Opened in 1996, the Thames Path follows the length of the River Thames from Kemble to the Thames Barrier at Charlton. It runs 184 miles, which follows the greatest river in England, with both rural and urban paths.
The river used to be a very important trading route in England but its prominence declined in the late 20th century due to the creation of railways and many major roads. The onset of the industrial revolution made the River Thames useful, only for leisure boat rides, transportation to near locations, and an idyllic location spot for parks and lazy afternoon picnics and sightseeing.
Today, leisure boats are the only ones that travel through this long river, as compared to the large boats that ran through it more than a hundred years ago. The path is based on the tow paths where horses pulled boats that contained trading goods. In 1996, 16 miles of trail was added to the riverside path and three new bridges, adding length to the route.
The Thames Path is relatively easy to walk, with marked and easy to follow footpaths. It also passes through London, Greenwich and Oxford. Public transports abound, making it the most accessible and the most urban trail in England.
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The path is characterized by its closeness to the river, its spectacular views of both urban and rural sites, and the many historic sites to see along the way. If you walk the entire path, it can take you 3 weeks to complete, and even years if you walked the path in weekend sections. You can avail of luggage services where your things are delivered to the various accommodations that dot along the way.
Hostels, bed and breakfasts, pubs, and many facilities are accessible so you don’t need to worry about food, drinks, and your general supply. The paths are relatively flat and visible so there’s not much difficulty in following the route. You also don’t have to travel very far to start or restart the hike since the path can be found in the centers of urban cities.
Beginner hikers both young and old can definitely take this route. Hike the trail by yourself, or with friends and family. It is an inexpensive way of visiting London and the nearby towns and cities, while also giving you a healthy exercise and an experience of being one with nature in the countryside.
A suggested itinerary is to start from the Thames Barrier then off to a 4.5 mile walk to Greenwich. Once there, take a breather and visit the National Maritime Museum and the Royal Observatory for a historical day trip. From Greenwich, you then head to London, ending at the London Eye at the South Bank. Pass through the Tower Bridge, City Hall, and central London.
Across the river is Island Gardens, walk from this location to the Embankment for a sight of its many skyscrapers. Once you get out of London, venture into the idyllic and scenic views of England’s charming towns and villages of Brentford, Syon Park, Teddington, Richmond, Hampton Court and many others. The final part of the trail is in the town of Crickdale, which is the source of the Thames River, where you get to relax and feel accomplished watching its lakes and enjoying the finish line at this lovely town.
Leslie write on the Camino Adventures about walking and hiking in Europe, mostly the long distance trails of the Camino de Santiago.