diamond geezer

 Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Throughout most of London, the official Thames Path runs along both sides of the river. But if you're trying to walk it, which side is better?

I've attempted to answer the question by splitting up the river into sections, bridge to bridge, and comparing north with south.

What I've done...
• I've colour-coded each section of the Thames, from west to east, using traffic light colours.
Green means good access to the riverside, amber means intermittent access to the riverside and red means poor access to the riverside.
• Bold text indicates the riverside path with the better walk.

A few caveats...
» This is all about riverside access, not about how good the view is.
» But if access is a tie, then it's about the scenery.
» Yes, it's a bit subjective.
» From Westminster Bridge to Blackfriars Bridge I think it's a tie.
» Yes, I know it's not possible to cross the river at all the points I've mentioned out east.

But blimey, when it comes to walking the Thames through London, there is a very clear result.

SOUTH BANKHampton Court BridgeNORTH BANK
Mostly inaccessible in Surrey, but better in KingstonLovely walk around the edge of Hampton Court Park
Kingston Bridge
A little built-up, but full Thames-side accessMostly private and inaccessible
Teddington Lock
Top stroll around the Ham Lands Nature ReserveMostly private and inaccessible
Hammerton’s Ferry
Petersham Meadows – one of the best sectionsGood, but not as good as the other side
Richmond Bridge
Along the edge of old RichmondMostly confined to an alleyway
Richmond Lock
Attractive hike round the Old Deer Park and Kew GardensBrief access at Isleworth, but otherwise no
Kew Bridge
Open access past the National Archives along a broad pathLovely to start with, then diverted through residential Chiswick
Chiswick Bridge
Along Mortlake's picturesque riverfrontRowing club territory, with river views blocked by trees
Barnes Bridge
Full access to quiet, undeveloped riversideIncludes the historic waterfront streets of Hammersmith
Hammersmith Bridge
A long quiet stretch leading to Putney's boathousesModern development with inland diversions, then Fulham Palace
Putney Bridge
Wandsworth's new riverside quarter is the first lowlightProgress entirely blocked by the Hurlingham Club
Wandsworth Bridge
A short heliport diversion, else full modern riversideLuxury flats, and a long diversion round Chelsea Creek
Battersea Bridge
Relentless modern riversideThe classy Chelsea Embankment
Albert Bridge
The glories of Battersea ParkFurther Chelsea Embankment
Chelsea Bridge
Blocked at Battersea Power Station, then nouveau Nine ElmsThe Pimlico riverside is half accessible
Vauxhall Bridge
Round MI6, then the Albert EmbankmentMillbank past Tate Britain
Lambeth Bridge
Peak Albert EmbankmentBlocked by the Palace of Westminster
Westminster Bridge
The ever-popular South Bank (London Eye)The Victoria Embankment (Charing Cross)
Waterloo Bridge
The ever-popular South Bank (National Theatre)The Victoria Embankment (Temple)
Blackfriars Bridge
The ever-popular South Bank (Tate Modern)Confined riverside walkways
Southwark Bridge
Shunted back along Clink StreetConfined riverside walkways
London Bridge
The Queens Walk, past City HallDiverted from the river, then cobbles by the Tower
Tower Bridge
Mostly riverside, with developmental diversionsMostly back from the river through Wapping
Rotherhithe Tunnel
Occasionally interrupted round the tip of RotherhitheQuite good access, except through Limehouse
Canary Wharf Pier
Good access, except around Deptford DockyardA couple of riverside promenades, and some road walking
Greenwich Tunnel
Maritime Greenwich, and the post-industrial peninsulaQuiet walkways skirting postwar estates
Blackwall Tunnel
Peninsula east, then a big detour near the Thames BarrierApart from the odd park, almost completely inaccessible
Woolwich Ferry
Modern flats from Royal Arsenal to West ThamesmeadGallions Point, then a surprisingly bleak lonely footpath
Tripcock Ness
A long unloved walk past Thamesmead and CrossnessOne unwelcoming path at Creekmouth, otherwise inaccessible
Rainham
Grey estuarine approach to ErithDystopian industrial, then landfill
Coldharbour Point
Out of sight through industrial Erith, then open marshesAn isolated hike alongside landfill heaps
Crayford Ness
SOUTH BANKNORTH BANK

Blimey, there is a very clear result. South wins, by a landslide.

Look at the green. Most of the south bank is accessible, including the entire stretch from Kingston to Putney Bridge. There's not much green on the north bank, except from Battersea to the City. South wins.

Now look at the red. In outer London a lot of the north bank is inaccessible, particularly from Kingston to Chiswick, and from the Blackwall Tunnel to Rainham. There's not much red on the south bank, and when Battersea Power Station reopens there'll be almost none. South wins.

Now look at the bold. Almost the whole of the south bank is bold, and very little of the north bank. Throughout almost all of London, the south bank of the Thames has better public access than the north. South smashes it.

In conclusion, if you're ever planning to walk the Thames Path through London, walk the south bank.

And a final question. Why does the south bank have so much better access than the north? Is there a reason, or is it just a coincidence?


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