The Thames Path, Hampton Court to Tower Bridge

  • Walk

About The Tour

Hampton Court to Tower Bridge - 27 miles

This walk can be broken down into three separate stages, each 8 -10 miles in length, thus not being overly ambitious and giving time to visit some of the interesting sites en- route. It can be planned as a one, a two, or a three- day ‘adventure’, but whichever of these is chosen, clients can easily return each night to their central London hotel. Even Hampton Court is less than 40 minutes from Westminster by over-ground train.

Day 1: Hampton Court to Richmond – 8 miles
Day 2: Richmond to Putney – 9 miles
Day 3: Putney to Tower Bridge – 10 miles

By the time the river reaches Hampton Court, 148 miles from its source, it is now a wide and fully navigable waterway, not yet completely surrounded by urban development, but increasingly so as we approach London’s outer, south-west suburbs.

We start the first day with a visit into the gardens of Hampton Court Palace, King Henry VIII’s spectacular ‘country retreat’. From here, the river winds its way through the affluent suburbs of Kingston, Teddington, and Ham, a walk of anglers; swans; overhanging willow trees; and manicured lawns sloping down to boat houses at the waters edge. Teddington Lock is the first major infrastructure we encounter, the largest lock system on the Thames and the point at which the tidal and non-tidal rivers meet.

Two grand houses, Marble Hill on the north bank and Ham House on the south, are a reminder of 17th and 18th century architectural elegance, a foretaste perhaps of more to come as we continue around one more sweeping bend in the river to arrive at our first day destination, Richmond. A slight detour just before we enter the town to climb up Richmond Hill rewards us with a panoramic view of the valley below and the idyllic surrounding landscape that is arguably the finest river vista along its course … one officially ‘protected’ by an Act of Parliament.

As with all of the previous starting and finishing points, Richmond has a well- connected railway station.

Setting off on Day 2, the riverscape remains calm, aristocratic and genteel, green and indeed almost rural, with little indication yet of the contrasting city bustle that lies ahead. Another former Royal Palace, spacious parks, gardens and a wildfowl centre characterise this stretch of the river, and we will deviate once again from our path for a brief interlude into the stunning Kew Royal Botanical Gardens. For plant and tree enthusiasts, indeed for us all, Kew is undoubtedly a highlight of the day … and a perfect spot for lunchtime refreshments.

Quaint 19th century riverside cottages, pubs, and boat repair yards feature prominently, as does a more recent lifestyle phenomenon, sport of one type and another. We will encounter a soccer stadium, a golf course, rugby pitches and above all, boat-houses and slip-ways belonging to the numerous rowing clubs, along this stretch of river. The 4 miles between Putney and Mortlake is of course synonymous with the annual Oxford and Cambridge Universities Boat race.

Our arrival at Putney Bridge brings Day 2 to a close.

The third and final leg of our walk from Hampton Court is the longest, (…though still a moderate 10 miles, so not too demanding for most reasonably fit ramblers). From Putney, our surrounding environment now begins to change again, to one unmistakably urban. Some will doubtless rue the growing concentration of people, traffic, noise and abundance of concrete; but these are surely compensated for by the visual celebration of history, architecture and contemporary artistic and literary culture that central London has to offer. A feast of familiar sights are brought to life at viewing positions all along the uninterrupted riverside path – the Houses of Parliament, the London Eye, St Paul’s Cathedral, the Tower of London and many, many more. It is often said that the best of London is seen from its river and on this walk today, as we alternate from one bank to the other to secure the best views, you will be able to judge for yourself.

After departing at the start of Day 3 from the site of London’s second oldest bridge, Putney, first built in 1729, we will have passed 18 more before concluding our walk and arriving at the most recognisable one of them all …. together with Big Ben perhaps, the most iconic symbol of London … and no, its not London Bridge.