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 11: Vauxhall Bridge to Thames Barrier
Google Maps Open Source Maps

Statistics and Files
Start: Vauxhall Bridge Finish: Thames Barrier Distance: 14.5 miles (23.4 km)
Time: 5-7 hours Climbing: N/A Rating: Moderate
GPX Route File Google Earth File About the Thames Barrier
Start: Vauxhall Bridge Finish: Thames Barrier
Distance: 14.5 miles (23.4 km) Time: 5-7 hours
Climbing: N/A Rating: Moderate
GPX Route File Google Earth File
Ordnance Survey Explorer Map (1:25,000)

The Walk:

I had made a decision overnight. By extending yesterday's stage to Vauxhall Bridge, then today's intended stage to Tower Bridge would be just three and a half miles and done in a breath. How would I fill in the rest of my day? I checked my hotel booking for tonight last evening and was delighted to see I had free cancellation which meant I could walk to Thames Barrier today and finish a day early. And even with a train change it would save me an appreciable amount of money. I did all what was necessary and phoned my wife with the change of plan. She was delighted. So was I. And so, with a smile and a spring in my step I walked from my accommodation in Putney to the station, caught the train to Vauxhall and returned to Vauxhall Bridge to start what was now my final day on the Thames Path National Trail. I had just 14.5 miles of the 184 mile epic to go as I set off on what was now my final exciting full of sights to see day.

Lambeth PalaceLambeth Palace
Palace of WestminsterPalace of Westminster

Looking downstream from my starting viewpoint on Vauxhall Bridge I could already see the Palace of Westminister on the north bank and the London Eye on the south bank. It was just a few minutes after eight in the morning and with plenty of time for me to stroll the fifteen miles and still make my rescheduled trains back home to Arrogate. First passing point of note was Lambeth Bridge, just half a mile downstream and just beyond the bridge my first sight I really had to see, Lambeth Palace, the London residence of the Archbishop of Canterbury. I had not seen the palace before so that was my first tick in the box for today. Just beyond the palace I came to a poignant reminder of the times I was presently living in, The National Covid Memorial Wall, which was covered with the names of those lost to the awful pandemic disease. It was heartbreaking to read. Directly opposite the wall of tragedy was the Palace of Westminster. A grand building, looking splendid as ever, the only blemish being the scaffolding and screening of the tower of Big Ben. The renovation work to the clock tower had being ongoing for quite some years but was almost done. Soon the clock and tower would be looking as good as ever.

Approaching the London EyeApproaching the London Eye
Shell Mex House and Cleopatra's NeedleShell Mex House and Cleopatra's Needle

Westminster Bridge was my next on my progress and once past it my attention was focused on the London Eye. I could not avoid it if I tried, the big modern day attraction to this particular reach of the river. I went on the London Eye during a work trip in 2010. Here is what you can see downstream and here is an aerial view of Westminster Bridge and Parliament. After passing the London Eye I stopped at a cafe for a coffee and on my resumption of the walk I passed the bronze statue of Laurence Olivier as Hamlet at the entrance to the National Theatre. Over the river was Cleopatra's Needle and the visually striking art deco building, now known as Shell Mex House.

City of London skylineCity of London skyline
The Blackfriar's BridgesThe Blackfriar's Bridges

Next I carried on walking towards the Blackfriar's Bridges with the new modern London skyline beginning to dominate the scene. So much so I had not really noticed the Hungerford Bridge, Golden Jubilee Bridges and Waterloo Bridge which were now behind me. These modern skyscrapers in the heart of the City of London are really something. You really cannot help gawping at them. Some have nicknames such as the Walkie Talkie which resembles a mobile phone, One Blackfriars known as the Boomerang and 30 St Mary Axe, better known as the Gherkin. I could go on and find out more but instead I am going on with the continuation of my walk. Next up along the way was my arrival at the Tate Modern, another tick in my box of never seen before. It was busy here, a mass gathering of the Extinction Rebellion organisation was assembling. Leaving them to their cause I headed off to cross the river. I had somewhere I really wanted to go to now. An icon building of London I had never seen before.

Millennium BridgeMillennium Bridge
St Paul's CathedralSt Paul's Cathedral

I crossed to the north bank of the Thames by way of Millennium Bridge which was another tick in the box of new experiences for me but it was only the means of getting to the biggest draw of my day. It was an incredible fact, but of all the times I had been to London in my life, which was quite a few, I had never been to St Paul's Cathedral. I had never even seen the famous dome across the skyline so to walk up Sermon Lane to what is Sir Christopher Wren's architectural masterpiece was quite exhilarating. Up the lane I went and then there it was. I was aghast in awe, partly because it had taken me so long to arrive at this moment and mostly because it is such an extraordinary sight. Simply stunning. Not having time to visit the cathedral I stood still and took in the view for ten minutes before drawing myself away. At least I had now seen St Paul's Cathedral up close. A marvellous triumph of my personal Thames Path walk. And I was not done with the sightseeing in the City of London yet either. Next I sought out the Bank of England on Threadneedle Street. Another tick in the box. And then the Monument to the Great Fire of London on my way back to the Thames Path south side path which I got to by crossing London Bridge. Today it was not falling down. And by crossing it I got my best view from the Thames Path to the Shard. A 72 storey skyscraper, at time of writing, the Shard, standing at over 1,000 feet high, is the tallest building in the United Kingdom, and the seventh-tallest building in Europe.

HMS BelfastHMS Belfast
Tower BridgeTower Bridge

After the detour for sightseeing and back on my Thames Path walk proper I arrived by the side of HMS Belfast, which served the country admirably during World War II. II would have boarded the light cruiser had I the time. But with my previous diversionary endeavours I had to start keeping an eye on the time. From HMS Belfast it was a short walk to Tower Bridge, the bridge which really takes my eye. I have loved walking past the bridges of London on this walk and if I had to rate them in order of favouritism I would Hammersmith Bridge at number three, Albert Bridge at number two but undoubtedly Tower Bridge as a clear number one. It is just sumptuous to look at in my eyes. I am in awe every time I see it. So, only with natural reluctance did I move on by, looking across to the hotel I would have been staying in tonight had I not rearranged.

Tower of LondonTower of London

Just before passing Tower Bridge I enjoyed my best view of the Tower of London directly across the Thames. Just to the left of the tower I looked for and found the river entrance to Traitor's Gate. Another tick in the box, I had seen the tower and I had even been inside to meet the Ravens and Beefeaters while looking at the exhibits. I particularly remember noting how small Henry VIII's armour was, but then it was made for him when a young slender king and not the older more fulsome figure we are familiar with. Tower of London and Tower Bridge now behind me the walk took a completely feel. The city and landmarks known to us all were things of the past. I walked into Bermondsey and as I did so I felt I was walking into everyday Londoner's life.

Surrey Basin Bascule BridgeSurrey Basin Bascule Bridge
Cutty Sark Cutty Sark

Indeed I now walked around people going about their everyday lives. It was a completely different atmosphere altogether. People were going about their normal things, walking shopping, taking lunch breaks from work, children playing in small local parks. Traffic was flowing, lorries and trucks were delivering. The routine of life. Notable places on my progress were the Brunel Museum, the unusual Bascule Bridge at Surrey Basin and then the stupendous sight of Cutty Sark at Greenwich. It was here, after checking I had enough time, to take my final detour from the Thames Path. There was just one more must do tick in the box which was not on the route of the National Trail.

National Maritime Museum and DocklandsNational Maritime Museum and Docklands
Approaching the O2 ArenaApproaching the O2 Arena

Heading away from the river and the famous tea clipper I passed Greenwich Market to enter Greenwich Park by way of King William Walk. I made my way straight to the Prime Meridian and so to straddle it, thus being in both hemispheres of the world. I did not feel a thing! I also climbed up to the Royal Observatory and from there looked down over the park to the National Maritime Museum with the much changed scene of Docklands beyond. Docklands is looking more and more like the City of London now with towering skyscrapers soaring up from the ground. It is quite a stunning sight from the heights of Greenwich Park. Drawing my eyes from the spectacle, it was time to go, I walked down to the museum and from the park I followed Park Row back the the Thames Path. The final stage of my walk had arrived.

Quantum CloudQuantum Cloud
End of journey at Thames BarrierEnd of journey at Thames Barrier

As if by magic, for the final part of my walk, the sun came out. It was now a gorgeous warm and sunny early September afternoon. Walking on towards the site of the O2 Arena, I stopped just once, to watch a group of beachcombers sifting in the mud of a low tide Thames. I did not see them make any great discoveries though. Pressing on I passed a concrete plant and then Greenwich Peninsula Golf Range with its astro turf floor speckled white with a covering of golf balls. Then I rounded the O2 while looking over the water to more eccentric skyscraper buildings, this time those of the burgeoning Canary Wharf. Rounding the tip of Greenwich Peninsula took me past a series artworks including a slice of a ship called 'A Slice of Reality' and a modern sculpture called 'Liberty Grip'. Next up was 'The Mermaid' by Damien Hirst and then the 'Quantum Cloud' by Antony Gormley. Which in my humble opinion was the best of them all. There was another which ran it close titled 'The Tide, Hydra and Kali'. I could not take my eyes off it when walking by. In all that excitement of enjoying the outdoor art display I had failed to notice I was drawing towards the end of my eleven day walk of the River Thames from source to the Thames Barrier. Very soon it was going to be all over. During the final few steps I gave a brief reflection of the walk. I hope you like it. Anyway, I am at the Thames Barrier now. Until the next time....

Copyright © 2003-2024 Walking Englishman. All rights reserved.
Facebook Twitter You Tube Linked In Google +