All posts by Leigh Hatts

Island named after Liz Truss ancestor

Foreign Secretary Liz Truss, current favourite to win the Conservative leadership and become Prime Minister, is a descendant of the City of London’s famous Navigation Clerk of Works Charles Truss.

Truss’s Island in the River Thames is named after him.

The island, restored in 1992 with water again on all sides, is on the right bank between Laleham and Staines.

The stone, bearing the City Corporation shield and the island’s name, was placed in the centre in 1804 but has the date 1774 which is the year Charles Truss was appointed.

The City, responsible for the Thames as far as Staines, had allowed the river to become so obstructed and towpaths so eroded that it was in danger of losing its ancient rights.

Truss spent 36 years restoring the river, which saw a huge increase in traffic with the opening of the Thames and Severn Canal.

The island is largely inhabited by swans and Canada geese leaving little room for visitors seeking out the blackberries hanging down to the water.

The towpath is on the left bank and although from a distance the wooded island on the right bank appears to merge with the background it’s easily located by the swans. They often cross the river tempted by a constant offering of bread from walkers despite a recently posted notice from the Queen’s Swan Marker asking people to desist from feeding.

Another descendant of Charles Truss is The Revd Richard Truss, Liz Truss’s uncle, who has served in riverside parishes of Shepperton and Waterloo.

Swans on the landing steps of Truss’s Island.
One of two bridges for accessing the island.
information board near the island.

Wandsworth: Riverside Quarter diversion

The view upstream having left the River Wandle.

It is like a sudden return to the recent past to find the new path at Wandsworth’s Riverside Quarter closed after being able to enjoy it.

Bur construction is not over.

After crossing the River Wandle go right with the Wandle to reach the confluence with the Thames. But on turning upstream on the Thames you must divert.

Bear half left up shallow steps to join Eastfields Avenue. Go right along the road as far as the post box (right). Here turn right past the shop to return to the river at Wandsworth Riverside Pier.

The diversion does offer the opportunity to easily visit the award-winning Cat’s Back pub. To do so continue past the post box for a few yards into Point Pleasant and look left.

The diversion is likely to be in place until at least the autumn.

Postbox and shop
Wandsworth Riverside Quarter Pier
The Cat’s Back in Point Pleasant near the river.

Greenwich Peninsula willows to go

View upstream

On Tuesday Greenwich Council is being asked to approve a planning application which will result in the loss of riverside willow trees on the Thames Path.

The application is for the construction of conveyor belts over the Thames Path at Tunnel Wharf and associated refurbishment works to the jetty.

Tunnel Wharf is next to the north side of Morden Wharf on Greenwich Peninsula.

The report to the planning committee confirms that ‘as a result of these works the existing willow trees that are growing into the revetment will be felled’.

Planned ecological improvements include possible unspecified replacement trees and a widening of the Thames Path.

Transport for London, which is not objecting to the application, has expressed satisfaction that there will be no detrimental impact on the amenity of the Thames Path.

The report before councillors claims that the willows are not of a high quality
with the Royal Borough confirming that it has no objection to their felling.

Comments should be sent by Friday to [email protected] marked Planning Case Reference: 19/3298/F

Looking downstream
Further downstream
Willows on the path seen from the river with Bay Wharf boatyard to the left

The Watermans Arms at Eton

The Watermans Arms in Eton next to The Brocas. Note the giant spoon and fork with a barrel (right) for an inn sign.

Which is the best pub on the Thames Path at Windsor?

Once, arriving in the town from Staines, one might have ended the walk by dropping thankfully into The Donkey House at the end of Romney Walk. It was on the river next to the towpath and within sight of the bridge.

But that pub became The River House and is now The Boatman. Despite the tables on the road it feels like a restaurant.

The alternative is over Windsor Bridge to Eton and first left with the Thames Path into Brocas Street.

Here is The Watermans Arms dating from 1682 and full of history. It’s also full of books and information. It probably wins as the best stop for walkers wanting a quick or long lunch.

The food is good. There are real ales and water is no problem.

It is good to find the pub still there and with the same name at a time when we learn that 7,000 pubs have closed during the past decade.

Pie of the day at The Watermans Arms.

Barnes & Mortlake path closure

Looking upstream at Barnes Bridge

The towpath between Barnes Bridge and riverside Jubilee Gardens in Mortlake is likely to remain closed until early October.

The work by the Environment Agency , which began last month, involves strengthening flood defences.

The diversion means that walkers approaching Barnes Bridge must go under the road arch. Beyond the bridge there is only a pavement on the left hand side side of the road.

On entering Mortlake it is at present possible to go along the waterfront at the Ye White Hart but there is then an immediate return to the road.

Beyond the pub walk on the right hand side of Mortlake High Street to continue past Tideway Yard (with Rick Stein’s restaurant). Just past Jubilee Gardens (opposite Avondale Road; left) go right down a narrow passage to return to the river.

Looking downstream in Mortlake
Passage from Mortlake High Street next to Jubilee Gardens

Heat on the Thames

Hammersmith Bridge is being protected from the heat with foil.

It is probably too hot walk along the River Thames for a few days.

Hammersmith Bridge is being wrapped in foil to protect the ancient structure and Tuesday’s Doggett’s Coat & Badge scullers’ race from London Bridge to Chelsea is postponed.

Stretches which are like woodland walks in summer, such as Putney to Barnes and Ham House to Kingston, do offer some shade (as does Hartslock Wood beyond Pangbourne) but there are still many open miles.

Dipping into the river for a paddle or swim is not advised. Every ordinary year sees a number of deaths.

If you must go on the Thames Path then treat your walk to the Source like the pilgrimage to Santiago. Much of that is in hot Spain where pilgrims tend to set out in early morning at first light with the day’s walking done by lunchtime.

Cattle cooling off in the Thames near Gatehampton this week.

Shelley 200 and the Thames

Shelley’s house in Marlow.

Poet Percy B Shelley was drowned at sea and cremated on an Italian beach 200 years ago. The anniversary of his death is Friday 8 July.

Shelley was more used to the waters of the River Thames and places associated with him can be found in the upper and lower reaches.

He first lived with his future wife Mary at 2 Nelson Square near Blackfriars Bridge.

A little later they were living on the edge of Windsor Great Park from where in 1815 the couple, with Charles Clairmont and Thomas Love Peacock*, rowed up the Thames.

They got as far as Inglesham intending to join the Thames and Seven Canal but were prevented by the £20 toll. Instead they drifted on past the Round House at the canal entrance towards Inglesham church where the reeds became too thick and the water too shallow to continue.

The party stayed at the New Inn in nearby Lechlade where today Shelley’s Walk runs past the church. The path is named after the poet because he walked along the path before writing his poem A Summer Evening Church-Yard inspired by his view from the east end of the churchyard looking towards the sunset.

Two years later in March 1817 newly married Percy and Mary moved to Marlow.

Albion House in West Street was to be their home for a year although at the time they intended to stay longer having purchased a 21 year lease. But Mary found the house to be damp and lacking direct sunshine.

They sowed seeds brought back from Switzerland where Mary had begun to write Frankenstein. Now pregnant Mary prepared a new handwritten copy for the publisher.

In between there were boat trips up and down the river to nearby Medmenham Abbey, Henley and Maidenhead.

Visitors included Claire Clairmont and her baby Allegra by Byron who was in Venice, Mary’s father William Godwin and Leigh Hunt with his family.

In September Mary gave birth to Clara and finished the couple’s travel narrative A History of a Six Weeks’ Tour which was published under Percy’s name in November. New Year’s Day 1818 saw the publication of Mary’s Frankenstein. By March the family was on its way to Italy. Percy never returned.

***Thomas Love Peacock, who organised the boat trip from Windsor to Lechlade in 1815, wrote The Genius of the Thames poem. He lived in Marlow when the Shelleys were there and later at riverside Peacock House at Shepperton.

***Although Shelley died in a storm late on the night of Monday 8 July his body was not discovered on Viareggio beach until Wednesday 17 July. It was Sunday 4 August, his birthday, when news reached London. His cremation on the beach took place on Thursday 15 August.

LECHLADE: During August this year, as the anniversaries pass, work will be taking place in Lechlade to renew the cobbles on Shelley’s Walk. They date from 1830, just fifteen years after Shelley’s visit, and many of the original setts will be retained in the resurfacing.

It is possible that the work will be completed by the first week in September which is the 206th anniversary of Shelley’s visit.

The rest of the path is known as Church Path or Bridge Walk and runs to The Trout Inn at St John’s Lock. It makes good circular walk if you return to the town along the towpath.

The church is taking the opportunity to reopen as its its main entrance the lovely early 16th-century porch known to Shelley.

Reeds behind Inglesham Church.
Shelley poster in Lerici this summer.

Gustav Holst and the River Thames

Music before the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee service of thanksgiving at St Paul’s Cathedral included First Suite in E flat for Military Band by Gustav Holst.

This was composed upstream in 1909 at Barnes where the Thames Path passes the house with the blue plaque recording that composer ‘Gustav Holst lived here 1908-1913’. He was also a keen walker.

A new book on Gustav Holst’s wife Isobel gives us a peep inside the family’s riverside home at this time.

Mrs Gustav Holst: An Equal Partner? by Philippa Tudor is packed with fascinating new information after the author’s decade of research.

The cover picture is a painting by Millicent Lisle Woodforde of her friend Isobel sitting at night in a window overlooking the river below a crescent moon. She is in the second floor room where Gustav had a productive time composing free from children who had to remain downstairs.

Flooding at Barnes was more frequent at the beginning of the 20th century and water sometimes entered the house. But the couple’s daughter said that the ‘view of the river compensated for a great deal’. The annual grandstand seat for the Oxford & Cambridge Boat Race was prized.

The book reminders us that Gustav and Isobel had already known life in a house by the Thames. Their courting appears to have taken place a little upstream in William Morris’s Hammersmith home, Kelmscott House, on a reach also prone to flooding. Both had belonged to the Hammersmith Socialist Society and attended Sunday night lectures there. On Mondays Gustav was back to conduct the Hammersmith Socialist Choir which included Isobel.

Mrs Gustav Holst: An Equal Partner? by Philippa Tudor is published by Circaidy Gregory Press; £14.99.

Diversion at Greenwich

Cutty Sark seen from line of diversion

The path diversion at Greenwich, announced last year and postponed in April, is suddenly in place until October.

DIVERSION

On passing the Cutty Sark (left) go left inland towards the town centre. On reaching Welland Street (right; flanked by toilets and M&S Food) go right.

Walk to the end of this road and continue ahead through the traffic free area to enter Thames Street. At a junction go right into Horseferry Place to regain the river.

Turn left upstream into covered Wood Wharf.

At the junction with Horseferry Place go right to rejoin the river

Turn left upstream to enter the covered Wood Wharf.

MORE INFORMATION

The closure is to allow work on a flood defence.

More details can be found on the Environment Agency website.

The 853 website has a full report.