As many as 22 lock keepers’ cottages on the River Thames are to be sold or rented out. The lock keepers and their families must move out.
I am sorry to see this reported in The Times today.Â
Marlow Lock’s cottage is one of ten to be sold and Cookham’s will be rented as the Environment Agency tries to reduce spending.
Eileen McKeever, the Environment Agency’s Thames manager, says: “We are aware that this is a very emotive issue for lock keepers and their families but we have been running the river in the same manner for 40 or 50 years and we need to modernise our working practices.”
What is wrong with the constant care and policing of the last 50 years? It works very well. Have the lock keepers been wasting their time? How much better railway stations were when they had a resident station master. There was no vandalism.
Lock keepers, who earn around Â£16,000 a year and are responsible for maintaining the water flow at weirs as well as looking after locks, will have to find a home elsewhere. The Chief Executive Baroness Young is paid Â£200,000 a year.Â
55 year old Steve Drewett who has worked as a lock keeper for 23 years has been told that he and his family must leave his cottage at Sunbury Lock.Â
Think about this as you walk the Thames Path this summer. Drop off at the Houses of Parliament and tell your MP what you think about the policy.
The arrival this weekend of the Olympic flame on the Thames Path at North Greenwich caused a brief closure of the route. Ellen McArthur carried the torch ashore for a handover before the ceremony outside the Dome.
The Dome, or O2 as it is now officially called, is one of the venues for the 2012 Olympics and will host the gymnastics, basketball and trampolining events. It will be interesting to see if the Thames Path can remain open during Games. It should be possible.Â
The Lea Valley Walk which runs alongside the Olympic Park is due to be open all the time.
Although much of the Thames towpath is a public footpath and part of a national trail it sometimes occurs to me that it would be difficult to tow a barge with a horse on the towpath.
The reason is that in some places trees now grow between the path and the water.Â
Just prior to today’s Oxford & Cambridge Boat Race there has been tree felling on the towpath just upstream of Hammersmith Bridge. Residents in Chiswick across the water are not too happy at having their view changed and those living in Barnes residents claim that this summer there will not be the usual tunnel of trees shading them from the sun on the path.
Martin Garside of the Port of London Authority says: “The trees are slowly but surely destroying the stone wall, which is part of the flood defences. Ultimately the towpath would collapse and that’s just not an option.”
However, only every other tree has been removed from the stone wall this time although eventually all the trees will have to go. Maybe the work should have been done years ago. Â
Cicerone who publish both The Thames Path guide and my Lea Valley Walk guide has launched the Cicerone Forum, e-newsletter and blog.Â To explore the website which shows the full range of guides and gives access to recent newsletters and the blog go toÂ http://www.ciceronepress.co.uk
A plan for a new Walton Bridge has been approved by Environment Secretary Hilary Benn.
The present crossing is a temporary Bailey Bridge dating from 1953. It was erected following 1940 war damage. Earlier more attractive bridges here were painted by Canaletto and Turner.
The existing bridge will remain in place whilst the new one is built alongside over the coming years. The deadline is 2014.
The lavatory block on Cowey Sale, the Walton Bank with the Thames Path, is to be replaced by a cafe and toilets.
See page 70.
Following last year’s Putney Debates festival at Putney Parish Church I thought it was the right time to check out its new permanent exhibition which is the festival legacy.
Although the Thames Path signage at Putney still directs downstream walkers away from the river and along Putney Bridge Road this is out of date. St Mary’s Putney is on the Thames Path. Indeed the path loops round the back.
The church is famous for the Putney Debates staged in 1647 by Cromwellians during the civil war. The participants’ radical ideas were too radical for Cromwell but their principles were incorporated into the American constitution. Leading lawyer Geoffrey Robertson and television historian Tristram Hunt both rate the event as very significant.
The free exhibition is not only a fascinating account of the debates but gives the background to the church building and the riverside village of Putney. Well worth seeing is the Bishop West chantry chapel built for him during his lifetime by the masons working on St George’s chapel at Windsor. The bishop was the son of a Putney fishmonger. It is interesting to find that his arms in the church include a fine pomegranate insignia as he was chaplain to Catherine of Aragon who also used the pomegranate as a crest.
Entry to the church is through the cafe which is a perfect stop for coffee or lunch. Soup and crusty bread is Â£4.95. I had homemade fish cakes, chips and salad for Â£6. If you are starting out at Putney it’s worth knowing about “chef’s UBER breakfast (mega size)” at Â£7.
The cafe is open daily 8.30am-6.30pm; Sat 9.30am-6pm & Sun 10.30am-6pm.
Sunday Eucharist is at 10am when you might recognise the Vicar as he is Giles Fraser who has a regular slot on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.
See pages 46-49.
Thames Path Guided Events Programme covering March to September 2008 is now available.Â
The programme, produced by the National Trails Office, features guided walks and events taking place on the Thames Path.Â Â Â
Experienced National Trails volunteers, local walking groups and representatives from other organizations lead the walks, the majority of which are free of charge.Â Â There are also suggestions for visitors to follow their own itinerary by combining a walk with other leisure activities such as visiting museums or a flour mill.
The listings are available on theÂ Ridgeway and Thames Path national trails websites.
News that Chris Evans has had a huge response to his call on BBC Radio 2 for Pan Yan pickle to be brought back will be of interest to those who walk the Thames Path.
The pickle was invented in 1907 by the Maconochie Brothers who built a huge pickle factory on the Isle of Dogs. The name Yan Pan was the result of a competition among the workers at Maconochie’s Wharf.
Pan Yan was last made in 2002 by Branston Pickle who lost the secret recipe in a fire at its Suffolk factory.
The old Maconochie’s Wharf buildings have been demolished to make way for the Great Eastern Self-Build Housing Association and a handy stretch of the northern bank Thames Path.
Walkers on the main south bank route can see Maconochie’s Wharf across the Thames from the new riverside path in front of the Peter the Great statue at Deptford Creek.
See pages 18 and 19.
Walkers passing along Bankside in central London must turn up Bear Gardens and go left again to find the remains of the 1587 Rose Theatre. Now, twenty miles further on at Kingston-upon Thames, there is a modern version also called The Rose.
It stands at the back of the new Charter Quay with its front door on the high street. Indeed Tudor travellers from Bankside would have known the street for Kingston was a day’s journey from London and the trip was often undertaken by the Bishop of Winchester in whose Bankside garden that first Rose was built.
The new Â£11m covered Rose has been built thanks to an extraordinary redevelopment planning deal. Sir Peter Hall has supported the vision since the early 1990s and now he has directed the opening play Uncle Vanya.
This week’s first night attracted big names to join the audience including film-maker Mike Leigh. They were rewarded with performances by Nicholas Le Prevost as Vanya, Ronald Pickup as Serebryakov, a bearded Neil Pearson as Astrov, Michelle Dockery as the beautiful Yelena and Loo Brealey as Sonya.
The season includes two Shakespeare plays. Upper circle seats are Â£5 and the pit (bring your own cushion) is Â£7. Uncle Vanya is at the Rose Theatre Kingston until 9 February.
The Thames Path crosses Kingston Bridge so to see the Rose you must stay by the river to pass The Bishop Out of Residence pub. After crossing the tiny Hogsmill River go left up Emm’s Passage to reach the theatre on the left at the High Street.
See pages 33 and 65.
The Thames Barrier was closed on Thursday afternoon at 2pm due to spring tides and high river levels.
High tide at 3.15pm in central London saw ferry passengers walk up rather than down Bankside Pier. Only five of the steps outside nearby Tate Modern remained dry.
These scenes are interesting considering that in the last few days the river has been high upstream with the towpath flooded in several places in Oxfordshire following the heavy West Country rain. Earlier this week a cyclist was stranded on the towpath west of Reading.
Walkers should certainly expect closures and diversions. The unusually warm weather is bringing out people who might not normally experience the winter flooding.
Nineteen flood watches are in force across London.
The Barrier was due to be reopened within three hours. Thames tidal flood risk manager Andrew Batchelor says: “This is a standard procedure for us when we have high spring tides combined with high flows in the river from heavy rain.