All posts by Leigh Hatts

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

National Trust plans Runnymede-Ankerwycke ferry

Ankerwycke Priory

A ferry is to be established at Runnymede to link the famous Magna Carta meadow with less well-known Ankerwycke Priory ruins on the left bank of the River Thames.

A £1.6 million award from the National Lottery for the National Trust will also fund an improved Thames towpath alongside  Runnymede.

The priory grounds include the 2,500 year old Ankerwycke Yew under which is it claimed by some historians that Magna Carta was agreed in 1215.

The Magna Carta agreement between King John and the barons was achieved on 15 June 1215.

Did they meet under the tree before crossing the water together for the sealing of the document with wax and a formal embrace between the monarch and Archbishop of Canterbury Stephen Langton on Runnymede?

The King had travelled by river from Windsor. The barons, having  camped on the west side of Staines, are thought to have arrived at Ankerwycke Priory early in the morning to be welcomed by the prioress and other Benedictine nuns.

Ankerwycke Yew

Super Sewer stops Parliamentary Regatta

Lords and Commons competing in 2013 (Photo:

Parliament is about to rise for the summer recess without having held its regatta.

The All-Party Parliamentary Rowing Group says that the Parliamentary Charity Regatta is postponed until further notice due to the Super Sewer.

Lack’s Drawdock on Albert Embankment near the Palace of Westminster is closed for Thames Tideway Tunnel, or Super Sewer, works and will not be available until at least 2024.

Matthew Offord MP said “It is a shame that the Group has to postpone the Parliamentary Charity Regatta, but the Group has investigated every possible alternative and concluded that the regatta will be postponed until further notice.”

The main race is the competition between eight MPs and eight peers rowing downstream from Lambeth Bridge to Vauxhall Bridge.

The finishing line is between the Lords and Commons marquees on the terrace where a FINISH banner is placed.

Visiting crews from London Youth Rowing and a men and women’s senior race give show performances over a slightly longer course and are in return entertained to tea on the terrace afterwards.

The annual tradition dates from 1986.

The English River by Virginia Astley

The English River by Virginia Astley

Musician Virginia Astley has revealed her other passion in a new book The English River: A journey down the Thames in poems & photographs.

The poetry and the pictures are Virginia’s.

Her home reach with family memories is Cleeve but for the book she has walked the river.

The photographs are a delight as she visits the Thames out of season. How many of us have seen Inglesham Church in the snow or crossed the Cricklade meadows when the fritillaries are out?

She goes from Docklands to Source on days which are wet, sunny or even dull.

It is good to see a neglected Conservancy gate highlighted as few survive.

Virginia likes places alongside the path such as Kelmscott Manor: I shed my shoes, feel the chill of flagstones.

The Foreword is by her relative Pete Townshend of The Who.

The English River: A journey down the Thames in poems & photographs by Virginia Astley (Bloodaxe £12).


Inside Ferry Cottage

Ferry Cottage featured in The Observer’s On the Water magazine

Ever wondered what it is like to live in Ferry Cottage at Cliveden?

You may have looked across the water at the cottage when walking between Boulter’s Lock and Cookham.

For towing horses this was the first of three ferries before reaching Cookham.

This was also the last ferry to be operated by Thames Conservancy.

Now there is no crossing but the house is let by the National Trust.

The Observer today shows the rarely enjoyed view back to the towpath.

Mortlake 475

Mortlake’s church tower

St Mary’s Church in Mortlake is keeping its 475th anniversary.

The church was placed on its present site during a brief period when Henry VIII had control of the manor.

The tower is Tudor. Was it built so bells could be rung as the king was rowed past to and from Hampton Court?

The  village has long looked to the river with workshops and brewery by the water.

The great tapestries in  Hampton Court and other places across Europe were made opposite the church between 1619 and  1708.

Earlier this month the opening hymn at the church’s anniversary service was: O Praise the Lord by the riverside, Where England’s Thames meets London’s tide. 

The Bishop of Southwark, The Rt Revd Christopher Chessun, who was presiding Tweeted the words.

The great figures associated with the church include Dr John Dee who was visited by Elizabeth I coming  downstream from Richmond Palace.

George III’s prime minister Henry Addington, Lord Sidmouth, is buried in the lovely churchyard where the entrance to the earlier church has been placed.

A small history exhibition is open daily in the church this month.

On Saturday 23 June at 3pm there is  talk in church on the history of St Mary’s by Helen Deaton from the Barnes & Mortlake History Society.

On Sunday 24 June teas will be available at a garden party in the churchyard from 3pm.

TO FIND THE CHURCH: From the Thames Path look out for steps going up to Tapestry Court. The church is opposite across the road behind trees.

Looking to Barnes from the towpath
Tapestry Court steps from towpath
Mortlake’s old church entrance in churchyard

Woolwich link opening date

The new ramp at King Henry’s Wharf

The long awaited Thames Path missing link between the Thames Barrier and Woolwich will open next week.

The new route is being opened by Cllr Denise Scott-McDonald of the Royal Borough of Greenwich and the Mayor of London’s  walking and cycling commissioner Dr Will Norman on Wednesday afternoon 20 June.

The ceremony will begin at 3.30pm just behind the Thames Barrier. Guests will be invited to walk east along the line of path down Bowater Road for an opening ceremony at the bottom of the raised walkway in Warspite Road.

The route should be available for public use from about 4.30pm.

The link joins the Barrier to downstream King Henry’s Wharf.

It also means that the Thames Path national trail to the source in Gloucestershire from the Barrier now joins seamlessly with the unofficial extension which runs continuously from the River Darent confluence near Erith.

From Wednesday we can say that the Thames Path starts not at Charlton but at Slade Green Station.

Will Secretary of State for Environment Michael Gove extend the National Trail designation?