Thames Path: from the Barrier to the Source – stage one, to Waterloo

I have planned to walk the Thames path from the Barrier to the source for some years, but never made the time for it. This last week I decided I could break it up in to a series of weekend walks, then take a week off for the last bit or so.

I have done most of the London parts, both southern and northern banks, in bits quite a few times in the past. I’ve also walked some parts of it around Oxford and Reading. Now, 28 May 2018, is the time to start to do it in the right order.

This morning I woke early and jumped on the nearly empty buses to get to the Thames Barrier, south side. The café and visitor centre is closed for refurbishment, not that it would have been open when I was there this morning. I took a few obligatory photographs, although it was very hazy. I did like the IDAHOT display from the Environmental Agency.

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180 miles to go… or about 290km.

Last time I had been this way much of the path around the Millennium Dome was boarded up, being redeveloped. Now most of the path had been restored and for all the new apartment blocks there are signs of the continued improvements along the foreshore with the planting of reeds and other water plants. There’s still a lot of industry in these parts, mostly sand and aggregate plants, but none were operating today. A detour is still in place at the far side of the Dome that takes you past the Meantime Brewery and through to the river again just before you reach the old part of Greenwich. It will be good when they finally finish fixing the riverside path along there.

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Canary Wharf in the haze, from just beyond the Thames Barrier. © SJG.

Greenwich appears from around a bend; the power station chimneys visible first, and then the masts of the restored Cutty Sark. It’s quite quick to reach the front of the magnificent college, today with tents being set up for some kind of festival or market. Usually I go through the foot tunnel to the north bank, but today I decided to stick to the south. Again, much of the housing development had been completed since the last time I’d been here and so I was able to continue along the Thames Path, detouring away from the river through Deptford. Here there are traces of Russian Czar Peter the Great’s four month stay in the area from January 1698. One, a strange statue, the other a plaque to a tree supposedly planted by him (picture below).

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The path along the river through Rotherhithe to Tower Bridge is mostly a mixture of apartment blocks made from old wharves and scarce traces of London’s once thriving river industry and military history.

While there were runners, dog walkers, and the occasional cycling group, most of the path was devoid of other people. That changed at Tower Bridge where throngs of tourists dawdled through the sights. By this point the haze had mostly been burned through leaving blue skies that suggested the forecast thunderstorms and rain might not happen during the middle of the day at least. I ducked and weaved my way through the throngs to have lunch at Doggetts Coat and Badge pub – other favourite pubs in the area either closed or heaving. While lunching, I toyed with the idea of continuing through to Vauxhall, but decided to stick to my original plan of breaking at Waterloo. The crowds, while great to see lots of people enjoying themselves, were too much after the pleasant numbers of people I had seen up to that point.

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According to my FitBit, I walked 23km (a bit over 14 miles) in about four and a half hours (not including my lunch break). The map above is from my FitBit app.