Day 5 was all about joining the dots, ready to finish the walk the next day. So, a bit like football, this was about two halves.
Because I had done a section out of sequence (Kingston to Putney) and added on extra bits to other days, I needed to do the missing link – Hampton Court to Kingston. Then I wanted to walk east from Putney, to make the final stretch to Greenwich more manageable and less like a route march. I was staying in Putney, so these two sections fitted well together for a pleasant (and less demanding) day out.
On top of which I was able to plan my day around some favourite refreshment stops – always important, and so much more justifiable when you’re walking long distances. As usual, cake was involved – this time because my lovely B and B host had baked muffins and offered me one to take with me. Well, it would have been rude to refuse, obviously (and it was delicious).
First I returned to Hampton Court. It’s a short (3 mile) walk from there to Kingston, one I’ve done in the past and enjoyed. And sure enough, it was very pleasant. A warm sunny day in the school holidays, plenty of people out and about enjoying the outdoors and the river. Such a delight to see so many families and children out together having fun.
Then when I reached Kingston, I was able to take a direct train back to Putney, arriving just in time for lunch at the cafe attached to St Mary’s Putney. And in time too for a closer look at the Putney Debates exhibition in the church, and at the stained glass in the church.
I listened to one of the recordings about the Putney Debates, this by Geoffrey Robertson QC, and again found what I read and heard there exciting and inspiring – ordinary people talking about the rights of ordinary people, in a way not common at that time. It is part of the new permanent exhibition in the church, funded by Guardian readers. You can read an article about it by Tristram Hunt here – worth looking at, especially if you’d like to know more about the Debates, the foundations of democracy in the UK, and the Levellers.
After that, it was time to be back on the River Path. My plan was to walk to Waterloo, making a very easy walk in company the next day, Saturday. I know the Thames path in London very well indeed from Westminster through to Greenwich, and that part of the Thames runs like a thread through my life, but I have never walked most of today’s section before, so much of it was new to me.
Some of it I loved, some of it I loathed.
I loved that the river remains a working river (though you have to keep your eyes open and look out for the signs). I loved that so many people now enjoy walking and using its banks. I loved that there (just about) remain some affordable places where ordinary people live close to the river.
I loathed that so much of the riverside has been appropriated and turned into a playground for the wealthy. I loathed that all the new building along the river is high rise, glass fronted money towers. I felt as though part of my heritage, my birthright even, has been stolen from me and my children.
But to counterbalance all that, the walk through Battersea Park was peaceful and green. And it felt particularly appropriate to stop a while at the (Japanese) Peace Pagoda, on this day between the anniversaries of two atomic bombs dropped on Japanese cities in 1945.
After a long and tedious detour away from the river around Battersea Power Station and the massive new building developments around 9 Elms, I decided to break my walk for a tea stop at the gorgeous Tea House Theatre cafe. Proper tea with toast, butter and jam for just £5. Sunshine, knitting, flowers on the table, tea cosies, a pleasant view out to watch the people strolling by, and someone strumming gently on a guitar.
After an hour, I felt sufficiently revived to find my way back to the river, and finish the walk from Westminster through to Waterloo. The detour was worth it, because on the way back I came across these decorative tiles under the rail bridge in Black Prince Road.
I have to confess that I decided not to battle my way through the massed crowds along the river front from Westminster Bridge onwards, but instead walked along the parallel back road. I’ve walked that stretch many many times, and felt no need to do it again.
Then back to the B and B, rest and relaxation before the final day.
*Proudhon, 1840 – “property is theft”