Thames Path – Cookham to Marlow

Bourne End Sailing club
Bourne End Sailing club

Planning further ahead on Saturday evening I realised if I could do the short 5 miles between Cookham and Marlow it would give me better option for the next leg, so I headed off the Marlow to get the train to Cookham. It turned out that the trains were not running, but there was a replacement bus service running, I had a twenty minute wait. Before leaving the have I taped up the blisters on my feet with some non stretch medical tape it seemed to make a world of difference.

It was not clear where the bus would stop, so I positioned myself with a good view of the whole of Station Approach, where the bus was reputed to hang out. A coach turned up and and I asked for a ticket to Cookham, the drive said I’m not taking any money, to the three of us waiting just got on. There are no ticket machines at the station so getting a ticket was going to be a challenge. I sat back and enjoyed what might be a free ride. No one wanted to take my money at the other end and the station was closed, so thanks for the free ride Great Western Railway, if you want your money get in touch.

Hawthorn just outside Marlow
Hawthorn just outside Marlow

The weather driving over was very cloudy but turned out to be the overnight rain clouds being dispersed by the sun. I soon found my way to the path and crossed the river on a footbridge at Bourne End, then I came across a sailing club about to start a race. I had a go at a time lapse of the race in progress. It took two goes as most of the race took place down river from the start line where I first started the photo sequence.

Just outside Marlow I found a convenient bench for a chance to rest and take in the Thames silently flowing past. The final leg into Marlow did not take long and you have to head inland a little. There is a church yard right on the river next to the old iron/steel suspension bridge, where I got some photos. I headed up the high street and ended up in a Starbucks where I sampled one of their Peru Piccino which is a double restretto with a small amount of milk and froth, I thought it was very nice, just the right balance of coffee and milk. It was a great day for a walk and set me up nicely for the next leg.

Thames Path – Windsor to Cookham

The River Thames and Bridge from Windsor to Eton
The River Thames and Bridge from Windsor to Eton

I was confused over the distance from Windsor to Cookham, I got it in my head that it was 15 miles but it turned out it was only 10, so a nice distance. A work colleague lives in Cookham, so I sought advice re parking. I aimed for being in Cookham at 09:00, as the buses worked at that time. For the first time the satnav did not suggest the M25 so I went via Beaconsfield, cross country.

I parked up and found the bus stop and by chance Max was there, and offered me a lift to Windsor, what a star. We walked back to his house and uncovered his convertible Mercedes, I would arrive in Windsor in style thanks to Max. I started at the Riverside station, and ignoring the map did not cross the river so I did a 1/2 km detour having to double back. My first stop was Boveney Lock to start this blog entry, usually I got the chance on the bus or train.

Dorney Lake Olympic rowing lake
Dorney Lake Olympic rowing lake

At Dorney Lake I cheated by taking a very slightly short route taking in the Olympic rowing venue, there was a lot of activity going on, with rowers training and a Triathlon, just finishing. I say cheating but in the very loose terms, because my plastic map of the path takes you that way because when it was printer the path had a detour. The weather had turned out gorgeous, blue skies with con trails building as the morning went on. I was down to my T-shirt, but it was cold when stopped. At the end of the lake where the Triathlon had taken place a coffee stall was still open so I stopped for a coffee, I was at mile 3.88.

As you approach Maidenhead the Riverside houses are very opulent, I imagine they run into the millions of pounds. Quite a few own the bank but the foot path cuts the house off from the river. Just before Maidenhead you pass under the brick railway bridge built by Isambard kingdom Brunel, it has the widest and lowest self supporting brick arch. It looked to me like it needed a bit of TLC there were bushes growing out of it.

Barge on the Thames at Cookham
Barge on the Thames at Cookham

At the Maidenhead bridge at Windrush  VW (where I bought my Golf) I crossed the river and stopped in the Blue River Cafe for lunch, of Toast vegetable and Haloumi sandwich, which came with chips, I washed it down with a pint of orange and soda. While munching away I spotted my first Sand Martins of the year, as well as a Grey Wagtail. Unusually I started to get a blister after Maidenhead and my pace slowed a bit. Opposite Cliveden I rested for 5 minutes on a handy bench, it was peaceful and quiet until two elderly ladies came along and sat down and started nattering to each other.

I tried to contact Max as I got back to the edge of Cookham, but had to leave a message. Once in Cookham I took a look at the Stanley Spencer Gallery, which is £5 to look round but worth it as the paintings are curiously interesting, they are slightly impressionist and often contain the depiction of some biblical scene. By the time I had looked around the gallery Max still had not contacted me so I headed back to the car, then home.

I investigated my blisters when I got home they were not particularly large but they we deep and in an awkward position on the ball of my feet right near the base of my second toe in. I was using my new lined socks from Tesco which were fine on the first outing but had subsequently bee washed, the lining and the out seemed to be fused together and resisted being pulled apart. My theory is that the linings should slide over each other to stop the skin being stressed, and the lack of that property caused the blisters. I will revert back to my old thin silk lined socks that I wear over normal day socks in future and make a note to source some more. I bought them from an outdoor shop in Liverpool Centre more than 10 years ago and they have served me well I only hope I can find a replacement.

Thames Path – Staines-upon-Thames to Windsor

Interesting house on the Thames
Interesting house on the Thames

I was hoping to get in a couple of stretches of the Thames Path over Easter but due to various commitments I did not get a chance until the Sunday, and Easter Monday looked like it might be a wash out due to the remains of hurricane Kate passing through. The clocks went forward so I lost an hour, but I was still in Windsor by 09:45, to catch the 10:12 train to Staines. The car park at Windsor station is a bit of a ball ache after I had rustled up enough change for the meter after poking around under the car seats, I fond out that the reason there was a queue at the machine was because it was credit card only and the slowest machine in the world.

Finally when I got to the station and had purchased my ticket (£4.40) I found out the train was cancelled, luckily the next train at 10:23 was  fast one so little time was lost. The weather was clear and great for taking photos, but there was a brisk breeze and a chill in the air, so I was happy to sit on the train for 20 minutes before it left the station. The forecast was for heavy showers so I had my poncho with me as well as my camera bag to keep things dry.

Egyptian goose with young
Egyptian goose with young

Today’s walk would be less than the usual 10 mile minimum, but the next convenient stage would be Maidenhead, but that would be a 15 miler, tempting but the boat race was on and with the prospect of a choppy river due to the wind I wanted to watch it on TV. It was ironic that the race was on and I would be walking a different direction, with a bit of planning it might have been an experience to walk the race section with all the crowds about.

The day would be a mix of sun and rain, which I was soon reminded of when a downpour had me sheltering with some team supporters of people doing the Devises to Westminster canoe race. The sun soon came out and dried my poncho. On the way I saw some parakeets and a kingfisher flying away, then amazingly I saw an eagle owl in a cage in someone’s back garden.

Bridge over the river Thames
Bridge over the river Thames

I was caught out again after a bridge crossing at Windsor great park. It really lashed down with hail and everything, the poncho provided little protection and neither was there any around, so I plodded on until Datchet where it stopped and I popped in for a coffee and sandwich at the Costa coffee. It was 14:00 so time was a bit tight for the boat race, I had an hour to get to Windsor, so I did not linger too long at the coffee shop. Despite more rain I would have to walk through it.

It was not far to the station and my parked car. The traffic on the way home was quite busy so rather than M25 I peeled off onto the M40 and went via Beaconsfield. I was back in good time for the boat race but I missed the women’s race which was the one to watch as one of the crews nearly sank.

Thames Path – Sheperton ferry to Staines-on-Thames

Unusual house on the Thames with unusual ornaments.
Unusual house on the Thames with unusual ornaments.

The weather was sunny and Helen fancied a quiet day pottering around the house, I um’d and ah’d about a local walk but settled on another section of the Thames. You can get a bus from Staines-on-Thames to Sheperton and it takes 20 minutes. The walk would be less than 10 miles but would get me almost to the M25 which would be a milestone and Staines would be easy to get to for the next leg which would take me to beyond Windsor and Eton.

I arrived in Staines-on-Thames at 10:25 and parked up at a car park opposite the bus station, but the next 458 was due to leave at 10:59, so I had a mediocre coffee at Coffee Corner at the entrance to the shopping centre. The 458 was on time and I was soon back at Sheperton train station, and walked down to the ferry where I had finished the day before.

Polar bear on a balcony at a house on the Thames
Polar bear on a balcony at a house on the Thames

Guessing that the path would be muddy I wore my walking boots it was a good choice as the path was muddy at times. At Laleham I took a slight detour in land in search of a coffee shop, but found nothing, I had to settle for an oyster from and ice cream van at Penton lock. I had spotted a few strange fibre glass objects on houses since the start of the walk, some sun having shop mannequins, a Stan Laurel, and finally just before Penton lock a polar bear. Whilst eating my ice cream quite a few two man canoes were portaged round the lock it appeared to be a race as they were mainly jogging and support crews were on hand with energy drink and treats.

It was less than two miles to Staines-on-Thames and was done quite swiftly. I toyed with the idea if walking a bit further but saw a sign that said 10 miles to Eton, which was perfect, I’m sure I saw a bus service to Eaton from Staines. Just as I got back to hr cat it started raining as promised by the BBC weather service.

Thames Path – Teddington to Sheperton Weybridge ferry

Sheperton to Weybridge ferry
Sheperton to Weybridge ferry

It started out a cold day, when I got up at 7:30 it was snowing, however this just mean that the promised frost did not appear so the car windows did not need scraping. The plan was to attempt to walk from Teddignton and to use the ferry at Sheperton. I parked up near the ferry on the Weybridge side, the rules of the ferry are that you should ring a bell changed to the jetty, but only on the quarter hour. I arrived at 5 past 9 so had a 10 minute wait. I rang the bell a few times s but no one came so I rang the number on the sign, a polite man answered and apologised for not hearing the bell, because the chandlers shop door had been closed. The £2 one way fee was swift due to the two outboard motors. He had to dodge a few rowers and canoeists who were holding some sort of slalom event in the weir.

The walk to the station was 20 minutes and I found a handy Costa coffee just before arriving. The ticket to Teddington was £4.40, not bad I suppose compared to previous Thames sections. The journey took 20 minutes, and I was soon back at the footbridge at Teddington where I had started a few weeks back.

The Kingston Royals
The Kingston Royals

I crossed the river again at Kingston. Parakeets were everywhere, and I heard a loud  woodpecker a clear sign that spring is imminent. The path splits into two a high road and a low road, I took the high road because it was not muddy. Both followed the Thames around Hampton park in a big curve making it a sort of peninsula.

I took a wrong turning using a gaye into the Hampton park and had to retrace 300m, then I found the right gate and was happy to see that the cafe was available in the non-ticket area. I had egg and cress with crisps and a coffee. They had free water either iced or lemon sliced. I welcomed the rest I was 6 miles out and not quite half way. I visited Hampton court some years ago and can’t remember too much of it, but from the outside it looks grand, I made a mental note (and clearly a typed one too) to take the time to visit again.

I crossed the river river at Hampton not far from the entrance to the court,I would stay on the southern bank AL the way back to the car. At Molesey there was a lot going on, a relay running race and lots of rowing. There were a lot of house boats and water from chalet type residences as well as high end mansions on the Northern bank.

Mythical beasts
Mythical beasts

I had a plan to stop at the only possible stop on the path back to the ferry, a pub at Sunbury locks. I reached the locks but there was no pub, there were buildings that could have been pubs but no pub. You can imagine my joy when just after the locks there was the pub, called The Weir, a freehouse to boot, I had a half of Twyford Tipple and a packet of Jalapeño crisps. A chance to test my feet was very welcome and I only had about 20% of the distance left to walk. It was starting to look a bit greyer outside which reminded me that rain was due early afternoon, the time was 14:00.

The final stretch was not to bad and the rain held off. The path was really in the country side now. I got back to the car and thought I would take a look at the chandlers over the other side of the ferry they had a sale on. I had to go back to the bridge and down ferry road to get there. It turns out it was not a chandlers but was full of cheap clothes and nautical related tat. There were a couple of weather stations going cheap at £25. I moved on then stopped at a Snow and Rock shop outside which cars were hunting for parking spaces. I had a look round but even the stuff on sale seemed expensive.

The walks are becoming easier my feet do not ache as much and I think I can easily do a 15 miler if I needed to, but I will keep the stretched to 10-12 miles but push out longer if it seems appropriate.

Thames Path – Tower Bridge to Mortlake

The old and the new
The old and the new

Sunday was my opportunity for a walk so I went to bed early for an early start. We got new neighbours on Saturday but we have not really heard a peep out of them yet. I drove to The London Wetland Centre at Barnes and is run by WWT. They have free parking but the sign at the entrance suggested a £10 “donation” would be required if you did not have proof of entrance tickets on exiting, I took a chance, and in any case they do good work so would rather pay them than a car park.

The plan was to walk to Mortlake then public transport my way to Tower Hill then continue where I left off last week. By the time I got to Mortlake I had walked 4 miles, and I realised I may have bitten off more than I could chew. I threw caution to the wind I would see how I got on, and made a note to improve my map measuring technique.

International Martime Organization
International Martime Organization

I had a message from a friend last who I had not communicated with for some time, but whom I have known for man years, and we always seem to be able to carry on where we left off. Anyway he had read the blog, yes people do read it and asked if he could join me for a section near Oxford, I jumped at the chance it would be great to meet up again. It would probably be warmer by the time I get that far, and having access to another car would save buses  or doubling back.

I splashed out £12.10 on a travel card as I was not sure what i really needed then got the South West train to Waterloo and then the Bakerloo for a stop and jumped on the District line to Tower Hill. I planned on walking for another hourish  before a break for lunch.

Chelsea Bridge
Chelsea Bridge

The Southbank Centre seemed like a good place for some lunch, egg sandwich and hot chocolate, and evaluate the distance left. It turns out there was another 8 miles back to Barnes further than I ideally would have preferred but doable, that remained to be seen however, but with rests at arcticle points I should be OK. I left the the Festival Hall at 12:40.

You start to leave the tourist crowds behind after the Houses of Parliament, so the walking starts to get a bit easier, I put a spurt on for a bit to get some ground behind me. At the bridge before Battersea I crossed over to avoid a hike in land around the old power station. I upped the pace again though Battersea park where I passed the Peace Pagodas. At the village I was forced in land by a path closure, and took the opportunity to stop for a well earned coffee and carrot cake. The cake was a double portion there was a clear portion line down the centre, however two slices was just too much for me.

Peace Pagodas
Peace Pagodas

After Putney bridge is an area where Londoners go to mess about on the river.There were lots of people in rowing boats and some evidence that sailing went on too. I think there were races going on as there were a couple of launches with load hailers.

Back at the Wetland sensor was obvious that the parking would not be free as you needed a token to get out, so I went to the entrance and purchased one of the £10 tokens. This Thames walk is becoming an expensive task, what with the petrol, coffee stops and the rail ticket today it probably cost me over £50! The total distance today was 15 miles and and managed to fill in a gap I now had a continuous stretch of about 40 miles of the Thames done. Only 140 miles to do.

Thames Path – Woolwich ferry to Tower Bridge

Woolwich Ferry
Woolwich Ferry

I mentioned in a previous post I am attempting to walk the length of the Thames. Finding I had the day free on Saturday I planned another stretch. I thought I would start at the beginning which I had decided would be the Thames barrage, but when I looked at the map I changed my mind as I had never been on the Woolwich ferry, so I would start there.

The weather threatened rain after 12:00 so I would need an early start to avoid it. I woke up at 07:25, not ideal, had coffee and toast, and left with just enough time to catch the 08:11 from Berkhamsted. It was a fast train, so I did not want to miss it, the lights and everything were with me this morning, and my coffee for the train was handed to me as the rain pulled into the station. The weather was bright and clear with grey sky made of high altitude clouds.

Thames Barrier
Thames Barrier

At Euston I got the Northern line to Bank, but not before selecting the wrong southbound platform. At Bank I jumped on the DLR to King George V station where I would start walking.

The Woolwich ferry is not far from the station, although foot passengers are allowed the route on foot is not sign posted, so I just followed the cars. The ferry which is the only free boat trip in London, was on the other side loading, but soon did the crossing to my side. One foot passenger got off with a dozen cars and an artic. I was the only foot passenger to get on with a dozen cars. There were a lot of seats and space below the top car deck, for foot passengers. I found some step leading to the car deck where I could get a view of the Thames.

The Thames Path leaves the river for about half a mile and joins it again at the Thames barrier where ironically the official start of the Thames walk starts. According to the map on the wall it is 180 miles to the source which would therefore take me 18 sections to do if I made sure I did at least 10 miles each time I did a walk. I was glad I did the ferry in any case.

Dockland Skyline
Dockland Skyline

The first section was mainly housing then it became very industrial with sand and gravel dispensing areas. Then fancy apartments followed by the O2, then back to building sites before hitting the edge of Greenwich where I stopped at the Cutty Sark pub for a coffee and a packet of crisps, I was at mile 6.

At Greenwich I used the foot tunnel just because I could, it would put me on the side of the Thames I had not walked for a while. It is hard to keep to the rivers edge on the north bank as some property fronts are private so you end up tacking in and out of alleyways. I’ve noticed that with all the developments going on often a pub on a street corner is left intact, often looking out of place next to modern buildings or vacant lots.

I could see the predicted rain coming by the mist that had enveloped the distant views, so rather than stopping I cracked on, eventually getting sight of Tower Bridge my destination. I stopped taking off in St Katherine’s dock and had a bowl of delicious courgette soup and a coffee. I took my time as my feet needed a rest, and I wanted to update this blog post as the memories were still fresh.

Canary Wharf abstract
Canary Wharf abstract

I got on the tube at Tower hill where confusing signs sent you round the houses to the station entrance. I waited ages for a circle line train, then at Liverpool Street they announced issues on the line, then they went as far as Farringdon when they recommended getting the bus. The 63 was due in 20 minutes and I just wanted to get home so I walked down the road and splashed out on a cab for a swift delivery to Euston; £12.50. Things were against me at Euston two I missed a train which left as I arrived, then the next one was cancelled, still I only had a 20 minute wait for a fast train and had time to grab a paper and a coffee.

I grabbed some dinner on the way home from Tring Tesco, and Helen and I settled i n for an evening watching Finale of Deutschland 83 and a couple of madmen season one repeats.

Thames Path – Teddington Lock to Mortlake

RNLI Boat on the Thames near Kew
RNLI Boat on the Thames near Kew

At loose end I couldn’t figure out what to do this Saturday the weather was absolutely lousy in Aylesbury. When I look at the BBC website I noticed that the middle of the day so I have to plan to walk some of the Thames Path.

The plan was to drive into London and park at ham House the National Trust property then walk down to Teddington by the Lough get the train to Mortlake and then walk back along the Thames Path. By the time I got to ham House the rain stopped, at 11 degrees it wasn’t exactly exactly warm. It took 40 minutes to walk to the station at Teddington, the ticket to Mortlake was £4.20.

Twickenham Bridge with Richmond Railway bridge in the back ground
Twickenham Bridge with Richmond Railway bridge in the back ground

I got a FitBit for Christmas and it has encouraged me to walk more, so much so that I like to do a 10 Mike walk every weekend. So far I have been pretty successful 4 out of 5 weekends I have done more than 10. Last weekend we were away but I still managed an 8, and one of the weekends I did a 15 miler, which was probably a bit too far, but something to work up to.

On the way to the station I passed the Laboratory of the Government Chemist, I wonder what goes on there? A train came within 10 minutes which was handy, the journey would be a smidge over 20 minutes. The first stop was strawberry hill somewhere I gave never been. Next stop Twickenham, there was no match today, even though the Six Nations starts today, I checked before I set out as I did nothing t want to get stuck in traffic for a match. I could see lots of terraced houses from the train nearly all of them had skylights so as to maximise the expensive properties in this part of London.

The river with easy to find from Mortlake station just follow the streets to go downhill. Passed a brewery on the way now owned by Budweiser I did and acute bridge and then joined the Thames Path for some time it’s a very hard surface with no mud. I had chosen the right side of the river on the other side side properties with Gardens extending right down to the riverbank full stop that meant that the footpath went in land.

Richmond Bridge over the Thames
Richmond Bridge over the Thames

Illegal to eat keyboard I heard and saw a lot more ringneck parakeets than I had thus far on the walk. At the bend in the River Thames became rather choppy and I could see white horses on the River. From the Kew side of the river you get a great view of Syon House and the remains of an abbey. There was a handy bench so I rated for five. Tween the thames path and Q Gardens there is a waterfield haha a 1.0 possible to beat like a portcullis didn’t like it had been put down for some time. Just passed Kew Gardens is the Surrey golf club, then on the right an island called Isleworth Alt. At Richmond lock I crossed the very ornate footbridge, then headed into Richmond in search of coffee.

I settled on a place called Topshop Cafe on the high Street, a strange place. It appeared to be a long established place run by middle Eastern people, judging by the food on the menu. There were hanging plants all around, with that succulent green grass like plant in. In a corner three menu had a large Gaggia coffeeake in pieces and seemed to be discuss how to fix it. My American was strong and bitter typical of middle Eastern preference for the beverage.

I was 7 miles in to the walk but less than three remained, but I had a plan. I would continue on the path, and all pas the ferry to Ham House to take a look a bit further on where I could see a museum marked close to Eel Pie island, which I might also take a look at. I was tired by the time I got to the ferry, but alas it did not seen to be running despite what Wikipedia said as well as the signs on the jetty. There was a light on but no one seemed to be there. I waited five minutes and there was still no sign of life so I decided that i the best bet would be to double back to the bridge at Richmond where I found a cafe under the bridge in an archway. The coffee was better than the last place and the apple cake divine. Whilst day in cafe I took a closer look at a dog tag I had found on the path,it had a mobile number on it so I texted the the number to tell them and offer to post back. I got this polite reply; “Thank you so much. Yes, that’s our Sam. He was out for a run there this morning. Don’t worry about returning, I can easily get a new one – it will probably cost more for the postage! Many thanks anyway.”

I had sore feet for the final mile back to the car and the seats were a welcome relief. I had walked at least12 miles, a good walk. I missed the M4/M25 turn off and had to double back, a theme is emerging! I stopped off a Tesco for dinner and picked Helen up. We were home for the rugby England v Scotland in Murrayfield.