The Thames Path National Trail is a long distance walking trail, following England’s best known river for 185.2 miles (298 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 Woolwich Foot Tunnel, 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.
Until January 2022 the Thames Path ended (or started) at The Thames Barrier, making it 184 miles (294 kilometres) long. However, on 12th January 2022 the England Coast Path from Grain to Woolwich was officially opened at the Woolwich Foot Tunnel, 1.2 miles east of the Thames Barrier. It connects with the Thames Path National Trail there to create a continuous ‘Source to Sea’ National Trail along the length of the River Thames from the Cotswolds to the North Sea. The entire ‘Source to Sea’ trail is 232 miles (374 kilometres).
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.
The entire Thames Path is extremely well signposted; even temporary diversions are signposted, leaving you in no doubt as to which route to take.