Shepperton to Teddington.
The Barge Walk is the towpath from Hampton Court Bridge to Kingston Bridge around the grounds of Hampton Court, It has been part of the estate for 500 years. Until the late 18th century the easiest way for royal parties to reach the Palace was by elegant state barges. When the palace was opened to the public Queen Victoria and guests arrived by boat. Into the 19th century and till this day this stretch of the Thames has been popular with boaters, walkers, cyclists and fishermen.
This morning I couldn’t resist retracing my footsteps to use the ferry across the Thames. You ring a bell and the boatman appears from the chandlers. Apparently children use it to get to a school on the Weybridge side, a school ferry rather than a bus.The water is still high but landing was no problem although last week the ferry was cancelled as the river was well above the landing stage.
I was pleased I’d come this way as it gave a pleasant walk by the river to Walton rather than road walking through Shepperton. Jays, Parakeets and Cormorants were a strange combination for the river bank, there were no boats on the water and I just realised that I haven’t seen a single fisherman, maybe out of season. I took the opportunity to get out of the cold with a coffee in The Anglers Inn on the old wharf at Walton.
A short distance further was Sunbury lock. A small boat coming upstream, despite the warnings of strong currents, moored up to access the lock. This gave me chance to chat to the two men sailing it as they tried to get the lock to open with no power. They had sailed from Essex into the Thames mouth and were heading for the Kennet and Avon to go to Bristol and hence to Wales, it sounded ambitious to me. Their boat looked very cosy for two, I wished them bon voyage.
A stroll past islands, interesting houses and lots of moored boats brought me into Hurst Park and suddenly hoards of people mainly with children and dogs, it is still school holidays here.
I was recommended several kiosks for lunch but wanted to be inside so I chose the ‘Thyme by the River Cafe’ upstairs in the Molesey rowing club. According to the walls this club has had several Olympic Gold Medal athletes in recent times. The cafe was full of noisy infants, even my waitress seemed stressed by them, so I ended up outside after all. Fortunately they had a balcony with a view over the Thames. The excess of dogs here was preferable to the noise level inside.
The busy road at Hampton Court Bridge took me by surprise after all the rural walking. People were streaming into Hampton Court Palace but the historic Barge Walk was a pleasant peaceful stroll to Kingston Bridge. A couple of cyclists turned out to be French and were cycling to John o’Groats, they had just started in Brighton this day. They looked a little unprepared for what lay ahead.
Chestnut trees lined the towpath to Kingston Bridge which was heaving with cars, bikes and people. London’s Red buses even made an appearance.
A trip into Waitrose for provisions proved a disaster, too much choice, too high prices and an abominable queue to pay and get out. Fortunately pleasant riverside parks led all the way to Teddington Lock where pedestrian bridges crossed into the town itself. Teddington Lock is the lowest on the Thames so from now on the river is tidal.
My choice of hotel for the night turned out to be the four star Lensbury complex whose mission statement is “to grow a sustainable leisure and hospitality business, enriched by an exceptional customer service culture delivering Exceptional Experiences” Feeling like a fish out of The Thames I booked in, explained I was walking The Thames Path only to be asked for my car registration number!
“They looked a little unprepared for what lay ahead.” I smiled at this – a wonderful bit of polite understatement from a kind soul whose years of experience perfectly entitle him to make such a comment.
At least their English was very good.