Thames Path

The Pool of London, with the Shard and Tower Bridge

Length — 152km in London (walk completed 2016); 248km upstream (walk completed upstream to Oxford)

The Thames Path is a National Trail which links the river’s source to the sea. The actual seaward end of the trail is a matter for discussion in some quarters: the original terminus at the Thames Barrier has been extended by some writers to Woolwich and even farther out. Erith is one option, where the London Loop starts, and there are arguments for Gravesend and Tilbury. Dual-bank options between the Greenwich foot tunnel and Teddington Lock could be extended out to the Tilbury-Gravesend ferry: the distances quoted here assume dual-bank working between Teddington and Greenwich, with a south-bank terminus at the mouth of the River Darent, from where it is a short step to Slade Green (using the Loop and link to reach the station), or into Dartford. There are grand plans to link the downstream ends to the England Coast Path.

The path within London is easy, though it is not completely the hard surface one might expect. The Greenwich peninsula is still heavily industrial in places: across the river from there, the free run is still an aspiration, with several turnings away from the river.

Within London (as far as Hampton Court), there should be no problems relating to public transport at the start and finish of your day. Upstream, there are few such problems until Goring is reached: beyond, transport options begin to peter out: this is particularly so beyond Oxford, and the linear day-walker may need to rely on taxis to return to a point where a car has been left, or to link with a train or bus service.

Note that the official path uses the Shepperton foot ferry, but there is a diversionary option via Shepperton village. For the benefit of upstream walkers, the ferry timetable is posted on a pole opposite the café just upstream from Walton bridge.

Within London, the TfL site gives excellent maps and route directions, but for extra information (and armchair reading), I recommend that Thames Path walkers buy The Thames Path in London, by Phoebe Clapham (Aurum, 2018, ISBN 978-1781317549). For the sections upstream from Hampton Court, the companion book, The Thames Park in the Country, by David Sharp and Tony Gowers (Aurum, 2016, ISBN 978−1781315750) is an essential buy. Another book, Walking the Thames Path, by Leigh Hatts (Cicerone, 2018, ISBN 978−1852848293) is a more pocket-sized one-volume alternative (but make sure that you get the map pack too).

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