to get a sunset photo but the cloud coverage was too dense.

I ended my day with a real lovely dinner at ‘the Bistro at the Boathouse’.

Filling in the gaps: Thames Path community, toilet breaks and planning ahead

I felt like I needed a short post here to fill in the gap between my last walk and the next.

Since I’ve return from Marlow, I’ve spent some time planning the next sections. I also joined a couple of groups on Facebook and following some new Twitter accounts.

I’ve booked some annual leave, booked ttransport and accommodation, and asked favours from friends too, for the next few sections.

I’ve got a few more OS Explorer maps to add to the collection and help me plan the end of this route.

Thames Path community

I found there is a really active and lovely community of Thames Path walkers on social media. The community shares lovely pictures but also advice and timely updates on the path including fallen trees and floods.

Thames Path Walk: https://www.facebook.com/groups/991105694330798/?ref=share

Thames Path Walkers: https://www.facebook.com/groups/948466562294129/?ref=share

Thames Path National Trail: https://twitter.com/thamespathnt?s=21

Thames Path: https://twitter.com/thethamespath?s=21

@ThamesPathNT

Walk the Thames Path: https://walkthethames.co.uk/blog/2021/11/08/thames-path-news-round-up-64/?fbclid=IwAR1EajX22dtAftF3tqY0RRKHo70NT8mHWwbEhGeCXC0Y9tLFWxt_a6QZlT8


Toilet

I’ve threatened for some time to do a blog on Thames Path toilets (or lack thereof). So I thought I’d share a document I found detailing all the toilets on the way. Many of these are currently closed.

Here’s the site in comes from for up to date info.

https://www.visitthames.co.uk/about-the-river/information-on-toilets-and-water-points


Next plans

I’ve decided to return to the trail on 19th November. I’ll be walking three days from Marlow to Wallingford. I’ll stay in Henley-on-Thames then in Pangbourne, overnight.

It means packing more things in my bag and a few expenses but with the short days at the moment, it allows me to start the Saturday and Sunday sections earlier than if I took public transports each day.

Section 6: 19/11/21 – Marlow bridge to Henley-on-Thames (8.5miles /13.7km)

Section 7: 20/11/21 – Henley-on-Thames to Pangbourne (16miles /25.7km)

Section 8: 21/11/21 – Pangbourne to Wallingford (18miles /29km)

Section 9: 5/12/21 – Wallingford to Abingdon Bridge (14miles/22.5km)


Weather

It looks like the weather will be cloudy but dry on Friday and Saturday and sunny on Sunday. But it’ll be pretty cold with top temperatures around 8 degrees Celsius.

I’ve packed my bag, prepared some food and plugged my watch to charge. Now I just have to make my way to Marlow tomorrow.

Thames Path – Windsor bridge to Marlow bridge (section 5)

On Tuesday 9th November, I completed the fifth section of my Thames Path walk.

I started the walk on Windsor bridge where I had stopped the previous day, setting off on the North bank of the Thames, in Eton. It was a sunny morning, slightly warmer than the previous day.

Being back along the Thames rather than diverted away due to Private properties (on the previous day) felt lovely. The start of this section was indeed signed as being on a private property belonging to Eton College. But at least they were letting people walking there.

I’m went under the Windsor railway bridge, which I found fascinating. I really am growing to like those bridge and the engineering involved in the design and metalwork. I asked my partner if he could figure out why I’m started to be interested in bridges…I’ve never really taken an interest in these things before. He answered it was age! Well, so be it.

The woods, the colours, the path and the river were really nice. I was really enjoying and appreciating walking in the area and it quickly became my favourite part of the walk so far.

Mural under the A332

Shortly after passing under the A332 bridge, I had a lovely moment of warmth and gratitude and felt ‘well’ for a while. The Thames on my left, a meadow on my right, the sun on back and a lovely day ahead of me. It just felt right.

I was hoping to find some toilets at the Boveney Lock but there were none. There was a building without the roof and it did look like it could be a toilet but it was a disused urinal with lots of rubber rubbish left in it. No good for me. Not really pleasant either.

I think I need to write a whole new blog post about the lack of toilets on the Thames Path. Or maybe I need to hydrate less?

Just before Dorney Lake, I made a tiny detour to have a look inside the Chapel of Saint Mary Magdalene. I do like to visit churches. As a kid and teenager I rarely ever passed a religious place without entering/visiting if I could; so my curiosity took me inside the chapel.

Shortly after that I had my first nature wee of the walk! I didn’t want to but had little choice.

Further along, I carried on the walk, passing the Dorney Lake on my right and a big building which is a rowing club house for Eton, I believe.

I reached the bridge under the M4 at about one o’clock. That bridge was built in the 1960s and recently work was undertaken to the bridge as the M4 is turned in a ‘smart motorway’.

By the time I reached Bray lock, I had done 5 miles and I was started to be hungry so I stopped. I needed a break for lunch, changing my socks and checking my phone/social media. I had packed a lunch in the morning so I enjoyed that and then went back on the path.

Just past Bray lock, there was a movie set on the other side of the River, just before Monkey Island. The guidebook indicates that it’s actually originally referring to monks, rather than monkeys.

I arrived in Maidenhead, and noticed some really impressive mansions and nice boats from the far bank for the last two miles as I approached Maidenhead. On my right, I saw an interesting modern house was flying an Olympic flag.

I passed under the Maidenhead railway bridge, and at that point, Maidenhead bridge, ahead of me seemed so small compared to the railway bridge. The railway bridge was designed by civil engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel, whose work I am familiar with due to the Swindon Railway Works, the Bristol heritage but also the Brunel museum I came across on the first day on this walk in London.

So after I’ve crossed the Maidenhead bridge, I walked along the promenade, now on the South bank of the Thames. I stopped at the Riverside Gardens at the Jenner’s Café. They were about to close but they served me coffee and let me use the facilities.

I walked through Cock Marsh, just before crossing the Bourne End Railway footbridge and I saw some cows roaming the open fields. At that point, so close to sunset, I realised that I was going to finish my walk in the dark.

The sunset on Bourne End Marina was cloudier than the sunset on the previous day, and although not as spectacular, I still enjoyed the beautiful colours and views. It was starting to get a bit cold.

I saw flocks of birds as I walked past Gibraltar Island, the waxing moon was visible above, an to my right was the railway which I’ll use later on, on my way home. The next few miles felt like through a series of fields between the railway and the Thames, with a kissing gate in between the fields and the railway on one side and the Thames with trees and bushes on the other.

I entered Marlow via a lovely little landscaped park called Pergola Field. I got diverted inside Marlow away from the Thames side for a bit. Then I reached the wonderful Marlow suspension Bridge.

From there, I headed to the station. The station had no building, just the platform. I headed to Bourne End, Maidenhead and Reading. Grabbed dinner at Reading Station and got my last train home.

At that point I hadn’t planned the next part of the walk but I was getting a sense of addiction to the outdoors and to the Thames then, that made me want to start planning my next sections while onboard the train on the way home.

Thames Path – Chertsey bridge to Windsor bridge (section 4)

Sun rising on the Thames at Chertsey
Sun rising on the Thames at Chertsey

What a sight to open your hotel room’s curtains to!

I had a great dinner, a great night and a really filling breakfast (vegetarian full English) at the Bridge Hotel in Chertsey. I began the walk in a nice but fresh morning (it was about 3 degrees Celsius when I started), around 08:00, hence all the layers, the hat and the gloves on the pictures.

Different approaches

Depending on the guide book you use, it can be in one go from Kingston-upon-Thames to Windsor (Dillon, P., 2015. The national trails. 2nd ed. Cicerone, p.105.) which is 18.5 miles; or in three separate sections from Kingston-upon-Thames to Chertsey (11miles), Chertsey to Staines, then Staines to Windsor (Hatts, L., 2016. The Thames path. 2nd ed. Cicerone, pp.66-91.). I decided to break this part of my walk in two sections rather than one or three, so today I was walking from Chertsey to Windsor bridge.

Chertsey Lock to Penton Hook Lock

The route this morning started back on the North bank alongside a road: on my left was the Thames and then Chertsey Lock; on my right was the Thames Side road. Although it wasn’t very busy, it was a change from the peaceful wooden areas from yesterday. The Thames itself seemed really quiet and also very high.

The ground was muddier than yesterday walking through grass. The grass was still wet and so were my shoes and socks, very quickly so I was considering changing my socks even though it was quite early in the day (little did I know what was to come later in the walk). I barely noticed crossing under the M3 and quickly was by Laleham Camping Club. It was a pleasant landscape I was admiring on the South bank, with pretty houses and boats.

There was a diversion on Ferry Lane unfortunately sending the cars onto the narrow Thames Side, where I was walking in absence of a walking path.

Shortly after this the path re-started. This part was the most enjoyable in today’s walk, overall very quiet, peaceful and allowing for a lot of thinking and reflection. Penton Hook Lock area was especially pleasant.

Penton Hook Lock to Staines

My feet had dried by the time I got to Staines. The sun was out by then too which made my walk more enjoyable. I had set off yesterday with the sun in my face and today it was very much behind me (when it was out).

At times on the walk feels like nothing happens but actually, little things happen and those human interactions can really make my day.

I failed to mention in yesterday’s blog that I had a fun crossing of the Thames on the ferry at Shepperton with a family which I assume were mum, dad, little child and grandparents. I believe the child was named Curtis, and he was really lively and wanted to get on fast boat. He made me smile. He rang the bell to call the ferry. I am guessing they were on a day out.

Earlier today, in Staines I talked for a while to a lady had a Schnauzer; it was really nice.

And then a man was walking past with a dog carrying a big stick. I stupidly commented on how a massive stick that was, while looking just below his waist, at his dog carrying the stick. Oh the embarrassment!

At Staines I’ve crossed over to the South Bank with the Thames on my right and buildings which seem to be offices on the left, before moving to a more industrial area. I saw more squirrels on this side of Staines.

After crossing a small bridge I crossed a wooded area. The sound of cars started to get louder and louder. Then I crossed under the M25.

I had a coffee (which may seem overpriced at nearly £5 for a black americano… and it wasn’t even *that* nice…) at The Runnymede on Thames Hotel. It’s a really nice, modern and clean building and the toilets were very clean.
I had my protein shake and took about 30 minutes break.

My advice, if you want a coffee and the use of toilets, is to carry on a little to the Runnymede Pleasure Ground. There’s a café and toilets there as well. So I would recommend to go there instead of the hotel if you can/ if it’s open.

Runnymede and Magna Carta

Walking along the National Trust – Runnymede and Ankerwycke area, I was looking at the map as I was looking for a sculpture called the Jurors. But unfortunately, I couldn’t see it from this side of the Old Windsor Road. The installation is by Hew Locke and tell the story of Justice from across the world.

The site of Runnymede is were the Magna Carta was sealed over 800 years ago: it is often considered the birthplace of modern democracy.

Further, I felt Ham Island to my right and carried along the Thames’ New Cut, as it’s called. I realised there’s sewage work over there so I’m glad I didn’t have to go around that part.

I made my way to Datchet. It’s not the nicest part of the walk, actually. It is very affluent and has a lot of magnificent houses but since I moved back to the North bank, there were no paths to walk on; you have to follow the road on tiny pavements, because everything’s privately owned by the Thames. There was a small public garden by the Thames as respite from all the mansions ‘blocking’ the Thames side. After a gap in the trees I managed to join the Thames path again, after crossing the road (there’s no pedestrian crossing there so you need to be cautious).

Drama in Windsor

As I crossed the Victoria Bridge, things got worse: the Thames path disappears…everything’s blocked off because of Windsor palace. There was a big playing field that would take me towards the Thames side so I started going across but walked both feet in sinking mud!

I walked further on, under a railway bridge. I had to cross through the boatyard towards an hexagonal brick tower and follow the road for a couple of minutes until I got back to the riverside. At that point, there was a railway to my left and to my right, still water from the lock.

The end of the road

The sign from the Thames Path was back, taking me on Romney walk, with Romney Island to the right, and Windsor Castle on the other side.

I finished today’s walk after 22 kilometres in 5h36. After a walk around, I found some public toilets in a car park and then made my way towards the Central station. I decided not to eat in Windsor as all seems too expensive. My train ticket was valid until 3pm as it was off-peak so I heading home 1h20min earlier than planned.

Tomorrow I’m back in Windsor for the fifth section of my walk. Until then, I’m off to rest up !

Thames Path – Kingston Bridge to Chertsey Bridge (section 3)

The third section of my Thames Path walk, from Kingston bridge towards Chertsey bridge should be around 11 miles but I walked 12.21miles (19.65km).

Map of section 3 of the Thames Path

It took me over 4h to get to the start of this section. Public transport on a Sunday morning is a challenge.

I started today’s walk along Barge Walk by Kingston bridge. The path was busy with families and couples cycling and walking, some runners, some rowers, and even some children feeding the seagulls , in this nice and sunny Sunday afternoon.

It was warm enough in the sun but cool in the shade, around 11 degrees Celsius.

Switching sides

I should explain that today I started my walk on the North bank for the first time since the start of the Thames Path walk. This took me along Hampton court and then to Molesey bridge where I crossed over again. I crossed from North to South Bank and back to North again, including by ferry at Shepperton Lock.

View from Kingston bridge

Food

Even though I had only started the walk at midday, I stopped on a bench after a quarter of an hour for a protein shake as a snack.

My last couple of walks have taught me to try and plan some food to take with me, meaning I don’t have to rely on finding cafes or spend too much money all the time. I would much recommend that if you’re planning to do the Thames Path walk too.

Today I packed some snacks (protein powder and a shaker), a banana, a plum, an oat bar, some nuts and a ham and spinach pitta sandwich. I also have 1.2L of water in two bottles.

My rucksack this morning

The sounds of the Thames Path

Very much like the last couple of days’ walk along the Thames, the sounds are a major feature of my experience. Fom the rumbling of the cars, which you can just about see through the trees and the boats on the far side of the Thames, to a couple of boats passing along, the seagulls, people chattering, the sound of the wind and the leaves in the trees, and the water splashing along the banks after a boat has gone past.

Rambling on

To my left, and on the far side of the Thames there was the sailboat yard from Surbiton and to my right I get to Hampton Court and could see some horses, fields, and stables behind the trees. It was a nice straight path, not too muddy at all and fairly dry today, some leaves on the floor. The sun was shiny, and actually I realised I forgot to bring sunglasses, which would have been really useful this afternoon.

Around 13:00, I approached the Pavilion, on my right, but I could only really see a wall and the walking path next to it, unfortunately. At that stage, the weather had warned up and I took my jumper off. It was a pleasant afternoon. I crossed to the South bank at Molesey bridge.

Molesey Lock looked good. I’m always impressed by Locks engineering. I stopped at the Molesey Lock café to have my sandwich and a lovely black Americano, sound outside. The person serving me was very pleasant and asked about my walk.

The café doesn’t have toilets but there are some public toilets just a few meters away along the path, which were surprisingly clean. I also took the opportunity to stop to check my feet which looked fine and I put on fresh socks.

As I come to the proximity of the Molesley nature reserve on my left, the path had become quieter and only a couple of walkers were about as well as a couple of cyclists the other way. There, the Thames seemed animated with swinging and dancing of sailboats through the fairly strong winds today.

The path, which was quiet until just before Walton Wharf, became busier just after passing Walton. My guess was that people were perhaps having evening walks or afternoon walks at their Sunday dinner.

The plan was to take the ferry at Shepperton Lock but I became a little anxious, seeing a few of the other ferries along the way we’re not operating because of adverse weather (I guess it was higher wind than normal?). So I found the Shepperton ferry’s phone number on my phone (https://www.nauticalia-marine-services.co.uk/shepperton-weybridge-pedestrian-ferry/) and they confirmed that they were operating today.

I got to Walton bridge where things were getting a little bit quieter.

To signal that you are waiting for the ferry, at Shepperton Lock, you need to ring the bell on the quarter hour. I didn’t do a great job at ringing the bell, but it worked. I then stopped at the café and drank another black Americano andngrabbed a slice of coffee & walnut cake before using the toilet and head to Chertsey. Despite not needing to go, I thought I should mention that there are done public toilets of few hundred metres after the café, in case you need.

Someone must have been having a garden fire as it was quite smoky and the landscape was quite eerie as you approach Pharaoh Island. With the sun setting, the colours and hue were changing, to the point it gave an eerie feel to the evening. I’ve read that all the houses are named after Egyptian places and items.

On the last stretch, the sun had set a little while before and I stopped a lot, taking quite a few pictures trying to capture the colours of the subset, but they weren’t great as there seemed to have a lot of power lines in the way, which was not that pretty, but I guess they are part of our landscape in some way.

The Thames at that point was really quiet. I kept walking on the tow path. The sounds had changed quite a lot, mainly coming from the noisy road on the other side of the Dumsey meadow, and from planes (we are very close to Heathrow).

The moon, just overhead, was so lovely: a thin waxing crescent. I really enjoyed that last stretch of the walk, this evening.

As I arrived by Chertsey bridge, I could see a few flocks of migrating birds and fewer planes but also one fisherman in the dark, and a couple of couples walking dogs. It was only just before five but felt much later as it was quite dark. The street lights were on and you could see their pretty reflections in the Thames.

I completed the third section, checked in my lovely hotel room with river view (had to change rooms because my door was broken), had a nice warming dinner at the pub downstairs and sat to plan tomorrow’s section.

I’m tired so it’s great time I get some rest before tomorrow’s 12 or so miles to Windsor.

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.