Back before a clever industrialist figured out how to fill up the roads with lorries to pollute the air, there was a tow path along the Thames. Barges full of all sorts of produce were dragged up and down the river. Call it the M1 of yester-year, if you want.
But then some clever industrialist did figure out that it would be more efficient to have 10,000 lorries driving around than having 100 towed barges, so the tow path was negleted for many, many years. A few years ago, a rambler decided to get funding to mark up a walking path that would run along the Thames from its spring close to Wales all the way through London to the Thames Estuary. The tow path was reborn as the national trail “The Thames Path”.
When I read about the Thames Path last week, I got this crazy idea that I wanted to walk it this year. Not in one go, mind you, but as a get-fitter project spread over the year. One section at a time spread over the weekends. Maybe once I get in shape, I might even do a Saturday/Sunday walk with an overnight stay at a B&B. That would be fun!
Anyway… Saturday I decided to get on with my first section. The parts that goes through London are very well documented in leaflets and brochures. So I downloaded and printed one of them. From Tower Bridge to the Thames Barrier. 10 miles.
Hah! thought I. Of course I’m not in shape at all, and I know I lose my breath after 10 steps, but if I had all day to do it? Including a stop or two for refreshments along the way. Let’s see… two to three miles an hour sounds reasonable, so 10 miles would be 3 to 5 hours. With a whole day set aside, easy peasy. Who knows, I might even decide to walk back again!
So I set off with a spring in my steps and my trusty camera backpack, because the way I am, surely this epic journey needs to be documented to the n’th degree.
I won’t bore anyone with all the details. Sufficient to say that when I stopped for lunch in Greenwich I had covered 5 miles in 4 hours. My back was aching. My legs were aching more. And due to this unusual yellow orb in the sky (I’ve seen pictures from the warm countries where it appears often), my skin was warm and moist. Maybe the epic exhaustion also had something to do with that!
After lunch I dragged myself back onto the path. By now I had become a little more realistic and decided that if only I could reach the Millenium dome (with a tube station on the “right” line that would very conveniently bring me to a mainline train home), I should be pleased with myself.
So I set off with slightly less spring, and the camera which by now felt like it was made out of lead and concrete as it was hanging around my neck, and giving me the appearance of an 80 year old with arthritis (edit: read here how I solved that problem).
This part of London is prime river front, and despite the recession there’s loads of new apartment blocks being built. It also helps that the Olympics in 2012 will be in this part of town, so that also creates work for the building trade. Industry is good. Industry which builds on the river side path I intended to follow is bad. Planned and unplanned diversions seemed to be the norm on this stretch. Eventually I managed to make it to the station, huffing and puffing and cursing the developers and the real estate trade in general. But I got there, and that was the main point.
It was a lot harder than expected, and my legs aren’t thanking me for it today. But it was a whole day spent outside in glorious sunshine and with interesting nature and architecture all around me. I loved it, and I can’t wait for next weekend when I hope to do another section!