Posts Tagged ‘River Thames’

Brentford, Lot’s Ait and the Thames, 1988

Tuesday, April 19th, 2022

Brentford, Monument, pillar, Ferry Lane, Brentford, 1988 88-9a-56
Battles of Brentford, Monument, pillar, Ferry Lane, Brentford, 1988 88-9a-56

I had to go back to my full-time work as a teacher at the start of September 1988, and the start of a new year always kept me fairly busy. Back then we had large groups of beginners taking photography courses – it was one of the most popular course in the college, partly because many thought it would be an easy option to make up the number of subjects they were required to take.

Red Lion, pub, Brentford High St, Brentford,  Hounslow, 1988 88-9a-32
Red Lion, pub, Brentford High St, Brentford, Hounslow, 1988 88-9a-32

We spent a week or two instructing them in the basics – shutter speeds and apertures, and then took them out en masse each with a camera an a 36 exposure film to some local area for a day out to take some pictures so they would then have a film to learn how to develop and print. They would also get a very loose brief suggesting the kind of things they might look for in making pictures.

Dock, River Thames, Brentford, Hounslow, 1988 88-9a-41
Dock, River Thames, Brentford, Hounslow, 1988 88-9a-41

In 1988 we chose to take them to Brenford riverside and then on to Chiswick Park and I think we had around 30 students with myself and another member of staff. Things were a lot easier then – no such things as risk assessments and having students who were all over 16 we simply told them a few very basic safety rule and that if they missed the train back home they would have to find their own way.

Boatyard, Lot's Ait, River Thames, Brentford, Hounslow, 1988 88-9a-21
Boatyard, Lot’s Ait, River Thames, Brentford, Hounslow, 1988 88-9a-21

It wasn’t unknown back then for myself and the other member of staff having set the students into action to find a convenient place for a pint or two, though I don’t think we did on this outing.

Boatyard, Lot's Ait, River Thames, Brentford, Hounslow, 1988 88-9a-24
Boatyard, Lot’s Ait, River Thames, Brentford, Hounslow, 1988 88-9a-24

I think on this occasion I walked along the riverside with the students, taking a few pictures myself and giving advice to anyone who needed it. It was low tide, and even if they took few photographs many of the students enjoyed walking in the mud, though I tried to keep my own shoes reasonably clean and dry, keeping to the shingle.

Decaying Boat, Lot's Ait, River Thames, Brentford, Hounslow, 1988 88-9a-13
The Good Ship Variety, Decaying Boat, Lot’s Ait, River Thames, Brentford, Hounslow, 1988 88-9a-13

The stretch of riverfront we took them down to, by Lot’s Ait, was then lined with largely derelict industrial buildings, but is now lined with luxury flats. On Lot’s Ait itself there was a boatyard, opened in the 1920s by The Thames Lighterage company to build and repair lighters; it was one of the last on the tidal Thames when it closed down in the early seventies. Fortunately it has so far escaped redevelopment and was reopened a few years ago as John’s Boat Works, with the island now linked to Brentford by a footbridge.

Lot's Ait, River Thames, Brentford, Hounslow, 1988 88-9a-12
Brentford Ait, Lot’s Ait, River Thames, Brentford, Hounslow, 1988 88-9a-12

We came off the river to go along the High St to Kew Bridge station, where we took another train for the second half of our day out in Chiswick Park which you will see in a later post.

Old Father Thames – Buscot to Cricklade

Sunday, April 3rd, 2022

Old Father Thames – Buscot to Cricklade Nine years ago on Wednesday 3rd April 2013 I was walking the Thames Path with my wife and elder son, who had planned a three day walk along the upper reaches of the river as a birthday present for my wife. Her birthday is in the depths of winter but we thought the start of April might have better weather.

Old Father Thames - Buscot to Cricklade
St John the Baptist at Inglesham, saved by William Morris from the threat of Gothicist ‘restoration’

We’d walked the lower parts of the Thames path and further out towards the estuary in a number of day walks, travelling by public transport to suitable starting points and back home at the end of the day. This had got us as far as Duxford, a short walk from the end of a bus route to Hinton Waldrist, 9 miles southwest of Oxford, west of where public transport to places close to the river is sparse and journey times from home too long.

Old Father Thames - Buscot to Cricklade
The room next to ours at Buscot Manor; ours was plainer but very comfortable

So we had booked two nights accommodation to allow us to complete the walk, ending at the source which is close to Kemble station from where trains would take us home via Swindon and Reading.

Old Father Thames - Buscot to Cricklade
Meanders make the journey longer

On Tuesday we had set off early to take the train to Reading where we changed for Oxford and then found the bus to Hinton Waldrist. By the time we got within five miles of the village we three and the driver were the only passengers. It had been just below zero when we set out but had warmed up a little and the sun was shining as our walk began. You can read more about the days walk and see pictures at Thames Path: Shifford to Buscot. I’d finished the day in which we had walked around 15 or 16 miles totally exhausted, but a good soak in a hot bath had eased some of my aches and pains.

Old Father Thames - Buscot to Cricklade
Old Father Thames

Wednesday we were up early for breakfast, having slept well at Buscot Manor, though we hadn’t paid the extra for a room with a four-poster, though I did take a photograph of one. Breakfast, shared around a large table with the other guests, was enormous and it was hard to get up from the table and begin our walk.

Old Father Thames - Buscot to Cricklade
Ha’penny Bridge in Lechlade

Being gluttons for punishment as well as at the table we started the day by deliberately going in completely the wrong direction to make a tour of the village, now largely owned by the National Trust before rejoining the Thames Path.

Old Father Thames - Buscot to Cricklade
St Agatha in St Lawrence’s Church, Lechlade

At St John’s Lock we found Old Father Thames, made in 1854 for the Crystal Palace and later moved to Thames Head but relocated here as protection against vandalism. At Lechlade, this is the highest lock on the Thames, which is theoretically navigable as far as Cricklade, though few boats now go beyond the Halfpenny Bridge in Lechlade.

Old Father Thames - Buscot to Cricklade
The entrance to the Severn & Thames Canal

We spent some time in Lechlade, buying sandwiches for our lunch, then looking around the church before my companions mutinied and dashed into a tea-shop and I had to follow them. We wasted some time there before we walked out and carried on towards Inglesham. The area around here was perhaps the highlight of the whole walk, but our delay in Lechlade meant we couldn’t stop long enough to properly examine the mouth of the River Coln and entrance to the Thames and Severn Canal and the first bridge over the canal on our way. The canal was abandoned in 1927 though parts have now been restored.

Old Father Thames - Buscot to Cricklade
St John the Baptist, Inglesham

The real gem of the walk is the Church of St John the Baptist at Inglesham, a splendid medieval survival thanks to the efforts of William Morris, who along with his pre-Raphaelite friends founded the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings (SPAB) or ‘Anti-Scrape’ to oppose the gothicisation of buildings such as these. But past here the walk deteriorates, with a mile and a half beside a busy road and a further 2 mile road walk “offering no scenic attraction at all“.

Old Father Thames - Buscot to Cricklade
A rare glimpse of the Thames , our first since Inglesham

It might have been better if the Thames Path had taken a detour along the Thames and Severn Canal. As the Rambler’s Association noted in their 1977 Survey, the county councils “suggested a new footpath creation to follow the river from Lechlade to Cricklade but objections, primarily from farmers and anglers, led to the abandonment of this concept.” They comment that the Thames path here “is in places so dull or dangerous that it begs the question whether objections from landowning or angling interests should always be allowed to override the need for providing a simple public amenity.”

Old Father Thames - Buscot to Cricklade

It’s only in the final mile or three into Cricklade that the walk comes alive again, rejoining the river and giving a glimpse of what the Thames Path in this region should be. We made our way to the White Hart, the principal inn at Cricklade since the time of Elizabeth I, though our room was in a modern extension at its rear. There was still just a little time to explore the town, basically a single street, before settling down to a decent Indian meal a short distance from the hotel.

Old Father Thames - Buscot to Cricklade
Cricklade seen across a meadow from the path

You can read about the final day of the walk, where there were detours due to flooding and flurries of snow in a bitter wind before we reached the end, on my London Diary. Here are the links to all three days of our walk, which I’m glad we did then as I don’t think I could make it now.

Thames Path: Cricklade to the Source
Thames Path: Buscot to Cricklade
Thames Path: Shifford to Buscot

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Outsourcing, North Woolwich & Class War v. Rees-Mogg

Saturday, February 26th, 2022

Outsourcing, North Woolwich & Class War v. Rees-Mogg. Three years ago on Tuesday 26th February I spent the morning photographing several protests against outsourcing, had a rather late pub lunch, then went to North Woolwich for a short walk before rushing back to meet Class War who were protesting outside a Palladium show by Jacob Rees-Mogg.

Rally for an end to Outsourcing

A legal challenge was taking place at the High Court on this day to extend the employment rights of the 3.3 million workers whose jobs are outsourced from the companies where they work to contracting companies which then sell them back to their place of employment at cut rates.

Labour Shadow Business minister Laura Pidcock

The contractors do this by cutting wages, trimming things such as pensions, maternity pay and holiday pay to the bare legal minimum, increasing workload and reducing hours of work and often bullying managers. Outsourced workers generally have little job security and are often denied necessary safety equipment and not given proper safety training.

Workers, mainly migrants who work for the Ministry of Justice, Dept for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy and the University of London were taking part in a one day strike in a coordinated action by the UVW and IWGB trade unions and the BEIS PCS branch to demand an end to outsourcing and the insecurity, discrimination and low pay it causes. They had started their march at 8.00am at the University of London and after a rally outside the High Court had marched to Parliament Square where I met them at 11am.

Rally for an end to Outsourcing

Outsourced Workers protest at BEIS

From Parliament Square the marchers went on to hold a further rally outside the Dept for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy in Victoria St. Those striking at the BEIS included catering and security staff who are members of the PCS and are demanding the London Living Wage as well as end to outsourcing and the insecurity, discrimination and low pay it causes.

The PCS strikers led a lively rally with plenty of singing, dancing and shouting of slogans expressing their demands, which was followed by several speeches, including from Labour MP Chris Williamson, who brought messages of support from Labour shadow cabinet members and promises that a Labour government would end outsourcing.

Outsourced Workers protest at BEIS

Outsourced Workers at Justice ministry

The marchers continued the short walk to the Ministry of Justice in Petty France, where low paid workers belonging to the United Voices of the World union at the Ministry of Justice have been campaigning for some time to get the London Living wage, but the Justice Minister has refused to talk with them. Many wore t-shirts calling it the Ministry of Injustice.

During the rally outside the building some of the UVW workers who had already been on strike for 24 hours went back into the ministry to resume work, to cheers and hugs from those on the street outside. The rally ended with music and dancing on the pavement, and I left for a rather late pub lunch in Holborn.

Outsourced Workers at Justice ministry

North Woolwich

I’d been intending to walk a short section of the Capital Ring, mainly beside the River Thames, for some months as it had been quite a few years since I’d last been there and wanted to see how it had changed. I had an afternoon with nothing else I needed to photograph and although the sunny weather with clear blue skies was not ideal it seemed a good opportunity.

Panoramic photographs almost always have large expanses of sky, and on days like this it tends lack interest, as well as often giving unnatural looking variations in tone when getting closer to the sun. Getting to North Woolwich should have been simple and reasonably fast, but unfortunately there was trouble on the DLR and I had to make a less direct route, so had to rather rush on the walk and leave it half-finished. It was a few months later before I found time to go back and complete it.

North Woolwich

Class War protest Rees-Mogg freak show

I find it hard to understand why anyone should want to come and listen to Jacob Rees-Mogg, let alone pay £38 for a ticket to do so at the London Palladium.

So too did Class War, and with Jane Nicholl dressed as a nun, Mother Hysteria, and Adam Clifford as Jacob Rees Mogg they loudly asked why people had come to listen to him “spout homophobic, transphobic, racist, pro-hunting, misogynist, classist, privileged” nonsense.

Their show on the street outside was almost certainly a better show than anything that would take place later inside the venue, and all for free. Police spent a considerable amount of public money on harassing them, and provided their own rather hilarious input by searching Mother Hysteria and threatening to arrest her for carrying offensive weapons after some novelty stink bombs were found in her handbag. When I left the officer who had stopped and searched her had already spent 20 minutes trying to write her notice of stop and search, probably at a loss trying to find some way to put it that doesn’t make it sound incredibly stupid.

Class War protest Rees-Mogg freak show

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A Threatened Hospital, Riverside Walk, Syria & Mali

Tuesday, February 15th, 2022

A Threatened Hospital, Riverside Walk, Syria & Mali – pictures from nine years ago on February 15th 2013.

Fight to Save Lewisham Hospital Continues

My work began at a lunchtime rally opposite Lewisham Hospital where the whole local community is fighting to save their hospital with both a legal challenge and further mass demonstrations including a ‘Born in Lewisham Hospital’ protest a few weeks later. Parts of the hospital across the main road are in the picture.

People were appalled by then Health Minister Jeremy Hunt’s decision to accept the proposals for closure, and to ignore the mass protests by local residents. Not only are the proposals medically unsound and will lead to patient deaths, but they also represent short-term thinking that will result in a huge waste of public funds.

Lewisham was a sucessful and financially sound hospital and had received sensible public investment to provide up to date services, and the services to be cut will have to be set up again at other hospitals. Closing Lewisham would not only incur high costs, but would waste the previous investment in its facilities.

Closure was only considered because of huge debts inherited when it was merged into a group which had earlier made a disastrous PFI (private finance initiative) agreement to build a new hospital a few miles away. Both the hospital group and Jeremy Hunt had been shown to be telling lies about the scope and cost of the replacement A&E and maternity facilities which would be needed if Lewisham were closed.

The well-attended protest was organised by the Save the Lewisham Hospital campaign which was raising funds for a legal challenge as well as a new poster and leaflet campaign and the forthcoming mass demonstration. But this was not just a campaign for Lewisham, but one that is vital for the whole of the NHS. Behind the speakers was a banner for the South-East London ‘Save Our Local NHS Hospitals’ campaign quoting Nye Bevan: ‘The NHS will last as long as there are folk left with the faith to fight for it.‘ They certainly had the faith in Lewisham.

Fight to Save Lewisham Hospital Continues

Thames Path Greenwich Partly Open

Here’s what I wrote back in 2013:

I had some time to spare between protests and it was a nice day, around 10 degrees warmer than we’d been having and sunny, so I decided to take a bus to North Greenwich and walk along the Thames Path, having heard that parts of it had re-opened. The weather changed a little and there were some dramatic skies.

There is still a section of the walk that is closed, a giant building site where Delta Wharf once was up to Drawdock Road, but on each side of this the walk is open. although the council sign on the footpath leading from Tunnel Avenue still indicates it is closed. At the river the path north is blocked, but you can walk south to Greenwich.

A panorama – the same path in opposite directions at both sides

At first the walk goes alongside a giant manmade landscape of sand and gravel, like some alien planet – and behind the conical hills the Dome and the gas holder, with occasional lighting towers and cranes add to the scene. Most of this is behind tall fences, but fortunately these have gaps between the posts allowing you to see and photograph. Years ago the path here went through a working container dock, the Victoria Deep Water Terminal, with yellow lines marking the route, though occasionally it was blocked by crane operations, and we waited rather than have heavy containers overhead. There are a couple of my pictures of this and others from the riverside path in the 1980s on my London’s Industrial Heritage site.

Beyond there the riverside path seems rather empty, with many structures having dissappeared, including the huge concrete silo I photographed. But something new has appeared, ‘guerilla knitting’ on some of the trees and posts along the path.

Many more pictures at Thames Path Greenwich Partly Open on My London Dairy

Stop Western Intervention in Syria & Mali

It was the 10th anniversary of the march by 2 million against the Iraq war, Stop the War organised a small protest at Downing St calling for a stop to Western intervention in Mali and Syria and against the possible attack on Iran.

Many on the left feel that the failure of that huge protest to actually prevent the UK taking part in the invasion of Iraq showed a failure in the leadership of Stop The War to make any quick and efffective action to follow it up. Stop The War have also failed to convince the public at large with their more recent campaigns against intervention in Libya and now against the support being given to the Free Syrians and the Mali government. As the upper picture shows there were some supporters of the Assad regime, from a small left group, the Communist Party of Great Britain (Marxist-Leninist), taking part in the protest. Almost certainly the great majority of supporters of Stop The War while against UK military intervention would like to see more support being given in other ways to the Syrian rebels.

Stop Western Intervention in Syria & Mali

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Westferry Station, Brunel and Bow Common

Wednesday, February 2nd, 2022

Westferry Station, Brunel and Bow Common, July 1988

Westferry Rd, , from Westferry Station, Limehouse, Tower Hamlets, 1988 88-7q-23-positive_2400
Westferry Rd, , from Westferry Station, Limehouse, Tower Hamlets, 1988 88-7q-23

My previous walk came to an end close to Westferry Station, from where I took the Docklands Light Railway to make my way home, but before the train came I made several views from the west-bound platform. The DLR runs through Limehouse on the old viaduct first planned in 1835 by the Commercial Railway Company to take the railway from the City to the West India and East India Docks. The viaduct was a cheap way to take the railway through the built-up area, and won out against a rival scheme involving cuttings. The two companies merged to build the London and Blackwall Railway in 1838-40, though it was later widened.

It was the world’s second elevated railway, opening shortly after the London and Greenwich on the other side of the Thames. The 20 ft high viaduct now gives good views of the surrounding area both from the trains and from the stations. At the left of this view you can see the rear of the West India Dock warehouses on Hertsmere Road, and at right the low structures, now replaced, of Heron Quays.

Isle of Dogs, River Thames, from Westferry Station, Limehouse, Tower Hamlets, 1988 88-7q-25-positive_2400
Isle of Dogs, River Thames, from Westferry Station, Limehouse, Tower Hamlets, 1988 88-7q-25

Turning a little the view from the southern platform shows Westferry Road and the River Thames, with in the distance a view of two of the Barkantine Estate towers at left, closer to the centre a side view of the Cascades Tower and towards the right two towers on the Pepys Estate in Deptford and more distant blocks.

Isambard Kingdom Brunel, statue, Temple Place, Victoria Embankment, Westminster, 1988 88-7q-11-positive_2400
Isambard Kingdom Brunel, statue, Temple Place, Victoria Embankment, Westminster, 1988 88-7q-11

A couple of days later I returned to the area, stopping off in central London on my way and taking a picture of the statue of Isambard Kingdom Brunel by Carlo Marochetti, (1805-1867). The statue was commissioned in 1861 by the Institute of Civil Engineers but was only installed here in 1874 on a Portland stone pedestal by Richard Norman Shaw (1831-1912). Its inscription reads ISAMBARD KINGDOM BRUNEL/ CIVIL ENGINEER/ BORN 1806 DIED 1859″.

The ICE had hoped to install this statue together with that of two other prominent engineers, Robert Stephenson and Joseph Locke who had died within a few months of Brunel, in Parliament Square, close to their offices at 1 Great George St. Permission was initially granted, but then withdrawn when the Office of Works decided only politicians should have statues in Parliament Square. Brunel’s was erected on Temple Place, Stephenson’s outside Euston Station and poor Locke’s was sent to Barnsley, where he had grown up.

Lazdan, Builders Merchants, Bow Common Lane, Bow, Tower Hamlets  88-7q-12-positive_2400
Lazdan, Builders Merchants, Bow Common Lane, Bow, Tower Hamlets 88-7q-12

281 Bow Common Lane was until recently Lazan Builders Merchants but they have now moved to Sebert Road, Forest Gate. The house had a facelift in 2020.

Bow Common Lane, Bow, Tower Hamlets  88-7q-14-positive_2400
Bow Common Lane, Bow, Tower Hamlets 88-7q-14

I think this is somewhere in the Joseph St area, but new building makes it hard to identify the exact position.

S P Brown, Builders Merchants, Lockhart St, Bow, Tower Hamlets, 1988 88-7r-01-positive_2400
S P Brown, Builders Merchants, Lockhart St, Bow, Tower Hamlets, 1988 88-7r-01

This house, 31 Lockhart St, is still there at the corner of Lockhart St and Ropery St, but the large gate now has letter boxes for 33,35 and 37 and the lettering has gone.

Cantrell Rd, Bow Common, Tower Hamlets, 1988 88-7r-46-positive_2400
Cantrell Rd, Bow Common, Tower Hamlets, 1988 88-7r-46

Bow Common Gas works were to the west of Knapp Road, the continuation of Cantrell Road south of the railway line which runs across the center of the image. The gasworks were built here in 1850 and at one time there were seven gasholders. Most of the site was demolished in 1982 and the last two gasholders shown here in 2016-7.

The scrapyard is now the Scrapyard Meadow, part of Tower Hamlets Cemetery Park.

Cantrell Rd, Bow Common, Tower Hamlets, 1988 88-7r-34-positive_2400
Cantrell Rd, Bow Common, Tower Hamlets, 1988 88-7r-34

The tower block between the gasholders is Sleaford House on Fern St, 19 storeys and 183ft tall, part of the Lincoln Estate completed in 1964.

This walk will continue in a later post.

Clicking on any of the pictures will take you to a larger version in my album 1988 London Photos from where you can browse the album.

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Blessing the Thames & Southwark Walk

Friday, January 14th, 2022

The Bishop of Woolwich throws a wooden cross into the River Thames to bless the waters. 

Sunday 14th January 2007 was a pleasant day for me. The weather was good, a bright winter day and I was up in London to photograph a very positive event, the Blessing of the River Thames, with plenty of time too for me to wander around one of my favourite areas of the city, south of the river in Southwark.

In the first ten years of this millennium I photographed a wide range of religious events that take place on the streets of London, particularly by Sikhs, Hindus and Muslims. But there seem to be rather fewer Christian festivals that are celebrated in public, though I think there have been more in recent years, with more public events in particular each year on Good Friday.

The procession comes from Southwark Cathedral

But the Blessing of the Thames is a recent addition, begun in 2004 by Father Philip Warner when he was appointed to the City of London church of St Magnus The Martyr, inspired by similar ceremonies he had experienced in the Orthodox Church in Serbia.

And is met by those from St Magnus at the centre of the bridge

St Magnus The Martyr was Sir Christopher Wren’s most expensive parish church and the traveller’s route into the City of London across the medieval London Bridge, in use from 1209 to 1831 led directly through its entrance porch under its tower after the church was rebuilt around 1676. Until 1729 when Putney got a bridge it was the only way across the river except by boat downstream of Kingston Bridge.

The church is one of the most interesting in London and well worth a visit, and among its treasures includes a very large modern model of the Old London Bridge. This was completed by ex-policeman David T Aggett in 1987, a year after his heart transplant, and found a willing home here after the Museum of London turned it down. A member and past Steward of the Worshipful Company of Plumbers, Aggett died a year ago at the age of 91.

You can find out more about the various editions of London Bridge from various bloggers including Laura Porter on Londontopia. Close to the south end of the bridge (which had a chapel on it dedicated to St Thomas which was the official start of pilgrimages to Canterbury) was the Church of St Saviour and St Mary Overie, until the dissolution in 1538 part of Southwark Priory and since 1905 Southwark Cathedral.

Processions from both churches met at the centre of the new London Bridge completed in 1972 for a brief service with prayers for all those who work on the river and in particular for those killed close to this point in the 1989 sinking of the marchioness close by, which climaxed with the Bishop of Woolwich throwing a wooden cross into the River Thames to bless the waters.

Ofra Zimballsta, Climbers, 1996-8, Borough High St

I’d come up earlier to take a walk around Southwark and Bermondsey and photograph some of the buildings, both old and new, in the area. Back in the 1990s when Desk Top Publishing was in its infancy I had written and published a walk leaflet (now a free download though a little out of date) on West Bermondsey which sold several hundred copies, and it was interesting to visit a part of this again.


When first produced, this walk was printed on a dot-matrix printer, though later copies were made on a black and white laser – an HP Laserjet 1100 still in use over 20 years later on my wife’s computer running Ubuntu.

I think I asked 20p for the leaflet, and using cheap third-party laser toners on cheap thin card it cost only a couple of pence to produce, though printing on dot-matrix was slow the laser speeded up things considerably – once the page was in printer memory it rattled off copies fairly quickly.

In 2007 there were few photographers at the Blessing of the River, but blogging was growing fast and more and more people were using camera phones. The following year I wasn’t able to get such good pictures as there were too many people jumping in front of me and obscuring my view. Photographers do sometimes get in each other’s way, but we do try to respect others, something which doesn’t even seem to occur to the newcomers.

But rather than go for a walk I did go with those celebrating the event and have lunch in the crypt of St Magnus, after which I took a few pictures inside the church, then rather thick with incense.

Scroll down the January 2007 page on My London Diary for more pictures of Blessing the Thames & Southwark Walk.

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Thames Path – Pangbourne – Cholsey

Sunday, January 2nd, 2022

Whitchurch from the bridge from Pangbourne

Thames Path – Pangbourne – Cholsey: At the start of 2010 we were still walking sections of the Thames Path. On New Years Day we had walked from Reading to Pangbourne, and on the following day caught the train back to Pangbourne to begin our day’s journey there.

The Thames from the Thames Path along a hillside west of Whitchurch

We were heading to Cholsey, around 8 miles away, an easy distance suitable for a short day with over an hour’s rail travel at each end. Cholsey is a small village and has a railway station a little over a mile from the Thames Path with trains back to Reading from where trains run – if rather slowly – back to Staines.

Gatehampton Bridge

Pangbourne is a much larger village, and its station is a short walk from where we joined the Thames Path, and there were a few shops where we could buy some crisps and sweets to supplement the sandwiches in our bags and even a public toilet, so a very useful place to start a walk.

Before our walk really started we spent a little time in Pangbourne, visiting the parish church and photographing the Pang before rejoining the Thames Path at Whitchurch Bridge. Crossing the bridge takes you to Whitchurch, perhaps a prettier village than Pangbourne. Here the path takes quite a long detour away from the river bank and up on a hillside, with some extensive views through trees of the river and country to the south, before going back down to the riverside.

The railway line crosses the path and the river at Gatehampton Bridge, built by Brunel for the GWR main line in 1838 but the path stays on the north bank, passing between the tree-covered slopes of the Goring Gap, where the river cut through to seperate the Chilterns from the Berkshire Downs. Winter sun on the leafless bare branches was magical.

The bridge linking Goring on the north bank with Streatley on the south seems a rather primitive and temporary wooden structure, but has been here since 1923 when it replace the earlier bridge from 1837. Before then there had been both a ferry and a ford, though this was probably more often passable on horseback than on foot. It takes two bridges to reach Streatley from where the Thames Path proceeds westward on the south bank.

Streatley from Goring lock

At Streatley, a village until 1938 owned by the Oxfordshire brewers Morrell we visited the church and then set out on a partly underwater path by the river. December 2009 had been one of the wettest months on record and we began to doubt the wisdom of We thought about turning back and abandoning the walk, taking a train from Goring, but after seeing a walker paddle through towards us decided to continue.

Fortunately it was only a few inches deep, but despite our boots I think we all got wet feet. The day was around freezing, but walking kept our feet warm, and many of the smaller puddles along the rest of our route were frozen over, as well as the mud, and it was much easier to walk than had it been warmer.

The Beetle and Wedge at Mouslford looked very closed

A little further on the tow path moves from the south to the north bank, not a great problem in the past for craft being towed who could pole over to the other side, but more so for walkers, who need to take a path away from the river and along a main road for a mile or so leaving the path were it went down towards the Moulsford railway bridge and continuing to a footpath beside the railway to Cholsey station.

More pictures from this walk at Pangbourne – Cholsey and more from the previous day’s walk at Reading – Pangbourne. You can read my original post at Thames Path.

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Thames Path: Maidenhead – Marlow

Friday, December 31st, 2021

Thames Path: Maidenhead – Marlow – A New Year’s Eve Walk

Back in 2007 our New Year’s Eve walk was a little more distant than we will attempt this year, though we started from the same place. This year public transport will be rather less available and less reliable than it was 14 years ago, thanks only partly to Covid which this year will put many train and bus drivers into isolation at short notice.


But we’ve seen an increasing trend over recent years to close various rail lines for engineering works over all of our holiday periods, and travelling anywhere on New Year’s Eve had begun increasingly to resemble Russian Roulette. I can’t understand why the railways now seem to need so many more closures for repairs than they used to; perhaps less work is now carried out overnight.

Ray Mill Island behind Boulters Lock, Maidenhead

We spent a few years walking the Thames Path, from the Estuary beyond its official ending to the source, taking the route in short sections, perhaps ten or twelve miles at a time, with the start and finish determined by where trains and buses could take us until we were some way west of Oxford. It was only for the final three days from Hinton Waldrist to Kemble we had to spend a couple of nights staying at Buscot and Cricklade.

Protected by Laser Security

But to get to Maidenhead we had to take a train to Windsor & Eton Riverside, run from there to Windsor Central to take the train to Slough where we could change for the train to Maidenhead. And after our walk to Marlow we could catch a train back to Maidenhead, another to Slough and then Windsor. At least on the return journey we had time to walk for the connection. It worked in 2007, but the chances of 4 trains running without any cancellations in the early evening of New Years Eve 2021 seem low.

Cliveden woods and River Thames

The section from Maidenhead to Marlow is only around 8 miles, though as usual we made a few detours on the way to explore some of the places it took us through. As the pictures show, the day was a dull one and I left the pictures making that clear rather than try to brighten them up.

Cookham Parish Church

The pictures on My London Diary are generally in the order of the route, and the captions there give some information about the walk. On the introductory page I wrote a very short text, and here it is in full (with the odd typo corrected):

The Thames path between Maidenhead and Marlow is quite picturesque, but full of evidence of how the rich get rich by theft. Anyone attempting to tow their boat will find that large sections of the towpath are now fenced in as private property. For walkers, the lack of access opposite Cliveden is annoying – you can really only see this part of the Thames from the river.

Maidenhead – Marlow
The Stanley Spencer Gallery is in the former chapel at the centre of the old village of Cookham

Parts of the route were familiar to me from earlier walks, and I’d recommend doing this walk on a day of the year when the Stanley Spencer Gallery in Cookham is open – and there are also several pubs worthy of some attention where I wasn’t allowed this time to linger.

I think these paired triangles which are navigational transit markers, placed in pairs a set distance apart for craft to time how long they take between them and thus calculate their speed.

On Marlow Bridge I photographed the seals which state SIGIL DE DESBRO and back in 2007 I invited people to e-mail me to explain these. Sigil is simply an archaic word for a seal or pictorial symbol, from the Latin ‘sigillum’. De for ‘of’ comes from the Norman invasion and Desbro is a shortened form of Desborough, one of the three Chiltern Hundreds which dates back to pre-Norman times, though then made up of a number of smaller hundreds.

But by the time the bridge was built the hundreds were largely or entirely historical, and the Chiltern Hundreds last had a real steward in the sixteenth century. In 1624 it was made illegal for Members of Parliament to retire from office, and still are appointed as either ‘Crown Steward and Bailiff of the Chiltern Hundreds’ or of the Manor of Northstead as a legal fiction enabling them to do so.

Marlow Bridge and Church

The name Desborough came back into use in 1905 when William Henry Grenfell who had been an MP for 25 years and made is home in Taplow was sent to the House of Lords as the 1st Baron Desborough. For 35 years he was President of the Thames Conservancy Board and was responsible for the Desborough Cut, a navigational shortcut on the Thames between Walton and Weybridge which, together with the island it created were named after him.

Looking back towards Bourne End

Given there is little or no commercial traffic on the Thames the creation of the cut now seems rather pointless. Although it saves around 1.2 km on the route, the longer passage is far more interesting. But it was perhaps more a scheme to create jobs for men in the depression than anything else.

More at Maidenhead – Marlow.

After Christmas – Brentford to Hammersmith

Tuesday, December 28th, 2021

After Christmas – Brentford to Hammersmith was one of our more interesting walks in London to walk off our Christmas excesses in recent years. For once I’m not sticking religiously to my usual practice and this was three years AND one day ago, and the four of us set out on 27th December 2018.

Often in recent years we’ve gone away in the period after Christmas to visit one of our sons and his family in Derbyshire, with some great walks in the areas around where they have lived, and there are pictures from these on My London Diary, but in 2018 my other son and his wife were staying with us and came for this walk.

Public transport in the period between Christmas and New Year is at best restricted and rather unreliable, and 2018 was no exception and this always limits our starting point. Even for this relatively local walk what would have been just a short direct train meant taking the train to Twickenham and then catching a local bus to Brentford. And on our return trip again a bus took us back to Twickenham for the train home. It meant less time for walking and we had to abandon the idea of actually going inside Chiswick House in order to complete the relatively short walk of 5-6 miles before it got dark.

Brentford, and particularly the Grand Union Canal where we began our walk is now very different from how I remember it – and indeed since I first went back to photograph it in the 1970s. Commercial traffic on the Grand Union came more or less to an end in the early 1970s. What was once canal docks and wharves by the lock where boats were gauged and tolls charged the sheds have been replaced by rather uglier flats and a small marina.

Walking by the canal towards its junction with the River Thames there are areas which still look much as they did years ago, and some rather more derelict than they were then. This is a side of Brentford invisible from the High Street but with much of interest. Probably in the next few years this too will disappear as gentrification advances.

Shortly before the lock leading to the Thames, the River Brent which is here combined with the canal runs over a weir to make its own way to the main river. There are still working boatyards in the area around here, though a little downstream more new flats and a part of the Thames Path here was closed and a short diversion was necessary.

We continued along past new riverside flats and a new private footbridge to the recently revivied boatyard on Lot’s Ait to an area of open space which was a part of the old gas works site, then along the riverside path past more new flats to Kew Bridge and Strand on the Green. Here it was warm enough to sit in the sun and eat our sandwiches before leaving the river to walk to Chiswick House Gardens.

I’d planned to get here for lunch, perhaps spending an hour or so going around the house and then perhaps a drink in the cafe, but there was no time thanks to the rail problems, so we briefly visited the toilets before heading on to St Nicholas’s Church and Chiswick riverside.

From there it was a straight walk by the river to Hammersmith Bridge, arriving around sunset with some fine views along the river – and then the short walk to the bus station for the bus back to Twickenham and the train home. The two bus journeys made our travel take much longer, but you do get some interesting views from the top deck of a double-decker and the journey was intereresting at least until it got too dark to see much.

More on the walk and many more pictures at Brentford to Hammersmith.

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Boxing Day Pictures

Sunday, December 26th, 2021

Boxing Day Pictures I took in earlier years – mainly on our normal annual walks from Staines to Old Windsor. It’s a family tradition, a walk we’ve made most yearssince we moved here in 1974, though not always taking the same route. This year is one of the few years we won’t be making it.












There are more pictures from all of these walks – except that in 2020 – on My London Diary. Click on the picture for any of the other years to go to more about the walks and more pictures.

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All photographs on this page are copyright © Peter Marshall. Contact me to buy prints or licence to reproduce.