McDonald’s ‘started’ in Woolwich

McDonald’s with its present frontage in Woolwich

McDonald’s is celebrating 50 years in the UK.

The first branch in the now famous fast food chain opened during 1974 in Woolwich and today it is featuring as the climax to the current anniversary television commercial.

To visit the ‘first McDonalds’ from the Thames Path walk through Woolwich Arsenal to Beresford Square and at Woolwich Arsenal DLR Station turn right into Powis Street.

McDonald’s does not have a huge presence along the Thames Path although the Wandsworth Bridge branch is popular as a handy, or speedy, alternative to a very packed pub.


Bloomer’s Hole diversion

Another Thames bridge has closed.

The Bloomer’s Hole bridge near Lechlade is closed for repair.

The diversion, in place and signed, is a return to the route used until the millennium. The bridge has lasted 25 years.

Turn north up the long straight path and then left along a road to cross the tiny River Leach. Go left again passing The Trout to cross St John’s Bridge. A small gate on the right leads to a stepped path down to St John’s Lock where Old Father Thames can be found.


Henley Royal Regatta

Henley’s Straight Course and Temple Island with its 1771 fishing lodge

Walkers will encounter the annual Henley Royal Regatta this week on the approach to Henley.

After Hambleden Lock the towpath is soon alongside the Straight Course which was first used a century ago in 1924.

This slightly altered the shape of Temple Island and changed the Berkshire bank opposite.

Expect crowds and a diversion near Henley Bridge until after the last day on Sunday 7 July.


St Frideswide’s Way inauguration

The St Frideswide’s Way logo is a pilgrim shell surrounded by a wreath of rosemary being a reminder of the healing ministry of the saint.

The St Frideswide’s Way is being inaugurated on Wednesday morning when a group of walkers set out from Christ Church Oxford for Reading Abbey.

Saint Frideswide, a Saxon princess who died in 727, is the patron saint of Oxford. Her reconstructed shrine is in the cathedral found within the college.

Thames walkers may know of her association with the treacle well at Binsey church.

The new St Frideswide’s Way route largely follows the Thames Path to Reading.

One can of course be a pilgrim walking on the Thames Path from Reading to Oxford’s cathedral -turning right at Folly Bridge.

But the idea of walking to Reading is that there you can join the St James Way running south to Winchester and Southampton. Once you could sail from the port to Galicia and reach the shrine of St James the Great in Santiago de Compostela by way of the short Camino Ingles.

Today most people walk through France on the famous Camino routes.

But just as the Pilgrims’ Way from Winchester to Canterbury is a long walk from St Swithun to St Thomas Becket so this new route could be called a long walk including voyage from St Frideswide to St James.

The St Frideswide’s Way will become part of the Camino Ingles to Santiago de Compostela and the distance walked will count towards the certificate which can be gained on arrival at Santiago.

But if not continuing to Spain one can at Reading recall that St James’s Hand was at the Abbey until the Reformation. The relic is now in the care of St Peter’s Church in Marlow where it is occasionally displayed.

On Wednesday morning 26 June the Bishop of Oxford will be at Christ Church to send the pilgrims on their way to Abingdon led by the college chaplain Dr Zachary Guiliano.

Wallingford will reached on Thursday and Pangbourne on Friday. Reading Abbey should be reached at about 3.30pm on Saturday.

Reading Abbey gate
A guide will be available shortly from the cathedral

Gun salute for Thames author Emperor

There will be a 62 round gun salute from Tower Wharf today Tuesday 25 June at 12.10pm to welcome the Emperor of Japan to London.

This will be simultaneous with the Emperor and Empress being greeted by the King and Queen on Horse Guards Parade at the start of a State Visit.

The salute in the Pool of London will have resonance for Emperor Naruhito who got to know the River Thames during his years as an Oxford student.

Not only is he familiar with The Perch at Binsey and The Trout Inn at Godstow but he also has written about the river.

The Thames and I was published in 1992 and The Thames as a Highway; A study of navigation and traffic on the Upper Thames in the Eighteenth Century in 2006.

He has also made a continued study of flood prevention.

The full story is told in the River Thames Society‘s latest magazine Thames Guardian.

Emperor Naruhito, having arrived early with his wife for their State Visit, yesterday took the opportunity to visit the Thames Barrier.


Shiplake: Diversion route at Marsh Lock changed

Due to the failure of the Environment Agency to repair the wooden horse bridge at Henley’s Marsh Lock there is a new diversion.

This more severe, and at times depressing, 2.7 mile route is necessary as landowner Culden Faw Estate has run out of patience.

For more than a year the estate provided a handy diversion near the river but this has now been withdrawn in an attempt to persuade the Environment Agency to start work.

The Environment Agency is the latest successor to Thames Conservancy which from 1857 to 1974 maintained an experienced in-house work force familiar with the river and able to monitor structures.

The new diversion between Marsh Lock bridge and The Baskerville Arms in Shiplake is explained with a downloadable sheet on the National Trail website


Bambers Steps

Bambers Steps at Richmond

Bambers Steps at Richmond have been named after Thames-side resident Bamber Gascoigne who died two years ago today.

The television personalty, known for his role in University Challenge, lived by the river in Richmond and often swam from the steps.

The water access is found at the end of the length of towpath known as Cholmondeley Way at its meeting with Friars Lane just before The White Cross pub.

The steps at Bambers Steps.
Looking downstream across Bambers Steps from the towpath.

Last chance to visit Deptford’s pie shop

When the Thames Path opened 28 years ago walkers could choose between two pie and mash shops in Deptford High Street.

But this year will be the last chance to enjoy pie and mash in Deptford as it has been announced that the surviving one will close early next year 2025.

Manze’s at 204 Deptford High Street, on the corner of Lamerton Street, opened in 1914 having been founded by Michele Manze from Ravello in Italy who had intended selling ice cream.

The shop is now owned by his grandson George Mascall who is anxious to retire having worked there for 45 years.

The small building is listed Grade II by Historic England for its traditional seating, white tile walls and marble tables. The Twentieth Century Society held its Christmas lunch there last year.

If you are not stopping for lunch at the Dog & Bell on the path it might be worth keeping ahead inland for 300 yards to experience the pie and mash shop for a last time.

Manze’s is open Wednesday to Saturday 9.30am-2pm. The meat pies are handmade daily to a secret recipe.


Blessing the River

Blessing the river in 2023

The 2024 Blessing the River from London Bridge will be on Sunday 14 January at 12.15pm.

This year’s slightly later date is due to The Epiphany (6 January) falling at a weekend resulting in church calendars moving ‘Twelfth Night’ on a day to Sunday 7 January. This displaced the Baptism of Christ Sunday which is the usual blessing of river day.

Next Sunday 14 January processions will set out simultaneously shortly before 12.30pm from Southwark Cathedral on the south bank and St Magnus the Martyr Church in the City to the north.

Charles Dickens had these two churches in mind when he wrote ‘the tower of old Saint Saviour’s Church, and the spire of Saint Magnus, so long the giant-warders of the ancient bridge’.

The stone London Bridge begun in 1176 was dedicated to St Thomas Becket and had a chapel in the middle of the downstream side. The pavement ran under the tower of St Magnus.

Prayers will be offered for those working on the river.

The Cross before being hurled into the water in 2023

Swindon-Lechlade bus restored

Pulhams Coaches is now operating a route 64 between Swindon and Lechlade.

This is the restoration of a bus service used by walkers in the past.

There are four buses out of Swindon and three from Lechlade daily except Sundays.

The timetable shows a bus arriving in Lechlade at 9.31am which could be handy for those travelling by train to Swindon on a Saturday. The last bus from Lechlade is at 4.51pm.

The new route is featured with the timetable in Bus And Train User.