Richmond to Hampton Court - January 20th & October 11th
This walk starts from the south side of Richmond Bridge. The river takes a couple of gentle bends to reach Teddington Lock. This is the point at which the Thames is no longer tidal. From here, the path continues into Kingston-Upon-Thames, where it crosses Kingston Bridge to continue along the north side of the river. From Kingston, the path continues right alongside the river with Hampton Court Park on the right. Eventually, the path reaches Hampton Court Palace and Hampton Court Bridge, where the walk ends.
This section is meant to be about 8 miles.
After completing the Putney to Richmond section the day before and the weather forecast for the day being good, I decided to continue with Richmond to Hampton Court. Once again, getting to the start was easy from Kings Cross - Victoria Line to Vauxhall, then train to Richmond. Richmond Bridge was a ten minute walk from the station.
When I left home that morning, the sky was clear blue. However, by the time I reached Richmond at about 11:00, it had started to cloud over. The cloud formations coupled with a low January sun, resulted in a quite atmospheric sky at times. Past Kingston, the sun won and I had a lovely blue sky again.
The walk resumed on the south bank of the river, where I had finished the day before. Expensive looking houses and apartment blocks line both banks of the river for the first half mile or so. I passed an intriguing sign “Subway to Terrace Gardens” that I wish I’d investigated further. By all accounts these are really beautiful gardens. As the name suggests they are built on a slope and the climb to the top of them, where they exit on Richmond Hill, is very well worth the detour due to the iconic view of the Thames that is afforded. In fact, Richmond Hill offers the only view in England to be protected by an Act of Parliament - the Richmond, Ham and Petersham Open Spaces Act passed in 1902 - to protect the land on and below Richmond Hill and thus preserve the fine foreground views to the west and south.
Anyway, I continued along the path into Petersham Meadows. The outstanding view from here is The Star and Garter on Richmond Hill, right next to one of the entrances to Richmond Park. The current building was completed in 1924 as The Star & Garter Home for Disabled Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen. However, in 2011 the trust running the home declared it was no longer suitable for modern requirements and as it was Grade II listed, couldn’t economically be upgraded. They sold it for £50 million to a property development company who converted the building into very expensive apartments.
The path and the river itself took on a more rural feel from Richmond. The next highlight was passing Ham House. This is a 17th century house and gardens now managed by the National Trust. As the river started another of its gentle bends, the path continued along the towpath with a nature reserve called Ham Lands on the left and Twickenham on the right.
Having completed the bend, the path headed for Teddington Lock and Weir. Teddington is the point where the Thames is no longer subject to tidal activity from the North Sea. There are actually three locks of different sizes at Teddington, the longest of which is 198 metres. The Thames Path north bank finishes here. People can cross the river here by way of a couple of footbridges, with a small island between them. Trivia fact – the Monty Python Fish Slapping sketch was filmed at Teddington Lock!
After Teddington, the path continued along the towpath until it joined Lower Ham Road on the outskirts of Kingston. Unsurprisingly, as I got closer to the town, the land on both sides of the river became more built up, with mainly attractive residential properties. The path next passed under Kingston Railway Bridge on its way to Kingston Bridge.
At Kingston Bridge the path crossed over to the north bank for the first time and continued alongside Barge Walk. Barge Walk is a two mile path owned by The Crown that stretches from Kingston Bridge to Thames Ditton Island. It hugs the riverside to the left, with Hampton Court Park on the right hand side. Around this time the cloud cleared away to leave a stunning afternoon.
As the path reached Thames Ditton Island, it continued to hug the riverside, with the walls surrounding Hampton Court Park to the right. There were a couple of gaps in the wall with gates that were open to the public to allow you to walk in the park. I took the opportunity to have a wander and found I could walk as far as the iron railings surrounding the palace and gardens. I then had to backtrack to the gap in the wall to continue along the Thames Path.
I soon came up to iron railings in front of the twelve decorative wrought iron panels known as the Tijou Screen, named after the ironworker who created then in about 1700. From here to Hampton Bridge, the path afforded great views of the palace. This was the end of today’s walk. A Thames Path sign advised me that I only had another 147 miles to go to reach the Source!
Hampton Court has its own railway station on the other side of the bridge from the palace. I treated myself to a well earned coffee and cake whilst waiting for the train back to Vauxhall.
UPDATE October 2020. Ever since I did this walk back in January, it had been bugging me that I never investigated the Terrace Gardens and the protected view from Richmond Hill. So, a sunny Sunday morning presented itself to me and I got up very early and drove to Richmond to repeat this walk as far as Kingston. I walked under the subway into Terrace Gardens. I've seen plenty of photos of the gardens in full bloom but unfortunately I was too late in the year and nearly all flower beds were empty. There were plenty of trees though with leaves starting to turn colour. Even with no flowers, the gardens were really beautiful.
As their name suggests, the gardens were developed on a slope, in fact a very steep slope. A formal path leads up to the top of Richmond Hill and plenty of runners were out exercising their hearts and lungs and running up this steep path. I chose to take a more sedate pace by the side of the path, a good few socially distanced metres away from them. When I reached the top, the view was every bit as good as I was hoping for; in fact it was even better, with the leaves of the trees starting to change colour. The view of the Thames from the top of Richmond Hill is iconic and I'm so glad I went back there.
After taking loads of photos with my 'real ' camera, rather than my phone camera that I used for all my other walks, I walked back down to Petersham Meadows and repeated the walk I'd done in January. This time however, I would only walk as far as Kingston. Being a sunny Sunday morning, there were loads of people either walking or cycling along the path; not so many that I was concerned about COVID-19 but more than I would have liked. When I reached Kingston I was keen to track down something else iconic I'd missed before - the 'Out of Order' sculpture in Old London Road. 12 decommissioned, quintessentially British, pillar box red telephone boxes lean against one another, one standing upright with the rest tilted to various degrees. They snake in a curve until the final one is almost, but not quite, flat on the ground. When I found it, it certainly brought a smile to my face.
With my mission accomplished, I got a bus back to Richmond, retrieved my car and drove back home.
My photos of this walk are a mixture of those taken in January and October.