The sun is shining, you feel like stretching your legs, you don’t fancy the typical crowds of Central London, but instead you feel like escaping the city and returning to nature. There are many walks in London which take you off the tourist trail and give you a touch of country life whilst still tramping comfortably within zone 2. In terms of west London walks, there is a huge expanse of natural beauty nestled within a stone’s throw of the hustle and bustle of Hammersmith. This walk can be done in varying lengths depending on where you wish to finish, but if you do the full 15km stretch, it will take you past numerous Thames beaches, wild flowers and wildlife, various pubs (if you are in need of a thirst quencher), fields of cattle, and finish with cake. Just typical city life really!
West London Walks: Hammersmith
Leave Hammersmith and head south towards Hammersmith Bridge. Cross over to the southern side of the river and turn directly right onto the Thames Path. Instantly you are immersed into green tranquillity (watch out for cyclists, this route is a popular one for bicycles).
West London Walks: Barnes to Kew
This walk essentially follows the Thames Path from Hammersmith through to Barnes, meandering along the edge of the river past patches of community that are quintessentially English – bowling greens, cute two up two downs, allotments – as well as the grand residences of some of the Capitals wealthy occupants. Glancing across to the north side of the river, you could easily mistake your location for a sleepy English seaside town; church spires, riverside pubs, and small clusterings of houses. Just as your legs begin to feel a little fatigued, you reach the edge of the beautiful Kew Gardens. You could finish the walk with a home-made picnic amongst the vast botanical haven that is Kew, or, you could breathe in the fresh air and the flora scents as you ramble along the edge of Kew Gardens and head into Richmond.
West London Walks: Richmond
Once you reach Richmond, the hustle and bustle returns, but in the form of avid rowers and kayakers, and outdoor drinkers and al fresco diners. You may wish to join them (the drinkers and diners that is, if you’ve made it this far on the walk, you’ll be in need of something that comes with ice and a slice), or, you could carry on, using the river’s edge as your guide, and head up to Petersham.
West London Walks: Petersham
Once you leave the riverside pubs and eateries, the path takes you slightly inland from the river. You are returned to greenery and the atmosphere feels a little calmer once again. If you head through the park, past the public toilets on the left hand side, you come to a turnstile entrance into a field. This is where you will say “how do you do?” to friendly resident cattle (especially if they decide that they wish to lay down right by the exit gate!). Head directly across this field towards the exit gate. This leads onto a narrow footpath which shortly brings you to Petersham Nurseries. Be sure to set off in enough time to get to the Nurseries before they close at 5pm, allowing long enough to rest those weary feet in the cafe, with a delicious slice of home-made organic cake. The ideal reward!
Days Out Check-list
How much does it cost?
The beauty of walking is that it doesn’t cost you a penny. If you pack up drinks and snacks at home and decide to stick to the walking path (as opposed to going into Kew gardens), then the only expense would be your transport to and from the walk.
Where do I need to go?
Start this walk from Hammersmith Tube Station, or Hammersmith Bridge. Depending on the length of walk you wish to do, you can pick up return transport from either Barnes Bridge Station, Mortlake Station, Kew Gardens or Kew Bridge Stations, or Richmond Station. It would be a short walk off the main track of this walk to any of these stations.
What to look out for?
There are so many breeds of wild flowers along this route, as well as wildlife; the last time I completed this walk I saw five herons! Also, as you stroll along and look across to the ‘seaside village’ type clusters, pause to remember that you are only a few miles from the financial centre of the UK, and the bright lights and sounds of the West End. It really is quite spectacular.
What should I wear?
The majority of this walk is on a walking track and so you do need sensible shoes with a decent depth of sole. If there has been considerable rainfall of late, you may want to consider proper booking boots or wellies. Aside from that, it is whatever you feel comfortable in and what the weather will permit/demand!
What should I take with me?
There are various pubs scattered along this route, as well as shops in Barnes and Richmond. However, there can be some distance between these and so it is advisable to take a bottle of water and a snack with you.
Are there loos?
There are toilets available in pubs and also in the park at Richmond, but these may be some distance apart. Although, you shouldn’t have to walk for longer than around 30 minutes at a moderate pace to find a pub to dive into to use their facilities!
How much time do I need?
Aside from travel time to and from the start and end points of this walk, if going the full length of this walk, you will need to set aside between 2.5-3 hours for the walking. You will need to factor in any breaks, beverage and loo stops, and also time for whatever you wish to do once you reach your destination.
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