What better way to spend a lovely Sunday than a walk by the water? To get out and about in the fresh air and watch the landscape gradually change as you amble along? Hence last weekend I headed out to enjoy the Thames Path. Camera in hand, snacks packed in a bag and a cool friend for company. We were rewarded with a lovely day weather wise and interesting industrial scenery.
Personally, I believe the industrial revolution has contributed so much to the development of our society and economy. Hence, exploring the industrial side of the Thames was essential. And so alongside viewing the more conventionally attractive scenery, I make a bit of time for the more ugly side. As they say, if you’ve not seen ugly, how do you know beauty?
Thames Path Overview
The river Thames flows for hundreds of miles from its source in Oxfordshire through lovely villages, Oxford, Windsor and then through and beyond London itself. As the river has been replaced by trains, cars and planes for transport in our modern world, the riverside has been preserved for another purpose. Leisure.
The Thames Path is a national trail and cycle route allowing us to walk and cycle along the river. Moreover, as you wander along the river, it changes dramatically. The source is truly the countryside in the Cotswolds and flows through increasingly larger settlements along the river. Further downstream you have the more industrial areas, as the Thames prepares to meet the sea.
More details: Thames Path.
The advantage of Urban Walks
I love the countryside. I love getting out in the crisp country air and being surrounded by green all around. However, living in London idyllic countryside is a bit of a trek. So sometimes I love to enjoy urban walks. The ease of travel in London travel zones takes some beating. As well as taking Oyster or contactless payments, TFL transport services are frequent meaning your walk can be much more flexible. If you are on a roll, you can walk to the next station. If you feel tired or have an injury, the nearest bus stop is never far away.
Not to mention there are some amazing urban walks in London that will challenge your preconceptions of London itself. As well as the Thames Path, I also plan to explore The London Loop, The Capital Ring and The Green Chain Walk. They showcase different sides and often never visited locations in the capital. Including an outstanding number of green spaces and local parks.
Starting Point: Slade Green Station
We started our walk at Slade Green Station, zone 6 on the Southeastern Greenwich line. From there we were quickly out of the residential area, walking up a lane past some farmland and old farm buildings.
It already felt we were out of London so immediately. We then met the Thames Path and cycle trail at Crayford Ness and began our riverside walk. This section was an elevated gravel path along marshland and floodplain.
Low Tide and Sandbanks
As we wandered along the Thames Path, even as non-mariners it became apparent it was very low tide. The sandbanks were very substantial. And we got to thinking – is this quicksand? Would we sink if we walked on it?
The vast expanse of sand was everywhere and plenty of wildlife was making full use of them to gather snacks.
Trollies, Trollies everywhere
So yes, what I thought was a canal phenomenon, throwing in shopping trollies seems to also be prevalent in the Thames. There were just so many shopping trollies, in various state of decomposition in the river. The low tide revealed them all to us and it felt ugly.
Growing up middle class in a developed nation, littering and dumping just feels so wrong to me. I feel it disrespects the environment and our surroundings. Not to mention there are plenty of ways of easily disposing of things you no longer need.
And even a Motorbike
Then when we thought we’d seen it all, there was an abandoned motorbike in the sandbanks. Why or why do people do that? And more importantly should we not remove things like that?
I understand a trolley is not too dangerous, but surely a motorbike has liquids we don’t want in the river? Is my approach too idealistic and unreasonable? I am not sure, but I know for certain I don’t like it.
Remains of Industry
A lot of the industrial areas are still in use today, and many were operating on a Sunday. The scrap business seemed to be busy in Crayford Ness, tucked into the peninsula away from the population. There was also an aggregate business going full steam on Sunday – with conveyors transporting materials off ships to land-based storage.
There were also signs of the industrial decline. Especially in the water, the number of abandoned piers was higher than expected. These ranged from intact piers with buildings, to those that were condemned to those in increasing states of decay. I don’t know about you, but I think there is something fascinating about dilapidated places, and they are worthy of photography in my books.
End Point: Charlton Station
We overshot our original planned end point of Woolwich Arsenal as it was such a lovely day. And we, as true geeks and people who appreciate industrial architecture, wanted to see the Thames Flood Barrier (in the image at the top).
So we made the most of the urban walk and just carried on. The flood barrier itself is mightly impressive. And on a sunny day, you get a great sheen off the silver barriers themselves. Not to mention that this mighty piece of engineering saves London from flooding. Pretty and functional!
We finally called it a day and headed to Charlton station to return home. A fabulous riverside walk of around 12 miles and a reminder of our industrial past and present.
Over to you
- What are your thoughts?
- Do you like hiking?
- What are your thoughts on urban walks?