Once Upon a River

Dianne Setterfield’s latest novel  Once Upon A River is set largely on the Thames upstream of Oxford.

It holds the attention of anyone who has walked the river by the roll call of familiar names at the beginning.

The story is set in the 19th century and opens at Radcot which is unchanged since well before May Morris from Kelmscott looked to placing a figure of the Virgin Mary in the Radcot Bridge niche.

The Battle of of Radcot Bridge fought just before Christmas 1387 is recalled in the book where the short skirmish is given a death toll greater than I have ever heard.

If the scene in The Swan is taking place at the dawn of photography then the young woman present is unlikely to have been schooled at Godstow Abbey.

But as the review by Nilanjana Roy in the FT suggests, “this riverine novel has the mood and feel of a ghost story”.

Once Upon A River by Dianne Setterfield is published by Doubleday (£12.99).

Blessing the Thames on Sunday

The Shard and Southwark Cathedral

Sunday 13 January is Baptism of Christ Sunday which sees the annual Blessing of the River on London Bridge at 12.20pm.

Processions from Southwark Cathedral on the right bank and St Magnus the Martyr on the left bank will meet on the bridge. After prayers and a hymn, a wooden cross will be hurled into the water.

This will be the moment when the tide is turning so the cross should be carried upstream.

Please report any sightings here. Send us a message.

Two cosiest pubs on the Thames

The River Thames has pubs which are tested daily by walkers ready for really good refreshment.

In today’s Mail on Sunday Tom Parker Bowles  and  Olly Smith publish their list of the 100 cosiest pubs in Britain.

Tom highlights The Trout Inn at Wolvercote, upstream of Oxford which he describes as “a beautiful 17th-century pub sitting on the Thames”.

He adds: “One of those pubs that is as cosy in winter as it is bucolic in summer.”

At Cricklade The Red Lion gets a mention for being “a 16th-century pub with a flower-strewn façade that brews its own beer”.

Indeed it is the home of Liquid Highway brewed exclusively for the Thames Path.

There is also bed and breakfast.

Millais at Kingston

My First Sermon (1863) & My Second Sermon in The Times

Two lovely paintings by John Everett Millais appeared side by side in The Times on Monday.

They are included in the Seen and Heard exhibition at the Guildhall Art Gallery.

Both paintings depict the artist’s daughter sitting in Kingston-upon-Thames parish church.

All Saints, associated with Saxon kings, is the focal point of the market square and a short walk from Kingston Bridge.

His brother William Henry painted the Thames.

Seen and Heard: Victorian Children in the Frame is at the Guildhall Art Gallery in the city of London until Sunday 28 April; admission £8 (Conc  £6).

 

Diversion at Greenwich’s Trinity Hospital

Greenwich Power Station seen from the peninsula

The river path in front of Trinity Hospital, on the east side of Greenwich, is due to close shortly.

The river wall is being  rebuilt which means that the path may not reopen until next August.

An interesting background to the diversion and what to see can be found on Peter Kent’s RiverWatch Returns site.

Diversion Directions

If walking from the Greenwich Peninsula (where the path has recently reopened) you reach Ballast Quay.

Pass the Cutty Sark pub to walk across Anchor Iron Wharf where there is a large anchor.

Before the power station go left into Hoskins Street. There is  power station wall to the right and the road is partly surfaced with attractive stone setts.

At  junction turn right along Old Woolwich Road to pass the back of the London Transport power station and the modern entrance to Trinity Hospital.

At another main junction go right into Eastney Street which runs direct to gates on to river.

Go left along narrow Crane Street to Greenwich.

‘Repellent’ Kismet

Kismet

“Through the Thames below my London flat last week slid a repellent sight,” writes Matthew Parris in The Times this morning.

“She resembled a giant, sleek, grey, metal-plastic kitchen device, about two houses long. Her decks were slits and her windows little black squares of darkened glass, for all the world like gun-emplacements.”

Kismet in the Pool of London last month before passing Matthew Parris’s flat

St Saviour’s Dock bridge closing on Thursday

Notice in Mill Street near bridge

The St Saviour’s Dock footbridge is likely to be closed from Thursday 1 November.

Closure was expected two weeks ago but the crossing has remained open.

When the diversion comes into operation on or shortly after Thursday it will stay in place for  up to six months.

The alternative route is:

At the west end of Bermondsey Wall West, bear left to follow Mill Street past Vogan’s Mill to the main road.

Holy Trinity Church Dockhead is to the left. Go right past the Co-op to have a good view (right) down St Saviour’s Dock. 

Go right again to enter Shad Thames which into the late 20th century was noted for a strong smell of spices. Here are Jamaica Wharf, St Andrew’s Wharf and Java Wharf.

At the far end the road bears round to the left past Tea Trade Wharf (right) and under a bridge (the old Design Museum) to a junction. Turn right up steps for the River Thames and rejoin the main route on Butler’s Wharf.  

Go left towards Tower Bridge. 

Greenwich Peninsula path improvements

Isle of Dogs from Greenwich Peninsula

The path from North Greenwich to Greenwich is back alongside the Thames.

Walkers, having passed the O2 (Millennium Dome) and crossed Drawdock Road as it enters the water, can now stay alongside the river with only one brief natural break all the way to Greenwich.

This month sees the end to a long period of changing closures on the west side of the Greenwich peninsula caused by redevelopment.

Work has not ended but disruption should now be occasional whilst the path is ‘improved’.

Sadly this means widening the Thames Path for cyclists with the loss of wild flowers and possibly trees.

The only major disruption in future years will be on Enderby Wharf if its conversion to the London City Cruise Port goes ahead despite many objections.

Meanwhile, Young’s is about to reopen historic Enderby House as a  pub. It was built in the early 19th century by the Enderby brothers when they set up a rope walk. In 1846 General Gordon spent his last night in England at the riverside building.

It is to be hoped that interior decorations will reflect Enderby’s whaling and submarine cable history.

Drawdock Road

The O2 to Greenwich route:

After  Drawdock Road the path is wide on Delta Wharf before a double bend takes it across Victoria Deep Water Terminal.

This is still a working wharf but the delightful tunnels to protect walkers have been removed. 

Afterwards the path makes a now rare inland detour to go round the back of Bay Wharf which has again become a ship repair yard. This recently relocated a few yards upstream from Enderby Wharf. 

Behind Bay Wharf there is no longer the unpleasant detour via a busy inland road. Instead one again is now able to immediately return to the water and follow a delightful path under willows along Morden Wharf.

This path gives way to a new wide dual cycle/pedestrian path outside Enderby House. 

From here there are new flats as far as Union Wharf and Ballast Quay.

After this the path passes the power station and the 17th-century Trinity Hospital to reach the Trafalgar Tavern in Greenwich.

Golf course curtain seen from Victoria Deep Water Terminal

Return to river path open again after Bay Wharf

Morden Wharf path

New wide dual path pushing north

Restored Enderby House (left) with Cubitt Town Wharf seen across the water on the Isle of Dogs

St Saviour’s Dock diversion

St Saviour’s Dock Swing Bridge

There is a diversion around St Saviour’s Dock near Tower Bridge from Monday 15 October.

The half a  mile temporary route will enable work to take place on the dock footbridge which since 1995 has carried the riverside path over the inlet entrance.  This is also the mouth of the River Neckinger.

The swing bridge, designed by Nicholas Lacey whilst living at adjacent Reeds Wharf, has been in a fixed position for some time and now needs refurbishment. After the work is completed it will again be able to allow large vessels to enter the dock.

View down St Saviour’s Dock from Dockhead

The alternative route from Monday 15 October is:

At the west end of Bermondsey Wall West, bear left to follow Mill Street past Vogan’s Mill to the main road.

Holy Trinity Church Dockhead is to the left. Go right past the Co-op to have a good view (right) down St Saviour’s Dock. 

Go right again to enter Shad Thames which into the late 20th century was noted for a strong smell of spices. Here are Jamaica Wharf, St Andrew’s Wharf and Java Wharf.

At the far end the road bears round to the left past Tea Trade Wharf (right) and under a bridge (the old Design Museum) to a junction. Turn right up steps for the River Thames and rejoin the main route on Butler’s Wharf.  

Go left towards Tower Bridge. 

St Andrew’s Wharf in Shad Thames

 

Nine Elms: Thames Pavilion

Pavilion at Nine Elms

A surprise at Nine Elms is not just the new American Embassy but a new Thames Walk Pavilion featuring a raised garden.

Elm Quay has had a representation of Old Father Thames for thirty years.

Now the big attraction is immediately downstream on Bourne Valley Wharf where the water tank pavilion, designed by the architects of Studio Weave and commissioned by Wandsworth Council, stands.

It is intended as a home for wildlife as well as a resting point for walkers.

The garden is reached by stairs but the doors are not always open.

Pavilion decoration

Upstream, beyond Elm Quay and Prescot Wharf, the Thames Tideway project is providing for the riverside path to pass infant of Heathwall Pumping Station and join Tideway Walk at the dock next to Nine Elms Pier.

So no more returning to the road opposite Waitrose from about 2022.

Work on linking path at pumping station

From the Sea to the Source