A Walker’s Journal by Anthony Linick
At 194 miles the Thames Path is one of Britain’s longest routes – and its gentle gradients and its many direct encounters with the treasures of English history made it a most rewarding venture for us when we began our trek in 1988.
You can read about many of those who walked with me in my book, A Walker’s Alphabet: Adventures on the long-distance footpaths of Great Britain – published in 2010 and available from the publisher at www.authorhouse.co.uk or from www.authorhouse.com or from www.amazon.co.uk or from www.amazon.com.
The trail journals that follow will serve as a good introduction to what may on offer to other walkers – as they contemplate the many stages of this lengthy path.
There are a number of provisos. To begin with, the route will have undergone a number of modifications since I walked it, particularly within London itself. It is also true that on at least two occasions we had to start all over again – as the path received further elaboration. We started at Putney Bridge but a few years later we had to start over again at the Thames Barrier and, in 2006, I walked from the Barrier to Erith – after I discovered that the route had again taken a seaward extension. Indeed, we were not walking all the way to the new terminus, Cray’s Ness, even then – having walked this section already on our first day on the London Outer Orbital Path. In addition the section from Windsor to Maidenhead is covered in my journal for our fifth day on the London Countryway.
A final proviso is that (with the exception of the Barrier to Erith stage) we walked from east to west, that is from London to the Cotswold source of the Thames, near Kemble. If you are doing it the other way round then my accounts may be a bit dizzying if read as preview of what to look for next – they are never intended to be used as a guidebook anyway.
Choose a direction before buying a modern text. Both directions are represented and the Internet will help you choose the right book. The National Trail version (published by Aurum Press) adopts the west to east direction and it has the advantage of including sections of the Ordnance Survey maps relevant to your route. In 2012, incidentally, this publication underwent a major modification, with its subdivision into two volumes – one devoted to London stretches (by Phoebe Clapham) and one to country sections (by David Sharp and Tony Gowers).
One of the great things about the Thames Path for the London-based walker is that most of it can be accomplished on day walks – with travel to starting points and back from end points possible with the assistance of public transportation, especially trains. But it is far more difficult to complete the four more distant stages between Oxford and the source of the Thames in this fashion – we did them, therefore as part of an overnight expedition. Today you can rely on a number of travel companies who will organize your Thames Path walk for you – providing assistance in booking accommodation and ferrying baggage forward for you. The National Trail website offers a number of suggestions here.
If you want to follow the Thames Path stages in the order we walked them, just begin at:
Day 1: Putney Bridge to Richmond – 9 miles
For the east to west walker I can also offer a sequential order, as the route would be walked today, remembering that the first few miles from Cray’s Ness are discussed on the first day of my LOOP journal – found elsewhere on this website.
Day 17: Charlton to Erith – 9 miles
Then go to:
Day 8: Charlton to Tower Bridge – 9 miles
Then on to:
Day 10: Tower Bridge to Putney – 9 miles
Then back to:
Day 1: Putney to Richmond – 9 miles
Day 2: Richmond to Hampton Court – 8 miles
Day 3: Hampton Court to Staines – 12 miles
Day 4: Staines to Windsor – 8 miles
(For Windsor to Maidenhead – 6.5 miles – see my entry for the London Countryway, Day 5: Windsor to Marlow)
Then resume with:
Day 5: Maidenhead to Marlow – 8 miles
Day 6: Marlow to Shiplake – 10.5 miles
Day 7: Shiplake to Tilehurst – 9 miles
Then forward to:
Day 9: Tilehurst to Cholsey – 12 miles
Day 11: Cholsey to Culham – 12 miles
Day 12: Culham to Oxford – 14 miles
Day 13: Oxford to Newbridge – 14.5 miles
Day 14: Newbridge to Lechlade – 17 miles
Day 15: Lechlade to Cricklade – 11 miles
Day 16: Cricklade to Kemble – 13.5 miles