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Introducing the 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. Enjoy 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.

Prepare for your trip

Select the blue arrow tabs below for more details.

Exploring the Trail

How long does it take to complete the Trail?

The Trail is 184 miles (294 Km) long. 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.

How hard is it?

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.

Are there any major diversions on the route?

Diversions show as exclamation marks on the interactive map.

August 2020: Due to cracks in the cast iron structure of Hammersmith Bridge it has been closed by Hammersmith and Fulham council. On the north bank there are local roads to use as diversion.
If you’re walking upstream on the south bank, turn left when you get to the Bridge, and walk from Hammersmith Bridge Road along Castelnau (A306) for 0.23km then turn right onto Lonsdale Road (B350). Continue for 0.85km to the Leg o’ Mutton nature reserve now managed by Friends of Barnes Common. Just before the nature reserve turn right onto Ferry Lane, a 0.13km track that takes you back to the Thames Path. The nature reserve is open and has a network of paths with several access points around it to enjoy seeing wildlife here – an interesting diversion.

If you’re walking on the south bank downstream from Barnes Bridge towards Hammersmith, continue on the Thames Path past the Leg o’ Mutton nature reserve until the Ferry Lane track on the right. Take Ferry Lane, a 0.13km track, and turn left onto Lonsdale Road. After 0.85km turn left onto Castelnau and continue towards Hammersmith Bridge before turning right to resume your walk by the river.

What will I see along the way?

We have route descriptions to give you an idea of what each section offers and help you decide where you’d like to walk.

Check out the Visit Thames website for inspiration and ideas, things to do and places to stay along the River Thames

Accessible routes by the Thames

Walks for All on the River Thames
To encourage everyone to make the most of the Thames Path, National Trails and the Environment Agency published 12 walks along different parts of the River Thames, all with level and wide paths, gentle slopes and rest areas.

Each walk comes with a handy map and details about distance, type of surface and where to find accessible local refreshments and toilets, so everyone can decide which walks are right for them. Visit the Visit Thames website to download the walks

Are there any circular or linear walks on the Trail?

There are some great walks to enjoy along parts of the Thames Path, which will give you a flavour of the wonderful, peaceful nature of the Thames Path landscape. Find the perfect walk for you in the Further Information section and on our interactive map.

Can I cycle along the Thames Path?

The Thames Path is a Public Footpath. It’s often very narrow between the River Thames and fields or houses. It is not a long-distance or off-road cycle route.

Highway Code for Cyclists Rule 64 states you must not cycle on pavements, this includes Public Footpaths.

There are a few exceptions, where the Thames Path is marked as Public Bridleway. For example: between Pangbourne and Goring where the Thames Path is part of the King Alfred’s Way off-road cycle route.

The Thames Path Partnership is committed to supporting cycling wherever it is physically possible. This is usually in towns and cities where the local highway authority provides a hard and wide surface suitable for segregating walkers from cyclists. You can find these short cyclable sections by looking at our interactive map and selecting the cycling filter.

Please give way to walkers, especially people with children, and anyone using wheel-chairs and mobility scooters.

Outside London

Sustrans includes sections of the Thames Path in its 99 miles (159km) Thames Valley Cycle Route between Oxford and London.

In Oxford you can cycle for 5.4 miles (8.7km) beside the River Thames through the city. This links with cycle ways to residential and employment areas to make Oxford easier to get around on bikes.

You can cycle between Teddington Lock and Weybridge. This is a 10 mile (16km) route marked on the Thames Path interactive map – use the Cycling filter.

In London
Sustrans has several London routes, two on the Thames Path: Tower Bridge to Greenwich, and Hampton Court to Putney.

Some London boroughs allow cycling along specific sections of the Thames Path. This may be on segregated surfaces to keep walkers and cyclists safe.

Code of Conduct for cycling in Richmond Park 

Tower Bridge to Greenwich
Distance: 4.7 miles, 7.6 km
Starting from the iconic Tower Bridge, this section of National Route 4 weaves around the River Thames through various parks to the Cutty Sark at Greenwich.

Hampton Court to Putney
Distance: 12.6 miles, 20.2 km
Ride or walk this route in either direction, so why not start in Putney and end up at the glorious Hampton Court Palace? Get lost in the maze, tour the beautiful gardens and relive Tudor England at its best.

Cycling safely in London:
The London Cycle campaign 
has a cycling journey planner, choose for example a quiet or a fast route.

Transport for London

Visit London have traveller information for getting around London on cycle paths

 

Are there any Health Walks on the Thames Path?

Visit the The Ramblers Walking for Health link. You can browse Walking for Health schemes local to you via the listings. You can search for specific schemes or search by specific postcode or place name instead.

Are there sustainable projects by the Trail?

How do I become a Trail Volunteer?

Check out our Volunteering page and then send an email to NT.Volunteers@Oxfordshire.gov.uk

Where can I experience the wild stretches of the Trail ?

National Trail volunteer Dick Mayon White and Wendy Yorke’s book  Exploring the Thames wilderness, is full of walks on the wild side of the Thames. The River Thames is an often undiscovered haven of stunning scenery, wonderful wildlife and brilliant natural beauty. As well as the famous stretches passing through our biggest cities and towns, there is a hidden side to the river – wild and natural, but surprisingly accessible. This guidebook, compiled by the two major Thames charities, contains a wealth of information on over 150 of the best places to explore the real Thames wilderness, along with enjoyable walks and activities along its course.

Top Tips for Exploring the Trail

How do I get to the Thames Path?

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.

Bristol Airport is the closest airport to the western end of the Trail. The eastern end of the Trail is easily reached from London’s airports.

You can find up-to-date public transport information including a journey planner at www.traveline.info. For detailed rail information please see www.nationalrail.co.uk

For public transport in London use the Transport for London journey planner.

The Trail is easily reached from the motorway network with the M4 motorway linking London to Bristol in the west and the M40 passing close to Oxford.

Where can I stay on the Trail?

There is a good choice of accommodation close to the Trail and it can be viewed on the Interactive Map below or on the Create Your Own Trip page here.

Download and print a list of accommodation for each section of the Trail.

Many places fill up quickly, we recommend that you book in advance. Further options can be found on the Visit Thames website

Can I camp along the Trail?

There are plenty of campsites along the Trail and they can be viewed on the Interactive Map. If you plan to camp please note it is not legal to wild camp in England or Wales – you will need to stay on official campsites.

Can I get my bags carried or my accommodation booked?

There are several companies that will arrange to move your bags for you, help you plan your trip, or arrange a full package.

View a list of these companies here.

What is the best time of year to walk on the Trail?

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 0345 988 1188 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.

Tips on planning your winter walk and where to check flood levels

If you’re planning a winter walk along the Thames Path – particularly in the upper reaches near the source and down to Oxford – there’s a chance you’ll come across flooding – so before you set out
• check the Flood warnings web page
• check the River Levels web pages
• check if there are diversions you could make, in case you encounter very muddy or flooded routes

River levels are often high on the River Thames upstream of Oxford. Flooding of low lying roads and land is possible close to the river. It is likely after a period of significant rainfall the upper reaches of the Thames can be waterlogged as the Trail passes through or nearby water meadows. Walkers are advised not to attempt to walk through floodwater as it is not possible to see where the river bank starts. For up-to-date information on Flooding please visit flood-warning-information.service.

Please be aware also that there may be areas of churned up mud especially around gates or where cattle have gathered.

Which direction should I walk it in?

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.

What should I take with me?

We recommend that you take a map and/or guidebook with you. You may also find a compass useful.

It is always advisable to carry water, whatever the distance you are planning to walk, and in hot summer weather carry extra. Check the Environment Agency for water taps available to the public at some locks. 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.

Will I have mobile phone and internet access?

Mobile phone coverage may be patchy in rural areas, so you cannot always rely on it. Some accommodation offers Wi-Fi access.

Is there signage on the Thames Path?

The UK is unique in having a network of paths that the public can use, this is the Public Rights of Way network. You can see these paths on Ordnance Survey maps.

National Trails are signed with an acorn symbol and/or the Trail name which you will see on stiles, gates and signposts. This is the symbol used by all the English and Welsh National Trails.

As you are walking along the Trail you will also see waymarkers pointing to other paths. You can use the public rights of way network to leave the Trail to explore places of interest, reach your accommodation and find places to eat and drink.

You will often find a coloured arrow on signs which indicates the status of that section of path. The most common are yellow arrows which are footpaths and blue which are bridleways.

Can I download a GPX file?

A GPX file can be downloaded from the Create Your Own Trip page (the button is below the map).

Where can I find further information?

For more inspiration and ideas, things to do and places to stay along the River Thames, go to the Visit Thames website

How do I become a volunteer?

Just check out our volunteering page and then send an email to NT.Volunteers@Oxfordshire.gov.uk

 

Walking Holidays

Visit our Walking Holidays Page for holiday inspiration for the Thames Path.

Leaflets, Maps, Guidebooks and Merchandise

Can I get a guidebook and map for the Trail?

The official guidebook and map for the Trail are available from the The Trails Shop along with a wide range of gifts and other merchandise. If you want to know more about the area as you walk, the Thames Path National Trail guides give section by section route descriptions with accompanying maps as well as snippets of information on what you’ll be seeing- history, wildlife and places of interest etc.

Which Ordnance Survey maps cover the Trail?

You can find a list of Ordnance Survey maps for the Trail here.

Can I get a certificate if I complete the Trail?

Certificates are available from the The Trails Shop.

Are there any useful Trail Leaflets?

Interactive Map

Use the Map Filter to see places to visit and where to stay along the Thames Path. View information on the map by ticking the boxes in the Map Filter.

(c) Crown Copyright 2020. Ordnance Survey 100022021

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Hidlwyr Map

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Popular itineraries

Find inspiration for your walking adventure using our suggested itineraries, or select one of our bookable itineraries which are highlighted with a star.

Create your own trip

Feeling inspired? Build a bespoke itinerary and start planning your visit to this great National Trail here.

Contact the Trail Officer

If you have feedback or a question about the Thames Path please contact the Trail Manager.

Cysylltwch â Steve Tabbitt