Walk #773: Hampton Court to Windsor
Map of the walk
Maps courtesy of Google Maps. Route for indicative purposes only, and may have been plotted after the walk. Please let me have comments on what you think of this new format. For a detailed table of timings for this walk, please see the table file.
The weather for this bank holiday was fairly awful, with the best weather on the Saturday, but as it was six weeks since Sencan and I had last done a stroll we decided to risk it and headed down towards London. As it was early in the morning the traffic was not too heavy and we managed to make good time, allowing us to pull up in the car park at Windsor at about 8.30. We had decided to travel to the start of the walk from the end, and we had ten minutes in which to by our tickets before the train was due to leave.
The tickets only cost a little over six pounds, and we settled on the train after quickly buying a packet of crisps for me to scoff for breakfast. It was going to be a fairly long journey with at least one change, and I doubted that we would have been setting off much before ten thirty, rather late for me to start a walk. However as the scrolling panel on the train listed the stations that the train would be passing through I noticed several familiar places from earlier on the trail, such as Teddington and Twickenham. A basis of a plan formed in my head, and I decided to leave the train at Twickenham and try and get a bus or taxi the relative short distance to the start of the walk at Hampton Court.
After getting off the train we studied the bus stop sign and walked for a couple of hundred yards through the town towards stop K, where the bus we wanted was due to stop. On the way we passed lots of Australians, which led me to wonder if there was some form of rugby game today. Once we reached the stop it was a relief to find that busses were due every twenty minutes, and after one came we settled down for a rather slow journey through southwest London.
We eventually arrived at Hampton Court Station - the end of the bus route - a little before the train would have arrived, and we got our kit together before setting off down the road towards Moseley Lock. The skies overhead were relatively clear and the streets were quite busy, with a couple of joggers running dodging the cars with us. At Moseley Lock we nipped into the handy toilets - apparently these are about to close - and whilst I waited for Sencan I watched a swan, probably a Pen, paddling above the lock. There were five cygnets alongside it, and one by one they tried to climb onto their mother's back. She did not seem to mind two, but when three were on she paddled towards the side of the lock and jumped up onto the boat roller ramp, tipping her young off into the water
As we walked alongside the river from the lock, a series of small groups of people came towards me, many wearing the same t-shirts. It appeared to be a charity walk, and over the next mile I asked people what they were doing as they walked towards us, and they told me that it was a charity walk called the 'Nightingale Walk' from Walton to Putney. People seemed to be enjoying themselves as they walked along, and one man was even dressed up as an English knight!
The path followed the river past Hurst Park, site of many past sporting events, including horse races, boxing and even a cricket test match against Australia! Nowadays it is a much quieter place, although overlooked by the odd tower block, and there were some handy information signs built into the back of some almost sculptural seats. A little further on a large and fairly ornate brick wall appeared on the left trapping the path between itself and the river, and I reveled it its ornateness despite its obvious industrial background; behind it are the Moseley Reservoirs.
As we walked we spent the time inventing a story, going into detail about characters and the background of the plot. It is something that I often so when I walk, and it was superb to have someone else to bat ideas off; Sencan is such superb company. A little while later there were a series of concrete blocks on either side of the oath and descending down to the river on the right; these were Second World War tank traps, presumably to guard the pinch point formed by the reservoir wall and the river. A little further on there was a stone coal post, that I pointed out to Sencan; another metal one would be passed later on above Staines.
Soon New Sunbury Lock was reached and, a little further on, the site of the old Sunbury Locks, that were used until the lock was moved further downstream. The next stretch of path was fairly pedestrian but enjoyable, and as we chatted I watched a few rowers and other boats making their way to and fro Then, annoyingly, there was a pub that was having a beer festival this weekend, but as it was barely eleven in the morning there was little point in stopping.
A little further on Walton Bridge was reached, and here we had to make a decision, When I had walked this stretch of the Thames Path last year I had walked a loop via Shepperton, but there was also the option of taking the cut that formed Desborough Island to the north. This promised to be a much more enjoyable walk than the other route and far more direct, but with the disadvantage of having to take a ferry across the river a little further on. The guidebook had the phone number of the ferry office in, and after ringing to find out if they were operating today we walked on along the riverside path.
As expected it was a far better walk than the route via Shepperton, and we soon arrived at the Ferry landing, which was little more than some steps leading down to the river. The notice by the bell on the railings asked people to ring only on the hour, and as it was less than a minute late I rang the bell. No-one came and so we sat down on the steps and shared some hazel nuts. Today was Grand Prix qualifying, and I listened to previews on my Walkman. The time flew, and I was soon ringing the bell once more, but again no-one came. A couple of minutes later three cyclists came past and started discussing whether to cycle on or take the ferry; whilst they were waiting the ferryman came out and started coming across the river towards us.
No sooner had he set off than the cyclists cycled off leaving the two of us to get on the ferry alone. The ferryman was a real insular laughing-boy character, and after we paid him the three pounds for the two of us to cross he barely spoke a word until he had tied up on the other side. It was nice to have a ferry crossing and it made the journey fairly unique, and once on the other side we started off along the towpath once again as it passed Shepperton Lock. This followed a road around Dockett Point before heading towards a nice area of meadowland. On the way there were some house boats tied up alongside the river, some of which were eccentric and friendly, and one had wind chimes hanging from the trees outside along with a notice imploring people to play with them.
By the time that we reached the meadowland it had started to spit with rain, and as I listened to qualifying we reached the magnificent stone arches of Chertsey Bridge. Immediately on the other side of this was a pub, and it seemed like as good a place as any to stop for a rest. We both had a drink and a bowl of lovely tomato soup before heading off once again along the path, which soon reached Chertsey Lock. The path followed a road as it headed under the ugly M3 bridge, and as we walked on I kept an eye out for parrots, having seen one on my previous walk along here. Suddenly I saw one flit between trees overhead, but before I could point it out to Sencan it had disappeared.
I have a fairly well-developed sense of fun and Sencan seemed to believe that I was joking about the parrots, and this continued when I saw one flying on the other side of the river. Then, suddenly, there was one on our side of the river, and as I pointed it out to her I saw the exact moment when her mouth dropped in a look of joy as she finally saw one. A little further on I saw a parrot on a bird feeder on a house on the other side of the river, and as we stopped to watch it a couple asked us what we were staring at. They turned out to be from Chesterfield, and we chatted about the local area that I know fairly well.
The road led on through Laleham and on towards Penton Hook Lock, where a large loop in the river has been bypassed by a farcically-short cut and lock. From here on the path was fairly nondescript as it headed north towards Staines, and we chatted to while away the time until we reached the rail bridge immediately to the south of the town. By this time we were both in need of the toilet, so we diverted off slightly through the town to reach Debenhams, and whilst there we managed to buy a nutcracker, something that we have been looking for for some time.
On the way back to the river there was a nice fountain and statue of several conjoined figures, and then we reached Staines Bridge, from where there were some pleasant views both up and downstream. A short walk took us on westwards along the river towards the bridge that carried the M25 over the river, and on the long and wide concrete arches underneath were some youths, hanging around on what was quite a safe but strange spot to be lurking. Beyond this was a lock, and the river curved around to reach the large green space that is Runnymede, the location (although the exact spot is unknown) where King John signed the Magna Carta in 1215t.
This stretch of river is particularly picturesque, and as a boat went past on the river we turned the corner to start heading northwestwards with the noisy main road spoiling the ambiance a few yards away to the left. Sencan was starting to get tired by now, so after we passed the elegant Lutyens-designed lodges we walked on to Old Windsor, where I knew there was a pub that I had visited on my previous walk this way. Once inside we decided to order some food to stop us having to go out for a meal later, and we both ate rather too much - I had a large side salad and bacon burger that was very large and tasty.
We waddled out and headed back along the path for the last few miles to Windsor; fairly soon the river joined another cut that passed Old Windsor lock before heading on to reach the Albert Bridge that spans the river. Apparently the path used to continue along the western bank of the river all the way to Windsor, but security concerns about Home Park and the Queen on other side of the bridge meant that the path diverted through Datchet. I made a mistake and crossed the bridge, misremembering the route from the previous time, and in crossing we nearly got mowed down by a car driver who saw fit to sound her horn rather than actually brake.
My own stupidity in getting us into this situation annoyed me, and we carefully walked on, taking the path under the bridge once safely on the other side and heading through a narrow, wooded area before heading up towards the B470 to the south of Datchet. The road was busy and the pavement was increasingly narrow, forcing us to cross to the other side of the road after a Porsche overtook a string of cars on the other side, easily doing fifty in a thirty zone and scaring us out of our wits. Datchet itself was not much better, and it was a relief when the path left the road and headed towards the Victoria Bridge.
This bridge, rebuilt to a frankly ugly concrete design in the twentieth century, took us over the river, from where there were some great views over towards Windsor Castle. By this stage we were both fairly tired, and it was tempting to take the direct route alongside the road rather than the longer route beside the river. It was with it, however, as the views were good, but we were both fairly tired as we passed a lock and eventually reached the station, pleased as punch at having completed another twenty-mile day.
Something needs to be said now about the events of the evening. As it was a bank holiday we decided to stay down in the area and visit Windsor Castle the next day (something we did not end up doing due to heavy, persistent rain). We had therefore booked ourselves into a hotel in Maidenhead, and once we had finished the walk I drove straight there. It proved hard to find the place, and once I did I turned around in it's car park, thinking that it was an Indian restaurant. This was an understandable mistake, as the hotel was actually right above the restaurant!
In the rear car park there was a tacky fiberglass model of the Statue of Liberty, and once we had booked in we headed upstairs to a room that was clean, tidy, and reasonable at first sight. However, the floor was wooden and the bed moved about sickeningly on it (in the morning it had moved three feet away from the wall during our sleep), and there was a strong smell of Indian food. This slackened but did not fully dissipate once we had shut the window that had been left open, but then the vibrations and noise started. The room was obviously directly above the kitchens, and the floor was vibrating so much that I could feel my knees shaking. Sencan went down and asked for another room, but there was not one and we were both too tired to try and find another place to stay. The noise finally ended at about half past ten, and we were able to get some sleep. This was by far the worst B&B or hotel that I have every stayed in.
This makes a total distance of 20.4 miles, with 375 feet of ascent and 328 feet of descent.
To get from Windsor to Hampton court by train you ned to change at Clapham Junction and Surbiton, for a total journey time of about 80 minutes. However, we did this slightly differently; we caught the first train from Windsor, but got off at Twickenahm and caught the r68 bus to Hampton Court. See the National Rail website for more information on the train services.
Please note that I take no responsibility for anything that may happen when following these directions. If you intend to follow this route, then please use the relevant maps and check the route out before you go out. As always when walking, use common sense and you should be fine.
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And finally, enjoy your walking!