Foot and Mouth closes path

There is some confusion about path closures in the Egham area following the discovery of Foot and Mouth disease earlier this week.

Surprisingly, the towpath along Runnymede remains open.

However, a short section downstream to the south at Chertsey is closed. This is Dumsey Mede (also known as Dumsey Meadow) alongside Chertsey Bridge. The alternative route which is being signposted follows a short footpath north to the road and turns left for a quarter of a mile of road to Chertsey Bridge.

Any further waymarked change on the ground should, of course, be followed.

See pages 73 and 83.

Walking after the flood

I have been walking the Thames upper reaches following the recent floods. In some places the gound is still not firm and it is fascinating to see the flood plain often clearly marked by debris.

Residents have lots a stories about paddling to work or being thankful that they live in a raised home.

Walking from Lechlade to Cricklade on the very first day of September I spotted a remote old wooden holiday cottage which had been built a few feet above ground.

I also found the bushes heavy with blackberries which is unusual. On the footbridge at the west end of the new lonely riverside section upstream of Castle Eaton not only did I have to squeeze past blackberries but I spotted plenty apples above on a tree.

On the final Thames crossing before Cricklade I was sorry to see that the lifting bars on the bridge’s stiles remain broken. It’s a reminder that cattle are no longer by the river here.

But biggest disappointment was being unable to have a cup of tea at Cricklade. I had forgotten that the Cricklade Cafe closes at 4pm. At least the Black Cat Tearooms at Lechlade stay open until 4.30pm.

But it was good to be able to have lunch in Castle Eaton at the The Red Lion which is now open every lunchtime, offers bed and breakfast as well as a welcome to serious walkers.

See Chapter 19.

New Castle Eaton-Water Eaton route

This is the first year that it has been possible to walk by the river all the way from Castle Eaton to Cricklade.

Until now there had been a long road walk to Water Eaton before the Thames could be seen. The new directions from Castle Eaton are:

“At the west end of The Street keep ahead along Mill Lane. After the last house continue down the slope and over the gated bridge.

There is a pond on the right. After a few yards bear right towards the river, passing a clump of trees hiding a pond on the left. At the river turn left upstream. After a footbridge, the river takes a long S-bend to give a view of an old Thames-side chalet at a campsite on the far bank.

There is another footbridge and a more gentle bend. before reaching a band of trees. Do not be tempted south away from the river but take a narrow path through the young trees to find a footbridge. Thios is where the route used to join from the road.

There is then open country, apart from a high long bridge over an inlet, as the path runs near the Water Eaton farm buildings.”

Sadly, the long road walk at Inglesham remains.

See Chapter 19.

Diversions at Gatehampton and Goring

There are two temporary diversions between Gatehampton and Goring.

The first is at Gatehampton railway bridge just after the path returns to the river following its gentle downhill run through Hartslock Wood. Thames Water is laying a pipe from its Gatehampton Farm boreholes to Oxford. The signposted alternative route is expected to be in place until December.

There is also a diversion a short distance upstream near Goring. This has been caused by a bank collapse and the alternative route is also likely to be in place until the end of the year.

See pages 136 and 137.

Cookham towpath restored

After years of pressure by the Ramblers’ Association the towpath which runs under Cookham Bridge has been reopened. It is the path seen in Stanley Spencer’s famous painting Swan Upping which shows the bridge spanning the path.

This addition does not affect the Thames Path route which still passes through the churchyard. But having reached the river you can now go right to visit the Ferry Inn which is at the end of Ferry Lane.

The reopening this month is a victory for Margaret Bowdery MBE, President of the East Berkshire Ramblers Group, who has devoted a considerable amount of time to the campaign to reinstate the right of way.

See page 103.

Flood watches continue

Flood watches are still in place on several sections of the River Thames west of London.

This means that some flooding of low-lying land is a possibility. However, the ground continues to drain leaving the Thames Path again passable in most places where there has been severe flooding.

But there has been some rain and more is forecast so there will still be plenty of muddy paths for some time.

More flood warnings

Constant updates are now unnecessary. This is a national story.

The Thames in summer, winter, hot sun, rain or snow is exciting and worth a walk. But this is a rare period (it may be more than a week) when walking is not sensible even if possible.

There is a severe flood warning on the River Thames from Eynsham Lock to Day’s Lock near Dorchester-on-Thames. The towpath is covered around Oxford and Abingdon.

However there is serious flooding upstream at Kelmscot. Water is rising at Newbridge whilst inland to the north Standlake residents are fighting the rising River Windrush which flows into the Thames at Newbridge.

There is now a fear of craft being ripped from moorings.

There are flood warnings as far east as Hampton Court and these may be upgraded.

Flood fears

This may not be a good time to be walking the Thames Path as there are numerous reports of flooding and public transport is disrupted.

A severe flood warning has been issued by the Environment Agency in the Oxford area between Kennington and upstream Eynsham.

There are also 17 flood warnings from as far east as Teddington. Tributaries in the Upper Thames are reported to be at flood level which means that the River Thames is likely to see further flooding.

Two roads in Oxford were closed this morning.

Walkers should remember that swimming can be dangerous in fast moving water and the Thames in flood can be very dangerous.

At Maidenhead water is being diverted into the recently dug Jubilee River which rejoins the Thames opposite Windsor’s Home Park.

Henley towpath closed ‘for a week`

The towpath opposite Henley has been closed without notice. There is no diversion notice and walkers face a confusing situation.

High barriers were erected early on Monday although Henley Festival had only obtained permission for closure from 5.45 tomorrow Wednesday 11 July.

Henley Festival has consent, under section 16A of the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984, to close the path during the evening on Wednesday to Saturday this week and 11.15am to 3.30pm on Saturday.

The Open Spaces Society’s local activist David Parry has called for the towpath to be opened immediately.

“The Festival obtained consent from the Government Office South East for a temporary closure order for the path during the performances over five days, starting at 17.45 pm on Wednesday 11 July” reports David. “However, the consent was conditional upon Wokingham District Council, the highway authority, ensuring ‘that the footpath is not obstructed and public safety is not endangered by construction activities when the footpath is open outside the periods of closure imposed by the order’.

“This condition was imposed because of our strong complaint last year when the path was illegally blocked for two extra days during the construction period. But Wokingham Council has breached the condition because the path has, once again, been obstructed during the construction period”, David continues.

“The Festival knew full well that it had no consent to block the path before 15.45 pm on Wednesday 11 July this year, but it pig-headedly went ahead regardless and, by 7.30 am on Monday 9 July, the path was obstructed by a wire fence, vehicles and notices telling people to keep out.

‘When we complained to the council, it immediately made an emergency order to close the path on grounds of health and safety. But such orders should only be made when there is a genuine emergency and they normally require a notice to be published seven days ahead. The Festival has known for many months that it planned to carry out construction work here, but made no arrangements for protecting the path and its users. Instead it expects the public to walk an unsightly metal gangway between the metal fences, rather than the lovely route beside the river.

“And Wokingham District Council, which has a duty to assert and protect the rights of the public on public paths, has connived in this malpractice.

“Since the council and the Festival have breached the conditions in the closure order, the Government Office should declare that order null and void. Deplorably, it refuses to do so.

“In blocking the path, the Festival is putting its fine reputation at risk. Its arrogant disrespect of public rights is a self-inflicted slur.”

David adds: “The Open Spaces Society strongly urges it to reopen this much-used path without delay, and only to close it during the periods for which it had authority.”

Future route changes at Deptford

The first flats in the Paynes and Borthwick Wharves development at Deptford have gone on sale with eight reserved within the first hour.

The focus of the crowded King Sturge estate agents office in Canary Wharf was a model of the controversial 257 apartment development in eight blocks.

It shows how eventually the Thames Path west of Deptford Creek will turn right off Borth Street to rejoin the river by way of a new street to be called Middle Watergate.
Then the way will be left along the waterside in front of the preserved mid 19th-century Paynes Wharf. At the old ferry steps, the route will be inland up the the existing historic walled Watergate Street.

Creekside Forum’s campaign against demolition for the development was lost last year after a long series of meetings and legal moves. Paynes Wharf is being converted but a fifteen storey residential tower will replace Borthwick Wharf which was designed by Sir Edwin Cooper in 1934 and used as a cold store for meat.

NOTE: See page 19: The current route between the Ahoy Centre and Watergate Street now omits Deptford Green: Turn right behind the Ahoy Centre to walk along Borthwick Street. At Twinkle Park go left into Watergate Street and right into Princes Street.

* Downstream there are plans for a swing footbridge across Deptford Creek which would move the Thames Path away from the main road.

From the Sea to the Source