Over New Year I had just such an opportunity. I stayed with friends in Kent for New Year and had a day in London using their house as a base. The following day I was due to leave, but rather than driving straight home I decided to spend the night with another friend who lives in Buckinghamshire. The logistics of getting from one friend's house to another (basically a drive round the M25) meant I could have a day walking the next section of the Thames Path without having to go much out of my way.
The length of the walk I could do was determined by rush hour traffic, bus timetables and early dusk. I didn't leave Kent until 9.30am as to leave any earlier would only have meant me sitting frustratingly in traffic and probably not arriving any earlier in Shepperton despite my earlier start. I'd planned to walk to Staines as from here there is an hourly bus back to Shepperton where I could pick up my car. However, rather than driving straight to Shepperton I detoured to Runnymede to see if it would be possible to leave my car in the National Trust car park there, catch a bus to Shepperton (possibly via Staines) and then do a slightly longer walk by walking to Runnymede instead of having to finish in Staines.
However, as I drove along what seemed to be a main road to get to the NT car park I didn't spot any bus stops or any buses. When I arrived at the car park a sign informed that the gates would be locked at 5pm. I really needed to finish my walk by 4pm as after that it would be too dark, but I like to have a safety net of extra time if need be (and I did have a head-torch) and so the 5pm gate-locking worried me. Reluctantly I realised I'd have to stick to my original walk of only about 6 miles.
It's not possible to walk along the river from here, so I backtracked along the road for a few minutes and then back down to the river by the ferry pier.
The ferry takes passengers and cyclists across the river on a regular basis throughout the day. Usually. When I'd arrived in Shepperton 11 years ago and needed to get across the river it was the end of the day and the ferry had stopped running, so I'd needed to detour over a bridge. This time the ferry wasn't running because of flooding. The heavy rains meant the river was in full spate and the little jetty leading out to the ferry was well under water. Fortunately, for this leg of the walk I was on the right side of the river and so it didn't matter.
For most of the walk I was wandering along a path with the river on one side and very large houses with equally large gardens on the other. As the trains into London only take 48mins from Shepperton this is well within the wealthy commuter belt. The first point of interest I came to was Shepperton Lock. There were no boats in sight and so I continued walking.
This challenge surpassed, the path then became a track through a meadow which was very flooded and I had to pick my way through the driest bits detouring away from the river a little.
|Which bit's the path?|
|The path's this way|
As I reached Chertsey Bridge the signposts for the Thames Path directed me to walk underneath it. This was impossible as the water was lapping high up the sides of the bridge. I walked up onto the bridge and looked down at the river, taking some photos of the benches that would normally be quite pleasant to sit on alongside the river. Today, only the tops of the back of the benches could be seen. Similarly, only the very tops of the litter bins could be seen. I took the opportunity to cross the bridge and follow the road 100m or so towards Chertsey to a garage where I bought a sandwich for lunch.
|Spot the benches and the bin|
|Penton Hook Lock (island on the left)|
From Penton Hook I could feel I was getting closer to Staines as the path became busier and busier with people out strolling, pushing prams, walking dogs, jogging, cycling and so on.
Staines itself is a modern, built-up town with ugly shopping malls full of chain shops and teenagers hanging around in groups smoking. After a quick walk around I headed for the bus station and the bus back to Shepperton.
|Welcome to Staines|
The bus dropped me near the train station which is in the modern part of Shepperton and I followed the busy main road back down towards the old town and my van.