- The National Trails
- Cleveland Way
- Cotswold Way
- England Coast Path
- Glyndŵr's Way
- Hadrian's Wall Path
- North Downs Way
- Offa's Dyke Path
- Peddars Way / Norfolk Coast Path
- Pembrokeshire Coast Path
- Pennine Bridleway
- Pennine Way
- South Downs Way
- South West Coast Path
- Thames Path
- The Ridgeway
- Yorkshire Wolds Way
Trail Information and FAQs
We have tried to provide answers to the most common questions about the Trail here. If you can't find the information you are looking for please contact us directly and we'll do our best to help.
About the Trail
The Thames Path is a long distance walking trail, following England's best known river for 184 miles (294 Km) 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.
As a guide, using roughly 15 miles/24 Km 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!
You don’t have to walk it all in one go of course, you can dip in for half or a full day’s walk or complete is section at a time.
We are not aware of a record set for the fastest time to complete the whole Trail however The TP100 is a 100 mile continuous trail race along the Thames Path from London to Oxford and records for this are:
Female: TP 100 2015 Sally Ford 17:33:42
Male: 2012 Craig Holgate - 15:11:15
Many people successfully complete their own personal challenges either running or walking the Trail.
The Thames Path is a gentle Trail, suitable for people with a wide range of abilities.
It is mainly flat, with just a few natural slopes. Many places along it can be accessed by people with limited mobility such as users of wheelchairs or mobility scooters, parents with pushchairs or those using a walking stick.
In recent years most of the stiles along the Trail have been replaced with gates. However there are still structures which may be barriers for many people with reduced mobility.
The Thames Path is managed by a Management Group composed of representatives of the highway authorities through whose area the Trail passes (22 of them), Natural England, the Environment Agency, Tourism South East, North Wessex Downs AONB and The Chilterns AONB. The Management Group publishes a Thames Path Management Strategy to direct the management of the Trail for five years at a time.
Most of the day to day work is undertaken by a small team of National Trails staff, helped by Volunteers managed by the team, based within Oxfordshire County Council's Countryside Access – doing much of the physical maintenance and improvements, and providing a range of information for users.
Volunteers perform a vital role in helping maintain the Thames Path and The Ridgeway National Trails (the two Trails are managed by the same team). They carry out an ongoing programme of maintenance and improvements which includes tasks such as vegetation clearance, installing and repairing signs, gates and workshop tasks.
Tasks are carried out on most weekdays and occasional weekends, led by staff from the National Trails team. All tools and training are provided and the tasks are a good way to meet like-minded people. Our newsletter, which can be found on the news page, has a list of all forthcoming tasks on both Trails and is sent to all volunteers who register onto the scheme.
Alternatively, volunteers can become 'monitors' by adopting a 2-3 mile section of a Trail, walking it once a month and reporting back any problems.
If you're interested in volunteering, please either download and complete the Volunteer Information pack, the Registration form and Health and Safety Declaration form which you can download from the Leaflets page and return to: Darian Jeffs, National Trails Office, Signal Court, Old Station Way, Eynsham, Oxford OX29 4TL; or email NTvolunteers@oxfordshire.gov.uk with your name and full postal address to request a pack. If you have any queries please phone 01865 810211.
Exploring the Trail
Downstream of Oxford there is good access to many places along the Thames Path by train, bus and even boat, with London and the larger towns and cities through which the Trail runs very easily accessible by public transport.
Upstream of Oxford, with a little planning, the Thames Path can also be reached in many places by public transport.
There is plenty of accommodation close to the Trail. See the interactive map on the Plan Your Visit page for details.
Accommodation can fill up quickly, especially in the summer, so we strongly advise that you book in advance. Some accommodation providers can arrange to transport your bags for you, or pick you up from the Trail if necessary.
There are a few campsites near to the Thames Path. (see the Plan Your Visit page for more details). Camping on the Trail itself is not permitted without permission from the relevant landowner since the Thames Path is a public right of way across private land for passage only, not for stopping or erecting tents.
The Environment Agency produces a useful leaflet which advises on camping and campsites. You can download a free copy from the Visit Thames website.
There are several companies offering self-guided walking holidays - including baggage transport, accommodation booking, or full holiday planning. See the Holiday Operators page.
We are not aware of any companies provide baggage transfer along the entire Thames Path, but many accommodation providers will transport luggage to your next night’s accommodation. Please discuss and agree any fee at time of booking. There are also taxi firms that will transport your luggage to your next overnight stop. Check the Baggage Handlers page for any new companies.
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 their website.
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.
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 in the Cotswolds and walking towards London 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 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.
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.
Mobile phone coverage may be patchy in rural areas, so you cannot always rely on it. Some accommodation offers Wi-Fi access.
The entire Thames Path follows a series of defined Rights of Way along which you have a legal right of access.
An acorn is the symbol of the National Trails and it will be found at regular intervals along the Trail.
When using the Thames Path you will see the following symbols on the Trail or on connecting paths, which can be used by vehicles, horse riders, cyclists or walkers as indicated.
An acorn, the symbol of Britain's National Trails, is used to guide your journey by marking the route in a variety of ways. It is used in conjunction with coloured arrows or the words 'footpath', 'bridleway' or 'byway' to indicate who can use a particular right of way.
The yellow arrow indicates a path for use by walkers The word 'footpath' and/or a yellow arrow indicates a path for use by walkers only and where, without the landowner's permission, it is illegal to cycle, ride a horse or drive a vehicle.
The blue arrow indicates a path which can be used by walkers, horseriders and cyclists The word 'bridleway' and/or a blue arrow indicates a path which can be used by walkers, horseriders and cyclists but where, without the landowner's permission, it is illegal to drive any vehicle.
The plum arrow indicates a path which can be used by walkers, horseriders, cyclists and carrige drivers. The term 'restricted byway' and/or a plum arrow indicates a path which can be used by walkers, horseriders, cyclists and carrige drivers but where, without the landowner's permission, it is illegal to drive any motorised vechicle.
The red arrow indicates a right of way which can be legally used by walkers, horseriders, cyclists, carrige drivers and motorists.The word 'byway' and/or a red arrow indicates a right of way which can be legally used by walkers, horseriders, cyclists, carrige drivers and motorists
To report a problem on the trail go to the Report a Problem page. From here you will need to identify where the problem is on the map and add some details. If you want to be informed about progress to resolve the problem please add your email address.
Trail staff aim to resolve problems as quickly as they can, but some things do take a long time. Please be patient if you do not see immediate resolution.
Who can enjoy the Trail
The Thames Path National Trail is not a long distance route for cyclists. Most of the Thames Path is a public footpath on which cyclists have no legal right to ride unless they have permission from the landowners - cycling without permission is a trespass offence against landowners.
However there are some sections of the Thames Path outside London which cyclists can use - the longest section being the 5.4 miles (8.7 km) through Oxford and the 5.8 miles (9.4 Km) from Weybridge to Hampton Court. If you choose to cycle by the river, please be aware it is a potentially dangerous activity. See the interactive map for more information on cycling.
Cyclists wanting a long-distance ride should not attempt the Thames Path.
Information on cycling routes can be obtained from Sustrans, including the Thames Valley Cycle Route, a 97-mile (155km) route from London to Oxford that in places shares the same route as the Thames Path.
There are a few short sections that have bridleway status. These can be seen on the interactive map.
Your dog is welcome on the Thames Path, 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.
We can send you details of 12 easy, short walks likely to be suitable for users of wheelchairs, ranging from near the source of the River Thames to Hampton Court on the edge of London. Some sections of the Thames Path are barrier free, however there are steps up to and down from bridges and the path in some rural places remains natural as it passes through meadows, can be uneven and rough. There are a series of ten accessible walks in West London published by the Thames Landscape Strategy called ‘Accessible Thames Walks. These are currently only available online.
The National Trails Team is also working hard to improve the accessibility of the Thames Path and we are making good progress with replacing obstructive stiles and poor gates with fully accessible gates, and in places improving the surface.
Our aim is to be able to provide summary accessibility information about all the rural sections of the Thames Path in the future so that people can make their own decisions as to whether they will be able to visit each stretch. This is an ongoing project which we will be developing over the coming year or so and consequently accessibility information will be reflected on our website in due course.
The Chilterns AONB website is a great source of information about walks that are accessible to people with limited mobility.
The Thames Path is ideal for organised sponsored or challenge events as it's largely off-road, well maintained and excellently signed. We get a number of enquiries from people who would like to find out how they can organise events and so we have produced some guidelines that we hope will answer your questions.
If your event will have a large number of people attending, say 30 or more, then we would like to hear about it as we find it useful to know in advance what‘s planned so we can advise other events’ organisers which dates and areas to avoid. Please let us know by completing our Events form.
Please contact the Trail Team to find out more.
What is special about the Trail
The Thames Path is one of the 15 National Trails in England and Wales. National Trails are designated by the Secretary of State and are administered by Natural England and Natural Resources Wales, and managed by the local authorities and National Park Authorities whose area they pass through.
Most National Trails have a dedicated Trail Manager responsible for maintaining the high quality standards on the Trail. National Trails are waymarked with the distinctive “acorn” symbol.
National Trails are special because they pass through some of the best landscapes, and they are managed to a very high standard. Because of this you can be confident that any journey you make along a National Trail will be one of the best you have taken.
Natural England sets quality standards for National Trails and their management. You can find out more on the Natural England website.
The Thames Path is unique, it's the only long distance path to follow a river for most of its length. And, of course, it's the river that gives the Thames Path its character and fashions the countryside through which you will walk.
At the start, the source of the River Thames in a field in the Cotswolds, you may well find no water at all. However, gradually as you travel the trickle becomes a stream and soon a river bordered by willows and alders. As far as Oxford, apart from a couple of small towns and a few villages, there is a real sense of remoteness and rural tranquillity as the Thames winds its way through flat water meadows grazed by cattle or sheep, or fields of crops.
Beyond Oxford, the city of dreaming spires, you will still be in the heart of the countryside but the river continues to widen, the willows seem to grow larger, and settlements become more frequent. From Goring, where the Thames Path coincides for a short distance with another National Trail, The Ridgeway, the Chilterns provide a wooded backdrop, the colours changing dramatically with the seasons.
When you reach Henley, the Trail starts to get busier with more people enjoying picnics on the bank, or boats on the water. Usually however, once you're away from towns or villages around a bend or two of the river, you'll regain the rural peacefulness. As the Thames Path passes beneath Windsor Castle, you are reminded that you are following a Royal river, and the palaces of Hampton Court and Kew soon to follow confirm this.
From the last non-tidal lock on the Thames at Teddington, you can choose to walk on either the north or south banks of the river through London. You'll pass leafy Richmond and Kew, remarkably green areas, before entering the heart of the City and on to the final section of the Thames Path amongst restored warehouses and working wharves in London's docklands.
Maps, guides, certificates and merchandise
The official Guide Books for the National Trails are produced by Aurum Press. The guides are regularly updated and all details are checked by the trail managers. The books include sections of Ordnance Survey 1:25,00 maps and are the very best accompaniment to your walk. There are two books that cover the Thames Path and you can buy them from the National Trails shop.
As well as a guide book we recommend a good quality map and you can buy these in paper or digital format - to browse the maps and books available please visit the Maps and Guide Books page.
If you have completed all or a substantial part of the Thames Path you can get a cettifcate.
We would love to hear how you got on and find out your views on the experience (good and bad).
Follow this link to a short survey, when you've finished the survey you'll have the option to print out your certificate, or request a hard copy version.
How to add information to the Trail map
Anyone can add information to the website. We hope that people who have enjoyed the National Trails will want to share their good experiences and that businesses will promote their services by adding information to the map.
You can add information to the map. This includes:
- Points of interest or attractions
- Services - for example shops, pubs, vets, cycle hire shops etc
- Details of your accommodation business
- Events - for example farmers’ markets, village fetes, guided walks
- Information to help horse riders or cyclists such as busy road crossings or water points
To add content you will need to sign up – click the join button in the top right corner. You’ll need a username and an email address. We won’t give your email address to anyone, we’ll only use it if you need a password reminder or if we need to contact you directly. For more information read our data protection policy.
Once you’re signed in you can add information to the map by clicking here.