Cicerone Forum launched

Cicerone who publish both The Thames Path guide and my Lea Valley Walk guide has launched the Cicerone Forum, e-newsletter and blog. To explore the website which shows the full range of guides and gives access to recent newsletters and the blog go to


Walton Bridge to be rebuilt after 70 year delay

A plan for a new Walton Bridge has been approved by Environment Secretary Hilary Benn.

The present crossing is a temporary Bailey Bridge dating from 1953. It was erected following 1940 war damage. Earlier more attractive bridges here were painted by Canaletto and Turner.

The existing bridge will remain in place whilst the new one is built alongside over the coming years. The deadline is 2014.

The lavatory block on Cowey Sale, the Walton Bank with the Thames Path, is to be replaced by a cafe and toilets.

See page 70.


Good cafe at Putney Church

Following last year’s Putney Debates festival at Putney Parish Church I thought it was the right time to check out its new permanent exhibition which is the festival legacy.

Although the Thames Path signage at Putney still directs downstream walkers away from the river and along Putney Bridge Road this is out of date. St Mary’s Putney is on the Thames Path. Indeed the path loops round the back.

The church is famous for the Putney Debates staged in 1647 by Cromwellians during the civil war. The participants’ radical ideas were too radical for Cromwell but their principles were incorporated into the American constitution. Leading lawyer Geoffrey Robertson and television historian Tristram Hunt both rate the event as very significant.

The free exhibition is not only a fascinating account of the debates but gives the background to the church building and the riverside village of Putney. Well worth seeing is the Bishop West chantry chapel built for him during his lifetime by the masons working on St George’s chapel at Windsor. The bishop was the son of a Putney fishmonger. It is interesting to find that his arms in the church include a fine pomegranate insignia as he was chaplain to Catherine of Aragon who also used the pomegranate as a crest.

Entry to the church is through the cafe which is a perfect stop for coffee or lunch. Soup and crusty bread is £4.95. I had homemade fish cakes, chips and salad for £6. If you are starting out at Putney it’s worth knowing about “chef’s UBER breakfast (mega size)” at £7.

The cafe is open daily 8.30am-6.30pm; Sat 9.30am-6pm & Sun 10.30am-6pm.

Sunday Eucharist is at 10am when you might recognise the Vicar as he is Giles Fraser who has a regular slot on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

See pages 46-49.


Thames Path walk listings

Thames Path Guided Events Programme covering March to September 2008 is now available. 

The programme, produced by the National Trails Office, features guided walks and events taking place on the Thames Path.   

Experienced National Trails volunteers, local walking groups and representatives from other organizations lead the walks, the majority of which are free of charge.  There are also suggestions for visitors to follow their own itinerary by combining a walk with other leisure activities such as visiting museums or a flour mill.

The listings are available on the Ridgeway and Thames Path national trails websites.


Pan Yan pickle memories

News that Chris Evans has had a huge response to his call on BBC Radio 2 for Pan Yan pickle to be brought back will be of interest to those who walk the Thames Path.

The pickle was invented in 1907 by the Maconochie Brothers who built a huge pickle factory on the Isle of Dogs. The name Yan Pan was the result of a competition among the workers at Maconochie’s Wharf.

Pan Yan was last made in 2002 by Branston Pickle who lost the secret recipe in a fire at its Suffolk factory.

The old Maconochie’s Wharf buildings have been demolished to make way for the Great Eastern Self-Build Housing Association and a handy stretch of the northern bank Thames Path.

Walkers on the main south bank route can see Maconochie’s Wharf across the Thames from the new riverside path in front of the Peter the Great statue at Deptford Creek.

See pages 18 and 19.


A new Rose opens

Walkers passing along Bankside in central London must turn up Bear Gardens and go left again to find the remains of the 1587 Rose Theatre. Now, twenty miles further on at Kingston-upon Thames, there is a modern version also called The Rose.

It stands at the back of the new Charter Quay with its front door on the high street. Indeed Tudor travellers from Bankside would have known the street for Kingston was a day’s journey from London and the trip was often undertaken by the Bishop of Winchester in whose Bankside garden that first Rose was built.

The new £11m covered Rose has been built thanks to an extraordinary redevelopment planning deal. Sir Peter Hall has supported the vision since the early 1990s and now he has directed the opening play Uncle Vanya.

This week’s first night attracted big names to join the audience including film-maker Mike Leigh. They were rewarded with performances by Nicholas Le Prevost as Vanya, Ronald Pickup as Serebryakov, a bearded Neil Pearson as Astrov, Michelle Dockery as the beautiful Yelena and Loo Brealey as Sonya.

The season includes two Shakespeare plays. Upper circle seats are £5 and the pit (bring your own cushion) is £7. Uncle Vanya is at the Rose Theatre Kingston until 9 February.

The Thames Path crosses Kingston Bridge so to see the Rose you must stay by the river to pass The Bishop Out of Residence pub. After crossing the tiny Hogsmill River go left up Emm’s Passage to reach the theatre on the left at the High Street.

See pages 33 and 65.


Thames flooding

The Thames Barrier was closed on Thursday afternoon at 2pm due to spring tides and high river levels.

High tide at 3.15pm in central London saw ferry passengers walk up rather than down Bankside Pier. Only five of the steps outside nearby Tate Modern remained dry.

These scenes are interesting considering that in the last few days the river has been high upstream with the towpath flooded in several places in Oxfordshire following the heavy West Country rain. Earlier this week a cyclist was stranded on the towpath west of Reading.

Walkers should certainly expect closures and diversions. The unusually warm weather is bringing out people who might not normally experience the winter flooding.

Nineteen flood watches are in force across London.

The Barrier was due to be reopened within three hours. Thames tidal flood risk manager Andrew Batchelor says: “This is a standard procedure for us when we have high spring tides combined with high flows in the river from heavy rain.


Objection to Henley towpath closure

The Henley-based Open Spaces Society has called on Wokingham Borough Council to reject an application from Henley Festival to close the Thames Path for an unprecedented 145 hours during this year’s festival.

Says Kate Ashbrook, the Open Spaces Society’s general secretary: “The Thames Path National Trail is of international importance and, to many, the Henley stretch is the jewel in its crown.”

The request to refuse the closure follows a meeting held by Wokingham Borough Council on 10 January between the objectors (the Open Spaces Society and Remenham Parish Council) and the Festival. It was held following objections from the Open Spaces Society that there had never been consultation about the festival’s annual bid to close the path but the issues remained unresolved and now the council’s executive will consider the application for closure at its meeting on Thursday 31 January.

Kate Ashbrook continues: “The Festival claimed that it was impossible to hold the Festival without closing the path, but of course the path was there long before the Festival. If it had to proceed without moving the path, it would find a way. 

“Even if the council feels it is too late to avoid closing the path this year, it should give a clear message that it requires the Festival to make its application much earlier for next year’s event; and the council must carry out a full, independent examination of how the path could remain open, by realigning the Festival activities or altering the scale of the event.

‘It should not just accept the Festival’s word that this vital route should be closed for many days” says Kate.

The proposed closure is for nine days although the festival only lasts for five and because the closure sought is for more than three days, the Secretary of State for Transport’s consent is also required.  Last year, the closure was sought for only 37½ hours.

The Festival takes place from Wednesday 9 to Sunday 13 July and follows the annual Henley Royal Regatta week.


In the Footsteps of Henry Taunt

Many will be familiar with Henry Taunt’s photographs of the River Thames which are often reproduced in books about the river in the 19th century.

Now Graham Diprose and Jeff Robins, two photographers on the staff of the London College of Communications, have selected seventy of the Victorian pictures from the thousands taken by Gaunt and recorded the same view today.

The project had the support of English Heritage, Oxfordshire Studies, University of the Arts, the River and Rowing Museum and the Environment Agency.

The result can be seen in a fascinating book The River Thames Revisited and until 20 January there is an exhibition of the project at the River & Rowing Museum in Henley. Afterwards it will move to be at Reading Museum from 26 January to 26 April.

Henry Taunt (1852-1922) worked mainly in Oxfordshire and had a shop in Oxford. Graham Diprose and Jeff Robins were inspired by Taunt’s illustrated map of the river first published in the 1870s and reproduced in full in the book.

The ‘then and now’ pages show how London looked before tall buildings. It is a surprise to find that in many places the towpath and riverside gardens now has many more trees.

Graham Diprose is author of London’s Riverscape – Lost and Found.

The River Thames Revisited: In the Footsteps of Henry Taunt is published by Frances Lincoln Limited; £25.


Samuel Adamson’s Thames Path play

Those who know the Thames Path between Deptford and London Bridge will enjoy Some Kind of Bliss at the Trafalgar Studios in Whitehall.

The seventy minute play is a solo performance by Lucy Briers and was written for her by playwright Samuel Adamson who knows the Thames Path well. His last play Southwark Fair was set on the riverside outside City Hall.

Lucy plays Rachel who is walking the Path downstream. There are plenty of references to familiar landmarks such as the Dr Salter statue near The Angel pub. Adamson’s words convey an interesting feel for Bermondsey Wall.

Lucy Osborne’s set is a river wall with a flexible foreshore.

Some Kind of Bliss is at Trafalgar Studios, Whitehall, until Saturday 15 December.