The Walking Englishman Walks The Thames Path

A personal record of my walk of the Thames Path National Trail with a written journal and with photographs. Tracklogs for GPS units and for use with Google Earth are available for download for each stage.

Journal, Photographs and Download Files

Stage 10: Hampton Court to Vauxhall Bridge
Google Maps Open Source Maps

Statistics and Files
Start: Hampton Court Finish: Vauxhall Bridge Distance: 22.7 miles (36.5 km)
Time: 8-11 hours Climbing: N/A Rating: Hard
GPX Route File Google Earth File About Hampton Court
Start: Hampton Court Finish: Vauxhall Bridge
Distance: 22.7 miles (36.5 km) Time: 8-11 hours
Climbing: N/A Rating: Hard
GPX Route File Google Earth File
Ordnance Survey Explorer Map (1:25,000)

The Walk:

Roger Clarke's Spinning SculptureRoger Clarke's Spinning Sculpture
Teddington LockTeddington Lock

It should have been a walk from Hampton Court Bridge to Putney Bridge today but instead it was to be from Kingston Bridge to Vauxhall Bridge. I shall come to why it changed in due course. In the here and now, the morning of Wednesday 1st September, I was up at 5.30am and being delivered by taxi from Hampton Court Road to Kingston Bridge at 6.00am, dropped off on the exact spot I had stood yesterday afternoon to finish the previous stage. It was a nice morning, warm and dry but with a covering of cloud. Perfect walking conditions. Off I went, crossing Kingston Bridge to the south bank of the Thames and walking from the bridge to Canbury Gardens where a series of outdoor artworks were on display. They were displays of the Kingston Sculpture Trail and they made the start of this stage of my Thames Path walk a little more interesting. A peaceful thirty minutes of walking on the path alongside the river then took me to Teddington Lock which is actually a complex arrangement of three separate locks; Skiff Lock, Launch Lock and Barge Lock. At Teddington Lock I had reached a significant point on the Thames. Up to now I had been following a nontidal river. From now on I would be following the tidal stretch of the River Thames.

Richmond BridgeRichmond Bridge
Richmond Railway BridgeRichmond Railway Bridge

After passing Teddington Lock I began the walk on one of the few remaining non-build parts of my walk, a two mile walk beside Ham Lands Nature Reserve, passing Eel Pie Island and Ham House to arrive in Richmond on Thames from the south. Being a relatively peaceful greenway stretch, which was lovely, meant I was not alone. Although it had just turned 7.00am joggers regularly passed me on their morning exercise runs. At first it was just the joggers but after I had arrived at and passed Eel Pie Island they were joined by dog walkers who were walking out from the environs of Richmond on Thames. Once I myself arrived in the prosperous London suburban town I took my break for breakfast, in a cafe under one of the landing side of Richmond Bridge. I had not noticed when walking in the cafe that it was fully vegetarian but once in I was not leaving. And to be honest my choice of hot sandwich was delicious. As was the coffee. I was not converted but I was well satisfied.

Green algae ditch near Kew GardensGreen algae ditch near Kew Gardens
King George III's summer house at Kew GardensKing George III's summer house at Kew Gardens

Another green lane stretch of today's stage took me on the next phase of the walk from Richmond to Kew Bridge, a delightful three miles of perambulation beside first Old Deer Park and then alongside Kew Gardens. The Old Deer Park, established in the 16th century was a favourite place of leisure for Queen Elizabeth I and the subsequent Stuart dynasty. I did not see the park at all, hemmed in by a long ditch running alongside the path to my right and by the Thames on my left. But the continuous avenue of trees made it a pleasant excursion. One more, joggers were a constant sight and in walking past Old Deer Park I also passed the last of the 45 locks on the flow of Thames from source to sea. Richmond Lock having that distinction. Without noticing, Old Deer Park ceded to Kew Gardens, Britain's premier botanic garden which claims to house the largest and most diverse botanical and mycological collections in the world. Within the gardens is King George III's summer house which I noticed as I walked past. Not far after passing the grandest of summer house's I have ever seen I walked past the queue waiting to go into Kew Gardens. My green avenue walk ended at Kew Bridge, which is actually the third bridge on this spot. The first became to costly to maintain and the second became unable to cope with the increasing demand of traffic. That sounds familiar doesn't it.

Coxless Four practicing on the ThamesCoxless Four practicing on the Thames
Hammersmith BridgeHammersmith Bridge

I was now beginning to mark my stages of the walk in bridges, being in a phase of passing one well known Thames crossing after another. As each one passed I could sense I was drawing closer to the city. Kew Bridge, a half mile of walking, Kew Railway Bridge, one mile, Chiswick Bridge, one mile, Barnes Railway Bridge, two miles, Hammersmith Bridge. In that time I also saw lots of rowing boats cutting through the water of the river. I was on the University Boat Race stretch of the Thames after all now. It seemed appropriate. I found Hammersmith Bridge to be a cut above the ones previously seen on my Thames walk today, a grand old fashioned suspension bridge with ornate pinnacle towers. It was a sight to behold and I was thrilled by the thought there were more such architectural wonders to come.

Craven Cottage Riverside DevelopmentCraven Cottage Riverside Development
Wandsworth ParkWandsworth Park

Talking of architecture though, the next significant construction I saw on the river was one in the making. I arrived opposite Craven Cottage, home of Fulham Football Club. I was witnessing the building of Fulham's new riverside stand. Not just a football stand but also a supporter's leisure amenity. Football grounds are changing and here I could see it in plain sight. To my right was the exact opposite to modern development, London Wetland Centre being a haven for unblemished nature. I was tempted to call in for a look around but instead I had the thought of banking the Wetland Centre and Kew Gardens for visits with my wife Lil on our next trip to the capital. Next up for me then on the Thames Path was Putney Bridge and after that a lovely interlude of getting off the tarmac and walking on the grass through Wandsworth Park.

River WandleRiver Wandle
London HeliportLondon Heliport

Let's pause here a minute. I should have ended my walk today at Putney Bridge. My accommodation for tonight was In Putney, a short walk away from the bridge. But it was only around lunchtime when I got there and I was still full of walking. So I made an ad-hoc decision. Drop off my backpack and carry on until tea-time. Working out I could do that by getting to Vauxhall Bridge and use the trains between Vauxhall Station and Putney Station that is exactly what I did. Okay, explanation over, let us carry on...

From Wandsworth Park I came into full on urbanisation and regeneration, the confluence of the River Wandle and Thames being the only break in the concrete jungle that is Wandsworth. High tower blocks were all around and all new. Cranes were left, right and centre. throwing more up into the sky. I passed London Heliport thinking "Those helicopters will have to get skyward quicker" about the whirlybirds I could see through the fencing at the heliport. Talking about sky tracking, next on my ground level radar was Battersea Bridge.

Battersea BridgeBattersea Bridge
Albert BridgeAlbert Bridge

Reaching and passing Battersea Bridge was the prelude to my final exciting stage of today's extended walk which first took me to gorgeous Albert Bridge. A hybrid bridge, made up of parts and changes from the original, it remains in my eyes, one of the most visually striking bridges on the River Thames. The pillars are beautifully ornate and visually a draw to the eye. And at night Albert Bridge is illuminated by 4,000 LEDs, adding to its status as a powerful landmark of London. I went up to road level for a look down the length of the bridge and was chucked to see the sign which read 'All troops must break step when crossing the bridge'. From the bridge my walk continued through Battersea Park to Chelsea Bridge. The park was delightful, the overwhelming draw to my eye being the Peace Pagoda. Once past Chelsea Bridge my attention was drawn to the development work going on in converting Battersea Power Station from its original purpose to a leisure facility of all kinds. he work, which was ongoing as I passed forced me on a detour, the Thames Path taken away from the river and around the streets of Nine Elms. Here, as with most of London it seemed, new build and conversion of old was going on everywhere. It was frenetic in places. Still, I managed to work myself around all the diversions and road works to arrive at Vauxhall Bridge, my final destination for today. That had been a real proper walk, one adventure after another. I could not wait for tomorrow. When I would walk into the heart of the city.

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