Thames Path: Stage 3 – Mortlake to Hampton Court Palace

Due to Sunday track work my trip to Mortlake was slightly more complicated than leaving last weekend – seriously, better signage around Barnes station would mean happier people all round. Ah well. I got to the Ship pub on the shore of the Thames at a bit before 8:30. Overcast, cool, but the humidity already hanging heavy.

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This length of the Thames had no diversions and the paths seem to have been looked after quite well. This bit is where it’s easy to forget you’re in London still as both banks have long patches of greenery. Kew Gardens is not long from where I started this stretch of my walk, and continues into the Old Deer Park.

The part of Richmond that sits by the river was gearing up for what I assume would have become a busy Sunday, but when I walked through the crowds had yet to descend. Although the cafes that were open already were doing good business.

Despite it being low tide, the rowers and canoeists were out in force, later on joined by motor cruisers as the sun burned through the cloud and it turned into a lovely day.

Immediately out of Richmond I ended up walking contra-flow to a running race. The first few very serious runners were far ahead of the bunches of runners who seemed annoyed that anyone else was sharing their track! As they thinned out and the people having a go took over the vibe became much more friendly, and finally I left them far behind.

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To continue to walk along the river’s edge, you need to cross the Kingston bridge – which comes before the large number of humming cafes, bars and restaurants. I had ear-marked the White Hart (a Fuller’s Pub) to take my lunch (a wise choice) so I crossed the bridge.

Break over, I headed into what’s now called the Barge Walk – a restoration of the north bank’s 5km riverside path from Kingston to Hampton Court Palace. The path splits into two – one for walkers and one for cyclists. Only one cyclist decided to take the walkers’ path, claiming ignorance when some others called him out on it.

I decided to pop into the Palace because it had been a while. The main courtyard was set up for some kind of event, but the whole place was pleasantly crowded.

Then back on to the path for the final bit to Hampton Court Bridge where I ended my walk. Thankfully, the trains were running into Waterloo and my trip home was quite quick.

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According to my FitBit, I walked slightly over 21km (a bit over 13 miles) in about four hours (not including my lunch break). The map is from my FitBit app.

Thames Path: Stage 2 – Waterloo to Mortlake

This morning I caught a bus to Waterloo Bridge and picked up on the Thames Path where I left off on Monday. Early on a Sunday and the only people about apart from me were cleaners, a few joggers, and an artist in the under passages of the Southbank.

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I stayed on the south side of the river the whole way, delighting in the fact that the many diversions that had been in place for years no longer are. One small one has cropped up around the MI6 building at Vauxhall while they rebuild some of the old office blocks there and the slipway. It’s a minor diversion. The other is the remaining one in Nine Elms where work continues on the old Battersea Power Station. It makes such a difference to be able to walk along the river side rather than divert through building works.

This stretch took me past many of London’s key sights – Parliament (clad in scaffolding for long needed restoration work), Lambeth Palace, the London Eye, and the Tate (across the other side of the river). Also past and partially through the still being build Nine Elms area – the architecture is a mix of plain and the quite interesting. Despite the lack of new affordable housing in the area, the rejuvenation will bring a bit of life to the older parts, too.

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Low tide and highly reflective water along the river today. 

The path goes through a few large parks – Battersea with its pagoda, and Wandsworth where people played cricket. Past Putney and into Barnes the path goes into forest and wetlands. Here quite a few people were enjoying the warm sunshine by riding their bikes, or walking, or running. One little thing that irked – three groups of runners had loud music pumping out from backpacks.

Like with Monday, I decided to only walk for half the day. I had lunch at the Ship, a Greene King pub, in Mortlake and then headed to the station for  train back to central London.

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According to my FitBit, I walked nearly 21km (a bit over 13 miles) in about three hours and fifty minutes (not including my lunch break). The map above is from my FitBit app.

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.