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.

Wandsworth’s new riverside pub

The Waterfront has opened on Battersea Reach just a few yards east of Wandsworth Bridge.

Battersea Reach is the developer’s name for Gargoyle Wharf which was the site of a Shell Oil Terminal and Wandsworth Distillery. In 1996 it was the scene of an eco squat and a high profile eviction followed by numerous planning rows.

So it’s a surprise to find the long expected Young’s pub on the riverside describing itself as “the new posh pub”. But this should not put off any walkers. You really can just have a drink and there are already some attractive chairs and stools on the wooden terrace ready for the summer.

The menu does not have sandwiches or crisps but this could be the place for a relaxed midday lunch before tackling the temporary inland route past McDonald’s. The Waterfront ideal for an end of a day’s walking meal since there is Wandsworth Station nearby. Food is served all day from 10.30am to 10.30pm.

We were welcomed as soon as we entered and drinks quickly arrived our table. The food was also served without too much of a delay. From the slab menu I chose a Balmoral (£10) which turned out to be salmon and oatmeal on a pizza-style cheese base served on a wooden board. My companion had spinach and cheese ricotta parcels with salad (£8.95) from the main menu.

Both were filling but it might be an idea to try sharing one of the generous slab items. You could start with a soup and rustic bread (£4.95) which appears, like the menu, to change daily.

A Magners cider was £3.95 and a Malvern water £1.95.

Wandsworth route change

There are some improvements to the Thames Path between Battersea Railway Bridge and Wandsworth Bridge with more access to the river as redevelopment schemes are completed.

The new directions are:

“The path runs under Battersea Railway Bridge. After a short distance go right to reach a new path on Regent Wharf. At a drawbridge leading to Falcon Wharf turn left along the small dock to rejoin the main road.

“Go right and at the junction turn right. Just past the Dovercourt car showrooms, and before the candle factory shop, turn right into Bridges Court. (The road has no name plate.) Keep to the left and follow the path which bends and leads to the river.

“Pass the back of the Candlemakers development and the end of York Place to walk along Plantation Wharf. Here the riverside path continues on to the new Battersea Reach.

“At the Waterfront pub go left inland and at the far end left again to reach a roundabout. Turn right to rejoin the main road where the route is to the right.”

Follow existing instructions from McDonald’s onwards.

The path at Falcon Wharf, a new 17-storey residential development, should open shortly but there will be some delay before you can join Wandsworth Bridge from Battersea Reach riverside.

Improved route at Vauxhall

Changes at St George Wharf alongside Vauxhall Bridge mean that there is a slight improvement in the Thames Path route.

Having passed under Vauxhall Bridge from the MI6 building there is no need to go up on to the bridge approach. Traffic can be avoided for a little longer.

Walkers emerging from the tunnel should now keep ahead along the St George Wharf frontage. At the new Young’s Riverside pub turn inland to reach steps leading down to the main road. Go right past Tesco and Brunswick House (swathed in scaffolding) and follow the pavement back to the river.

It is always a pleasure to pass the 18th-century Brunswick House which is now open as a shop selling architectural salvage. But eventually, when the St George development is completed, the Thames Path will run along the entire riverside here and avoid the Vauxhall traffic.

Spencer collection moved to Reading

The Spencer Gallery at Cookham has closed for refurbishment until June 2007.

Meanwhile the Gallery’s entire collection of Stanley Spencer’s paintings and drawings is on view at Reading Museum until 22 April.

Each Saturday custodians from the Stanley Spencer Gallery will be in the exhibition to chat to visitors about his work and Cookham where he lived.

Reading Museum is open Tue-Sat 10am-4pm and Sun 11am-4pm. It will be closed on Christmas Day, Boxing Day and New Year’s Day.

New Chambers Wharf to include the Thames Path

Plans have been unveiled to open up the riverside at Chambers Wharf at Bermondsey in central London.

At present there is no river view and walkers are forced to turn inland and follow Loftie Street and the long Chambers Street (page 26) round the back of a cold store.

Initial proposals by the St Martin’s Property Group include a wide riverside path alongside a new public garden. This would allow the Thames Path to continue with the river from Fountain Green Square on the east side to within a few yards of East Lane Stairs on the west side.

The new development plan comprises of eight buildings with a total of 750 residential apartments including studios and three bedroom flats.

The cold store was built in the 1930s and has recently been used for document storage. It was the erection of this huge warehouse which split the continuous Bermondsey Wall lane into Bermondsey Wall East and Bermondsey Wall West.

The new Chambers Wharf riverside garden would be flanked on the north side by the Thames Path and on the south by an extended Bermondsey Wall lane on its original line.

If Southwark Council grants planning permission next year, building work will begin in 2008. The new path could be opened in 2013.

Greenwich pie shop closes

Goddard’s Pie House in Greenwich is closing having been run by three generations of the Goddard family.

The shop which was open every day has been popular with walkers wanting a cheap filling meal served speedily. The menu had not only pie and mash but also fruit pies for a pudding course.

Tables were often crowded and it was sometimes necessary to go upstairs to find a seat. Many foreign visitors sought it out.

Closure has come as a surprise. The building was saved from demolition when the Docklands Light Railway was extended across the river from the Isle of Dogs. The new station was squeezed into a small space leaving the popular pie shop unscathed.

Indeed the vegetarian pie was called a Banks Pie in honour of vegetarian Tony Banks who in 2000 had the building listed when he was a minister.

The last day of trading is Sunday 12 November when the shop is due to close at 7pm. The building will reopen later this year as a branch of the small upmarket Gourmet Burger Kitchen chain.

Deptford’s Borthwick Wharf appeal fails

The Borthwick Wharf campaigners have been refused leave to appeal in the High Court at a hearing before Lord Justice Moses.

The judge concluded that demolition of the riverside building in Deptford does not need planning permission and that the planning authority cannot prevent it.

There is a fear that demolition will commence shortly although Greenwich Council is not expected to confirm approval for the new development for some weeks.

Updates will be posted here.

From the Sea to the Source