I've had a friend staying from my home town, Christchurch (NZ) so I'm a bit behind with my blog posts. Two weeks ago we decided to walk from my home (Balham) to Petersham Nurseries along the Thames Path. It was the perfect day for walking, not too hot. However little did we know how many kilometres it was and how long it would take us!
It was in fact 19.4 kilometres! My friend had flown from Sydney the day before arriving in London at 9pm, she's 68 years old and yet she walked all that way just to reach one of her favourite spots. Call us bonkers or what?!!
We headed north across Wandsworth Common to Wandsworth Bridge from Balham.
The next bridge is Putney Bridge but before you reach the bridge you walk along the edge of Wandsworth Park under a line of the most beautiful London planetrees and the houseboats at Putney Reach.
The towpath starts properly at Putney Bridge where it hugs the river all the way to Petersham Nurseries and beyond.
From Putney Bridge the towpath is wild and natural with overhanging trees. The bank of the river is also overgrown with greenery and then suddenly it opens up with a spectacular view of the river.
We passed the Harrods Depository which was built on the site of an old soap factory in 1894 as a storage centre for the larger items that could not be taken into the Harrods department store. The current terracotta-clad buildings which are Grade II listed, date from 1914 and were designed by the architect was W G Hunt. Harrods no longer own the buildings but they retain many original external features. In 2000 they were converted to 250 residential townhouses and penthouse suites called Harrods Village. The main river front building is a key marker post on the annual Oxford and Cambridge Boat Race.
The next bridge, Hammersmith Bridge, is one of the most beautiful bridges on the Thames. It is a suspension bridge and is Grade II listed. Hammersmith Bridge has a chequered history, three times being subject to bomb attacks. The first was in 1939, when an attempted IRA bombing was foiled. The bridge was again a target in 1996, when a large bomb was planted under the bridge, but failed to detonate. More recently, the bridge was again attacked in 2000, when a bomb exploded damaging one of the girders and was closed for a while for repairs.
Continuing on we reached Barnes Bridge which carries the Hounslow railway line over the Thames, but there is also a footpath across the bridge. This is a rather ugly bridge but it is Grade II listed! It has been neglected and is on English Heritage's list of buildings at risk. Many of the houses along this stretch of the river are very grand architecture.
We passed under Chiswick Bridge on a wide and rather grand path and then reached Kew Bridge and Kew Palace. The Palace dates from 1631 and is one of the Royal Palaces, used by the Royal Family from 1729 - 1818. We were flagging now and seriously considered calling an Uber! However we decided to battle on to the end for the pure satisfaction of saying we had walked to Petersham Nurseries - and an ice cold beer waiting for us!
Seeing canal barges on the Thames always looks rather incongruous.
We could feel the end in sight as there were more and more people around so we hoped that Richmond Bridge was near. However the path seemed to stretch out in front of us forever! Suddenly we were at Richmond Lock and the path opened out; we knew Richmond wasn't far.
I've never been so glad to reach Richmond and see so many people. It was only another 15 minutes further to Petersham!
We battled on and reached the Petersham Meadows where we crossed close to the small herd of Belted Galloways that graze in the meadow between April and October every year, managed by The National Trust working with the Surrey Wildlife Trust, who manage the cows.The herd are based in Wisley Common the rest of the year. The meadow is a Dog Exclusion Zone during this period.
And finally we had reached our destination, Petersham Nurseries, 19.4k and four hours later!!
We stayed at Petersham until it closed and then we had to return to Richmond to catch the train home. We meandered across the meadows amongst the placid Belted Galloways and the sun's rays by now were lenghtening and the light was superb. The river and river bank were a hive of activity as it was a warm sunny day.
Now walking away from the river up a cobbled street to the main road to reach the railway station. A beautiful vintage American car at the traffic lights had many of us reaching for our cameras. I've never been so grateful to get on a train before and finally reach home.
We totally misjudged the length of the walk but it was worth all the aches and pains that we suffered the next two days!
Have you done this walk before? Or have you cycled it as I'm sure it's more enjoyable cycling!