Rowing and rowing.

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.

There were lots of rowers milling about, I promise you. It’s just that I don’t like sticking my lens in people’s faces so I waited until they were out of the way.

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.

Harrods Furniture Depository – fancy name for a stockroom for unsold tables and chairs – still a landmark even if now redeveloped into a residential complex.

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.

David Sharp was the planner and instigator of the Thames Path and much else besides (for a very full obituary of David, see https://campaignerkate.wordpress.com/2015/05/13/david-sharp-father-of-the-thames/)

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 )

Chiswick Bridge in the distance with the tall Mortlake brewery building on the left.

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).

I mean, just look at the carvings even in that little tunnel which seems to serve only as a place for flood water to go.

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.

11 thoughts on “Rowing and rowing.

    • Thank you, Kate. It was good to read your obituary of David which brought to life a lovely man. An interesting life and one full of giving, by the sound of it.

      I was surprised to learn that the Thames Path only dates from 1996 as I remember my father and a friend walking it that autumn. It must have only just been made an official trail back then (not that that pair would have been fazed by plotting their own route if needs be.)

      That David and Margaret’s bench is in a low key place says much about them. Perhaps it was the nearest stretch of the Thames to their home? Or their favourite spot? Or maybe just a good place to have a bench on which to pause?

      Thank you did getting in touch. Ceri

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  1. Lovely walk. I know that bit of the path just beneath the bridge quite well, having stood there to yell at Mr Green and his rowing mates as they waited to begin a race there. Hope they can fix the bridge and give it a bright coat of paint into the bargain.

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    • Thank you, Annie. A nice spot indeed for the off and the finish line looks a convivial place for the post race celebrations. Yes, it’s a beauty of a bridge, isn’t it? Think that it may be re opening to pedestrians and cyclists soon so maybe that will have to be it.

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  2. I’m surprised you tired of the green corridors, it looks a much nicer walk than the previous one. And, oh, how lovely are those Georgian houses. I would have thought that turning the brewery into apartments would be preferable to that derelict eyesore. Did you pop into Kew Gardens then? Or worn out? How long was this stretch of the path?

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    • Thank you, definitely a nicer walk than the previous one. And yes, given the day before’s glut of flats I agree that converting the brewery seems like the way to go. Don’t know what the protesters are suggesting that the building is used for instead but it’s a large building on a huge site so it’s hard to think of alternative uses. No visit to Kew for me this time, alas, and it wasn’t a very long walk – only about 6 miles . I’m finding that my fitness has disappeared over lockdown – looking for it still – and so I was very happy to hop on a train instead.

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      • I’m enjoying these walks along the Thames as it’s not something I will ever do. I’ve not been walking much either this year. Something I really need to change. Everywhere is just so busy though. And I’m bored of the local lanes.

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  3. This was a relevation – the view towards Chiswick was wonderful. You had a glimpse of what the river looked like in past times. I was disappointed that the furniture depositary had people in it rather than posh tables and chairs!

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