Staines to Hampton Court - April 23rd 2021
Anxious to start my 2021 Thames Path challenge of walking the length of the path in fewer sections than I’d done in 2020, I decided this time it would be very much “pick’n’mix” as far as the order of walks was concerned. This was because in April, hotels were still in lockdown and practically speaking I needed to stay in a hotel to be able to complete the first 3 walks from the source to Newbridge. Lockdowns in 2020 had prevented me from walking along the Thames Path between early March and late May, so it would be great to be able to see the river and landscape at this time of year.
So it was that I decided on this 12 mile section to start my challenge. I got the train (well, a few trains) from my house to Staines and by the time I’d walked down to Staines Bridge it was about 12:30. The sun was shining and the air temperature was in the low 60s – warm enough to ditch my fleece. It felt great to be walking alongside the Thames again! As there were plenty of lockdown rules still in place and it was a school day, there were very few people walking the path and even fewer watercraft navigating the river.
When I reached Penton Hook Lock, I thought I’d cross over to Penton Hook Island to have a mosey around it. When I did my walks in 2020, I’d never heard of the island. It was only afterwards when I was writing up my blog that I read about it. Penton Hook Island is just one of many examples I learnt about after my 2020 walks and would have to follow up in 2021. Maybe I should have invested in one of the many Thames Path guides before I started after all! Anyway, the island was created when the lock channel was first cut in about 1815. The natural course of the river here was an almost complete loop. There are actually 3 islands, each separated by weirs. There are a number of walking paths on the main island; nothing spectacular to see as it is fairly wooded.
Back on the Thames Path, I reached Shepperton at about 15:00 and the warm sunny weather had brought out plenty of people to socialise at outdoor tables at The Thames Court pub. I was tempted but decided I’d be good, since I still had a way to go to reach Hampton Court. The highlight of this walk is always the ferry at Shepperton across the river to Weybridge and thankfully it was operating today.
Shortly after passing Sunbury Lock, disaster befell me. I stepped aside on the path as I could see a cyclist heading towards me. What I didn’t see was a very small, innocuous tree stump sticking out of the ground – no more than a couple of inches high. Sure enough I tripped on it and as I’m a fast walker, I flew to the ground on my knees and elbows. The air was certainly very blue. The cyclist did at least ask if I was OK. One of my elbows was quite badly cut and both knees were grazed. I had a couple of tissues on me but that was all. They stemmed the flow of blood at least but to this day I still bear the scars of that fall.
The fall took the edge off my enjoyment of the rest of this walk. I reached Hampton Court Station about 17:30 and from there caught trains back to Huntingdon. Needless to say, I am now a lot more careful when walking on uneven ground!