England isn’t the biggest country in the world and a 184 mile trek there is quite a haul. However, if you’re up to it, you may want to take a shot at hiking the Thames Path, which stretches 184 miles from the Cotswolds area down to London’s docklands. You can start the popular hike in Gloucestershire and it follows the River Thames to the Thames Barrier just past Greenwich, and just before the famous river flows out into the sea.
The hike is quite interesting as there are a lot of diverse landscapes and communities along the way. You’ll pass through some of Britain’s most beautiful countryside as well as historic villages and towns before reaching the nation’s spectacular capital. Some of the sights you may see on your journey could be rolling hills, river locks, stone bridges, old mill houses, windmills, ancient castles, historic inns, country pubs, and houseboats.
(photo credit: sacred_destinations)
Walking alongside the river makes the hike seem less strenuous and it’s an ideal family outing. Of course, most people just walk sections of the Thames Path instead of taking the time to complete the entire trip. If you decide to travel the whole way, you’ll find plenty of bed and breakfast and other accommodations on the path.
The mighty Thames actually starts in a meadow in Gloucestershire where it’s little more than just a trickle of water. You’d never know it was the beginning of the river if it wasn’t marked in stone. The narrow waterway quickly widens as other local steams flow down the surrounding hills and flow into it. The river then winds its way through the farmland, tiny hamlets, and charming villages of the Cotswolds.
When the river passes through Oxford, local residents refer to it as the Isis. Here the path will take you around the city’s edge. You may want to stray from the trail here as you take an hour or two to explore the historic town and university of Oxford. Once you return to the path the river will widen some more and take you into the peaceful Chiltern Hills.
You’ll pass through several old Saxon communities and market towns and the path will hook up with the Ridgeway, which is another national trail that’s known as the oldest road in Britain. Soon you’ll reach Henley, which has been the host site of the famous Royal Regatta since 1839. You’ll pass Hampton Court and Windsor Castle on the way to Runnymede. This is where the Magna Carta was signed by King John way back in 1215.
You’ll be on the outskirts of London now, but still feel you’re in a small town. That changes when you reach Teddington Lock and the river now becomes tidal. The Thames Path Trail also divides here as you can travel along either side of the amazing river. If you choose the North Bank, you’ll head to Chelsea, pass the Houses of Parliament and end up in the City of London. You will then pass by the Tower of London as well as Limehouse Basin on the way to joining back up with the trail from the South Bank. There’s a tunnel that takes you under the river here.
If you decide to take the South Bank path, you’ll go through Richmond and then Kew before reaching the route of the famous Cambridge and Oxford boat race, which takes you through Chiswick and Putney. Next you hit the Battersea Power Station before reaching the London Eye, the London Docklands, and then Greenwich. Even though the path ends when it reaches the Thames Barrier, there are still 10 more miles of trail which ends at Crayford Ness.
You can access most of the places along the path by public transportation and cyclists are allowed in some sections. The Thames Path is an ideal way to walk your way through history.