March 23rd 2016
Putney to Kingston upon Thames – 21.78km (13.53 miles)
Putney Bridge is the start of not only the Oxford/Cambridge Boat Race but also the start of todays trek. I am on my own today as Susan is at work and Cookie has not been feeling 100% so thought it best not drag her along for 21km. As i leave the bridge and descend back down to the Thames path i am amazed by how many rowing clubs are along this stretch of road, i noticed a few rowers had Oxford and others had Cambridge written on there sweatshirts and then a little further on all the TV crews were setting up and laying cables in preparation for the 2016 race on Sunday (27th March), i’ll need to watch it this year as i walked the whole length of the race route today.
At the end of the road out of Putney the path turned into a gravel track and is bordered by trees and the London Wetlands Centre, however on looking over to the other side of the river the area was so much more built up, you could also see Fulham Football Club. For 30 seconds the area was really peaceful, with just the sounds of the waterfowl and the odd rower going by splashing on the water and the other 30 seconds the piece was shattered by a jumbo jet going over, every minute i counted a plane going over descending and heading to Heathrow Airport, this went on all day, therefore walking for 4hrs meant that 240 planes would have flown over.
The trek today will not be a straight walk as the Thames at this part curves it’s way around the land, which means i’ll go around two big loops of the river. After completing the first loop i pass by the town of Barnes where Ninette de Valois lived in a house facing the Thames, Ninette was the founder of the Royal Ballet School. A little further on i walked by another town Mortlake where the old ‘Stag Brewery’ had been operating since 1889 and brewing Heineken and Budweiser here until it closed in December 2015, later this year it will be redeveloped, most likely changed to more luxury thameside residences.
The second loop on the river took me past Kew and Kew Gardens. The gardens have been here since 1840 and are now designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site, they hold the worlds largest collection of living plants and are open to the public. I chose to eat my lunch just outside the gardens overlooking Syon House on the other side of the Thames, this house was built in 1547 and after a varied history is now the home to the Duke of Northumberland and his family. After lunch i continued on walking around the outskirts of the Old Deer Park and then on to Richmond. At this point more and more islands started appearing on the Thames which for some reason are called ‘Aits’, some of these are inhabited and have many houses on.
Just before the town of Richmond i saw a graceful Heron in the ditch that was carefully pacing around looking into the water for any fish that it can catch for it’s lunch, i stood and watch for a while, but i think he decided that lunch would not be caught here so he moved on. Richmond Lock built in 1894 and now listed was situated just before the town and is the furthest lock downstream on the thames, which was built to maintain a certain level in the water upstream of the lock, you can walk over to the other side as this is a sizeable lock and forms a bridge. Richmond is a waterside town and has a lovely promenade on it’s shore to the river which has a few bars and a place where you can hire bikes. An old steamship was also offering trips up the river, so tempting but i thought that would be cheating, may be another day.
Two more notable house’s were passed on the walk and these were Marble Hill House and Ham House, both great examples of English historical architecture and have played an important part in the history of England, they are now both owned and preserved by English Heritage and the National Trust.
It was quite a long stretch between Richmond and Kingston which was becoming quieter as the planes were becoming more distant on this section i passed by the Ham Nature Reserve, Eel Pie Island and Teddington Lock before reaching the ‘Half Mile Tree’ denoting the distance left to Kingston. The tree up until 1951 was an Elm tree believed to have been 500 years old, however this was replaced as it had become dangerous and to this day still marks the half a mile to Kingston Town. The last half mile was now becoming more built up and after a short walk through Canbury Park i arrived at Kingston Bridge.