All posts by Leigh Hatts

Dorney Reach diversion

These are uncertain times but the few walking between Windsor and Maidenhead this week will find quite a long signed diversion at the motorway bridge near Bray.

The towpath here will also be closed next weekend between 8pm on Friday 5 June and 6am on Monday 8 June.

The closure is to allow for major work on the bridge.

Thames path gets longer

A stream joins the Thames at Erith

The Thames Path is being extended downstream to the Isle of Grain in Kent.

This is the effect of a decision announced today by the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs George Eustice.

The minister has approved the remaining sections of the England Coast Path on the Thames south bank between Grain in Kent and Woolwich Ferry in London.

This does not mean that there is now a direct riverside path. For example one must turn inland for some distance at the River Darent to find a crossing as the flood barrier does not provide public access.

But this decision to bring the coast path upstream will enhance the status of the Erith to Thames Barrier section which is outside the National Trail but increasingly enjoyed.

It also means that the England Coast Path is on course to eventually take the Thames Path down to Long Nose Spit beyond Margate.

See map here.

Rotherhithe free ferry proposal from TfL

An artist’s impression of TfL’s proposed Rotherhithe ferry

Transport for London is proposing a free ferry linking Rotherhithe with Canary Wharf.

The new service would be a turn up and go eco fast ferry with new specially designed boats and piers.

The proposal follows TfL’s decision in July last year to no longer pursue a bridge idea between Rotherhithe and Canary Wharf due to costs.

TfL has appointed the consultant Steer to assess different operating models on how TfL would run the service, including whether sponsorship and subsidy of the service could be used to make it free to customers.

The design work is also assessing suitable models for construction so that work can commence as quickly as possible in the future.

The ferry point is the pier at the Hilton Hotel next to Nelson Dock. A public consultation will be held this year.

Rotherhithe riverfront

Rotherhithe’s Fighting Temeraire on £20 bank note

The new £20 pound bank note

Today Thursday 20 February the new Twenty Pound bank note is available at banks and post offices.

The note features the artist JMW Turner with his most famous painting The Fighting Temeraire in the background.

He was capturing the moment the great ship, made famous by its role in the Battle of Trafalgar, was towed decommissioned upstream to Rotherhithe for breaking up.

She arrived around 2pm on Thursday 6 September 1838 on the rising spring tide having come from Sheerness and anchoring overnight off Purfleet.

Before the tide turned at Rotherhithe she was swung round to face downstream before being secured at Bull Head Yard.

The wharf was also known as Beatson’s Wharf after John Beatson who ran the breaking and timber resale partnership there. It is now called Pacific Wharf and occupied by new flats.

Immediately west in the 1830s was a granary, on the site of today’s Salt Quay pub, at the Surrey Basin Entrance.

The arrival of the largest ship ever to be brought so far upstream was not advertised but Beatson knew it was a big moment and would soon draw crowds. His brother William went out into the river to do a quick sketch of the Temeraire before its destruction.

This drawing can be compared with Turner’s famous and more romantic record of this day. He is thought to have placed himself at Cherry Garden Pier having spotted the ship being towed upstream the day before as he travelled on one of the Margate-London steamers.

At Rotherhithe Turner would have seen two tugs at work although he depicts only one and moves the sun and time of day for greater effect.

John Beatson was churchwarden at nearby St Mary’s church in Rotherhithe where now there is an altar and two chairs made from Temeraire wood.

***The Temeraire played a crucial role at the 1805 Battle of Trafalgar in protecting Nelson’s HMS Victory. The ‘Nelson, Navy, Nation’ gallery at the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich has more information on the background; admission free.

Turner’s The Fighting Temeraire (Turner Bequest, 1856)

William Beatson’s drawing of the Temeraire at Rotherhithe (© National Maritime Museum)
Beatson’s Wharf has become Pacific Wharf and is now occupied by flats
The Thames Path runs round the former dry dock on the downstream side of Beatson’s Wharf

Rotherhithe has a Temeraire Street

Dog & Bell cover

The London Drinker February issue

“There’s no story behind this,” writes London Drinker editor Tony Hedger about this month’s cover photo.

“The Dog & Bell is simply a very good pub. It is a privately owned free house usually with six beers on handpump. You will find it not far from the Thames at 116 Prince Street (off Watergate Street) in Deptford, SE8 3JD.”

Indeed it’s on the Thames Path.

Thames paintings in Turner bedroom

Sandycombe Lodge

Five of JMW Turner’s Thames paintings are being shown at his house for the first time.

The artist, obsessed with the River Thames and wanting to be nearby, designed and built his own house just over the bridge from Richmond. He moved in with his father in 1813.

Sandycombe Lodge is under half a mile from the river which Turner could see from his bedroom. Fish caught in the Thames were transferred to one of the two ponds in the garden.

The area, now known as St Margarets, is covered with late Victorian houses but during Turner’s thirteen years there he was able to enjoy the river on two sides of the house.

He would have seen nearby Marble Hill House to the south where the only other building was The Crown inn next to his vegetable garden.

To the east he could see over the river to Richmond Hill with the houses on top where artistic rivals Sir Joshua Reynolds and Thomas Gainsborough had lived.

There was a halfpenny toll to walk across Richmond Bridge to the town.

The tiny Turner and the Thames exhibition in the tiny bedroom of Turner’s father is just five tiny paintings.

They are dated 1805 which is two years before Turner purchased the land for his new house.

The oil paintings are really sketches which Turner made on mahogany boards -recycled furniture. In his Walton Reach painting some wood is left bare to covey a little reddish reflection in the water.

Turner is on the water for this painting as he is for Windsor Castle from the River although it is possible to stand on the edge of the Brocas meadow as other artists and photographers have down the decades to show the rising castle.

Sunset on the River 1805 is an example of a picture where, like Walton, one cannot be sure of the exact location even if in a boat.

Another is called The Thames near Windsor (?).

The pictures, usually in storage, are on loan from Tate Britain.

Visiting the house and seeing the bedrooms and kitchen are as rewarding as the exhibition which continues until Sunday 29 March.

Sandycombe Lodge, Turner’s House, 40 Sandycombe Road, Twickenham TW1 2LR is open Wednesday to Sunday 12-3pm; admission £8 (child £3).

Sunset on the River 1805
Windsor Castle from the River 1805 detail
Walton Reach above the bedroom’s fireplace

Blessing the River

Bishops of Fulham and Southwark on the bridge in 2014

Next Sunday 12 January will see the annual blessing of the River Thames on London Bridge.

This is London’s oldest river crossing point and this year has an added resonance since it is where the recent terrorist attack took place.

On Sunday 12 January, Baptism of Christ Sunday, processions will set out from St Magnus the Martyr Church in the City (the old Bridge pavement runs under its tower) and Southwark Cathedral to meet at 12.30pm in front of The Monument at London Bridge’s north end.

Here there will be a ceremony for the Removal of Flowers laid following the deaths of Jack Merritt and Saskia Jones in the terror attack.

(The floral tributes will be made into compost to be made available to the families of the victims.)

The processions will then merge to proceed to the middle of London Bridge for the River Blessing.

After prayers, for those who work on the river and have died in the water, a wooden cross will be thrown down to the rising water as in the Orthodox tradition.

The bridge once had a chapel on its middle downstream side dedicated to St Thomas Becket whose 850th anniversary is this year.

During 2020 many Becket pilgrims will be setting out from here to Canterbury on foot whilst others will be walking upstream on the Thames Path which passes below the south end.

Thames Estuary

Earlier on Sunday morning a decorated cross will be hurled into the Thames estuary at Margate and retrieved by members of the Kent Greek community in the presence of the Greek Orthodox Archbishop.

The cross floats with the tide in the Pool of London

Mayflower 400

The Captain Christopher Jones statue in St Mary’s churchyard next to Thames Path

This year 2020 is the 400th anniversary of the Mayflower crossing to America with the Pilgrim Fathers.

The ship sailed down the Thames from Rotherhithe in July 1620 and crossed the Atlantic. The crew sighted Cape Cod on 9 November.,

America’s annual Thanksgiving in November was begun by the Pilgrim Fathers in 1621 after the first harvest in their new land.

At noon today, Wednesday 1 January 2020, there will be a Solemn Mass in St Mary’s Church at Rotherhithe inaugurating the 400th anniversary year.

The church has a plaque and sculpture recalling Mayflower captain Christopher Jones who returned in 1621 but died in the following year.

The Pilgrim Fathers were Puritans seeking freedom of worship and Rotherhithe’s rector at the time had Puritan sympathies.

The Mayflower sailed from a mooring next to The Shippe inn which is now called The Mayflower and observes Thanksgiving with a dinner featuring pumpkin soup and turkey.

The actual anniversary of the sailing is in July and several events are taking place during the year.

Christmas at Dog & Bell

The Dog & Bell is ready to welcome walkers at Christmas

The award-winning Dog & Bell pub on the Thames Path at Deptford is looking very welcoming this Christmas.

It’s looking extra special this year due to the pedestrianisation of Prince Street which carries the Thames Path round the back of Convoys Wharf.

So the tree and lovely beer barrels are outside. Sometimes there is even a brazier.

The closure of this part of the road to traffic remains ‘temporary’ but there are high hopes that it will be permanent.

Willows future is uncertain

The approach to Morden Wharf north from Tumbling Bay

The future of much loved weeping willows on the Greenwich Peninsula appears to be uncertain.

The trees, existing and renewed at least since 1970s, are alongside the Thames Path just as it returns to the river after Bay Wharf. The path with trees is on the former Primrose Wharf at the northern end of Morden Wharf.

In recent times terraced beds were created and planted with reeds.

There are more than a dozen weeping willow and crack willow trees on the river bank.

A planning application for the site has been submitted for “Provision of hardstanding and wheel washing facilities, conveyor belts and
associated refurbishment works to jetty, and revised boundary treatment”.

This involves overhead conveyors.

At present the trees do not appear to be safeguarded.

Looking upstream as the path curves inland to Bay Wharf

Willows on Thames Path as north end of Morden Wharf