Trail Manager's Blog
Hear about the Trail from Hannah Gutteridge, Thames Path Trail Manager
I was at our new workshop in Sutton yesterday and was really pleased to see that Lucy and our volunteers are getting everything sorted out. It’s great to have a base again and I’m really grateful to the continued support from Oxfordshire County Council Countryside Operations for sharing the location with us and for our volunteers in assisting Lucy in setting up our space in the workshop. Providing we’re allowed to for various reasons, including the ‘C’ word, we’re intending on utilising the lovely grounds for our volunteer barbeque this year… we also need to change a Thames Path sign where the footpath from Sutton joins with the Thames Path, so no such thing as a free lunch!
Over the winter the Trail was subject to yet again another major flooding event, at one stage we were under an amber and red flood warning pretty much for the whole of the Thames Path from its source through to West London, below is the screenshot for the Thames and its tributaries taken back in February, from the .gov flood warning website. An amber warning basically means the Tow Path and surrounding meadows are flooded, red means flooding to the built infrastructure. I really hope we won’t have to check this for the Spring-Summer season but keep an eye out for flooding incidents here
As always, we have a lot of work to do and a short period of time to fit it all in. The grass mowing contracts Western, Central and Eastern have all been let out and our dedicated volunteers are once again undertaking their grass cutting duties, many thanks for all your help with this and with getting our workshop and storage back up and running. Dare I say it, but it feels like we’re returning to a normal working season along the Thames!
We’ve got some large flood repair projects lined up with the Benson/Wallingford flood damaged surface repair works already complete. The photos below, taken by our Trails volunteer Wendy, were taken before, during and after the works were completed. Hopefully further works throughout this season should see more surface repairs in Shiplake, near Temple Lock Marlow and then by the Rugby Club the other side of the town. Revetment repairs in Radley and Shillingford. The new boardwalk going in upstream from Barton fields Abingdon, fences being moved back away from erosion upstream from Clifton Hamden road bridge and access improvement works in Pangbourne and Purley.
The first large running event took place last weekend Centurions Thames 100. This is a 100 mile run from London to Oxford. The event passed off without incident and the event managers were very grateful for use of ‘our venue’. If you’d like to learn more about this event and to view or add to our event calendar click here . The Centurion events are very well run and as I was out on the Thames that Saturday, I noticed their temporary signs had been removed within 48hrs after the event.
On a signage matter, I did receive an email the other day saying how a family had recently completed the full Thames Path walk and how grateful they were of the experience, they did also mention that some of our signs had faded, unfortunately I was unable to gain exact locations…so when you’re next out walking along the Thames if you come to an area where you think a user could get lost as our sign or waymarking has disappeared during lock down, or if you think the existing sign or way marker could do with a refresh, can you please get a photo and a grid reference to me and we can add them to specific signage work programme.
Further downstream the Hammersmith bridge remains closed, but the good news is that Transport for London (TfL) announced Thames Clippers’ Uber Boat will run the temporary ferry for pedestrians and cyclists to give an alternative route to the closed bridge – this will come into operation at the end of the summer.
And finally, for our Thames Path volunteer monitors, our CAMS Web project is on-going. We’ve uploaded your monitor sections onto the CAMS Web and created a series of video training sessions, which we’re currently piloting with a selection of volunteers throughout June, with the intention of sending out the links to all monitors in July. If you would like to take part in the training pilot sessions, please contact NT.Volunteers@Oxfordshire.gov.uk so we can send the links to you.
In the meantime if you are out on the Thames and see any issues you’d like to report in please do so via the usual email NT.Volunteers@Oxfordshire.gov.uk- and as always ideally with a photo and a grid reference or what 3 words.
The Trail has remained extremely busy during lock down and even without our usual influx of international walkers I think it’s going to be a very busy summer.
All the best, Steve
Well, it’s turning into some year isn’t it!
….and stopped in March. At one stage the Environment Agency had issued flood warnings for the Thames from the source to the Wandsworth reaches. Don’t forget to check the live flood warnings from the Environment Agency warnings here . Then of course lock down hit us and when we were able to travel again, with some changes to our volunteer task working practices, we were able to once again continue with our volunteer tasks, helping keep the trail open throughout the summer, a big thank you to all of you who volunteer and have helped make this happen. I’m pleased that our volunteer scheme has been awarded with the Queens Award for Voluntary Services the equivalence of an MBE for voluntary services. With lock down several contracted works had to be put on hold, sourcing materials was a real challenge. That said some of the larger works have now taken place and these include a bank restoration project where the trail had eroded in Radley, surface improvement works along the Benson to Wallingford South Oxfordshire reaches and surfacing works in Streatley West Berkshire. Some however have now had to be put on hold, with the need to wait for drier weather which includes a new surface behind the Marlow rugby club in Buckinghamshire. For most of these builds site access for materials and machinery are a challenge, our self-binding gravel surfaces are porous, to lay them correctly we need some moisture, but most importantly heat to help bind them together. Looking at the long-range forecast, I doubt very much we will be blessed with two weeks of dry weather between now and Spring. We still have a new recycled plastic boardwalk to deliver in Abingdon and I’m still hopeful this will happen this year.
We have just completed a surfacing and environmental project, which included resurfacing along sections of the Thames Path with exposed Teran base as well as new tree plantings. During Spring Tides the trail can go underwater along these West London Boroughs, so if you do find yourself walking the Thames through West London don’t forget to check the tides with the Port of London Authority here
New riverside access has been created around Shiplake, South Oxfordshire, and working with the local farmer our volunteers have been out installing tow path gates and signage along this new section. Further downstream work continues on the new Thames English Coast Path as does our Variation Order and proposed works to have a seamless Thames Path National Trail source to sea…..as part of the South East English Coast Path National Trail development, once created the trail will run inland along the Thames (south bank) and this stretch will be known as the Thames English Coast Path (Thames ECP). Under ECP legislation a National Trail can run inland up to the first foot crossing, and so for the Thames this means the Woolwich foot tunnel.
Currently, our existing Thames Path National Trail starts/or finishes at the Thames Barrier in Greenwich and so we would have a ‘National Trail gap’ between the Barrier and the Woolwich foot tunnel. However, there is a promoted walking/cycling route following the Thames, from the Barrier to Crayford Ness in Erith called the Thames Path extension. We already promote this extension in our official guidebook- ‘ The Thames Path in London ‘ published by Aurum Press. We’re proposing to run the Thames Path National Trail along this existing walking/cycling route and join with the Thames ECP at the Woolwich foot tunnel, but to do this we need to undertake a Variation Order under the National Parks Act 1949 to extend the existing Thames Path National Trail. There is a degree of consultation and legal administration to go through, but once signed off by the Secretary of State we’ll finally have a source-to-sea National Trail.
On a separate matter we’re also working with our GIS providers Exegesis to move our mapping and trail monitoring onto an easy to use web based and mobile friendly mapping service a sort of ‘fix my street’ for the Thames or should I say ‘fix my riverbank’, we’re still in the development stage for the time being.
The trail has seen huge increase in levels of use this Summer and unfortunately higher levels of litter and conflict management. We’re very grateful for all the hard work you put in helping keep the riverbank open for public use, as we move into the Autumn/Winter period we’ve got a lot of winter vegetation management and sign post installation programmed in. As always there’s a lot going on along the Thames, with even more to look forward to for the future National Trail, but for the time being – stay safe and keep social distancing!
The Thames Path is the only National Trail to pass right through the middle of London. The 80 km route links up several World Heritage sites with numerous local parks and green spaces to form an essential ‘blue space’ element within London National Park City.
During the Covid-19 pandemic the Thames Path has provided a vital lifeline for thousands of people seeking solace as they walk, run and cycle beside the River Thames. We want to see more people having equal access to the Thames Path.
The Thames Path enters London at Hampton Court Palace in the west and continues through the city to Greenwich. It runs along the north bank from Hampton Court to Kingston, where it crosses the river and runs along the south bank to Teddington.
Here the tidal Thames begins and the Path runs along both banks of the river, giving more people from London’s communities access to the riverside. The north bank route finishes at Greenwich Foot Tunnel, the south bank route finishes at the Thames Barrier.
The Thames Path comes under three separate policies in the Draft London Plan.
If a Definitive Map and Statement can be created for the whole of the Thames Path in London, it would have the protection as a Public Right of Way that it deserves through the London reaches.
Fourteen London borough councils are responsible for maintaining the Thames Path as part of the Public Rights of Way network, which in some places also includes cycling. I support the boroughs with additional signing of the Thames Path using the black and white versions of the National Trail acorn icon.
Some of these boroughs are represented on the London Working Group for the Thames Path.
This group engages agencies such as the London Ramblers, River Thames Society, Port of London Authority and Thames Estuary Partnership, and also the Landscape Strategy groups for Kew to Chelsea (hosted by Hammersmith & Fulham council) and the Arcadian Thames.
We are all committed to encouraging and enabling more people to have equal access to the Thames Path and discover the pleasure and enjoyment of being beside the River Thames.
A good example of a project to allow better access along the Thames will be the
redevelopment of the Albert, Swedish and Comley’s Wharf next to Wandsworth Bridge in south Fulham.
Currently the Thames Path goes inland, because historically there was no tow-path along the front of the wharves. We’re taking the opportunity of the redevelopment for lifts and stairs to be installed. This will enable safe access to the Thames Path from Wandsworth Bridge.
I’ve contributed to planning consultations and look forward to working with landowners and developers so that we can do more projects like this before development takes place.
The London Borough of Hounslow has an innovative design for a ‘floating’ route taking the Thames Path beneath Barnes railway bridge. This will improve access to Dukes Meadow, a really popular open green space, for the local community. In Greenwich there are riverside access improvements and pocket parks.
There’s so much to see from the Thames Path in London: wildlife, river traffic, views changing with clouds and sunlight on buildings, the riverside sculptures and historic buildings.
The Thames Path can become part of people’s daily commute, giving them fresh air and tranquility away from stressful work, and it’s the perfect outdoor gym for walking, running – and in some places – cycling.
One Thames Path walker in London said recently: “It’s good for the body and great for the soul. Fascinating, invigorating, soothing and inspiring in equal measure.”
There's still a lot happening behind the scenes on the Trail - news from Steve Tabbitt, Thames Path Trail Officer
I don’t know about you but I’m looking forward to a time when we can not only get out and enjoy our Thames Path but also stop off at one of those amazing beer gardens along the Thames for a well-earned pint or two.
To aid with the management of the Trail we’ve moved to the various video conferencing packages available. Normally It would be logistically impossible to attend London Meetings and then a Visit Thames meeting in Henley, but MS Teams has allowed these meetings and more besides, helping to ensure the management of the trail continues! It’s certainly saving a lot of time and diesel, and for the most part is working very well.
Just want to say to all our volunteers’ ‘Thanks for bearing with us through these strange times, hopefully we’re beginning to see life returning to some sort of normal.’
When out walking along the Thames and other footpaths please follow the official Government guidance, and be aware of the local restrictions and closures listed below.
Due to social distancing there are a few London Closures in place which some closures and restrictions are currently still in place through London which are:
• Teddington Lock footbridge.
• Restrictions for Runners and Cyclists along the Thames Path in the Royal Borough of Hammersmith & Fulham
• Royal Palaces have currently (May 2020) closed Tower of London Wharf which also carries the Trail
• 2 Closures at Greenwich near the Naval College and another further downstream.
All known closures can be found on our interactive map.
Just to let you know though, we sit on the steering group of Visit Thames and we are working on the first draft of our Thames Recovery Plan – here is a brief extract from the Draft Plan:
Visit Thames Marketing Partnership wishes to support its partners and businesses along the River Thames, assisted by local destinations: the Royal Borough of Windsor & Maidenhead, Reading, Henley on Thames, Marlow and Runnymede as well as the Thames Path National Trail and British Marine.
Visit Thames is developing a recovery plan following the Covid-19 pandemic and will work with businesses as they prepare to adapt for the different phases of recovery and ‘safe tourism’. Days out and staycations are likely to be the first travel steps in the domestic market.
We know travel will be different in a post-COVID-19 world and this will be a starting point as there are likely to be more questions than answers as the restrictions start to lift and a ‘new normal’ appears.
Things to consider are:
• Communication: With destinations, businesses and local communities
• What is available now locally e.g. home delivery services, marinas, water sports
• Readiness of businesses for the “new normal” and the possibility of a new charter mark for ‘safe tourism’
• Digital Information and innovation
• Messages and marketing plan that will build trust and confidence with visitors
We’ve been busy working up an on going project looking at our Geographic Information System called CAMS – Countryside Access Management System especially looking at how we can get better maps to our trail monitors, we’re not there yet as it’s an on going project but fortunately we have some excellent GIS volunteers helping out..
For those of you who have logged onto the website recently you’ve noticed that our website looks totally different. Working with other National Trails and Natural England we have now merged 2 websites into one. We would love to know what you think of it.
After the endless flooding events of last winter and before the restrictions came into place, we managed to mobilise some heavier machinery onto the riverbank to repair an eroded section or riverbank in Tilehurst, Reading.
We’d just like to let you know that whilst our volunteer tasks are currently on hold as I write this, with some restrictions lifting we are planning to start up some of our volunteer mowing tasks and hopefully you all have received emails about this, we of course still need to follow Government guidelines so the mowing may feel a little different this year.
As with all years, there are also several grass cutting contracts which are let out which cover other enclosed areas along the Thames, this allows for a good spread at the crucial times for this vital work or Soft Vegetation Management as we call it.
We have several trusted contractors who have beefed up their Risk Assessments to include Covid 19 requirements, and so ensure we are able to keep the Thames Path open and allow for as wider widths as possible to aid with social distancing.
Unlike a lot of the downland and upland Trails, we really do need to keep on top of the vegetation growth that takes place along the riverbank. We’re also noticing an increase in wild oil seed rape growing along the riverbank especially in the Oxfordshire Gloucestershire reaches. I have been told that a very woody virulent rape seed has been planted for biomass!
I’d like to thank all the trail monitors who reported back to us during the autumn and winter. These reports not only help to shape the Volunteer tasks but also the larger contractor works.
We do have a work programme lined up for the Thames Path 2020/21 and, as long as restrictions will allow, we have already let out some surface improvement works for sections of the trail near to Benson, Oxfordshire and also near Streatley in West Berkshire.
We are also working in partnership with Richmond Council and the Thames Strategy Kew to Chelsea on surface improvements along the Thames Path in Richmond, which will hopefully take place in the near future.
A new Creation Order was approved in Shiplake, Oxfordshire. Instead of walking along minor roads beyond Shiplake Lock, you can now follow a Restricted By-way underneath the railway bridge to turn right onto our newly-created path and then follow the river round the ‘Wargrave bend’ Our volunteers have been out installing signage and adding new towpath gates where needed.
• Working in Partnership with Hounslow Council saw the borough installing 12 new destination signs and a full waymarking of the Trail through the Borough. The north bank of the Thames in London has less riverside walking than the Southbank and so where the Trail leaves the river, we have had complaints from the public when they get lost. New signage in Hounslow includes 12 specific destination signs and 6 generic Thames Path (black and white London signage). All were installed by the Borough Council.
• The London Waymarking project is on-going and is supported by the Thames Path National Trail Tidal Group and Abundance London. The boroughs which have been waymarked include Greenwich, Lewisham, Southwark, Tower Hamlets, Kingston, Richmond and Wandsworth. Of the areas waymarked there are a few opportunities to run the Trail along the river, and we’re continuing discussion with these riparian London Borough Councils.
Although the new Thames English Coast Path sections in north Kent have now been approved by the Secretary of State, we had hoped that the Development stage would be complete and the new Thames ECP Woolwich Foot Crossing to Isle of Grain would be completely open by the end of this year. Unfortunately, the development stage has now been put on hold and we are now hoping for a Thames ECP Spring 2021 opening.
The new Thames ECP like all the new English Coastal National Trails is governed by a new piece of legislation.Within this legislation a Coast Path can legally come up into an estuary as far as the first foot crossing, and for the Thames that’s the Woolwich Foot Tunnel.
Under our existing legislation for the Thames Path (The National Parks Act 1949) we are undertaking a Variation Order to link up with the Thames ECP at the Woolwich Foot Tunnel. On the ground it will be a seamless link, it’s only the legalities that might seem confusing! To learn more about The English Coast Path
We though it important to finish with these superb and appreciative responses from visitors who’ve posted on Trip Advisor.
Thames Barrier to Tower Bridge
Walked this first section of the Thames Path with my wife in early March (before Covid-19 shutdown!). We took a leisurely approach, covering the distance over two days and staying at a convenient Premier Inn at Waterloo (separate review).
We thoroughly enjoyed the experience, with plenty of interesting and historic sites along the way. Also, great views of the river and convenient lunch stops along the way.
Remains true to the riverbank for much of the way, apart from occasional diversions where the riverbank is inaccessible or privately owned. Generally, I would say it is well signposted and has plenty of route markers……I am giving the attraction 5 stars due to its unique and historic nature. Some walkers may be slightly deterred by the industrial landscape at the start around the Thames Barrier (my wife wasn’t overly enamoured at walking through a concrete factory!) but that is only for the first couple of miles and has a charm and history of its own as a working dockland.
I am thoroughly looking forward to walking the remaining 170 miles in a similarly leisurely fashion in stages over the next two years
Brilliant walk along the Thames
The Thames stretches out a very long way. There are Thames paths on either side of the Thames. We start at Rotherhithe village and then walk all through the wharf of Bermondsey to Tower Bridge. Continue along to South Bank and past the London Eye and over Westminster Bridge. Walk back down the Embankment and the north side of the Thames back to Tower Bridge. Cross over and then back down the South Side of the Thames back to the start. Great way to spend your Saturday with everything open along the way.
During a recent holiday to London, I decided to do some early AM running. Upon arriving at Canary Wharf Pier via the ferry, I noticed signage for “Thames Path.” I thought to myself, “Hmmm…I wonder what this this could be? Is this going to be an amazing course to run?” Guess what…it is……Overall, this Thames Path going each direction from Canary Wharf pier provides a walker, runner, or bicyclist with epic views of London
the Yellow Wagtail Project aims to bring them back
Yellow wagtails eat small insects and spiders found where cattle graze, and dip into the muddy edges of streams, the river and ditches foraging for insects. They nest on the ground in open fields.
The Yellow Wagtail Project is studying the insect population of fields alongside the Thames at Clifton Hampden and Little Wittenham with the aim of restoring insect-rich habitats to bring back the yellow wagtails.
Dr Robin Buxton of Church Farm Partnership, working with researcher Sophie Cunnington, has set up the project supported by Wild Oxfordshire. They aim to find out more about the insects that live here now and what improvements could be made to encourage the yellow wagtails to return to these meadows.
Watch the Yellow Wagtail Project video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1M25Ui1ewqA
Photo of Dr Robin Buxton and researcher Sophie Cunnington carrying out the invertebrate survey.
Yellow Wagtails ( photos RSPB)
walking along by the River Thames inspired some of his most famous paintings
‘A crow fell down the chimney at Fernlea on Cookham High Street, flapped around the room, flew out of the window and Stanley Spencer was born. The date was June 30th 1891 – and the family thought it was a good omen. He was the eighth surviving child of Annie and William Spencer, and he was joined a year later by his younger brother Gilbert.’ From ‘Stanley Spencer – a short biography’.
Spencer adored the Thames-side village and throughout his life walked beside the river and across the meadows. He painted the houses, gardens and people of the village throughout his life. As a student at the Slade School of Fine Art he travelled daily on the train into London, and was fondly known as ‘Cookham’ by his fellow-students.
The importance of Cookham as his spiritual home comes through his paintings of landscapes, activities on the river such as Swan Upping, and settings for religious paintings.
The Thames Path in Cookham passes the small, former Wesleyan, chapel which is now the Stanley Spencer Gallery. This chapel and the services there which Spencer attended as a child made a deep impression on him. He felt a great spiritual significance within the building that is now home to exhibitions of his work and archive.
Although the Gallery is closed, you can see photographs of Spencer at work and his paintings online stanleyspencer.org.uk/ There are also videos of the new exhibition ‘Love, Art, Loss – The Wives of Stanley Spencer’ which the Gallery hopes to open as soon as possible.
Follow news about the Stanley Spencer Gallery on Twitter @SpencerCookham
Below Stanley Spencer Self-portrait 1923 (Stanley Spencer Gallery)