Posts Tagged ‘national trail’

London — By Andrea Kirkby on September 28, 2009 at 12:09 am
Filed under: featuredarticle, hiking, national trail, thames path

The Thames Path

The Thames is a never-ending source of fascination for anyone who lives in London. It may well be the London river – but it’s also the river that runs through Oxford, through Henley, and all the way to the North Sea past Gravesend and the Isle of Grain. It links charming old-world villages and the desolate industrial sites of Dartford, the busy City and the relaxed embankments of Putney and Richmond.

The Thames Path is a great way to get to know the river. The full path runs all the way from the source in Oxfordshire to the Thames Barrier, but it’s quite easy to pick a section that’s accessible by train and just walk eight or nine miles. For instance there’s a great post on Gadling that suggests walking from Oxford to Abingdon – though I’d also want to take a detour at Oxford to visit Jericho, where the canal and boatyard were the inspiration for the water gypsies in Philip Pullman’s trilogy His Dark Materials.

I like a piece of the Thames that also has the Ridgeway national trail running along it – around Goring and Streatley. It’s full of bluebell woods and the kind of cottage you can imagine Ratty or Mole from The Wind in the Willows living in. (You can catch a train from London Paddington station every half hour or so.)

Or there’s the leg that I really enjoy, which is completely different – out from the centre of London towards the Thames Barrier. Views of modern architecture and Canary Wharf, high barbed-wire topped walls sometimes penning the path in, it’s an urban dream-cum-nightmare till suddenly, the river broadens out and you see the vanes of the barrier glittering like fish scales in the distance.

Richmond to Hampton Court is another lovely stretch – and there are some good pubs on this leg of the path, which makes it a good hike for beer drinkers! It’s a rural feeling stretch once you get out of Richmond, with fine houses like Marble Hill House and gentle hills overlooking the river. And of course Hampton Court, my favourite of all London’s palaces, at the end of the walk.

If you want to walk the whole path, it’s 180 miles, and it will take you a couple of weeks. If you start at the source, of course, it’s all downhill – and after the Pennine Way, Coast-to-Coast walk and pilgrimage to Santiago, I think my fast-ageing feet will appreciate that!


Photo by Frank O’Dwyer on flickr

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