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Riverside walk: Richmond - Kew Gardens - Putney

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by Kat Parr Mackintosh (subscribe)
Young and coffee in varying degrees, Kat also says stuff @ThoroughlyMode
Published July 16th 2010
The Thames around Richmond is much more 'Wind in the Willows' than the sinister Thames of Charles Dickens. All manner of waterfowl make their nests, or other kinds of home, among the greenery of its banks, and the most common craft you'll see out on the water are the long, narrow boats of rowers training diligently. There's a stony path that runs right along the water's edge all the way from the pubs near Richmond Bridge to the boat clubs near Putney Bridge, and it takes about two hours along the river's bends to walk between them.

The pathway is raised well above the level of the river but the time of day you set off will decide whether you see it in full flow or chugging along with great silty ridges on either side of the main channel. It's a pretty, flat, cyclist friendly path, with not much in the way of inclines either, so it's for those vaguely interested in stretching their legs outside as well as more committed exercisers. You will see joggers and other lycra clad folk, but there are also plenty of people out for a nice civilised stroll.

If you start walking at Richmond one of the first things you might notice, just after you've passed under the rail bridge and are nearing the Port Authority bridge, are some unusual bird voices – this is probably just some feral parakeets that escaped from someone's garden and have colonised this bit of the river. Beyond the tree line on your right is the Royal Mid Surrey Golf Course, where the birds are a regular fixture.

The next landmark is across the water on your left after the little forested island in the middle of the river; it's square, white Syon Park, home to the Duke of Northumberland. While you can't really tell yet, you've passed the golf course and behind the trees on your right is Kew Gardens, which is going to run beside you all the way along to the car park - where there's an entrance to the gardens.

After Kew Gardens is Kew Bridge, and you can head inland for a little break at one of the cafes or pubs on Kew Green. After you've passed under the bridge you hit the ferry stop, then a large building that looks like it was put up in the 70s which is the National Archives. The next stretch of river is paddling central. Putney Town Rowing Club is on your side of the river and the University of London Boat Club is on the other.

At one point on the route you're beside a water works, but you probably won't notice it. In fact from there on it seems like a quiet, shaded waterside country walk all the way until the playing fields in Putney just before all the boat clubs. Here you can get a drink, or, if you've been good, an ice cream...

Catch the train back to Richmond from Putney Station.
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Why? This route accompanies the Thames at its prettiest, the path is even and flat and offers some peace and quiet without leaving London
When: When the weather's nice and you want to get outside but not for anything too strenuous...
Where: Putney - Kew - Richmond Catch the train to either station and join the route
Cost: Free
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