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.

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