The Thames Path - Walk 1
Hampton Court to Kew Bridge
Today's walk was the start of the Thames Path National Trail. It's not my first wander along the banks of the Thames but it is the first of a series of strolls to walk the full National Trail. So starting with the north bank, and heading downstream, this section of the trail set off on a very dull grey day from Hampton Court and, with the sun trying to get through, ended at Kew Bridge.
Hampton Court Palace, which provides the backdrop to the start of the walk, is a building of two parts - the Tudor section built by Cardinal Wolsey, which was gifted to Henry VIII, and the Baroque-style section built by William III and Mary II. It is managed by the Historic Royal Palaces, an independent charity created in 1998 to manage some of the UK's unoccupied royal palaces.
Although this is a north bank walk, the path does cross to the south bank at Kingston but heads back to the north bank at Teddington Weir & Lock which is the largest of the locks found on the Thames. The first lock was built in 1811, but has since been replaced, and it connects the tidal and non-tidal parts of the Thames.
Whilst walking along make sure you look out into the river and you'll see Eel Pie Island, one of many islands in the Thames. The island is privately owned and is only accessible via a footbridge. There are around 50 houses, a couple of boatyards and some business and artist studios on the island and it is also home to Twickenham Rowing Club, one of the oldest rowing clubs on the Thames, and Richmond Yacht Club.
Further along and set back from the bank you'll find Marble Hill House, a grand Georgian stately home, built in 1724-1729 by Henrietta Howard, Countess of Suffolk, the mistress to King George II. It was built to the designs of Roger Morris in collaboration with Henry Herbert, 9th Earl of Pembroke, with the compact design being based on an Italian villa (Villa Cornaro in Piombino Dese)The design also served as a model for plantation houses in the American colonies. The house is now owned by English Heritage.
A detour away from the river takes you past Syon House, the spectacular London home of the Duke of Northumberland, set in a 200 acre park. The house was built in 16th century on the site of the medieval Syon Abbey, and came to the family of the present owners in 1594.
A wander along the River Brent and you're back on the Thames, nearing the end of this section you'll pass by Lot's Ait and Brentford Ait. Brentford is the larger of the two islands and is now uninhabited with no buildings, though in the 18th century there was a notorious pub called the Swan/Three Swans but trading ended in 1796. To screen Brentford's gasworks from Kew Gardens the island was planted, in the 1920s, with willows and alder and has become a bird sanctuary and breeding ground for herons.
This section ends at the Grand II listed Kew Bridge which was opened in 1903, as King Edward VII Bridge, by Edward VII and his consort Alexandra. It was designed by John Wolfe-Barry and Cuthbert A. Brereton.
Distance: around 12.5 miles.