3. Putney to Kew: in which nothing very much happens, apart from a homograph.
After last time’s arid stretches, this next section of the Thames Path could not have been leafier, but first there was a fascinating old indicator board on the platform at Vauxhall’s Tube station, and then this intriguing backwater bookshop, already open at 9 on a Sunday morning.
Over the bridge and down on to the river path, not difficult to find this time. Even at this hour there was already an eight out on the river. Interesting to see some life on the river, I thought, wonder if I’ll see any more boats? I’d only walked into rowing central, hadn’t I? I was in the midst of a long line of boathouses, trailers, rowing paraphernalia, and crews arriving to mill around.
I don’t remember when last I saw Oxford and Cambridge’s finest battle it out in the University Boat Race but it really should have clicked that Putney is the finish line. Hence an enormous linear slip way – if that is the term – with the emphasis on slip by the look of the wet mud that covered it. (The start is at Mortlake I discovered later. The Harrods Depository is the only thing I could remember about the route.)
The Thames is very definitely still tidal here and signs on parking bays warn of the risk of flooding. Another sign proclaims that the Port of London has jurisdiction over these waters but unlike previously when it was fishing and loitering that they had in their sights, here they ban water skiing. Must be a different class of transgressor in these parts.
Not much further on and the Victorian villas fell away leaving me skirting what is now the London Wetland Centre, created from the site of four disused reservoirs back in 2000.
I’m sure it’s carefully managed by the WWT but it feels as though nature has reclaimed the space, making the towpath a lovely green space, peaceful yet busy with walkers, runners and cyclists enjoying their Sunday mornings. Very relaxing, very uneventful until the Harrods Furniture Depository took me by surprise.
Hammersmith Bridge was just around the bend, a delicately elegant suspension bridge.
A bit too delicate it turns out.
Yet again it’s closed to both vehicular and foot traffic due to cracks in alarming places. (Three IRA attacks over the years won’t have helped.) I did read that river traffic beneath the bridge is also proscribed at the moment but I looked in vain for a bale of straw. Something has to be done to fix this rather lovely structure but it’s hard to envisage how given the need for major repairs.
Another green walkway with signs of a recent high tide, the not yet dried traces of puddles. Here the path was more of a leafy corridor with occasional windows onto the Thames
According to the map, just to my left was another disused reservoir but all I could see was scrubby woodland. These photos make the trail look pretty empty and I did question whether I should be anxious being there alone. I certainly didn’t feel so as there were actually a lot of people out and about. To be honest there rather too many of them and they were too regularly spaced when it came to the prospect of taking to the greenery for a comfort stop. When it comes to conveniences Never pass one by has now become my motto.
A bit further and Barnes began to make its presence felt. On the outskirts was this bench, a little forlorn.
Then just before Barnes railway bridge there’s a pretty Georgian terrace.
Anneka Rice apparently lives in one of these houses and in a Ramblings episode, she and Clare Balding take to the path. Have a listen – they bring it to life much more eloquently than I can. (BBC Radio 4 – Ramblings, Anneka Rice on the Thames Path in London )
Around about here signs on lamp posts and in windows began to appear protesting plans to convert Mortlake Brewery into flats. By the time I’d picked my way along a muddy stretch and walked another mile I had completely forgotten about these though and so I was perplexed by the derelict buildings that lined the path for what seemed an awfully long way.
A third green corridor and I was getting ever so slightly tired of them.
Because I am nothing if not picky.
Approaching Kew and the end of this walk I contemplated the stonework on the railway bridge (such detailing on such a utilitarian structure).
From the river I heard two unseen voices raised in anger. I didn’t catch it all but one rower had upset another and he wasn’t about to apologise. A rowing row. Or a rowing row? Homograph heaven.