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Thames Path / Thames Pathless - LBHF

Following the Thames Path through the London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham - and seeing how much of it is on the river.

semi-overcast 13 °C

Inspired by a blog entry on Diamond Geezer, where he walked from the Thames Barrier to Tower Bridge, I decided to do a similar walk following the path in Hammersmith and Fulham. The goal is to see how much of the path is actually beside the river.

First a little background, the Thames Path National Trail is a 180 mile footpath running along the bank of the River Thames from the Thames Barrier near the estuary of the Thames to the source up in the Cotswold. Within London, it offers a surprising amount of access to the river on both the north and south banks. In recent years, as new developments have been built on the river, often replacing old industrial and warehousing space, part of the developments have included opening up access to the river for the public.

I'm familiar with much of the route I walked, as the Thames Path passes behind my flat, and I often use it for walking or running. However, the start of my walk today from Chelsea Creek to Hurlingham is an area I haven't been in since 7 years ago. Back then, I was doing a wine tasting course at the Big Yellow Storage on Townmead Road. Now a warehouse with storage lockers may seem a weird place to do a wine tasting course, but a climate controlled, access controlled and 24-7 security is a great place to store wine in a sub-basement, and the West London Wine School has premises to hold tasting and courses.

I was on a career sabbatical at the time, and would often walk down in the afternoon for the early evening courses. When I was there early, I would take a wander around the area, and would often try and walk along the river. At the time, there was some access to the river, but it was often broken by industrial sites or construction areas. I was interested to see how it had changed since 2013, and answer the question - how much of it is beside the river?

YES - Chelsea Creek, Chelsea Harbour, Imperial Wharf to Gurney Road (1169 m)

The walk starts at the mouth of Chelsea Creek within the Chelsea Harbour development. For most of it's borders, the dividing line between LBHF (London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham) and RBKC (Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea) follows the West London rail line. However, down near the River Thames, and border swings away from the rail line and follows Chelsea Creek. This means we find the odd case of Chelsea Harbour and Chelsea Harbour Pier are in Fulham.

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If one had been coming from central London down river, you would have had to have cut inland to get to this point, but some day in the future you will be able to have walked here along the Thames and over a bridge from the Lots Road Power Station site, which is currently being redeveloped.

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Back on the Fulham side of Chelsea Creek in 2013, this was still a construction site, and much of the bit from Chelsea Creek to Imperial Wharf was not accessible. Now, though it is private property, the public is allowed to access it and it is a nice walk. After a short walk from the creek mouth along the river, you cross over the canal entrance to Chelsea Harbour via a pedestrian lift bridge, which is accessed for boat owners via a lock. Just over the harbour entrance is Chelsea Harbour Pier, a river bus stop on the rush-hour only RB6 route.

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There is a short gap where the river passes out of sight as you pass under the rail bridge for the West London Line, but then the walk is uninterrupted along a wide path until barrier and sign divert you away from a temporarily closed Thames Path to William Morris Way.

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NO - Riverstone Fulham (77 m)

Our diversion of the river is due to the construction of Riverstone Fulham, a "vibrant riverside community" for those 65 years and older. The Thames Path should reopen when the construction ends, due for the end of 2021.

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Back in 2013, the path behind what will be Riverstone Fulham was open, as this passed behind a Sainsbury's supermarket. That supermarket was cleared to make way for the existing development on the completion of the next section of the Thames Path.

YES - Fulham Wharf (129 m)

Fulham Wharf was just a construction site back in 2013, but is now open, including a replacement for the Sainsbury's pulled down next door.

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There is a short, wide riverside path, but that quickly ends in a dead-end permanent looking brick wall and planters. Those that have come down this way have to turn back, and walk back up to Townsmead Road to progress further.

After so much high-end housing passed for the first 1.3 kilometres, the next diversion is due to a surprisingly industrial reason.

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NO - Cemex, Neverland and Wandsworth Bridge (143 m)

Walking along Townsmead Road, I had to stop and wait as a cement mixer truck pulled out of a lot. This wasn't a construction site, though, but rather the site of Cemex Cement's Fulham site, which was on the other side of that wall.

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Beyond Cemex, there is a car auction site and Neverland, an outdoor events space that tends to be a beach party themed in the summer, and winter, ski resort themed in the winter. This takes us to Wandsworth Bridge.

In the future this area may be open to the Thames, as a planning application has been accepted to redevelop these sites. However, the wharves will still be active, and the cement concrete plant will still be there - so the plan is to create a raised Thames Path with stairs and elevators leading up from the level at Fulham Wharf. However, beyond the planning application, little action has happened to this area will likely be Thames Pathless for a number of years yet.

YES - Hurlingham Retail Park (143m)

The other side of Wandsworth Bridge Road is Hurlingham Retail Park, the former home of Curry's / PC World. The electronics and technology retailer left earlier this year, and now the forlorn looking site is used as a foodbank distribution centre, as the foodbanks in Hammersmith and Fulham have gone delivery only due to Covid.

It may not be a foodbank for long though, as this may be knocked down for new homes in the near future, but the Thames Path should still exist the other side of the that, for whenever that construction starts.

There is a path along the Thames for a short distance along here, but signs discourage walkers, and for good reason. After a short walk, another dead-end greets you. The other side of the barrier is a construction site, but this time not for high-end, riverside living (at least not yet for that), but rather a grand infrastructure project.

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NO - Thames Tideway Carnwath Road site (288 m)

While the tunnels under central London which will one day carry The Elizabeth Line (aka Crossrail) get a lot of attention as the big London infrastructure project, another one somewhat more quietly carries on it's digging - the Thames Tideway "Super Sewer."

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The massive sewer, running 25km under the Thames, connecting Acton to Beckton and often following the path of the Thames, is being built to take pressure of the current sewer system, most of it built in Victorian times. The city has grown a lot since then, and we have increasing incidents where the current sewers and sewage treatment facilities become overburdened, and raw sewage is dumped into the Thames. The new sewer is being built to avoid this and take all that overflow once it opens in 2025.

Once that happens, it'll probably be years more until the public gets access to the river here along Carnwath Road. There are plans for it, along with the sites already mentioned at the Hurlingham Retail Park and Cemex sites, when all this will be opened up to the river, and new housing built along the river, changing the face of the river from industrial to residential.

YES - To Broomhouse Lane (191 m)

We find a path back onto the river for a short walk to pier at the end of Broomhouse Lane. Here we hit a brick wall (literally) in our path.

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NO - The Hurlingham Club (554 m)
NO - Rivermead Court and Putney Rail Bridge (299 m)

The other side of the wall is The Hurlingham Club, a 42 acre multi-sport private members club most famous for it's polo matches.

Here we have our largest diversion from the Thames. For most of the times we have had to divert from the riverside, it has been a short hop up to a nearby parallel road. However, the diversion around the private Hurlingham Club also takes us around the public Hurlingham Park, meaning it takes us 1.3 kilometres to cover the approximately 550 metres of river frontage.

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Once we get to the the other side of Hurlingham on Ranelagh Gardens, we are still blocked from the Thames by Rivermead Court, a private estate of housing blocks. It is only once we are on the other side of the Putney rail bridge that we can get back to the Thames again.

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YES - Putney Rail Bridge to Putney Bridge (205 m)
NO - Putney Bridge (15 m)

From Putney Rail Bridge to Putney Bridge, there is a quiet section of the Thames Path running along the river. It is so quiet as anyone walking between the two would find a shorter and quicker route walking along Ranelagh Gardens than diverting down to the river to only have to divert away from it 200 metres later. But it's a nice 200 metres, including an inlayed mosaic celebrating the annual Oxford-Cambridge boat race which starts just the other side of Putney Bridge.

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The diversion mentioned is to get under Putney Bridge, which requires heading back inland to a short tunnel to pass under the bridge.

YES - Bishops Park (974 m)

Bishops Park, named such because it used to be land owned by the Bishop of London, who's summer house was Fulham Palace, located on the grounds. The park includes an almost kilometre long path along the river, overlooking the boat clubs in Putney and the start of the previously mentioned boat race. The path is lined with London Plane Trees, trees well suited to London as they are tough trees that deal well with the pollution of city living.

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The path ends at Craven Cottage, the home of Fulham Football Club. It used to end at the property border of the club, but recently has stopped slightly short of that as part of the park has been taken over by a construction crew.

NO - Craven Cottage (192 m)

That construction crew is onsite to redevelop part of Fulham's riverside stand. So while we currently have to divert up to Stevenage Road to divert around the football grounds, come the completion (hopefully in 2021), the public will be able to continue along the riverside and under a newly developed, larger riverside stand.

It will be nice to have this bit of the Thames Path connected to the river, but also a shame that people won't divert to see the Grade II* listed Johnny Haynes stand and Craven Cottage, the stands opposite the currently being developed riverside side.

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YES - Craven Cottage to Hammersmith Bridge (1610 m)

After zig-zagging away from the river often, we finally have a long track of riverside walking. From Craven Cottage until Hammersmith Bridge, we have an uninterrupted path along the river on one side, and housing developments built at various times during the last 50 years. Much of this waterfront used to be warehouses and wharves, though other than a couple redevelopments, most of the housing are modern(ish) buildings.

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Pedants and hair-splitters who know this area may point out that at the Crabtree Pub, there is a point where the Thames Path passes in between two outdoor dining spaces, with one of the spaces between the river and the walker. However, this is a short bit of approximately 10 metres, and the river is always in view, so I included it. You can take different views if you wish.

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NO - Hammersmith Bridge (12 m)

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Maybe more hair-splitting, but at Hammersmith Bridge, we are forced to walk away from the river, over Hammersmith Bridge Road, and then back down Bridge View Road to re-join the Thames Path. This is due to the current closure of the bridge - both for any traffic passing over, but also anyone passing under it.

The bridge, designed by Sir Joseph Bazalgette and built in the 1880s, is a chain-link suspension bridge with wrought-iron parapets. It is Grade II* listed, and is a symbol of Hammersmith. While beautiful, it is well passed it's designed life, and beyond the level of traffic (in both volumes and weight) which was to be expected by Victorian engineers. As well, wrought-iron, while having some strength, can be brittle. In 2015, it was discovered that the bridge had potentially concerning cracks in the metal work.

After the cracks were discovered, the bridge was closed to vehicle traffic in April of 2019, however cyclists and pedestrians were still allowed over, and boats and walkers underneath. After a heatwave in the summer, the cracks were determined to be worse due to the expansion and contractions during the extreme heat, and so the bridge was shut for all traffic, both over and under it.

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This is hopefully another temporary closure, but Hammersmith and Fulham, which owns the bridge, doesn't have the money to fund the repairs. Other stakeholders - the borough of Richmond-upon-Thames, Transport for London and the national government - are all involved in talks to determine how to get it open, but at present no timeline is known to fixed the bridge.

YES - Lower Mall and Furnival Gardens (369 m)

The other side of Hammersmith Bridge is Lower Mall, a short, pedestrianized street fronted by a few homes, a couple boating clubs and a couple lovely pubs. However, we are walking along the river, with the buildings all on the other side of the path. Past the last of the homes, a green space called Furnival Gardens opens up. Furnival Gardens used to be industry and warehouses, but after extensive destruction due to bombing in the second world war, was converted open green space. This continues until we reach Dove Pier, and have to turn inland for a short but atmospheric stretch.

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NO - Dove Passage (44 m)

This short path, known locally as Dove Passage, but officially part of Upper Mall, is a beautiful, narrow, slightly-crooked, stone-paved path which, along with a few houses, has The Dove pub, a quirkily designed pub with a lovely river terrace, the supposedly smallest bar in Britain, and also allegedly where Rule Britannia was composed.

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YES - Upper Mall to Black Lion Lane (463 m)

After passing through Dove's Passage, we are back out onto Upper Mall, a road with the river to our left and housing to our right, including the former home of Hammersmith polymath William Morris, best known for being a designer in the Arts and Crafts movement. The road ends, but pedestrians can continue past Linden House, home of the London Corinthian Sailing Club and the Sons of the Thames Rowing Club.

The Thames Path passes under some balconies, and into the Upper Mall Open space between the Old Ship Pub and the Black Lion Pub, before coming to Black Lion Lane.

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NO - Hammersmith Terrace and Chiswick Mall to LBHF border (208 m)

We divert into Hammersmith Terrace, a series of homes with gardens backing onto the river. Hammersmith Terrace is a short street with three blue plaques - for Edward Johnston, Sir Emery Walker and Sir Alan Herbert.

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Hammersmith Terrace turns into Chiswick Mall the street rises slightly and at the crest of a the small mound at the intersection with Miller's Court, we meet the border of Hammersmith and Fulham with the borough of Hounslow.

Summary

Total river frontage - 7085 metres
Total amount of the Thames Path along the river - 5253 metres
River frontage not on the path - 1832 metres
Total length of my walk - 10,000 metres

Note that for the measurement of the river frontage, I used Google Maps, and it is obviously all estimates. For the length of my walk, I recorded the walk on a Garmin watch, and because of GPS inaccuracies, it is approximate, and also I walked down some dead-ends to see the end of the path, rather than the shortest distance taking in the most of the river. So take all these numbers with having a margin of error.

Percent of the Thames with the Thames Path beside it in LBHF - 74%

Here's a map I've done on Google showing the walkable and not walkable bits of the river front - Map.

And here is my walk on Strava - Thames Path / Thames Pathless LBHF.

Posted by GregW 09:53 Archived in United Kingdom

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