Where is the Thames Path National Trail & what can I expect to find when I get there?
The Thames Path follows England's best known river for 184 miles (294km) as it meanders from its source in the Cotswolds through several rural counties and on into the heart of London. On its way the Trail passes peaceful water meadows rich in wildlife, historic towns and cities and many lovely villages, finishing at the Thames Barrier in Woolwich just a few miles from the sea. Easy to reach by public transport, the Thames Path is a gentle Trail, able to be walked by people of all ages and abilities. This National Trail can be enjoyed in many ways, whether for an afternoon's stroll, a weekend's break or a full scale, but relatively gentle, trek of its whole length. See our introductory and history pages for further information on what you can find.
Where can I get a more detailed map of the Thames Path?
You can view an interactive map of the Thames Path on our website. It is always a good idea to use an Ordnance Survey map when walking, particularly in unfamiliar areas. The official National Trail Guide includes colour sections of all the appropriate 1:25 000 maps needed to follow the Thames Path. Alternatively, for you to enjoy and interpret the wider landscape, you may wish to purchase your own maps. Details of which Ordnance Survey maps, and details of how to purchase the Harvey map for the Thames, are listed on our website under publications.
How will I know I’m on the Thames Path?
As a National Trail, the Thames Path is clearly signed and waymarked along its length using the distinctive National Trail acorn symbol alongside its name. Directional signs are also used in many locations to enable users to gauge where they are and which direction a nearby village or settlement is in.
Which direction is it best to walk?
There is no “best” direction - it all depends on what you’d like to experience! However the prevailing wind is from the southwest, so starting at the source of the River Thames will usually mean any wind will be behind you, and the official National Trail Guide also begins here. If you do start at the source in the Cotswolds, you’ll initially find yourself meandering through the relatively quiet and remote rural landscape that surrounds the upper reaches of the Thames as far as Oxford. Downstream of Oxford as the river grows wider you’ll increasingly encounter villages, small market towns and larger settlements, with your final destination being one of the world’s greatest and most thriving cities, London. Walking in the other direction, you’ll move from the dynamism and bustle of London into gradually quieter and less busy countryside.
How long will it take me to walk the Thames Path?
Since the Thames Path is 184miles (294km) long, walkers enjoy it in different ways, dipping in for half or a full day’s walk or enjoying the Trail in sections – perhaps at weekends, or completing it all at once. As a guide, using roughly 15miles/24km a day as an average daily walking distance, the Trail can be completed in 14 days allowing for a couple of days’ rest. However it’s important to walk at the pace that suits you, allowing time for exploring and relaxing, and there is no pressure to do it quickly - the Thames Path is there for you to enjoy, and doesn’t have to be a route march!
There is also an online distance chart which may be useful in planning your walk.
When is the best time of year to walk the Thames Path?
The best months to visit are spring through to the end of autumn since during winter the Thames is prone to flooding, particularly upstream of Oxford. For up-to-date information on flooding contact the Environment Agency’s Floodline on 0845 9881188 or visit: http://www.environment-agency.gov.uk/.
If you’re interested in wildlife there are always a range of birds present on and around the river but they’re at their most active and visible during April and May whilst establishing territories and finding mates. If you’re keen on wildflowers, then April to September is the time to visit, and if insects such as butterflies, damselflies and dragonflies are the things you’d most like to see choose June to September.
What do I need to take with me?
It is always advisable to carry water, whatever the distance you are planning to walk, and in hot summer weather carry extra. Additionally, wear appropriate clothing and protection. Given the English weather that provides such a ‘green and pleasant land’, it’s sensible almost all year round to carry waterproofs just in case of a shower, and in wetter weather, or if you’re planning to walk some distance, wear sturdy footwear. In hot weather wear a hat and use sunblock cream.
Can I take my dog with me?
Yes, you can, but do make sure it’s fit enough to do as much walking as you.
When on the Trail your dog must always be under close control to prevent it from disturbing livestock or wildlife. Below are a few Dos and Don'ts
Try not to get between cows and their calves
Be prepared for cattle to react to your presence, especially if you have a dog with you.
Move quickly and quietly, and if possible walk around the herd.
Keep your dog close and under effective control on a lead.
Always clean up after your dog and dispose of the mess responsibly.
Make sure your dog is wormed.
Carry enough water for the dog.
Hang onto your dog. If you are threatened by cattle - let it go as the cattle will chase the dog.
Put yourself at risk. Find another way round the cattle and rejoin the public right of way as soon as possible.
Panic or run! Most cattle will stop before they reach you. If they follow just walk on quietly.
What about toilets and refreshments?
The Thames Path National Trail Companion guide outlines what facilities can be found on or near to the Thames Path. This includes the location and Ordnance Survey grid reference for toilets along the Trail and includes information on whether the toilet is accessible for users of wheelchairs. The Companion also features information that walkers should find extremely useful and practical – whether a village (or “settlement”) has a pub where you can get a drink and a bite to eat; whether a take-away is available; if there is a Post Office or a bank ATM, etc. Opening hours are also included so that you’ll know what a village has to offer before venturing there! See the publications section on how to order a copy.
Where can I find out about accommodation near to the Trail?
Details of accommodation along the Thames Path can be found in the Thames Path National Trail Companion, a regularly updated 112-page guide, which lists accommodation and facilities along the route. For further details on how to get hold of a copy, see our publications section (please note that we do not publish separate accommodation lists).
Our website also has an advanced search facility enabling you to search by name and location. See our accommodation section so that you can search through what’s on offer. If you are unable to find a place to stay in your chosen location then try the nearest Visitor Information Centre or the Visit Britain website, or elsewhere on the internet.