May Morris and the River Thames

May Morris: Art & Life exhibition at the William Morris Gallery in Walthamstow gives  glimpse of her life by the Thames in London and Oxfordshire.

May was the daughter of William Morris who lived by the river at 8 Hammersmith Terrace in London and upstream at remote Kelmscott near Lechlade.

William founded the Chiswick Press which in 1903 published May’s play White Lies.

Nearby on the river at Chiswick was lived Emery Walker who ran the Kelmscott Press.

May was an active supporter of the Socialist League Hammersmith branch.

But she loved Kelmscott and a long embroidery in the London house featured a view of Kelmscott in middle.

In the country she lived a frugal but self-sufficient life.

A painting shows May in the dining room at Kelmscott Manor as she checks proofs of The Collected Works of William Morris which she spent years editing.

One of the black and white photographs is of May’s funeral at Kelmscott in 1938 when her body was carried on a farm cart.

The May Morris exhibition is at William Morris Gallery, Forest Road, Walthamstow E17 4PP until Sunday 28 January; open Wednesday to Sunday; admission free.

Kelmscott Manor is open in the summer.





Eel Pie Island Open Weekend

Eel Pie Island is home to 26 artists and twice a year, in winter and summer, the studios open their doors to visitors who can purchase or commission new art works.

The next open weekend is Saturday 3 and Sunday 4 December 11am to 5pm.

Access is by an old toll bridge from the Twickenham bank.

Tide Tables cafe under Richmond Bridge

Tide Tables Cafe at Richmond is easily missed but is probably the best place to stop.

You find Tide Tables Cafe underneath Richmond Bridge. Walking river thames societupstream you can pass through the tunnel under the bridge. There are two more to the left. One is still a boat builders. The furthest inland is Tide Times Cafe.

It’s open all day with good food. My vegetarian lasagne and salad was £10. On weekdays coffee refills are free.

There is  skiff hanging above the counter and magazines available to read include Thames Guardian.

If you need to keep looking at the river, maybe watching the tide, you can site outside on the downstream side.  Blankets can be borrowed from the basket at the door.


Hollyhock Café: Also run by the same management is Hollyhock Café in nearby Terrace Gardens. It has  good view over the river from its high position.

To find the little rustic building continue upstream along the towpath from Richmond Bridge. When the houses and gardens end, but before Petersham Meadows, look for Grotto Gate low down on the left. A tunnel leads to steps running up to Terrace Gardens.

Hollyhock Café share the same menu as Tide Times.

View of Thames from Hollyhock Cafe veranda

Rotherhithe Bridge proposal

This Saturday afternoon 18 November sees the first consultation exhibition for the proposed Rotherhithe Bridge.

The display is at Canada Water Library, next to the station, from 12.30 to 4.30pm.

The plan is to build a crossing between Rotherhithe Street and the Isle of Dogs for walkers and cyclists. It needs to be able to open to allow large ships to reach the Pool of London.

The debates will centre round the need for a crossing and how high, or intrusive, the bridge would be.

Also under discussion is the landing point on the Thames Path. The right bank (south) offers options at Durand’s Wharf or Nelson Dock.

Views can be given online where there is a list of consultation events.

This first public consultation is open until Monday 8 January 2018.

Richmond Draw-Off

Low tide outside Richmond’s White Cross pub

The river has been dramatically low around Richmond this month.

This is because November sees the annual Draw-Off when Richmond lock is opened and its weirs and sluices lifted.

This allows the river below Teddington Lock to drain down at low tide.

The White Cross pub in Richmond often has  a flooded frontage but today there was a wide beach by the towpath.

This afternoon the river next to Petersham Meadows was unusually dramatic with people walking on the river bed. Glover Island was accessible from the Twickenham bank.

The Draw-Off will end early on Sunday 19th November .

Remember tide times change daily.  The next daylight low tide will be on Wednesday 15 November at 8.03am and 08.55am on Thursday.

View at low tide from Petersham towpath
Looking downstream across river at low tide towards Petersham Meadows

Inglesham: Path switched from road to riverside

There is good news for anyone setting out on the Thames Path this half term week.

When you reach Inglesham in Wiltshire you will not have to call a taxi to avoid a dangerous road walk. You can now follow the river.

Until this autumn the way upstream from Inglesham Church involved a detour of almost two miles which included a mile long walk on a main road to Upper Inglesham.

This road had become increasingly busy since the Thames path opened 20 years ago.

In quieter times the Thames Path passing through Upper Inglesham at least had the advantage of being handy for a now closed YHA hostel.

Isolated Inglesham Church, just outside Lechlade, is delightful and unspoilt thanks to William Morris who stopped unnecessary restoration.

So on reaching the lane at Inglesham many walkers go right for a short distance to look inside.

Turning right will now be normal. No need to go left for the main road.

On leaving the church go down the churchyard steps to cross the quiet lane and take a wide mature grass path opposite.

After a stream/ditch go right to the river and turn upstream.

New signage and gates help to make the way easy to understand.

The new route turns inland along the Bydemill Brook to join the existing line from the end of the long path out of Upper Ingelsham.

This is the point where the path fords the brook.

The new Inglesham riverside path avoiding the main road was discussed 35 years ago and backed by the Ramblers’ Association thirty years ago.

This is a major and very welcome improvement to the Thames Path.

Battersea: Lombard Wharf opens

Lombard Wharf seen through the newly opened railway arch

Lombard Wharf in London’s Battersea is now open.

The new building on the site is a controversial 28 storey Barratt Homes tower block. But there is  planning gain.

The wharf is on the upstream  side of Battersea Railway Bridge.

Walking upstream from central London along Albion Quay you come up against the railway bridge. In the past you had to turn inland and briefly join the main road.

Now you can keep away from traffic by passing under the railway bridge and walk directly on to Lombard Wharf where there is a wide new stretch of Thames Path.

Lombard Wharf looking downstream


NEW DIRECTIONS after the Old Battersea House entry on page 45:

The path passes along Albion Quay before running under Battersea Railway Bridge.

Battersea Railway Bridge opened in 1863 to                                           carry both standard and GWR broad-gauge trains                         between Clapham and Willesden junctions.

Walk along Lombard and Regent Wharves to pass Oyster Pier. Cross a drawbridge leading to a Falcon Wharf and follow the path inland down the side of Battersea Heliport,


Lombard Wharf’s new tower

Marlow diversion

Slipway at Marlow

The entry into Marlow always requires leaving the water early to find Seven Corner Alley where the towing horses were led into the town.

Until next March walkers are leaving the water even earlier.

There is a temporary diversion beginning just after you have gone under the Marlow Bypass.

Instead of staying by the water on  a narrow towpath by houses go right inland to reach Gossmore Lane at a gate.

Turn left along the residential way to find the road becoming Mill Road where the Thames Path usually joins.

Also, upstream opposite Bishop Abbey until the beginning of October there is a minor diversion parallel with the towpath to allow for surfacing work.

Rotherhithe’s Norwegian and US links

Anchor in St Olav Square recalls maritime links
Flowers in the walled St Olav Square

Rotherhithe has a new feature.

Public toilets, famous for having Ladies and Gentleman boards in Norwegian, have given way to an extended space  in front of the Norwegian Church.

St Olav Square was inaugurated this month by Princess Astrid who also unveiled a bust of King Haakon VII.

Haakon brought his exiled government to London during the Second World War. His wife was Maud, daughter of Edward VII, who died shortly before the outbreak of war with Germany.

The Mayflower pub

Today quiet Rotherhithe is preparing for another significant occasion.

In 2020 there will be celebrations to mark the 400th anniversary of The Mayflower sailing with the Pilgrim Fathers to America.

The ship left from a jetty behind today’s Mayflower pub which in 1620 was called The Shippe inn.

Captain Christopher Jones, who took The Mayflower ship to America via Southampton and Plymouth, returned and is buried in St Mary’s Church.

Another focus in 2020 will be the striking Christopher Jones figure in the churchyard. The statue by Jamie Sargeant was unveiled in July  1995.

The Mayflower left for Southampton in July 1620 and the many possibilities for the July 2020 programme includes a visit by President Donald Trump who will be completing his term of office.

Remains of Mayflower jetty
Christopher Jones statue


Vauxhall & Nine Elms diversions

Start of the diversion in Albert Embankment
Diversion sign at Lack’s Dock

The Thames Super Sewer project work is now affecting the Thames Path around Vauxhall.

After Lambeth Bridge, the path follows the Albert Embankment where the road gradually leaves the riverside allowing the path to be separated from traffic by welcome grass.

However, where the path once went ahead between a building and the water there is now a diversion. Don’t go through the temporary barrier even if it is open – you won’t get far.

Turn inland by the building (number 93) to follow the Albert Embankment main road.

But a few yards beyond Cafe 89 (right) turn right into Lack’s Dock to return to the river and follow an enclosed path along the back (riverside) of the MI6 Vauxhall Cross building.

The tunnel under Vauxhall Bridge is now closed so climb the steps and go left to use the road crossing. On the far side of the bridge approach turn right and soon find a path on the left running down to the Thames Path on St George Wharf.

Path at MI6
Tunnel closed

There is a further diversion a little further on at Nine Elms.

This is at Bourne Valley Wharf where the proposed Pimlico footbridge may land.

From here one must go inland and cross the Nine Elms Lane main road. At once turn right to continue upstream.

This may seem a long way from the river but there is a good view of the moat being dug for the new US Embassy.

Soon after Waitrose it is possible to go back to the opposite side of the main road by using a pedestrian crossing and return to the river by passing between tall buildings.

The Super Sewer work should be completed by 2023.

From the Sea to the Source