The good thing about setting your own challenge is that you get to make up your own rules.
On day 3 of this part of the walk I wanted to walk with a good friend. I had stayed with her in Kingston overnight, and she needed to be in Richmond for the first part of the morning. Her walking pace and distance are limited by a disability, but she loves to walk, she loves the river, and we enjoy each other’s company. So what could be better than seizing the moment and doing another section of the walk but out of sequence?
We met in a cozy (dry) cafe underneath Richmond Bridge. After a drink and chat, there was a brief moment when both of us were tempted to stay in the warm and dry rather than brave the incessant rain. But we resisted, and were so glad we did.
We walked together as far as Kew Bridge, where she caught the bus home and I continued on the path to Putney, the end of another section of the walk. On the way we caught up with each others’ lives and our hopes for the future, reminisced about our shared past,and had a laugh too.
This was the Thames as I have never before seen it, despite being a Londoner at heart and despite having walked along its banks many times in London itself. This was tidal Thames (below Teddington Lock), unbounded by embankments, and at low tide. Beaches, wading birds, many many herons. Green, shaded. Just beautiful. I enjoyed this part of the path more than any other I have done so far. Even in torrential rain (Malcolm described it as ‘biblical’ – he had a point).
I didn’t take very many photos – the rain was too intense to either stop or risk my phone drowning. Below are those I managed to take before it (I) became too wet for more.
There comes a point when you’re walking in the rain when you realise that shelter is needed. For me, that day, it was when I realised that rivulets of rain were running down inside my knickers. (Sorry if this is TMI). Then I realised that there was no shelter, and I just had to carry on. As I couldn’t get any wetter, it probably didn’t matter anyway. So the only way to go was forwards, and to laugh in the face of the rain. Which is what I did.
And actually, I came to no harm (of course).
On the way I saw a reserve to conserve a rare snail – the Two-Lipped Door Snail, since you ask. And no, I didn’t spot one. But I saw a more common snail with ambition.
I saw some beautiful Victorian brick houses, including a terrace in Barnes with blue plaques showing where Dame Ninette de Valois had once lived, and where Gustav Holst had lived.
And what is it with the big cow statues? I saw another two on this walk. Does anyone know what that’s all about?
The Barnes Wetland Centre, where I had no time to stop, is now on my (growing) list of places to return to.
When I reached the end of the day’s walk, in Putney, straight ahead of me was St Mary’s Church, with a warm inviting cafe attached, where I was able to dry out (a little), rest a while, and eat a late and welcome (and delicious) lunch. This was the site in 1647 of the Putney Debates. Such an important moment in our constitutional history, and one which was completely neglected in the history I learnt at school. As it says in the permanent exhibition in the church, ‘these debates on constitutional reform in Britain paved the way for many of the civil liberties we value today’.
Nothing says it better than the short quote below (from the debates):
“I think that the poorest he that is in England hath a life to live, as the greatest he”
Of course we’ll take it as read that that includes the poorest she and the greatest she.
And the next stage of my walk, Datchet to Shepperton, will take me through Runnymede, where Magna Carta is thought to have been sealed in 1215.