Woolwich link opening date

The new ramp at King Henry’s Wharf

The long awaited Thames Path missing link between the Thames Barrier and Woolwich will open next week.

The new route is being opened by Cllr Denise Scott-McDonald of the Royal Borough of Greenwich and the Mayor of London’s  walking and cycling commissioner Dr Will Norman on Wednesday afternoon 20 June.

The ceremony will begin at 3.30pm just behind the Thames Barrier. Guests will be invited to walk east along the line of path down Bowater Road for an opening ceremony at the bottom of the raised walkway in Warspite Road.

The route should be available for public use from about 4.30pm.

The link joins the Barrier to downstream King Henry’s Wharf.

It also means that the Thames Path national trail to the source in Gloucestershire from the Barrier now joins seamlessly with the unofficial extension which runs continuously from the River Darent confluence near Erith.

From Wednesday we can say that the Thames Path starts not at Charlton but at Slade Green Station.

Will Secretary of State for Environment Michael Gove extend the National Trail designation?

Reading Abbey reopens

Reading Abbey gate

Reading’s importance owes much to its riverside abbey visited by royalty, archbishops and statesmen.

From this Saturday 16 June Reading’s abbey ruins will again be open to the public free of charge following a restoration programme.

Grass has been placed along the top of exposed walls to slow crumbling.

The monastery opened in 1121 so thoughts are now turning to its 900th anniversary in three years time.

It is hoped that Henry I who was buried in the Lady Chapel might be located by archaeologists in time for the celebrations.

It took some years to complete the abbey church which was eventually consecrated by St Thomas Becket in 1164. This was possibly the last time that Henry II and the archbishop met as friends.

The main focus of pilgrimage was not the royal tomb but the hand of St James the Great given by Henry I’s daughter Matilda.

An early Victorian church by architect Augustus Pugin lies across the abbey church’s north transept and is dedicated to St James.

Today a relic said by some to be Reading’s hand of St James, but not displayed,  is in the care of St Peter’s Church in downstream Marlow.

Parliament came to Reading in 1453 to meet around the abbey cloister. The Commons sat in the chapter house whilst the Lords assembled in the refectory.

Passage between refectory (left) and dormitory (right)
Reading Prison seen through abbey church’s south chapel window
Chapter House entrance from cloister

Butler’s Wharf’s only tree under threat

Tree in Shad Thames

A move is being made to fell the only tree in the Butler’s Wharf area.

It is the Lombardy Poplar on Portland Wharf which is flanked by Tower Bridge and Horsley Down Old Stairs.

The application to Southwark Council is being made by the Horace Jones Vault cafe located in the nearby Tower Bridge undercroft.

Portland Wharf belongs to the City of London and the tree was planted in 2000 as part of  a millennium greening project.

The deadline for objections is Thursday 21 June.

View upstream towards Tower Bridge

Inglesham’s riverside path

New signposts at Inglesham

This is the first summer when walkers can enjoy the riverside path at Inglesham in Wiltshire.

Some people could be setting out on the Thames Path unaware that there is a great improvement upstream of Lechlade.

Inglesham has long been the place where the river changes dramatically. Navigation ends and with it the towpath.

With no towpath walkers continuing to Cricklade and the source have always had to take to the road which during 20th century became unpleasant and even dangerous.

But since last October this main road ceased to be part of the Thames Path. Walkers can now stay by the river for a further 1.75 miles beyond Inglesham church.

This is the stretch of river which poet Percy Shelley tried and failed to see in 1815.

Inglesham church, saved from restoration and Victorian ‘improvement’ by William Morris, is a delight to visit. At present it is closed during restoration of wall paintings but it is worth trying the door later in the summer.

Inglesham church and new kissing gate

Opposite the little church is a set back kissing gate leading to a grass path. Follow this way down to gates at a field and bear right to reach the river.

The Thames beyond Inglesham church where Shelley found the reeds to thick to continue

Stay by the winding river as a footbridge carries the path over a branch of the River Cole as it enters the Thames.

The new path

Later the way is fenced on the inland side and there are several gates. After passing through a wood, the path turns sharply to the right to cross high over an inlet.

Here there is a surprise view directly along a grass airfield runway. Stay on the fenced path between the airfield (left) and the river.

Airfield runway from Thames Path
Path by airfield
Airfield windsock
Notice by the path
Gated Bydemill Brook bridge

At a stream, the Bydemill Brook, the path turns inland to cross at a gated footbridge before continuing inland on the far side.

Beyond a gate there is a T-junction by a footpath ford (left). This was the old approach for those who in the past had walked along the main road.

Ignore the ford and turn right to another gate and bear left to a join a path. Do not cross a footbridge (left) but go right along a wide enclosed path.

This is the existing Thames Path which regains the water higher up.

See map here.

Woolwich-Barrier link nearly ready

The new ramp at King Henry’s Wharf

The unofficial Thames Path extension from Erith allows many to begin their long walk where there is a feel of the estuary.

But this recent addition does not join the national trail’s start at the Thames Barrier. There is a rather unpleasant detour away from the river between Woolwich’s King Henry’s Wharf and the Thames Barrier garden.

This involves walking along Woolwich Road which has very heavy traffic.

The only bonus is a McDonald’s by a bus stop.

But this week contractors are due to hand over to Greenwich Council a riverside route. The ‘missing link’ as it is called locally will be filled.

Some minor highway resurfacing has yet to be undertaken and new signposting is not ready.

But it looks as if the promised ‘late spring opening’ will be achieved.

It will be possible to walk the length of King Henry’s Wharf and go up on to a raised walkway. This curves round into Warspite Road. The at present gated Bowater Road, which runs parallel to the river, will then take the Thames Path to the Thames Barrier.

There is good view of a listing steamer from the new path
The path joins Warspite Road
Downstream end of Bowater Road
The upstream end of Bowater Road where the path joins the Thames Barrier gardens

Jack in the Green on Thames Path

Jack in the Green is ready outside The Dog & Bell in Deptford

The Jack in the Green was on the Thames Path today making its annual May Day appearance.

It is the remnant of a widespread south-east London tradition kept by chimney sweeps whose profits had always dropped by May as warmer weather approached.

An hidden man encased in a frame covered in greenery would dance his way around the streets at the head of a procession as his companions collected money.

Today’s participants are known as Fowlers Troop.

The Troop started out at The Dog & Bell on the Thames Path behind Convoys Wharf in Deptford where the Jack was dressed last night.

Jack in the Green crossing Deptford Creek

Around 12.20pm the procession crossed the new Deptford Creek bridge before pausing outside the new Sail Loft pub.

The procession approaches the Sail Loft pub


One of the May Day crowd at the riverside Sail Loft

The Thames Path was followed as far as the Cutty Sark before turning away through the Old Royal Naval College to Woolwich Road.

Approaching the Cutty Sark at Greenwich


Diversion above Oxford

Closed notices have appeared on the Thames Path just upstream of King’s Lock above Oxford.

The towpath footbridge spanning Wytham Stream  has been closed on safety grounds by the Environment Agency.

“As a precautionary measure, the bridge is closed until further notice,” says a spokesperson who explained that cracks have been reported in the concrete structure.

The best diversion is probably to leave the Thames Path having passed under the A34. Don’t take the lock road but bear half left to follow the Oxford Greenbelt Way.

This rejoins the Thames Path opposite Cassington Cut.

Commercial Pier Wharf diversion

Odessa Wharf walkway ready for Thames Path

Construction work on Commercial Pier Wharf in London’s Rotherhithe is a reminder that a long built but still closed section of the riverside path will shortly be opening.

The section is between Randall Rents to upstream Barnard’s Wharf adjacent to Surrey Docks Farm. The path already exists on Odessa Wharf and New Caledonian Wharf.

The closed Downtown Restaurant site and Commercial Pier Wharf are now being given a path to complete the link.

After Greenland Dock, on the Rotherhithe peninsula, the Thames Path at present turns down Randall Rents to the back of The Ship & Whale before running along Odessa Street.

At a sharp bend the TP turns right off the road on to Commercial Pier Wharf.

However this is temporarily blocked by the building works.


But, despite a misleading notice suggesting  a road diversion,  it is possible to turn right on a parallel narrow path to the works and  return at once to the river at Barnard’s Wharf.

Also confusing is the rebranding of Commercial Pier Wharf as New Pier Wharf.

The wharf is known for its red dockland crane which after much controversy over its condition was recently removed.

The Thames Path at present follows Randall Rents
Commercial Pier Wharf today
How Commercial Pier Wharf will look when completed as the rebranded New Pier Wharf
The Ship & Whale at the bottom of Randall Rents
A diversion also runs up the side of closed Commercial Pier Wharf

Thames Path extension ‘by 2020’

Riverside path by wider Thames near Dartford

It will come as a surprise to many that the Thames Path is about to be extended thanks to the England Coast Path.

There is already an unofficial start to the Thames Path at Erith which is eight miles downstream from the official start at the Thames Barrier.

Soon it will be possible to start at Grain on the so-called Isle of Grain in Kent.

This continuous extra 42 miles is expected to open in 2020.

The distance from the Thames Barrier to the river’s source at Kemble in Gloucestershire is 180 miles.

The distance from Grain in Kent to the source at Kemble will be 230 miles.

The Thames Estuary Partnership is encouraging walkers to let Natural England know if you think that this new stretch in Kent should also be called and signed ‘Thames Path’ or maybe ‘Thames Path and England Coast Path’.

Views should be sent to SouthEastCoastalAccess@naturalengland.org.uk by Easter.

Erith Pier where present Thames extension starts

RTS AGM at The Angel


Tower Bridge from an upstairs window at The Angel

The River Thames Society‘s central Tideway and Estuary Branch has held its AGM in Rotherhithe.

The meeting on Tuesday, followed by lunch, was at The Angel.

Chair Peter Finch gave a commentary on vessels passing the window which has  panoramic view of Tower Bridge.

The Angel dates from at least 1682 and is the successor to The Salutation belonging to Bermondsey Abbey.


Cargo ship H&S Wisdom sailing under the flag of Netherlands passes The Angel
The Angel at the end of Bermondsey Wall on the edge of Rotherhithe

From the Sea to the Source