Eel Pie Island summer open day

The annual Eel Pie Island summer open day is this weekend Saturday 4 and Sunday 5 July.

Access is by bridge from the Twickenham bank between 11am and 6pm.

Note that the artists’ studios will be selling items but will only accept cash or cheques.


Rotherhithe Church: 300th anniversary

This Friday 3 July 2015 there are celebrations to mark the  300th anniversary of St Mary’s Church at Rotherhithe which opened in 1715.

There had been a church there before. The present one stands on medieval foundations incorporating Roman bricks.

The Thames Path passes along the north side of the church and churchyard which has the tomb of Prince Lee Boo who sailed to Rotherhithe from the Pelau Islands in the 1780s.

On Friday there is a Solemn Mass at 7pm with the Bishop of Fulham presiding. The preacher is former Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams.

Walkers will usually find the west end of the church open and the main building can be viewed through glass. The very early Georgian church has ships’ masts for pillars and an altar made from the Temeraire painted by Turner as she sailed into the breaker’s yard at the riverside village.

Magna Carta weekend: riverside events

Magna Carta monument on Runnymede

Magna Carta monument on Runnymede

Monday 15 June 2015 is the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta being sealed by King John on Runnymede next to the River Thames.

In the morning the Queen is attending a ceremony on the meadow which now has a marquee erected in case of bad weather. Her Majesty is being joined by Prince Philip, the Duke of Cambridge and the Princess Royal.

There will be a big screen for spectators to see the ceremony recalling Archbishop Stephen Langton and the barons witnessing the agreement establishing the rule of law.

The Red Arrows are due to fly over at 12.15pm.

In the afternoon the National Trust is running a free ferry across the Thames to Ankerwycke Priory where Magna Carta might have been sealed in preference to the open field. There will be 30 minute tours of the priory ruins and a chance to see the 2,500 year old yew tree. The last ferry returns at 5pm.

A ferry will run to Ankerwycke Priory from the Thames Path

A ferry will run to Ankerwycke Priory from the Thames Path

But the celebrations begin on the river before the big day.

Over Saturday 13 and Sunday 14 June the Royal barge Gloriana, escorted by 200 rowed craft, will travel downstream from Hurley to Runnymede carrying a facsimile of Magna Carta. Stops will be made to recount the story of the great document.

On Sunday a statue of the Queen will be unveiled at riverside Runnymede Pleasure Grounds.

On Monday not only are the Red Arrows taking 12.15pm as the appropriate moment to salute Magna Carta but it is the hour when we are being invited to raise a glass of beer.

'Magna Carta' ale brewed by the Thames

‘Magna Carta’ ale brewed by the Thames

Ale is mentioned in clause 35 of Magna Carta: “Let there be throughout our kingdom a single measure for wine and a single measure for ale and a single measure for corn, namely the London quarter.”

Upstream at South Stoke near Goring, Ridgeway Brewery has produced Bad King John which is described as ‘a very English black ale’.

Clause 33 stated ‘All fish-weirs are in future to be entirely removed from the Thames’ and is taken as the City’s right to control the river from Staines to the estuary.

The towpath from Runnymede to London on Saturday and Sunday will see walkers from Barnes Church walking back home for their 800th anniversary service attended by Archbishop Langton’s successor Rowan Williams. Langton, returning to Lambeth Palace from Runnymede in 1215, stopped at Barnes to consecrate the new church.

Home Office minister Lord Bates is spending Monday walking the entire way from Runnymede to Westminster. “Each person will want to reflect the significance of Magna Carta’s anniversary in their own way,” he says. “For me that way is walking between two cornerstones of our great country.”

Reading diversion

Reading Bridge with underpass closed

Reading Bridge with underpass closed

The diversion at Reading looks likely to remain in place until the autumn.

Not only is the towpath closed for building of a new bridge across to Christchurch Meadows but the passage under Reading Bridge remains close whilst the structure is repaired. Traffic is crossing the river again as reported on the regional TV stations but work continues with the pavements restricted.

Walkers on the Thames Path find the diversion just after passing Caversham Lock. There is an alternative route indicated down King’s Meadow Road but you can continue ahead past houses to a point nearer Reading Bridge. At this further point go left down a permitted footpath at the side of the Environment Agency building to reach the main road.

As far as you can go on the towpath at Reading

As far as you can go on the towpath at Reading

Here turn right to cross the approach to Reading Bridge. to Thames Water’s Clearwater Court building.

It is possible to go right down to the river but only for a view.

Closed towpath upstream where new footbridge is being built

Closed towpath upstream where new footbridge is being built

The diversion continues along the main road (Vastern Road). Across the dual carriageway can be seen the new entrance to Reading Station in Trooper Potts Way. Go right down Lynmouth Road to reach the towpath.

The new pedestrian/cycle bridge will cross the river just upstream of Fry’s Island.

End of the diversion

End of the diversion

An impression of how the footbridge will appear looking downstream on the towpath

An impression of how the footbridge will appear looking downstream on the towpath

Magna Carta stamp


Tuesday 2 June 2015 sees the issue of a special postage stamp to mark the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta being agreed on the banks of the Thames at Runnymede.

The place to get the ‘authentic’ postmark, rather than the official one, must be Egham Post Office.

The stamp is issued on the 62nd anniversary of the Queen’s coronation. Her Majesty will be at Runnymede on Magna Carta’s actual 800th anniversary Monday 15 June.

Grass and trees to go for Garden Bridge

The proposed building would replace the grass and trees.

The proposed building would replace the grass and trees.

This may be the last summer to enjoy the grass and trees on the Thames Path as it passes along the South Bank in front of the ITV studios between Blackfriars and Waterloo Bridges.

Here the path is under a lovely canopy of trees but this is the very spot where the Garden Bridge is due to land.


According to The Observer thirty mature trees will be felled to make way for the bridge which will be planted with new trees.

Lambeth Council intends to grant a new lease for its riverside grass so that a retail building can be placed there to support the south end of the Garden Bridge.

The deadline for objecting to Lambeth Council’s ‘Notice of intention to dispose of Open Space’ is Tuesday 2 June. Objections to this proposal can be sent to

The famous view of St Paul's would be lost behind the Garden Bridge and the new building

The famous view of St Paul’s would be lost behind the Garden Bridge and the new building


Henry I in Reading

There are moves to find the body of Henry I who is buried in Reading.

The main report is in The Daily Telegraph.

Henry I was the son of William the Conqueror and brother of William II. Henry died in France on 1 December 1135 and his body was buried a month later, on 4 January 1136, in the abbey which had founded in Reading.

The Thames Path guide has always maintained that Henry is under the school playground next to St James’s Church.

This is the modern successor of the Reading Abbey which covered much of the adjoining Forbury Gardens park.

There were recent suggestions that the body was under the park but Philippa Langley, who was involved in the search for Richard III, has said that the King may lie under the playground or school car park. The latter spot, south-east of today’s St James’s church, now seems to be the most likely area for initial investigation.

The burial was near the abbey’s high altar but the exact length of the abbey church is uncertain.

The church’s dedication to St James recalls that the abbey church held the hand of St James the Great whose remains are now in Santiago de Compostela Cathedral in Spain. The hand was the gift of Henry’s daughter Matilda who had inherited the relic through marriage.


Best teashops on Thames Path

The Sunday Times list of 20 top teashops complied by baker Louise Johncox includes two on the Thames Path.

The feature in the magazine recommends The Maids of Honour at Kew, famous for its secret recipe Tudor tarts.

Also highlighted is Burgers at Marlow which for many is the natural place for tea after a day’s walk.

David Sharp RIP

Thames Path pioneer David Sharp has died at the age of 89.

David Sharp, a superb draughtsman, artist and writer, lived yards from the River Thames in Barnes.

He was responsible for the look of Ramblers’ Association (as The Ramblers was known) and Open Spaces Society publications but his lasting legacy is the Thames Path.

He walked what was possible and lobbied for its completion and recognition.

The Ramblers’ Association report on the towpath and its gaps, including central London, was written by David. This was the document, with very clear hand-drawn maps, which he handed to me in 1981 when I was appointed temporary Thames Path officer to write the feasibility study.

It was the job that David should have had and would have enjoyed but he could not offer himself since he was still working for an advertising agency.

But he gave me huge help and advice.

My task was to visit every riparian council and landowner along the Thames and produce a report for Thames Water and the Countryside Commission. It took more than a year and included some occasionally frightening moments trying to check lonely overgrown paths alongside the fast flowing the river.

David laid out the possible route and I had the challenge of tweaking it during consultations and negotiations.

Three new bridges and 16 miles of new riverside path had to be put in place to achieve the national trail.

After Environment minister Virginia Bottomley had approved the path there came the time when it was officially opened. It was a privilege to be with David in 1996 as he walked along the river from Greenwich to the ceremony at the Thames Barrier.

Subsequently David wrote the official guide taking the walker downstream whilst I wrote the guide for the walker wanting to start in London. He was always helpful and generous when I went to him with a problem and sometimes he contacted me with a minor change or temporary difficulty. More than once we checked out a problem together.

Until last year David was still co-editor of South East Walker where he continued to highlight Thames Path updates and possibilities.

I am sorry to learn that he declined the MBE but pleased that he was recognised as the key player in the long story of the Thames Path which had first been proposed in the 19th century.

The Times has an obituary and OSS general secretary Kate Ashbrook has written an appreciation.

Tudor Pull 2015

The Tudor Pull today Saturday 16 May 2015 will see Thames Watermen’s cutters rowed down the Thames from Hampton Court Palace to the Tower of London.  Craft include the Royal Barge.

More details on the London SE1 website.

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