The Thames Path National Trail is a long distance walking trail, following England’s best known river for 184 miles (294 kilometres) as it meanders from its source near Kemble in Gloucestershire, through Wiltshire, Oxfordshire, Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, Surrey and on into the heart of London. On its way, the Trail passes peaceful water meadows rich in wildlife, historic towns and cities and many lovely villages, finishing at the Thames Barrier in Woolwich, just a few miles from the sea.
Easy to reach by public transport, the Thames Path is a gentle trail, able to be walked by people of all ages and abilities. This National Trail can be enjoyed in many ways, whether for an afternoon’s stroll, a weekend’s break or a full scale but relatively gentle trek of its whole length. It was formally opened as a National Trail in 1996.
In the main, the Thames Path runs right along the original towpath of the river. Sometimes the path is on the north bank and at other times the south bank. However, there are sections where no path is possible and where this is the case, detours away from the river are necessary.
Within London, there are dedicated routes that allow you to walk entirely on the north bank or entirely on the south bank. These paths allow you to see the same sights from a different perspective. The official north bank Thames Path stretches from Island Gardens, just across the river from Greenwich, to Teddington Lock. The south bank Thames Path through London stretches from the Thames Barrier to Teddington Lock. Using the public transport system in London, it is easy to get back to your start. You can also do circular walks that cross from one bank to the other using the many bridges, tunnels and ferries. There is even a cable car crossing, part of the TFL network.
Some parts of the Thames Path, particularly west of Oxford, are subject to flooding during the winter. The river is also tidal downstream from Teddington Lock and the lower parts of these paths may be underwater if there is a particularly high tide, although the Thames Barrier protects London from catastrophic flooding.
A 10 mile extension of the Thames Path from the Thames Barrier to Crayford Ness was opened in 2001. This extension is however not considered to be part of the National Trail.
The entire Thames Path is extremely well signposted; even temporary diversions are signposted, leaving you in no doubt as to which route to take.