Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Travel Tuesday : The Thames Path, day 12 - Shepperton to Kingston

Walked on June 1, 2002.


This stretch of the river would take me almost to my "neighborhood" -- or at least a place I spent time. I took the bus to Kingston upon Thames, and from there took a train to Shepperton.


I retraced my steps to the King's Head Pub, where I had finished walking the previous day. Looking at the picture now I notice the flyer on the lamppost, which was a "missing" poster for Milly Dowler, a schoolgirl who went missing that summer. Her sweet young face and eager smile was all over the British papers for months. She disappeared on March 21, 2002 somewhere between leaving Walton-on-Thames station and her home, a 15-minute walk away. When I walked the Thames Path no trace of her had been found; her remains were found in September of that year. When I last thought of her, several years ago, her killer hadn't been found. And now I read that a serial killer who was in prison for killing two other women was convicted of her murder in 2011.

When I walked from the station to the river in Shepperton and saw so many "Have You Seen Milly" posters in the shops, I realized that I was very near where she was abducted.


This stretch of the path was the first one where there were CHOICES. 


You can take a route that diverts up and through towns. Or, if you're lucky, you can do what the old barge teams did, and take the Shepperton Ferry!


You see how narrow the river is, and (if you look at the map), how much longer the route is if you can't cross. So I was very happy to take the little ferry across.

Now on the south bank of the river, I soon came to a private footbridge and could see the chalet on tiny D'Oyly Carte Island.


A little further along I diverted from the main path along the cut to follow the trail around the edge of Desborough Island, where I spotted another coal post.


I crossed back over the cut at the eastern edge of the island and looked back along Desborough Cut ... soooo straight! The cut was dug in 1935 and named after the longest-serving chairman of the Thames Conservancy, Lord Desborough.


Here's the view downstream from Desborough Island:


Near this point -- difficult to discern -- is Coway Stakes. Somewhere near these riverside cottages is the place where Caesar crossed the Thames in pursuit of Cassivelaunus in 54 BCE.



A little farther along I came to ugly Walton Bridge.


There have been multiple bridges on the site over the years, including a beauty of a wooden bridge designed in 1750 by William Etheridge, who also designed the (much smaller) Mathematical Bridge in Cambridge. This first bridge was painted by Canaletto in 1754:

"Walton Bridge" by Canaletto, Dulwich Picture Gallery
It was replaced in 1788 with a stone bridge designed by James Paine... painted by Turner in 1805:

"Walton Bridges" by Turner, Tate Gallery

A third bridge, made of iron girders, was built in the 1860s after part of the stone bridge collapsed in 1859:


This bridge was damaged in World War II, and replaced by a fourth bridge:

By Oliver White, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=495867
Apparently this bridge was declared unsafe for cars, but was kept open for pedestrians and cyclists. And the bridge I photographed was built as a "temporary structure" and opened in 1999. But, as with so many things, it's changed since 2002! Meet the sixth Walton Bridge, opened in 2013:


Even though I hadn't gone particularly far, it was impossible to resist the call of the sunny, riverside terrace at The Weir pub. They had a barbecue cooking up massive sausages, and the sound of the water rushing over the weir drowned out most of the conversations. It made me daydream about living close to a nice pub like this someday.



Refreshed I went back to the path, passing the twin Sunbury locks.


And looking downriver toward Molesey:


The path wandered by the Molesey reservoirs, not particularly scenic. But I did enjoy spotting this DANGER INTAKE, which, I suppose is where danger is added to the Thames water...


And I passed these anti-tank blocks, part of the defences of greater London:


As I got closer to Hampton I passed an area called Hurst Park, which is what remains of Moulsey Hurst. My notes say "During droughts the river could become too shallow for boats, and heavily laden barges could be held up for weeks. The teams of bored haulers helped lend the Hurst its bad reputation and it also was favored for prize fights and duels." In 1814 Moulsey (now Molesey) lock was built, and the Hurst became a racecourse, and Molesey lock eventually became the most popular lock on the river during the late 1800s and the early 1900s, the heyday of the Molesey Regatta.


There's Hampton Church across the river...


And then -- looking back towards Garrick's Ait, there's the actor's house and the little temple he built to house a statue of Shakespeare. Awww.


I admired this lovely boat (and swans) near Hampton:



And then came to what could only be described as "mansionboats".


Molesey Lock gave me a chance to see the slipway and boat rollers, to move lighter boats without needing to use the lock chambers.


Just past the lock I arrived at pretty Hampton Court Bridge, designed by W.P. Robinson for Sir Edwin Lutyens. The bridge was begun in 1930 and is made of concrete faced with hand-made red bricks of Portland stone in the style of the Wren portions of Hampton Court. The bridge was opened in 1933 by the Prince of Wales (later Edward VII, who abdicated and became Duke of Windsor):



Just across the bridge I saw the beautiful Hampton Court gatehouse:


I love Hampton Court -- I once went to an all-day workshop with the Royal School of Needlework in part because it is held within the palace! I love these dragon guardians outside the palace.


I followed the Barge Walk (*cough* towpath *cough*) that follows the edge of the palace grounds. William III's banqueting house sticks out a bit, and you can see this 9th-century flood mark:


Farther along you can see the privy garden and the south wing, built by Wren for William III.


The river just keeps curving around, and eventually Kingston bridge (and John Lewis behind it) came into view:


I crossed the bridge and looked back upstream. It was interesting to realize that I wouldn't be in the countryside along the path again... at least until I went into the estuary.


Next up: a long day from Kingston to my flat in Putney!

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Travel Tuesday : The Thames Path, day 11 - Windsor to Shepperton

Walked May 30, 2002


This stretch -- 13.75 miles -- I walked alone again. Took the train to Windsor & Eton station in the morning, and then wound my way to the river. First I walked onto Windsor Bridge, looking downstream:


And then looking across to Eton on the other side of the Bridge:


Down onto the path, I took a last look at Windsor Bridge:


And I followed the long curve of the river.



A long strip of land called The Cobbler separates the weir stream from the lock cut... which I didn't understand until I could actually see across the Cobbler to Windsor weir.


The towpath ran under Black Potts railway bridge, memorable because of the insanely deep mud. It really hadn't rained all that much lately...


Distinctly muddied, I caught this glimpse of Windsor Castle from across the Home Park.


Soon I came to and crossed Victoria Bridge, one of a pair of bridges erected along this stretch of river to create a private riverside park for Queen Victoria in the 1850s. It's thought that Victoria Bridge and its partner, Albert Bridge, were designed by Albert himself.

Plaque on Victoria Bridge:


The Thames Path follows the other side of the river (too close to Windsor, you know...) which means I brushed against pretty Dachet, all gussied up for the Jubilee:


I went into Datchet to have a look at their pretty church, St. Mary the Virgin. After the Prince Consort died the parishoners of the village raised money to commission three vivid stained-glass windows in his honor:

image from DatchetHistory.org
The dedication reads: To the glory of god and in memory of HRH the Prince Consort. Born August 26th 1819. Died December 14th 1861. Erected by the parishioners of Datchet 1862.

I also saw farmers literally making hay while the sun shines, near Windsor.



I re-crossed the river at Albert Bridge, which, frankly, looked a bit the worse for wear.





Another half mile or so and I reached Runnymede. The name comes from the Anglo-Saxon "runeig mede", meaning a meadow for holding counsels or meetings. It's all now owned by the National Trust and would be pretty even if it wasn't so historically significant.

These entrance lodges were commissioned by Lady Fairhaven -- who donated the land to the National Trust -- and designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens.


First I visited the JFK Memorial, which was designed by Geoffrey Jellicoe, C.B.E, on an acre of land given, in perpetuity, to the United States. Isn't it interesting how sometimes a U.S. president inspires respect in other countries?

You reach the memorial by a set of steps, one for each year of Kennedy's life, based on a n allegory in Pilgrim's Progress. 60,000 hand-cut granite setts -- each unique as it was hand cut with an axe -- have been laid at random. Apparently the craftspeople -- so accustomed to regular paving -- found this challenging, until they were told to imagine the uneven appearance of a crowd at a football match.


The memorial itself was designed by sculptor Alan Collins, and bears the following inscription:
Let every Nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend or oppose any foe, in order to assure the survival and success of liberty.

Of course, the big memorial is the Magna Carta Temple, designed by Sir Edward Maufe in 1957:


Poor hapless King John. I have scribbled in my notes from 2002: "1199 John takes throne; disastrous political marriage resulted in him losing his continental lands and earning him the nickname "Lackland." Then his failed attempt to keep the lands and humiliating defeat gave him the nickname "Softsword".

It's interesting that the American Bar Association, of all people, built this memorial on the site of the signing of the Magna Carta. Less interesting is that they felt the need to state repeatedly that they had built it in 1857, then they came back in 1971 and "pledged adherence to the principles of the great charter", then back again in 1985 to "renew the pledge of adherement to the principles of the great charter" and AGAIN in 2000 "to celebrate magna carta foundation of the rule of law for ages past and for the millennium"...


On I went, eventually passing beneath the M25 roadway bridge, the massive ringroad that marks the "gateway to London".




And then, soon, Staines. Ah, Staines. If the ring road wasn't enough to highlight the "boundary", this coalpost, near Staines, would. It served to warn merchants that, under an act of 1831, merchants would have to pay a levy on coal.


Nearby, and somewhere in those trees across the river, lurks the Staines Stone, the upper limit of the City of London's jurisdiction of the river. Spoiler alert: I would go find the stone (okay, the replica stone...) on another trip.


I managed to resist the lure of the riverside pubs in Staines and continued on. I did, however take a detour to funny little Penton Hook Island, a tiny perfect teardrop. Apparently the little "neck" was so often broken through by flood waters that barges just took the "short cut" across it. The little island is now managed by the Environment Agency. I wandered around the island paths, all quite overgrown in the early summer. 



I came back to "civilization" to find this big boat in Penton Hook Lock -- the biggest boat I had seen in the river so far.


The path continued through Laleham Park, where I saw these pretty water irises:


A little farther and I could see Chertsey Bridge ahead:




Just past Chertsey I came to the last water meadow (and the last cows on the river). They all stood, calmly grazing, about 25 yards from the river. Calm, that is, until I approached. All of a sudden the herd decided, en masse, that they were thirsty. Not "I think I'll wander over to the river and get a drink" thirsty, nor even "I think I'll grab a pint at the bar as it's last call" thirsty, or even "free drinks night at the Frat House" thirsty. This was "we've got to save the world by drinking all the water in the world all of a sudden" thirsty. A small (there were only 20 or so cows) stampede rushed in from of me and splashed into the river, where the cattle did their best ostrich impersonations by stitching their sounds under the water and drinking greedily.

I froze as the herd thundered past and then remained still for a few moments after they began slaking their saharan thirst. It's funny to think that I wouldn't be dodging cow-pies and meadow bulls for the rest of the walk.


I finally arrived in Shepperton -- some ways from the path -- and rewarded myself with a pint at the King's Head, a nice old coaching inn with sloping floors and variable ceilings.


Then the train back to London -- with the knowledge that I was over halfway done with even my extended walk!

Next up: Shepperton to Kingston