The Thames Path is a National Trail following the River Thames from its source near Kemble in Gloucestershire to the Thames Barrier at Charlton, south east London. It is about 184 miles (296 km) long. A path was first proposed in 1948 but it only opened in 1996.
The Thames Path's entire length can be walked, and a few parts can be cycled. 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 Thames Path uses the river towpath between Inglesham and Putney and available paths elsewhere. Historically, towpath traffic crossed the river using many ferries, but few of these crossings exist now and some diversion from the towpath is necessary.
The Thames Path sign at the end of the walk, by the Thames Barrier
|Length||184 mi (296 km)|
|Location||Southern England, United Kingdom|
|Designation||UK National Trail|
|Trailheads||Kemble, Gloucestershire and Thames Barrier, Charlton, London|
|Sights||London, Hampton Court, Windsor, Oxford, Lechlade, Cricklade|
The general aim of the path and the object of occasional path changes is to provide walkers with a pleasant route and access to the river, as much as possible. The Thames Path provision naturally falls into three distinct areas.
The Thames Path starts beside the monument for the source of the river and follows the stream down the hill towards Kemble. On the stretch between Ewen and Somerford Keynes it passes through fields and there are a number of watermills. The path then follows the river through the Cotswold Water Park to Ashton Keynes, where the river divides into a number of streams; the path partly follows one of these and rejoins the main river by Waterhay Bridge. The path wanders to and from the river amongst more gravel pits until Hailstone Hill, where a branch of the Wilts & Berks Canal from Latton formerly crossed the river on an aqueduct. There is a riverside path from Hailstone Hill into and out of (but not within) Cricklade and then all the way downstream to Castle Eaton. The path next follows country lanes, a short stretch along a backwater to Hannington Bridge then goes across fields to Inglesham. In 2018 the path incorporated a section of permissive path alongside the river at Upper Inglesham.
Above Inglesham the river is not dredged and being without locks with weirs to control water levels, it is shallow, weedy and swift but the river level fluctuates, and flooding of riverside paths is common. Today the Environment Agency (the current successor to the Thames Conservancy) is responsible for the Thames between Cricklade and Teddington. The navigation towpath starts from Inglesham (just upstream of Lechlade), as does the ability to navigate the river for all but very small boats, although there were once weirs with flash locks to enable passage as far as Cricklade, and there is still a right of navigation up to Cricklade Town Bridge. The navigation above Lechlade was neglected after the Thames and Severn Canal provided an alternative route for barge traffic  and there is no longer a complete footpath alongside the river downstream from Cricklade.
The Thames Path uses the existing Thames towpath between Inglesham and Putney Bridge wherever possible. The former Thames and Severn Canal entrance is the present-day limit of navigation for powered craft, and is one and a half miles upstream of the highest boat lock near Lechlade. Today, between the canal entrance and Putney Bridge, the towpath still allows access by foot to at least one side of the river for almost the whole length of the main navigation of the river, but not mill streams, backwaters or a few meanders cut off by lock cuttings, since towpaths were originally only intended to enable towing of barges on the navigation.
The Thames has been used for navigation for a long time, although owners of weirs, locks and towpath often charged tolls. The towpath owes its existence, in its current form, to the Industrial Revolution and the Canal Mania of the 1790s to 1810s, and so is related to the history of the British canal system. It was not until a little after the Thames Navigation Commission were enabled by a 1795 Act of Parliament to purchase land for a continuous horse path that the non-tidal navigation (and hence the towpath) was consolidated as a complete route under a single (toll charging) authority, upstream to Inglesham. This improved the ability of horse-drawn barge traffic to travel upstream to the Thames and Severn Canal, which had opened in 1789 and provided an alternative route for boat traffic to Cricklade. The commissioners had to create horse ferries to join up sections of towpath (for example at Purley Hall), as the Act did not allow them to compulsorily purchase land near an existing house, garden or orchard. The City of London Corporation, who had rights and responsibilities for the Thames below Staines from a point marked by the London Stone, had similarly bought out the towpath tolls of riparian land owners as enabled by an earlier Thames Navigation Act in 1776. Together the development of the railways and steam power supplanted horse-drawn boats on the non-tidal Thames from the 1840s. The towpath route has not changed since then, apart from following Shifford lock cut; however, the towpath ferries became obsolete and the last ferry to stop running was at Bablock Hythe in the 1960s.
The main exception to towpath access to the navigation between Inglesham and Putney is a stretch of river without any dedicated path by Home Park, Windsor. The Windsor Castle private grounds were extended to include the riverbank and its towpath by the Windsor Castle Act 1848, involving the building of Victoria and Albert bridges and the removal of Datchet Bridge. This accounts for the Thames Path's diversion from the river at Datchet. There are also two other short lengths of navigation missing access: between Marlow bridge and lock, and either side of The Swan public house in Pangbourne. The remainder of the navigation between Inglesham and Putney has a towpath; however river crossings are now missing at the sites of 15 former ferries and one former lock, so the Thames Path makes 11 other diversions from the remaining towpath because of the lack of a river crossing at their original locations.
Walkers can visit the lengths of river navigation not on the Thames Path using the current towpath except for two isolated sections of towpath not connected by any public path (or ferry) at either end. The first is a short section of path still shown on Ordnance Survey maps which is inaccessible except by boat, caused by the lack of two ferries formerly diverting around Purley Hall and which accounts for the Thames Path's diversion from the river at Purley-on-Thames. The second and furthest downstream is a particularly picturesque section within the National Trust grounds of Cliveden; here the lack of three ferries accounts for the path's diversion from the river at Cookham.
When Cookham Lock was built in 1830, Hedsor Water became a backwater and lost its towpath. Other meanders formed by the cuttings for Clifton and Old Windsor locks have also lost public riverside access. Some stretches of river bypassed by navigation cuttings retained public footpath access, these are at Desborough Island (formed by Desborough Cut), parts of older towpath accessible at Duxford (towpath now follows Shifford Lock cut) and the river meander at Culham, which is accessible (only parts are designated as public footpath and the towpath now follows Culham Lock cut) and here in addition there is a public footpath on an ancient causeway past Sutton Pools.
Historically, there have been replacements for towpath ferry crossings with bridges at Goring and Clifton Hampden and the path across the weir at Benson Lock (the towpath ferry was upstream). In recent times, crossings have been created for the Thames Path; the Shepperton to Weybridge Ferry was restarted in 1986, Temple Footbridge near Hurley was built in 1989, a footpath was attached to Bourne End Railway Bridge in 1992 (the ferry was upstream), and Bloomers Hole Footbridge was built in 2000. No other replacement river crossings have been created for lapsed ferries, so the Thames Path must divert from the towpath to cross the river elsewhere, leaving some sections of towpath not on the path.
Many walkers visit the locks on the River Thames and in summer some have facilities open for visitors. The locks at Cookham and Whitchurch are not on the Thames Path and require some effort to visit. Whitchurch Lock cutting was built through an island in the river and public access to the lock over the weir from Pangbourne or across the millstream at Whitchurch-on-Thames was closed in 1888 to avoid the loss of tolls on Whitchurch Bridge; as a consequence, Whitchurch is the only Thames lock that is inaccessible by foot – it is only accessible by boat. Cookham Lock is still accessible although is not on the Thames Path. The Thames divides into several streams here and the towpath does not connect up without ferries; access to this lock requires a 10-minute walk across Odney Common on Formosa Island and the Lock Island (incorporating the former Mill Eyot) to Sashes Island. Marlow Lock access requires a short walk through town back streets. All the other locks have obvious access from the Thames Path.
The lock islands at Boulters Lock and Shepperton Lock can be visited, as can Penton Hook Island which is a meander cutoff formed when Penton Hook Lock was built. Any public footpaths that cross or go along any of the other small islands formed by construction of the Thames locks only allow access to the path alone.
Lock building by the Thames Commissioners had improved the whole river navigation from Inglesham to the upper limit of the tidal reach at Staines by 1789. On the tidal Thames below Staines, six new locks were built by the City of London Corporation to improve the navigation between 1811 and 1815. The Thames Conservancy was established in 1857 to take over duties from the City of London because of falling revenue from boat traffic; it also took on the duties of the Thames Commissioners in 1866. The emphasis now became provision for pleasure boating, and although the Thames Conservancy rebuilt many locks and made navigation and towpath improvements, it only built one new lock on the non-tidal Thames, at Shifford in 1898.
There is a Thames Path on both sides of the river downstream of Teddington Lock, the southern path including the original towpath as far as Putney Bridge.
Because of the locks built by the City of London, the river is now tidal downstream from Teddington Lock. A further lock with a low-tide barrage (rather than a weir) was built by the Thames Conservancy in 1894 downstream at Richmond Lock to improve the navigation by maintaining water level upstream to at least half-tide level. Today, the Port of London Authority manages the tidal river, including Richmond Lock and barrage. Wharfs and jetties are generally confined to the northern (Middlesex) bank between Richmond and Putney. This stretch of tideway (known as the Upper Rowing Code Area) has special navigation rules to accommodate the activities of a number of rowing clubs, and includes the course used for The Boat Race. Chiswick Eyot is on this section and is notable as being the only tidal island on the river.
Historical records state that the towpath started at Putney. Downstream of here sailing, rowing, and following the rising and falling tide were the means of movement until the 19th century, Thames sailing barges being typical. Crossing the river was more of a priority, as evidenced by the many watermen's stairs giving watermen and passengers access to the tidal river. Thames steamers became more common for transport on the tidal Thames from 1815 until the railways dominated public transport. Falling income from river traffic and disputes over the construction of Victoria Embankment because of The Crown's ownership of the tidal riverbed led to the City of London's seceding management of their part of the river to the Thames Conservancy in 1857; and the section below Teddington was further passed on to the Port of London Authority in 1908. The lack of need for a towpath compared to the need for river crossings, the issues of riverbed ownership and ability to access the foreshore and the historical progression of construction of riverside buildings and structures are among the many reasons why there is not a continuous riverside path within the Port of London. Today, downstream of Putney, there are jetties and wharfs on both banks of the river, and sections of the Thames Path(s) often have to divert away from the river around riverside buildings.
In central London, there is much to see and do. The Thames Path is one of the Mayor of London's strategic walking routes. The Thames Path Cycle Route is a black-signposted route that follows the river between Putney Bridge in the west and Greenwich in the east. It mostly follows the Thames Path, but diverges in various sections, especially where the path follows a footpath-only route. It also links National Cycle Route 1 (east of London) with National Cycle Route 4 (west of London).
The route of the Thames Path can be divided into these sections:
The list below gives the points where the Thames Path crosses the river between Cricklade and Teddington. Above Cricklade, the Thames is a stream and in some places there may be no water except after rain. Below Teddington there are paths on both sides of the river until the Greenwich foot tunnel, after which the path is only on the south.
The list is in downstream order. The letter in brackets indicates whether the path downstream of that point takes the northern or southern bank (using north or south in reference to the river as a whole, rather than at that specific point).
Bridges and ferries are listed in full under Crossings of the River Thames.
The river can be crossed at about a third of the locks, although some of these crossings are not part of the Thames Path. Locks are listed under Locks on the River Thames.
Bankside Gallery is a public art gallery in Bankside, London, England. Opened by Her Majesty the Queen in 1980, Bankside is an educational charity, situated on the Thames Path just along from Tate Modern.
The Gallery is home to the Royal Watercolour Society and the Royal Society of Painter Printmakers. The members of these societies follow a 200-year-old tradition of being elected by their peers. The gallery houses changing exhibitions of contemporary watercolours and prints, which are accompanied by special events including artists' talks and tours. A full education programme covering the theory and practice of art is organised every year.
Bankside Gallery is open daily during exhibitions from 11am - 6pm.Castle Eaton
Castle Eaton is a village and civil parish in England, on the River Thames about 4 miles (6.4 km) northwest of Highworth. It was historically in Wiltshire but since 1997 has been part of Swindon unitary authority. The Thames at Castle Eaton forms both the northern boundary of the parish and the county boundary with Gloucestershire.
The village is characterised by its older buildings most of which are in The Street, the original main thoroughfare. Built of local stone, these buildings give Castle Eaton the look and feel of a traditional Cotswold village. Many of the buildings date from about 1650 to 1850, and Swindon Council has made this part of the village a Conservation Area to protect its historical and architectural importance.Caversham, Reading
Caversham is a suburb in the Borough of Reading, a unitary authority, in the royal, non-administrative county of Berkshire, England. Originally a village founded in the Middle Ages, it lies on the north bank of the River Thames, opposite the rest of Reading. Caversham Bridge, Reading Bridge, Christchurch Bridge, and Caversham Lock provide crossing points (the last two for pedestrians only), with Sonning Bridge also available a few miles east of Caversham.
Caversham has at Caversham Court foundations of a medieval house, a herb garden and tree-lined park open to the public at no charge, Caversham Lakes and marking its south and south-east border the Thames Path National Trail.
Caversham extends from the River Thames flood plain to just south of the Chilterns. Its named neighbourhoods are arbitrary divisions, as green space is scattered throughout and forms an outlying buffer zone. These are Emmer Green, Lower Caversham or Caversham, Caversham Heights and Caversham Park Village. With the exception of the centre of Caversham and Emmer Green, which were traditional villages, most of the development occurred during the 20th century.
At the 2011 census the proportion of homes that were rented as opposed to owned was close to 50% of the average for the borough. The area had 15.3% of Reading's population and 16.4% of the borough's area. In keeping with a suburb, in 2005 ONS land use statistics published with the census, Caversham had 4.3% of the non-domestic buildings. Almost wholly low rise where developed, its homes occupied 20.6% of the footprint of all homes in the borough.Cookham Lock
Cookham Lock is a lock with weirs situated on the River Thames near Cookham, Berkshire, about a half-mile downstream of Cookham Bridge. The lock is set in a lock cut which is one of four streams here and it is surrounded by woods. On one side is Sashes Island and on the other is Mill Island connected to Formosa Island, the largest on the non-tidal Thames.
There are several weirs nearby. Hedsor weir was placed across the old navigation channel in 1837, seven years after the lock was opened. There is a lower weir, and Odney weir is on the channel next to Formosa Island.
A short distance away from the lock is Odney, with the Odney Club situated on an ait. Navigation to the Odney Club by boat is possible, but is extremely difficult due to the shallow waters. It is thought that this is deliberate - to disallow non-members from entering the club site without paying the entrance fees.Deptford Wharf
Deptford Wharf in London, UK is situated on the Thames Path south-east of South Dock Marina, across the culverted mouth of the Earl's Sluice and north of Aragon Tower. The housing here, completed in 1992, is on the site of former railway sidings and riverside wharves, and before then docks and building slips.Fiddler's Island
Fiddler's Island is an island in the River Thames at Oxford in England. It is situated south of Port Meadow on the reach above Osney Lock.
The north part of the island sits between the River Thames and the top end of Castle Mill Stream, a Thames backwater. Fiddler's Island Stream flows to the east of the southern part of the island. To the south of the island, there is a short stretch of water known as the Sheepwash Channel linking back to the Castle Mill Stream and the Oxford Canal. The Thames Path runs the length of the complete island. At the northern end, the island has a row of trees along it. On the Castle Mill Stream side there is extensive mooring. The rainbow-shaped Medley Footbridge crosses the main stream of the Thames to the west at the northern end and a flat iron Bailey bridge crosses Castle Mill Stream further south, linking it to Port Meadow to the east. A small footbridge takes the Thames Path along the bank towards Osney Bridge. The northern part of Fiddler's Island is very thin. The southern part, connected by a footbridge, is wider. To the east is Cripley Meadow, largely consisting of allotments.
Fiddler's Island was authorised for public bathing by the Oxford City Council in 1852, probably the first place in Oxford to be approved by the council.Heart of England Way
The Heart of England Way is a long distance walk of around 160 km (100 mi) through the Midlands of England. The walk starts from Milford Common on Cannock Chase and ends at Bourton on the Water in the Cotswolds passing through the counties of Staffordshire, Warwickshire and Gloucestershire.
The walk provides links to a number of other long distance walks: the Beacon Way, Staffordshire Way, Two Saints Way, Arden Way, Cotswold Way, Oxfordshire Way, and Thames Path. It is maintained by the Heart of England Way Association.
On 20 July 2013, Ultra Runner David Hollyoak set a solo course record of completing the entire length of the Heart Of England Way (South to North) non stop in 25 Hours 11 Minutes. The run is corroborated by having a relay of runners to run sections with him all the way. GPS statistics showed the route to be 105 miles.Macmillan Way
The Macmillan Way is a long-distance footpath in England that links Boston, Lincolnshire to Abbotsbury in Dorset. The route's distance is 290 miles (470 km). It is promoted to raise money for the charity Macmillan Cancer Relief.
The fully waymarked route follows existing footpaths, bridleways and byways, and small stretches of minor roads when these are unavoidable. It runs across open fen country for its first 30 miles (48 km) and for the rest of its journey it then follows the course of the oolitic limestone belt.
The Macmillan Way starts from Boston and then runs across the Fens to their western edge at Kate's Bridge near Bourne before joining the limestone belt. From Boston it heads to Stamford and then along the shore of Rutland Water to Oakham. It then leads south and west via Warmington to Stow-on-the-Wold, then through the Cotswolds via Cirencester and Tetbury to Bradford-on-Avon. Then through Somerset and into Dorset via Castle Cary and Sherborne to Abbotsbury on the coast.
The route links with the Viking Way at Oakham, the Thames Path National Trail near Thames Head and with the South West Coast Path at the finish.The Macmillan Ways are a network of long-distance footpaths in England. Others are:
The Macmillan Way West from Castle Cary in Somerset to Barnstaple in Devon, 163 kilometres (101 mi) (Boston to Barnstaple is 557 kilometres (346 mi));
The Macmillan Abbotsbury Langport Link, which creates a 38.5 kilometres (23.9 mi) short-cut for walkers from Abbotsbury to Barnstaple, a total of 202 kilometres (126 mi);
The Macmillan Cross Cotswold Pathway from Banbury to Bath, 138 kilometres (86 mi), mostly on the main Macmillan Way;
The Cotswold Link, 33.5 kilometres (20.8 mi) from Banbury to Chipping Campden where it links to the Cotswold Way National Trail.Molesey Boat Club
Molesey Boat Club is a rowing club between Molesey Lock and Sunbury Lock on the River Thames in England. The club was founded in 1866 where its boathouse stands with hardstanding next to the Thames Path.
Molesey has been the organising or support club for Molesey Regatta since its inception in 1867.Molesey Lock
Molesey Lock is a lock on the River Thames in England at East Molesey, Surrey on the right bank.
The lock was built by the City of London Corporation in 1815 and was rebuilt by the Thames Conservancy in 1906. It is the second longest on the river at 81.78 m (268 ft 4 in); it is the second lowest of the non-tidal river and third-lowest including Richmond Lock on the Tideway. Upstream of the lock are moorings for small boats, specifically skiff, paddleboard, small speedboat and open kayak hire, a tour boat pier, a kiosk and van parking space for ice cream and soft drinks. A few metres upstream is a combined side weir and front weir followed by an attached ait, Ash Island. A low backwater against the opposite bank which forms the waterside to homes sometimes called the Hampton Riviera continues to a small upper weir.
Molesey Lock is within sight of the walls of Hampton Court Palace in southwest London on the opposite bank through the arches of Hampton Court Bridge, designed by Edwin Lutyens (220 m away).Old Windsor Lock
Old Windsor Lock is a lock on the River Thames in England on the right bank beside Old Windsor, Berkshire. The lock marks the downstream end of the New Cut, a meander cutoff built in 1822 by the Thames Navigation Commissioners which created Ham Island. The lock and a wider footbridge give access to the island. Two weirs are associated; the smaller adjoins and the larger is upstream. The lock is the ninth lowest of the forty-five on the river.Oxfordshire Way
The Oxfordshire Way is a long-distance walk in Oxfordshire, England, with 6 miles in Gloucestershire and very short sections in Buckinghamshire. The path links with the Heart of England Way and the Thames Path.
The path runs for 68 miles (109 km) from Bourton-on-the-Water, Gloucestershire, to Henley-on-Thames. It passes from the Cotswolds to the Chiltern Hills, with hilly sections towards each end and gentler country in the middle sections. It takes between 4 and 6 days to walk.
From Bourton-on-the-Water to Kirtlington the path forms part of European walking route E2.Shakespeare's Way
Shakespeare's Way is a waymarked long-distance footpath in southern England, United Kingdom.Staines Boat Club
Staines Boat Club is a rowing club between Penton Hook Lock and Bell Weir Lock on the River Thames in England. The club was founded in 1851 where its boathouse stands with hardstanding next to the Hythe spur of the Thames Path in Egham Hythe, historically also known as Staines hythe, the last word meaning small harbour or river harbour.
Staines has been the organising or support club for Staines Regatta since its inception and pre-dates the rowing clubs on the Putney Embankment listed below. The club was founded in 1851 as an amateur rowing club while a manual-professional distinction applied to the sport, the same early year in the sport as the formal foundation of the club serving Windsor and Eton. The club has membership groups for different age groups.Staines Bridge
Staines Bridge is a road bridge running in a south-west to north-east direction across the River Thames in Surrey. It is on the modern A308 road and links the boroughs of Spelthorne and Runnymede at Staines-upon-Thames and Egham Hythe.
The bridge crosses the Thames on the reach between Penton Hook Lock and Bell Weir Lock, and is close to and upstream of the main mouth of the River Colne, a tributary. The bridge carries the Thames Path across the river.
Its forebear built in Roman Britain, the bridge has been bypassed by three arterial routes, firstly in 1961 by the Runnymede Bridge near Wraysbury and in the 1970s by the building of the UK motorway network (specifically near Maidenhead and Chertsey). Owing to the commercial centres of the town in Spelthorne and of Egham, the bridge has had peak hour queues since at least the 1930s.Sunbury Lock
Sunbury Lock is a lock complex of the River Thames in England near Walton-on-Thames in north-west Surrey, the third lowest of forty four on the non-tidal reaches. The complex adjoins the right, southern bank about 1⁄2 mile (0.80 km) downstream of the Weir Hotel.
The complex is two locks, old and new, and a narrow concrete divide, which are downstream of the original lock built in 1812. The older, hand-operated, was originally built in 1856, seldom used. The newer was opened in 1927 by Lord Desborough. Rollers and a slope adjoins for the portage (hauling) of small boats. The lock adjoins Sunbury Lock Ait.
The lock has three associated weirs, upstream. The main weir is between Sunbury Lock Ait and Wheatley's Ait (north); the latter has two other weirs, one is a small part-time storm weir.Temple Footbridge
Temple Footbridge is a pedestrian bridge near Hurley, Berkshire across the River Thames in England. It connects the Buckinghamshire and Berkshire banks. It crosses the Thames just above Temple Lock.
The bridge was built in 1989 specifically for walkers on the Thames Path. Formerly there was a ferry at this point which took the towpath across the river when it was used for towing barges. At 88 yards, it is the longest hardwood bridge in Britain.Thames Down Link
The Thames Down Link is a 24 km (15 mi) official walking route linking the Thames Path and the North Downs Way. It starts in the town centre of Kingston upon Thames and finishes at Box Hill & Westhumble railway station.Wysis Way
The Wysis Way is an 88 km (55 mi) walking route which forms a link between the Offa's Dyke Path and Thames Path national trails in the United Kingdom. The Way runs between Monmouth in Wales and Kemble, Gloucestershire in England.
(England and Wales)
|Scotland's Great Trails|
Transport in Gloucestershire
|Airports and Heliports|