Posts Tagged ‘Thames Path’

Thames Path: Buscot to Cricklade – 2013

Wednesday, April 3rd, 2024

Thames Path: Buscot to Cricklade: Together with my wife and elder son I had on Saturdays spread over several years walked much of the Thames path. We’d walked it chunks of around 8-12 miles a day between places which could be reached by public transport but had come to a halt at Shifford, near Hinton Waldrist, 9 miles to the southwest of Oxford from which, at least back around 2012 it was still possible to take a bus. Thanks to cuts I think the bus service is now too infrequent to be of use.

Thames Path: Buscot to Cricklade - 2013
The room next to ours at Buscot had a four poster bed

But further upstream there was little or no public transport – and what little there was didn’t go in useful directions for us. So my son had booked us into a couple of hotels to bridge the gap, giving three longish days of walking. We travelled fairly light with just essentials in rucksacks – and of course for me a small camera bag, but it was still fairly taxing – and something I couldn’t repeat now, 11 years later.

Thames Path: Buscot to Cricklade - 2013

You can read my account of the three days, complete with rather a lot of pictures on My London Dairy at Thames Path: Shifford to Buscot, Buscot to Cricklade and Cricklade to the Source.

Thames Path: Buscot to Cricklade - 2013
Old Father Thames

I’d kept my photography equipment minimal too, taking just one camera, a Fuji X-Pro1 and I think two lenses. One was the Fujifilm XF18-55mmF2.8-4 R LM OIS, a mouthful almost larger than the lens itself, Fuji’s 18-55mm kit lens. It’s a fairly small and light lens but a remarkably good one. Fuji has since brought out zooms with wider focal length ranges, wider apertures (and higher prices) and I have some, but within its limitations I think this remains my favourite.

Thames Path: Buscot to Cricklade - 2013
Halfpenny Bridge – the toll house at right – Lechlade

I don’t think I then owned a wider Fuji lens than the zoom with the 18mm being equivalent to 27mm on a full-frame camera, rather a moderated wide-angle for me, but for those scenes where I felt a need for a wider view I also took my Nikon DX 10.5mm fisheye with a Fuji adaptor. Compact and lightweight, this worked well but was a little fiddly to use. I’ve never found using lenses with adaptors quite as satisfactory as those in the actually camera fitting. I don’t think any of the pictures I put online for this section of the walk were made with this, though some for both other days are.

The entrance to the Thames and Severn Canal across the Thames

The Buscot to Cricklade section of the walk was a little shorter than the first day when we probably walked a total of sixteen or seventeen miles, but includes some of the best and some of the worst parts of the route. There are some delightful sections of riverside walking and Lechlade is certainly a town worth visiting, as we did, although a diversion from the Thames Path itself.

The next mile or so is arguably the most interesting section of the Thames Path, at least in its upper reaches, with the start of the Thames and Severn Canal. It’s also here that the Thames towpath begins – or for us ends.

And a short distance further on is the remarkable St John the Baptist Church at Inglesham, saved and restored by William Morris and his 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 then comes a long trek over a mile beside a busy A361 followed by a longer one along along paths and lanes with hardly a sniff of a the river until you reach Castle Eaton, a village which seemed closed (and its pub certainly was.)

From there the path does follow the river all the way into Cricklade, though as I noted “going every direction except a straight line to there“. Finally we arrived at the White Hart, supposedly the poshest and oldest principal coaching inn at Cricklade since the time of Elizabeth 1 but bought by Arkells Brewery in 1973. Our rooms in a more modern part of the building were comfortable enough but rather less impressive than those on the previous night at Buscot.

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


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Nine Elms Riverside – July 1989

Friday, December 15th, 2023

Nine Elms Riverside – July 1989: One of the benefits of working as a teacher as I still was in 1989 was certainly the long Summer holiday and I spent quite a lot of these taking photographs as well as going away for several weeks with my family – though some years this was also a photographic opportunity. And most years we also spent a week or so in Hull where I was able to add a few pictures to the work that had resulted in my exhibition Still Occupied in the Ferens Art Gallery there in 1983.

But our travels around the country in the Summer of 1989 – which as well as Hull included a week with a group of friends in a large holiday cottage in Scotland – only began in August, and the day after my visit to Hackney on Friday 28th July 1989 I returned to take up my work where I had left off earlier in Nine Elms.

Brunswick House, Market Towers, Wandsworth Rd, Vauxhall, Lambeth, 1989 89-7k-13
Brunswick House, Market Towers, Wandsworth Rd, Vauxhall, Lambeth, 1989 89-7k-13

Tuuning west out of Vauxhall Station took me to the junction of Wandsworth Road and Nine Elms Lane. Brunswick House at right appeared in an earlier post on my walks in 1989. This mid 17th century house, extended in 1758, bought by in 1869 by “the London and South West Railway Company who used it as offices and a Scientific and Literary Institute. In 1994 it was sold to the railway staff association who again sold it in 2002. It is now a restaurant and the yard around it is used by an architectural salvage and supply company.

Market Towers was clearly a very much later building, or rather pair of buildings, the taller 290ft high with 23 floors, completed in 1975, with offices a pub, the Market Tavern, on the first floor. The pub was built to serve workers at the adjoining New Covent Garden Market completed in 1974 and its licence allowed it to open in the early hours. By the 1980s this had made it into “South London’s first gay pub with a 2am licence“.

According to Wikipedia, the buildings were bought by the misleadingly named property developer Green Property in 2008 and four years later they were given planning permission to redevelop. Instead they sold it to Chinese developer Dalian Wanda. It was demolished in 2014-5 who gained revised planning permission for two buildings containing 436 flats and a hotel, City Tower with 58 floors and 654ft tall and River Tower 42 floors and 525ft. The project was sold on to another Chinese company, and there were various problems over building contracts which delayed completion. The Park Hyatt London River Thames hotel is now predicted to open in mid-2024.

Nine Elms Cold Store, Nine Elms Lane, Nine Elms, Lambeth, 1989  89-7k-14
Nine Elms Cold Store, Nine Elms Lane, Nine Elms, Lambeth, 1989 89-7k-14

This tall, windowless monolith states across its top ‘NINE ELMS COLD STORE‘ and was built in 1964 on a former gas works site to store meat and other frozen goods brought by ship into the London Docks and transferred here by lighters. At its side was a large railway goods yard, from which these goods could be taken by rail as well as lorries from the site. But only a few years after its completion, London’s docks began to close and by 1979 it was redundant.

This gas works had closed in 1956 and the site was in use as a coach park when the cold store was built, and also included a small creek, Vauxhall Creek, which once had been the mouth of the River Effra, long culverted and diverted which was then filled in. After it ceased to be used as a cold store it stood for 20 years with various schemes for redevelopment coming to nothing. Part of the delay was caused by the huge cost of demolition, part by Lambeth Council not then wanting the kind of luxury riverside flats than now occupy the site, the 50 storey 594 ft St George Wharf Tower completed in 2014, as well as by some dodgy business dealings.

The cold store was used for various films as a dystopian urban location, was a dangerous gay cruising handily placed for the Market Tavern, as well as allegedly for “black magic, devil worship, sacrifices, and orgies” but was finally demolished in 1999.

River Thames, Riverside Walk, Nine Elms, Wandsworth, 1989 89-7k-15
River Thames, Riverside Walk, Nine Elms, Wandsworth, 1989 89-7k-15

I had crossed the border from Lambeth to Wandsworth and beyond the cold store the Riverside Walk had been opened up by the council as far as the Thames Water pumping station at Heathwall and after a short diversion past that to Kirtling Street, some years later in 1996 becoming a part of the new Thames Path.

This view from the path across the river past a moored lighter is from its start and there are now new buildings on the riverbank at the left, but the rest remain. These buildings are on Grosvenor Road, Pimlico. You can see the tower of Westminster Cathedral in the distance and I think to its left is the rather ugly block which contains Pimlico station.

A large brick arch on the riverbank is the ancient mouth of the River Tyburn, long since culverted. Plans for the resurfacing of the river by the Tyburn Angling Society seem limited to Mayfair and not to extend to the Thames, though the chances of it happening are as close to zero as can be imagined.

Battersea Power Station, River Thames, Riverside Walk, Nine Elms, Wandsworth, 1989 89-7l-02
Battersea Power Station, River Thames, Riverside Walk, Nine Elms, Wandsworth, 1989 89-7l-02

The bend of the river here makes it look as if I was walking on water to take this picture, but my feet were firmly on dry land. Battersea Power Station has since then been given something of a facelift, with the removal of some of the more interesting features of the riverfront, as well as now being surrounded on several sides by large blocks of flats and being turned into a wasteful luxury shopping centre.

The pair of distant chimneys just to its right are Lots Road Power Station. The nearer bridge is Grosvenor Railway Bridge taking trains into Victoria Station, but Chelsea Bridge just upriver can also be seen clearly.

Battersea Power Station, River Thames, Riverside Walk, Nine Elms, Wandsworth, 1989  89-7l-64
Battersea Power Station, River Thames, Riverside Walk, Nine Elms, Wandsworth, 1989 89-7l-64

Another view upstream from the riverside path, which shows all four chimneys of Battersea Power Station as well as the riverside path and some of the earlier flats built beside the river here, Elm Quay Court. This luxury flat development built in 1976-8 includes secure underground parking and a 47ft swimming pool, gym and sauna.

Elm Quay Court, 30 Nine Elms Lane, Wandsworth, 1989 89-7l-54
Elm Quay Court, 30 Nine Elms Lane, Wandsworth, 1989 89-7l-54

A view of the Elm Quay Court flats from the road. The new US Embassy was built opposite them. Neither building seems attractive to me. The best feature of the US Embassy is the moat which runs along only its north side, and the best feature of Elm Quay Court is the riverside walk, which enables the public to walk past it almost without seeing the building.

My account of my walk will continue in a later post.


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Our Pre-Chistmas City Walk – 2017

Thursday, December 7th, 2023

Our Pre-Chistmas City Walk – On Thursday 7th November 2017 I met up old friends, all photographers, for the early Christmas social event we’ve organised most years. It had proved difficult to find a date everyone could make and several of the group were missing and we were down to five of us.

Our Pre-Chistmas City Walk
Four – and I was holding the camera

It’s a sobering thought that six years on only three of the five are still in the land of the living, with first Alex and more recently John having died. I’ve several times written about John Benton-Harris on this site over the years and he also years ago contributed two guest posts, as well as featuring his surprise 70th birthday party in 2009.

Our Pre-Chistmas City Walk

I’d worked with John in recent years on producing a number of books, including a few for the Café Royal Books series, including his Saint Patrick’s People, though his major work, ‘Mad Hatters’ on the English sadly remains unpublished. And I’d gone with him taking pictures to St Patrick’s Day events in London and elsewhere. Although he had some health problems and was in his 80s, his death still came as a great shock to us all.

Our Pre-Chistmas City Walk

We met at St Paul’s Underground Station and our first visit was to the Guildhall Art Gallery, where we went “down into its depths where a few years ago the remains of the Roman Coliseum were discovered and are now rather well displayed, before looking at the City of London’s art collection on display. It’s a rather mixed bunch with some fine works ancient and modern along with some rather tedious municipal records of great occasions that would have looked fine in the Illustrated London News but don’t really cut it as vast canvasses on the gallery wall.” (Quotes her are from my article written here in December 2017)

Our Pre-Chistmas City Walk

Some years earlier in 2005 I had been to the opening of a show at the gallery featuring works by some of London’s best-known living painters curated by Mireille Gailinou for a now defunct organisation I was then the treasurer of, London Arts Café, ‘London Now – CITY OF HEAVEN CITY OF HELL’ and had given my opinion on the gallery’s collection to the then curator who was very shocked when I’d said I would quite happily burn one of the largest canvases. Fortunately that had not resulted in me being banned from the gallery!

That show is now long gone, as too is the London Arts Café, but its web site with more about this and other shows and events we organised remains currently on-line. And despite my opinions the Guildhall Art Gallery is still worth visiting both for the artworks and certainly for its Roman remains and entry is free.

From there we walked “on past the Bank of England we walked into Adams Court and walked around in a circle before driven by thirst to the Crosse Keys, where I failed to resist the temptation of a pint of Smokestack Lightnin’, a beer from the Dorking Brewery, named after my favourite Howling Wolf track – I still somewhere have the 45rpm record. It was the first time I’ve come across the idea of a ‘smoked’ beer, and while interesting I think it would be best drunk around a bonfire.”

John had left us when we went into the pub, saying there was still light to take photographs and he wanted to make the most of it, but he seemed seldom to enjoy coming with us into pubs. The Crosse Keys is one of many interesting buildings – old pubs, theatres, cinemas, banks etc – around the country that Wetherspoons have taken over and preserved and though their owner has terrible politics and the chain poor conditions of service they offer cheap and generally well-kept beer and plain good-value food. Obviously their staff should unionise and fight for better terms.

We didn’t stay long in the pub, just a quick pint on the balcony and a short visit to the toilets in the depths, before leaving. Alex said goodbye here, seeing a bus that would take him back home to Hackney rather than go west with us, and I led the remaining two “down to the river, where we turned upstream along the Thames path. The light was fading a little, but perhaps becoming more interesting, but when we left the river at Queenhithe it was time to make our way back to St Paul’s to catch a bus and get a table for our meal together before the city workers crowded in.”

All the pictures accompanying this post were made with a Fuji X-E1 and 18mm Fuji lens, an almost pocketable combination. The 18mm f2 is probably my favourite Fuji lens, though often I prefer the added flexibility of the slightly slower but still fairly compact 18-55mm zoom. Later I moved up to the X-E3, which has better auto-focus and a significantly larger sensor and is slightly smaller, but both are still very usable cameras, and the X-E1 is now available secondhand pretty cheaply. It’s still a great camera for street photography and as an introduction to the Fuji range.

A few more pictures at Photographers Walk.


Thames Path, Tradescants, Leake Street – 2014

Friday, November 10th, 2023

Thames Path, Tradescants, Leake Street – On Monday 10th November 2014 I went on a walk with some of my family in Lambeth, where my sister in particular was keen to visit the Garden Museum in the deconsecrated St Mary’s Church next to Lambeth Palace.

Thames Path, Tradescants, Leake Street

We began our walk at Waterloo station, making our way to the riverside path along by the Thames and walking west past St Thomas’s Hospital. A lttle beyond that in front of Lambeth Palace is a memorial bust of Violette Szabo, (1921-1945) standing on a monument to the SOE, the Maquis and the Norwegian resistance commandos, heroes of Telemark. Szabo, a Lambeth resident, was posthumously awarded the George Cross and the Croix de Guerre and was one of the 117 of the 470 agents the SOE sent to France who did not survive

Thames Path, Tradescants, Leake Street

On My London Diary I give some more detail about the setting up of this museum after Rosemary Weekes (later Nicholson) began her campaign to save the church and the fine tomb of father and son John Tradescant, 17th century plant hunters and royal gardeners in its churchyard as a Museum of Garden History. Her work together with her husband John Nicholson is commemorated in the garden with a plaque.

Thames Path, Tradescants, Leake Street

I posted a photograph of a sculpture commemorating the two John Tradescants – father and son – a few days ago in the post Old Clapham Road and South Lambeth – 1989 and wrote rather more about them later in another post on my 1989 walk, Tradescant, Old South Lambeth Rd and Caron, which began with a picture of houses on Tradescant Road, built on the site of their home in South Lambeth, and I’ll try not to repeat myself more than I need here.

Thames Path, Tradescants, Leake Street

The Tradescant tomb was first commissioned by Hester Tradescant, the widow of the younger John when he died in 1662 and had elaborate carvings depicting rather fancifully some of the specimens of various kinds from their travels in search for new plants around much of the world. These formed the basis of the first public museum in England – the Lambeth Ark – and were fraudulently stolen by a neighbour who pretended to support this who later presented them to Oxford University to establish the Ashmolean Museum.

By the mid-nineteenth century the original memorial was in very poor condition, probably attacked by the noxious acidic fumes from the many industries in the area, and in 1853 a replica was re-carved using limestone from Darley Dale in Derbyshire.

Also in the museum garden if the tomb of the notorious Captain Bligh of the Bounty, on whose ships the Tradescants brought back some of their plants. John Tradescant the Older had begun work as gardener to one of the wealthiest families in England and here there is a recreation of one of his Knot Gardens, based on designs for gardens at Hatfield and Cranbourne.

The museum is well worth a visit, particularly for keen gardeners, and has a pleasant cafe and of course a shop. The Tradescants also set up what was possibly the first garden centre a short distance away, though I think you would have then needed very deep pockets to buy any of their plants, many of which are now very common in our gardens.

We walked back through Archbishop’s Park, a public park with some fine trees and some green cyclists.

And came out on Lambeth Palace Road which has some modern buildings and a large metal sculpture, South of the River’ by Bernard Schottlander (b.1924) which was cast by British Steel in 1976 outside the offices at Becket House. As we went past the Lying-In Hospital (now just a frontage to a recent hotel) I found we had over 20 minutes before our train so I led our group down into Leake Street.

Although much of several parts of London are now covered with graffiti I think this tunnel remains the only officially sanctioned area for artists. I’d been there on various occasions but I think it was the first time the others in our group had been there

It wasn’t the fastest way to get into Waterloo Station, and took us to the far end from where our trains now run from the former Waterloo International platforms, but we still caught our train with time to spare.

Many more pictures from the walk and museum garden – including more graffiti – on My London Diary at Lambeth Walk.


River Thames – Battersea Riverside 2012

Monday, August 14th, 2023

River Thames – Battersea Riverside: Tuesday 14th August 2012 was a nice day with blue sky and some interesting clouds in the sky and I had an hour or two to spare.

River Thames - Battersea Riverside

So I took a walk from Battersea Bridge to Wandsworth along the Thames Path.

River Thames - Battersea Riverside

Battersea Bridge crosses the river to Chelsea and I photographed the views over the river towards Lots Road Power Station and Chelsea Harbour.

River Thames - Battersea Riverside

This is a stretch of the river I’ve walked quite a few times over the years. It’s an easy journey for me to get there but it is also one of the more interesting and varied to walk.

River Thames - Battersea Riverside

When I first walked this way in the 1970s this was an industrial area, with factories and wharves and limited access to the river. Now the Thames Path takes you along the riverside with just some short diversions.

River Thames - Battersea Riverside

Most of the riverside is now lined with blocks of expensive flats rather than the flour mills, oil depots and a power station at Fulham I photographed back then.

Silver Belle Flour, mill, Battersea, from Chelsea Harbour, Sands End, Hammersmith & Fulham, 1991, 91-4c-66
Silver Belle Flour, mill, Battersea, 1991

There are still a few traces of that industrial past, though some were being demolished on both sides of the river back in 2012.

Demolition at Fulham Wharf

The sand and gravel works immediated upstream from Wandsworth Bridge was still there and still working when I last visited the area a few months ago, although I expect before long it will also be another luxury block of flats.

I think the best images I made that day before catching a train at Wandsworth Town were probably some panoramic images I’ve not included in this post as they don’t fit well in its format. You can see these and others from the walk on My London Diary at Battersea Riverside.


Cycling Around the Isle of Dogs

Saturday, June 24th, 2023

Cycling Around the Isle of Dogs: Tuesday June 24th 2014 was a nice Summer day in London. Not too hot, with a maximum in the low twenties, and with a blue sky tempered by some nice clouds and just a few light showers to cool me down. For me it was an ideal day for a bike ride and also for making some panoramic images.

Cycling Around the Isle of Dogs

It was a while since I’d been to the Isle of Dogs, and there had been quite a few changes around there in recent years, so after an early lunch I put my folding bike on the train and made my way to Limehouse.

Cycling Around the Isle of Dogs

It wasn’t really a bike ride, more just using the bike to carry me and my camera around the area, stopping on my way to make well over two hundred panoramic images in the roughly two and a half hours it took me to get to Island Gardens, opposite Greenwich for the train home. Later I worked on these images, selecting around 90 to put on-line – a higher than usual proportion. But I do rather more thinking about panoramic images and they require rather more care, particularly to get the camera absolutely level to keep the horizon straight.

Cycling Around the Isle of Dogs

I posted them in two groups, Limehouse pans and Millwall – Isle of Dogs pans. All the images were converted using the PT Gui software implementation of the Vedutismo perspective (also called Panini) made popular by Canaletto and other Italian cityscape painters in the 18th century which allows a more realistic representation of extreme angles of view – something like 147 degrees horizontally in these images. These would be impossibly stretched towards the edges in a normal rectilinear view, which only works up to around 90 degrees.

Cycling Around the Isle of Dogs

You can see any of these images larger on the links given to My London Diary at the end of this post, or by right-clicking on any of them and selecting to view them. Rather than write more about the ride here, I’ll quote from one of the posts there:

When I first walked these streets there was virtually no access to the riverside, with wharf after wharf between Westferry Rd and the river until you came to the park (Sir John McDougall Gardens.) A footbridge led from the Barkantine estate – built to replace a heavily bombed area of densely-packed small houses. South of this you again walked along the busy street until there were a few empty wharves around the south of the Isle of Dogs.

Now you can walk mainly along the riverside, with only one working area blocking the path. But there are several other places where you have to divert, including one wall dividing social housing from its wealthy neighbours. There was also a temporary diversion in one area, though it wasn’t clear why.

Further on are fine views across the river to Greenwich, along with further diversions from the riverside, where several earlier developments did not include riverside walks.

My London Diary

The Thames is too wide here for a panorama to work well without some foreground interest, or cropped to a very narrow strip. At the end of the ride, I did make a few pictures from Island Gardens across the river with a rather longer lens. These are in a separate post, also linked below.

Limehouse pans
Millwall – Isle of Dogs pans
Greenwich from the Isle of Dogs


The Source of the Thames

Tuesday, April 4th, 2023

The Source of the Thames
Thames Head – where the river is first visible

The Source of the Thames: Ten years ago today we were engaged on a very different walk to those I’ve been writing about in recent posts on my wanderings in London in 1989. Together with my wife and elder son we were about to complete our walk along the length of the Thames Path which had begun a couple of years earlier.

The Source of the Thames
Cricklade

Of course I’d walked along by parts of the Thames in and around London, out to Windsor and towards Reading and to the east all the way to rather remoter regions on the estuary beyond the end of the route over the years in piecemeal fashion, but around 2010 we’d bought a guide to the Thames Path and began walking and marking off sections in an organised way.

The Source of the Thames

The National Trails site says the path is 185.2miles (298 km) from its source in the Cotswolds to Woolwich. The path was first proposed in 1947 but it was only 49 years later that it was officially opened in 1996, though I’d walked a few sections and made some minor suggestions after the Ramblers released a draft for consultation a few years earlier.

Ashton Keynes

Some physical improvements needed to be put in place, with several footbridges needed to cross the river where ferries had long ceased operation, and there were also many negotiations with riverine land owners, angling groups and local authorities to allow access. Not all these were successful, and there are still lengths of the route which are less than optimal in the upper reaches of the river.

Neigh Bridge Country Park

According again to the site, the trail is “Easy to reach by public transport”, but that is only partly true. Even below Oxford there are some sections a mile or two from the nearest station or bus stop which adds significantly at one or both ends of a day’s walk, and once you get much past Oxford things become more difficult or impossible, certainly for those of us coming from the London area.

Old Mill Farm

The last reliable and reasonably frequent bus route from Oxford back in 2013 took us to Hinton Waldrist, a small village a mile or two from the path, and our day walks had ended there. For the final section my son had booked us into two nights accommodation on route between there and the source, at Buscot and Cricklade and we returned home at the end of our third day of walking from Kemble Station, a mile and a half from the source.

We had decided to make the walk in the week after Easter Sunday, which in 2013 was on March 31st and had begun on the Tuesday. On Thursday 4th April 2013 we left our hotel in Cricklade by 9am and after a short look around the town began the final day of our 3 day walk.

It was a cold day and there was still ice on some of the puddles. Our route guide – David Sharp’s ‘The Thames Path’ – told us we had 19.7km to walk to the source, but we had to do a little further as there was a diversion: “The Thames has changed course and is now flowing over the Trail, just inside Gloucestershire” a notice with a helpful map told us – and another 2.5km to the station. The guide was otherwise excellent, but would have been rather easier to follow had we been walking down-river as it suggested and described rather than in the opposite direction.

On My London Diary I described our route and day in some detail so I won’t repeat that here, and there are over 80 pictures from the day in the account. Perhaps some of them are a little misleading as I used a fisheye lens and made the river look as if it turns considerably more than its already rather twisty route. The were some long and rather boring sections too on which I took no pictures.

There was no river on the final section

Scenically this is one of the less interesting of the Thames Path sections, but it was important to complete the walk, even if the final section was completely dry. It was bitterly cold and would have been more enjoyable in warmer weather even though we were well wrapped up – and needed to take a short rest in a pub in Ashton Keynes in the middle of the day to warm up before continuing.

The dry spring – though Spring had been wet

The source was something of an anti-climax. What is supposedly a spring with a stone marking it erected there by the Thames Conservators. I don’t know when water was last seen there, and others I know who have walked the river have all found it dry. The best I could find for some distance down the hill was a blue pipe on the grass – but there was nothing flowing from that either. There were some deep puddles in the mud by a gate some way down, and a larger one in the grass just above Thames Head, but it was only below the Fosse Way (A433) at Thames Head that a small stream became visible.

Kemble

We walked to Kemble station to find we had just missed a train and it was 50 minutes to wait for the next. There was what looked like a cosy waiting room but it was locked. It was far too cold to stand and wait on the windswept platform so despite our aching legs we went for a walk around Kemble before catching the first of three trains for our journey home.

More about the three days of our walk on My London Diary:

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

Brandt and Battersea – 2023

Saturday, January 14th, 2023

Brandt and Battersea - 2023

Last Tuesday – 10th January 2023 – I went for a walk with a couple of friends, both photographers. The pictures here were all taken by me on our walk. We met at Tate Britain where the exhibition on Bill Brandt was entering its last few days – it finishes tomorrow, 15th January. We hadn’t bothered to go before as all three of us were very familiar with Brandt’s work – and had seen previous and larger and better exhibitions. I think both the others had heard him talking about his work, we had all watched him on film and all owned several of his books, had in various ways studied his work and taught about it. I’d also published some short pieces about him when I wrote about photography for a living. We didn’t really feel a need to go to another show, but it was free and it fitted in with a couple of other things we wanted to do.

Brandt and Battersea - 2023

While its good that the Tate was honouring one of Britain’s finest photographers, we all found the show disappointing, both for the rather odd selection of works and prints and for some of the writing on the wall. Much of Brandt’s best work was missing, and it was hard to see why some images were included, and some prints also seemed to be of rather poor quality. Possibly this show reflects the failure of almost all British museums in the past to take collecting photography seriously – or perhaps a lack of real appreciation of photography by the Tate.

Brandt and Battersea - 2023

Brandt began his work in an era when photographs were seldom put on walls for anything other than illustrative purposes – there was no art market in photography. His work was largely produced for book projects and for magazine commissions, and he made prints largely for the platemakers who would prepare the plates for printing. To see the real object of his work you have to look not at the ‘original prints’ but at their reproduction in books and magazines. The strongest point in this show was the glass cases in which some of these were situated. But while we were there few of the other visitors to the show paid them more than a passing glance, instead filing reverently around the spaced out prints on the wall, pausing to pay homage at each of them before moving to the next.

I found it a disappointing show, and if you missed it you didn’t miss much. Far better to spend your time on his 1977 book, Shadow of Light for an overall view of his work, still available second-hand at reasonable prices. And should you want to know more about the man and his influences (neither of which the Tate show concerned itself with) Paul Delany’s Bill Brandt – A Life provides more information than anyone could ever want.

We left the gallery, crossing Atterbury Road to examine Henry Moore’s Two Piece Reclining Figure No. 1 in a small courtyard of Chelsea College Of Art and Design before proceeding to pay a courtesy visit to the Morpeth Arms which proved more to our taste than the Tate Show.

Refreshed we made our way across the river to Vauxhall to meet the Thames Path, following this upriver to Battersea Power Station. Much building work is still going on, including the construction of the Thames ‘Super Sewer’ and there is a lack of signs to show the way in the area close to the power station, but soon we found a side entrance to the recently opened interior.

I’d visited and photographed the interior years ago when it was derelict and was interested to see what the architects had done with it. Basically it is now an upmarket shopping mall full of shops selling goods and services that might appeal to the idle rich and wealthy tourists. It also has a cinema, an expensive lift up one chimney to a viewing platform from which we have already seen countless similar views, and, perhaps the only useful thing so far as I was concerned, toilets.

The architects have retained the huge scale of the two turbine halls, but the higher areas of them are now cluttered with huge hanging mock strings of giant fairy lamps and baubles, which failed to appeal to me. It was only at one that an uncluttered wall of windows really took me back to the atmosphere of the original.

The earlier of the two turbine halls was remarkable for its art deco decorative details – the later hall plain and utilitarian. Although at least some of the deco detail has been retained (or recreated) it no longer seems to have the impact it had formerly, perhaps because do the much higher lighting levels, perhaps because of the hanging distractors. But it remains an impressive building.

I’d left my two younger but less active companions to rush around and see the whole building, going up as high as I could while they stayed lower down. By the time we found each other again they had seen enough and were fed up with the place, and we left to the riverside terrace, walking along to catch a bus on Queenstown Road. It was dusk on a dull and damp day and we made our way to a cheap meal at a rather cosy pub in Battersea for a glass or two of wine and a remarkably cheap meal before walking to Clapham Junction for our three different trains home.


Thames Path – Pangbourne to Cholsey

Monday, January 2nd, 2023

I grew up not far from the Thames, though rather more of my young days were spent playing in and around one of its tributaries, the River Crane both in the wilder areas of Hounslow Heath and to the north and in the rather tamer Crane Park, where I caught tiddlers, sticklebacks which were destined to die in jam jars, and learnt that small boys on bicycles were faster than irate whistle-blowing park keepers.

Thames Path - Pangbourne to Cholsey

But the river was there, a formidable barrier protecting us in Middlesex from the wilds of Surrey, though we occasionally crossed it on bridges and ferries, perhaps to go to Kew Gardens in search of plant specimens. This was before the days of garden centres, and my father, a keen gardener carried scissors in his waistcoat pocket and would occasionally take a small cutting from gardens as we walked past or visited, or find seeds. Gardeners where we lived didn’t buy seeds – they saved them and swapped them with others.

Thames Path - Pangbourne to Cholsey

And the Thames was the river where I learnt to swim, if only badly, with a paddling pool and a swimming area with a springboard in the riverside park, The Lammas. Later I learnt to row at Isleworth, in a heavyweight Sea Scout boat – and we swam there too, despite the filthy oily state of the mud and water.

Thames Path - Pangbourne to Cholsey

Older and wiser I kept to the riverside paths, walking them both in Middlesex and Surrey and also out to the east of London, sometimes taking my family with me, but also on walks with other photographers and on my own. And when plans were being made in the 1980s for a Thames Walk I made a few suggestions on the proposed path of what in 1989 became the Thames Path.

Far more of the river in London is now accessible to the public than back in the 1970s and 80s when much of the riverside was still a working area, though many of the wharves were derelict. But as I found when I joined a small group led by a Tower Hamlets official with responsibility for footpaths, parts of the path on the north bank were still not always easy to access, with developers and residents erecting gates and barriers and making some parts appear private. Some years later The Guardian in 2015 published Privatised London: the Thames Path walk that resembles a prison corridor which showed that little had changed.

But like many others, my family has now walked the Thames Path, from the Thames Barrier at Charlton to the source in Gloucestershire, as well as some way to the east along both shores. Most of the path proper is readily accessible by public transport and can be done as a series of one-day walks, travelling and returning from from our home in Staines or from London. But for the final three days of walking we had to spend a couple of nights in hotels on the route.

At Streatley the path goes through a small lake

At the start of 2010, we spent both New Years Day and January 2nd walking two short sections of the walk, from Reading to Pangbourne on Friday 1st and returning to Pangbourne on the Saturday to walk to Cholsey. Both Cholsey and Pangbourne have stations with trains to Reading, so access was easy, although Cholsey station is over a mile from the Thames Path.

The pictures here are all from Saturday 2nd January, on what is perhaps the most scenic stretch of the Thames Path. It was a bitterly cold day, which was perhaps as well, as the parts of this section would have been very muddy and a little flooded. But the mud was frozen and most of the ice on the flooded parts was thick enough to take our weight. It was more pleasant walking across the ice than it would have been wading through the few inches of mud and freezing water, almost certainly just deep enough to overtop my walking boots.

At the start of the walk from Pangbourne, after crossing the river the path climbs a little up a ridge, with occasional views through the trees across the valley. It then goes down to the riverside again, passing under one of Brunel’s fine brick bridges for the GWR to the Goring Gap, where the Thames runs between wooded hills. Goring itself is the kind of place I like to avoid, though I’m sure it has its charms, but I’ve always seen it as a kind of playground for the self-satisfied rich. We crossed the river to Streatley on the south side, a village owned by Oxford Brewery owners the Morrell family until they sold it in in 1938. They had protected it from development.

It was here that we found the worst flooding on the path, and almost took one look at a gate leading on to a lake and turned round – we could have ended our walk here and returned to Reading from Goring station. But eventually we decided the water couldn’t be too deep and perhaps the ice might hold our weight and we went on. I think we all got wet feet.

There were more icy bits on the rest of the walk, but nothing quite so bad, and we continued our walk along the Thames Path. Unfortunately at Moulsford the path leaves the river – the towpath switches to the opposite bank, and although this is a Ferry Lane, the ferries are long gone. Moulsford would be a pleasant enough village were it not on the A329, and the one kilometre trek along this relatively busy road was tedious, though we did make a short diversion to see the parish church.

Our walk along the Thames Path ended when this left the road to return to the river, but we had further to go before turning off onto a footpath on our way to Cholsey station, adding another mile to our walk.

More on My London Diary at Thames Path including our walk on the previous day from Reading to Pangbourne.


Boxing Day Walks (and Rides)

Monday, December 26th, 2022

Boxing Day Walks (and Rides)
Waterworks, Wraysbury

Our Boxing Days here have followed a similar pattern for a few years now, at least in those years where we’ve stayed at home rather than visiting family elsewhere. We get up, have breakfast and then get ready to go out for a walk. We walk from our home to a mid-day meal with my sister and other family members, in recent years at a pub close to where she lives. Then a leisurely wander to her house for tea. And rather later going home, though so far we’ve not had to walk back.

Boxing Day Walks (and Rides)
Boatyard at Runnemede

Partly we walk because there is little if any public transport on Boxing Day. We could cycle, but the roads are more rather more dangerous than usual thanks to motorists with a higher than usual alcohol level, and also because I like to have a glass or two myself with my boxing day lunch, though it would be easy to do the journey almost entirely off-road. Perhaps this year we will cycle, the weather forecast isn’t too bad.

Boxing Day Walks (and Rides)

The walk is at least five miles. In the past we used to often take longer and sometimes hillier routes to give us a little more exercise. Now we sometimes stop on the way for coffee at one of the few cafés that are open. The walk helps to get up an appetite for another large meal after our minor over-indulgences the previous day. Years ago we often went out for another walk before our late afternoon tea, but others in the family are now too old for this.

Oakley Court

St Mary Magdalene, Boveney,

Of course I take a camera with me, and take pictures on the way, as well as sometimes some family pictures during the meal and after, though these I seldom share outside the family as they have very little interest for others.

Windsor Racecourse

So earlier I spent some time looking for my pictures from boxing day walks in earlier years to post today. These pictures come from a rather longer journey on 26th December 2005, when we cycled a few miles further along the River Thames than necessary before turning back for our lunch.

Home Park from Albert Bridge

I first posted some pictures from this walk on My London Diary in 2005. Although that post describes it as a walk, from the distances involved and the EXIF times we must have been on our bikes. And had a very late lunch.

This is a slightly different collection; all pictures were made with a Nikon D200 DX format DSLR.