Walk #758: Greenwich to Putney Bridge
Map of the walk
Maps courtesy of Google Maps. Route for indicative purposes only, and may have been plotted after the walk. Please let me have comments on what you think of this new format. For a detailed table of timings for this walk, please see the table file.
Sencan has asked if she could do the Thames Path with me, and as I had such a good time walking it last year I agreed, although we have chosen to walk it in the opposite direction, from east to west. Also,as I had walked the southern bank of the river through London last year, I decided to do the northern bank this year. We therefore set off this morning for the drive down to South Woodford, where we change to the tube to get down to the start of the walk in Greenwich. As we were walking the northern bank of the river we could have got off at Island Gardens station, but as I love Greenwich I decided to start at Cutty Sark station on the Docklands Light Railway instead.
Greenwich was as pleasant as ever, and the place was bustling on this Saturday morning. We walked down towards Cutty Sark, which was hardly visible behind large blue hoardings, and it had obviously been dismasted as part of its long renovation program. I was quite saddened by the sight as it had been an ever-present sight whenever I have been here in the past, but instead I concentrated on the large brick tower that marks the southern end of the Greenwich foot tunnel. This has a lovely glass dome on top of it, and as we walked down the spiral staircase to the tunnel I enjoyed the walk through as it invoked many happy memories, and eventually we had passed under the river and climbed up the staircase onto the Isle of Dogs.
From Island Gardens there is a classic view across the river to the Old Royal Naval College that had been painted by Canaletto, but today the views were slightly hazy and spoilt. It was then a case of joining the start of the Thames Path and following it as it went around the edge of the Isle of Dogs, and as we walked I bored Sencan with my memories of the area. It is amazing how much the area has changed in the fifteen years since I lived here, and the amount of new accommodation that has been built is quite amazing - and there was a fair bit back then.
We soon reached something that I had been looking forward to for some time - Brunel's massive steamship, the Great Eastern, had been built on the Isle, and when constructing new flats some of the original timbers from the slipway had been uncovered. This ship was more massive than anything that came for decades after it - 692 feet long and 32,000 tons displacement, it was so large that it had to be launched sideways, the first time this had been attempted and which proved almost beyond the technologies of 1858.
Sencan bounded between some concrete blocks as I read the signboard, and we continued on up the path, which was well waymarked as it headed on either path beside the river or the road. Although the area was being redeveloped there were still signs of the maritime past - the job of a crane occasionally appearing between buildings or old lock gates, no longer near the sea. This continued to be the case even as we approached Canary Wharf, where there was a large green sculpture made up of American-style traffic lights.
We used Westferry Circus to get past a place where the path had been diverted away from the river, and the air in the dark underground roundabout was heavy with fumes as traffic passed us. Fortunately we could soon climb up to reach the riverside path once again. The next couple of miles were very enjoyable as the path headed westwards towards Tower Bridge, crossing the entrance to the Limehouse Basin and a couple of other smaller basins. On he way we stopped off at the Captain Kidd pub for a rest, having a quick drink before continuing on towards St Katherine's Dock.
The rest of the way along the northern bank of the Thames was very familiar to me as it will be to millions of others; passing the crowds of people outside the Tower of London; walking past HMS Belfast moored on the other side of the river, and then the long walk along the Embankment past the war-damaged Cleopatra's Needle. When we reached the Millennium Footbridge (aka the Wobbly Bridge) we walked across it towards Bankside before turning to head back, with a good view across the river and straight ahead to St Paul's.
At Westminster we passed the superb Victorian Houses of Parliament, buildings that always uplift my soul whenever I see them, and then past the peace camp, a messy area that, frankly, is totally out of place. This roadside frontage of Westminster is grand, and some of the gates, entrances and statues are well worth a look, and we did so. Also interesting are the various security systems that are in place; I could see the point of some, but I could not fathom what some of the others did, and I daresay there were other security systems that were not even visible.
The next stretch of walk followed the main road south alongside the river, with only occasional diversions off onto short stretches of path. These roads were busy but the pavements were wide, and we seemed to make good time past Lambeth and Vauxhall Bridges. It was actually a fairly boring walk although the views over the river were pleasant, and I think that the walk along the southern bank of the river had been much better. We stopped off in a pub for another short rest (actually, it was more of a toilet break than anything else), and we were then soon walking past the large and imposing wall of Lot's Road power station, which used to provide power for the London Underground before it finally closed in 2001.
This marked the start of a little diversion around Chelsea Creek, the latter part of it being through an area of what looked like very expensive new flats around a marina. We managed to get slightly off-path by the marina, but it was no hardship and we were soon walking along the river once more. The rest of the walk to Putney Bridge did not stick to the riverside very much, and instead headed inland for significant periods, although the signage was always good and it was difficult to get lost. After passing Wandsworth Bridge the path kept by the river for a few hundred yards before heading inland once more, eventually going in a long diversion around Hurlingham Park.
We were both slightly tired by this time, and Sencan and I were glad when the tube station at Putney Bridge finally came into view. Sencan seems to have enjoyed the walk and is keen to do another one, although that may have to wait until after I have walked Offa's Dyke in a couple of weeks.
This makes a total distance of 16.4 miles, with 331 feet of ascent and 331 feet of descent.
Greenwich is on the Docklands Light Railway and Putney Bridge is on the Wimbledon Branch of the District line; it is easy to use the tube netowrk to get between them.
Please note that I take no responsibility for anything that may happen when following these directions. If you intend to follow this route, then please use the relevant maps and check the route out before you go out. As always when walking, use common sense and you should be fine.
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And finally, enjoy your walking!