Cycling the Thames

Sweet Thames, run softly, till I end my song…

One of the great things about living in West London are the bike rides you can do that hardly involve roads.  Just parks, the Grand Union canal and The River. The weather this weekend was an autumn joy.  Bright sunshine, a mild temperature. Time to cycle the Thames. On Saturday I cycled down to Richmond Lock, crossed the bridge there and then took the towpath all the way to Hammersmith. Then back to Ealing along the river and the A4 and the parks of the Queen of the Suburbs. I started through Boston Manor Park. Not so well known, but a lovely spot.  The bizarre thing about the place is the fact that the M4, elevated, goes right through it. The planning permission in the 60s must have been interesting.

Boston manor Park The M4 carves through the park

From there it was down the Grand Union canal to Brentford, where it joins theThames.

Brentford is a pretty non-descript part of London, with a football team that is stuck in the lower leagues. But it has such potential.  See the photo above  – there’s a bit of a riviera developing.  It needs a foot bridge over to Kew Gardens to get a cafe society going.  It could be brilliant. From there I cycled through Syon Park  and then Isleworth village, next to the Thames. The London Apprentice pub is worth a visit, for its location


That’s the house at Syon Park, here’s the London Apprentice.

From there it was a cycle to Richmond Lock, some along on the river, a bit on roads. Here’s the bridge.

The towpath on the south side  – or is it east or west side, the river bends so much –  then takes you as far as Putney.  I usually go to Hammersmith though occasionally I stretch to the extra 15 minutes to Putney. It’s a bumpy ride from Richmond Lock to Kew Bridge, but there are some lovely views, especially of Syon Park, and the rowers on the river.

It’s then Kew Bridge and beyond where you get some great views of the Strand on the Green, the beginnings of Chiswick, which is just one of the best bits of London. I’d live there if I had the money! (Actually, I like Ealing just as much).

There’s a great run through Kew to Barnes.  Leafy glades, the views on the other side, past the Brewery (now Budweiser, proper beer in the past), and the riverside pubs, which have a problem when the tide is high and the paths flood. This is the  natural world – sometimes parts of the towpath aren’t passable because of high tide. Blame it on the moon.  It’s the same Richmond way, and at Isleworth near the London Apprentice, and Twickenham.  They all get flooded, sometimes in half an hour.  I went for a beer once at the White Cross pub in Richmond (see the picture later). Locked my bike against the river railings.  Then the water started to flow in.  I thought at first it was just the backdraft of a large boat that went by. No, it was the tide. By the time I’d finished my beer, I had to take my shoes and socks off to rescue my bike.

Barnes Bridge is a railway bridge. It has style. Then there’s a straight run of road in parallel with the river just after that defines the place.  Inland there are some lovely greens.  Barnes is another top part of London.

And so on to Hammersmith. One of the best bridges in London. Though weak apparently.

I love Hammersmith.  It has scuzzy parts, but the stretch along the river, with lots of great pubs and wonderful views, is close to unbeatable.  And it has the Lyric and Riverside theatres, the Apollo for rock. And tube lines galore.  Yes, live in Hammersmith if you can.

On the river journey, you go through Hammersmith to Chiswick, and to one of the poshest bits of London, the Chiswick Mall. It floods in the high tides, but the buildings are magnificent, and to have a garden which looks on to the Thames – hey, I’d like that!

First photo is Hammersmith just down from the bridge. Then three around the Mall.

From the Mall, you go past the home of London’s  (and England’s?) greatest beer, the Fuller’s brewery. That’s right by the noisy Hogarth’s roundabout, on the A4.  Amazing that only five minutes way is the tranquility of the Thames. From the Chiswick Mall, you head on through a private estate to Dukes Meadows and along a road which weaves past playing fields, reconnecting with the river from time to time.  You can see the Barnes promenade and then Chiswick Bridge.  At this point you lose the river.  You can regain it and take the Strand on The Green to Kew Bridge, but it’s narrow and on a bike you have to stop too often as there are are a lot of people walking along the path . So I head up to Chiswick Park and thereafter to the A4.

I like the urban/rural thing.  One minute the serenity of the Thames, the next minute the roar of the A4, Chiswick roundabout and the North Circular.  It’s West London, innit? On the way home I take in four parks: Gunnersbury, Ealing Common,  Walpole and Lammas parks.  In the autumn sunshine they are all beautiful.


Ealing Common



Then there was Sunday.  A cycle down to Richmond and then on to Twickenham and Teddington lock, before heading back on the towpath to Richmond.

Richmond bridge and environs from the north side.

Heading into Twickenham, you see the bridge that links the “mainland” to Eel Pie Island.  No cars allowed there. Haven’t explored the island yet, but from a distance it looks cool.  Pete Townsend is a resident.

Then Teddington.

But it’s the journey back to Richmond that inspires. Such a beautiful scene.

Back to the bridge and just beyond a pub called the White Cross. it is just so tempting to stop off at for a pint of Youngs. Just bitter, rather than Special, as I’m riding.  It’s such a good location – except when the water comes rolling in. Then again, even that is good – the force of nature before your very eyes.

And so, back to Richmond Lock, before crossing over and heading back home. Another wonderful journey. So lucky to live in this part of the world…

About John S

I'm blogging about the things I love: music, sport, culture, London, with some photos to illustrate aspects of our wonderful city. I’ve written a novel called “The Decision”, a futuristic political thriller, and first of a trilogy. I’m also the author of a book on music since the 1970s called “ I Was There - A Musical Journey” and a volume of poetry about youth, “Growin’ Up - Snapshots/ Fragments”. All available on Amazon and Kindle.
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