Bank Holiday Weekend coming up and I mean to take advantage. I have a bit to do at work but also some time in lieu due, so the plan is to go in and check emails etc and then set off for the walk.

It goes very well. I pack my day sack with the requisites for a decent day's walking, remembering water, sunblock and even the maps. I rattle through the business very quickly and am ready to set off by 10.30. I am halfway along the short walk from work to Gospel Oak station when I realise that I don't have my wallet. I know exactly where it is. It is sitting on top of the computer in my bedroom where I left it last night so that I would see it and remember it.

View Kingston to Byfleed and New Haw in a larger map
Bollocks! I check my pockets and though there might be just enough in change to get me back from where I want to walk to, there would be nothing spare for a capuccino or cup of tea. Nothing for it but to hurry back home and grab the wallet. I could get a C11 from Archway or walk or go up the road to Upper Holloway. Not really any telling which would be quicker but in the end I go to Upper Holloway.

This turns out to be a good idea. There is just time to nip into Budgens to buy a croissant and get the train to Gospel Oak and just time to change platforms to catch a connecting train to Richmond. At Richmond another stroke of luck, a 65 stops just as I leave the station. After the long wandering bus ride last time I checked it out and the 65 takes me direct to Kingston. I get off and start at the station where I left off on Sunday.

Kingston has not improved and as I walk away from the Station it gets even more unpleasant, though the centre looks like it has been mallified going by the glass tube with people walking through it that passes over my head.

Round the corner there is a pedestrianised bit that is less utterly horrible than the roaring traffic round the
station but it looks like everywhere else and I am not tempted to linger.

There is, however a TK Maxx just before the bridge and I have to nip in for the obligatory and, as usual, unsuccessful trouser hunt.

It is a beautiful day. So sunny that I spent some of the train journey anointing myself with sun-block. As I
cross the bridge the sunlight sparkles on the water.  There are a couple of options here. The shortest way is to go through Hampton Court Park but information about access was confusing and I am not sure that if I go in at Hampton Wick I will be able to get out again at the other end.

The alternative is to go round by the river which is further but is very appealing. So that is the way for me.
As I go down to the river there is a white horse in a field between the river and the park. A big, Mediterranean looking guy asks me if I will take his picture with the horse in the background.  I agree but rather than stand by the spiked fence as I expected he athletically shins over it and nips over to the horse. Unfortunately for his picture the horse shies away and so it is not a huge success.

I give him back his camera and a few moments later think to ask him to take one of me.

After that I can get on with the walk, noting places on the other side of the river that look good for coffee and thinking about bringing the older people I work with. I am glad I am on the park side of the river but it is a bit frustrating that I cannot check it out properly.

I pass my first island which is called Ravens Ait.  This day proves to be a lot about aits and eyots (the same word with different spelling, pronounced eight) the islands in the Thames.

There are a few benchs by the Thames but the first few are all occupied. At last I find a free one and sit and have a sandwich and some water.  There are a few cyclists and dog walkers but it is by no means busy.

I pass a gate that clearly leads into the park.  One of my online sources of information had informed me
that though the park was open to the public there were only two points of access - at Hampton Wick and at the Palace. This is nowhere near either of them. Oh well!

The promenade on the other side of the river gives way, first to filter beds and then to enviable houses. Some are big and grand but others more modest and appealing.

This was, I think, my favorite.  As well as eyots and aits today's walk proves to involve a lot of property and boat envy. Often all three as many of the most appealing houses are on the eyots and aits.

I pass a police car and wonder if there is much crime, but the policeman and policewoman within are eating sandwiches so I guess they have found a quiet spot for lunch rather than checking on a crime hotspot.

There is a wall now between me and the park and I come to some
steps up it and another entrance to the park, with a pleasant grassy terrace.

But I stick to the river path and soon see Hampton Court in the distance. I pass some extraordinary fencing.

These panels don't seem to be gates and there is a protective fence on my side of them (not entirely
surprising given the amount of gold leaf).  There are three splendid panels and another couple in grey undercoat and black paint which I guess are awaiting

Along the side of the palace I get a very Tudor feeling view through a window shaped hole in the wall.

Just before I reach the front of the palace I see a tree festooned with more mistletoe than I have ever seen before. The first time I saw mistletoe growing wild
was on trees further down the Thames near Cookham, some years ago but it seems to be becoming much more common.  This tree looks as if it has been almost taken over.

The front of Hampton Court is wonderful.

I go off in search of toilet and find lots of the gardens free to access and what looks like a way into the park.
I think the river was the most interesting route but it is provoking that the information (including Hampton Courts own website) was so unclear and confusing.

Never maind! I take my leave of Hampton Court and cross the bridge to East Moseley.

 I have been hankering after a coffee after being stuck on the wrong side of the river from the cafe's of Kingston and am
immediately confronted with a little street of independent restaurants and coffee shops. I elect to try Five at the Bridge. This has seats outside but they are in full sun and busy so I go to the shady little courtyard at the back for a very good cappuccino.

It is cool and pleasant there but I have too far to go to linger. So I set off  back to the river and the riverside path. This very soon takes me to Molesley Lock.

 An industrial barge carrying huge pipes with small boats fore and aft pushing and pulling, emerges from the lock just as I arrive. The small boats seem to be
having trouble manouvering the barge and as I pass the guy nearest to me shouts: "For fuck's sake!" in tones of serious frustration, so I pause to see if there is any sinking drama to rival the fun with the rowing skiff last time out.

No wrecks ensue so sadly disappointed I trudge onwards. It is a gorgeous Spring day - actually warm and blossom is everywhere. Better late than never!

On the other side of the river, on what look to be islands, are a range of impressive looking double decker houseboats moored by Ash Island and Tagg's Island.

An elegant little terrace of houses on my left soon give way to Hurst Park.  I pass an elderly couple sitting on a park bench facing the river. The man is being sick into a carrier bag. Cancer drugs I would guess. It is such a beautiful day and Spring is bursting forth so urgently that you feel that you can hear it quietly roaring in the background. But death is still around.

Across the river is Hampton now and an elegant Georgian looking building.

And on my side of the river a great wall cuts me off from old reservoirs. This is a really pleasant path. The

bank is overgrown with trees and bushes so I only get the odd glimpse of the river, but it is verdant and relatively quiet. The odd cyclist and a few other walkers but not many. This is a long pull, nearly three kilometers without housing or access from the road which no doubt explains it. I pass Platt's Eyot which is the most industrial so far, with boatyards and storage facilities.

Most of the houses opposite have boats moored in front of them. Seems reasonable, if I could afford a river fronted house I would no doubt get a boat. But this one amuses me as the plastic gin palace is almost as big as the house behind it.

I pass Sunbury Locks and Sunbury Lock Ait which has a bridge over to it and seems to be a park. But I don't have time or energy to spare.

Then I pass a leisure centre, and shortly after it, a pub.  Hot and thirsty now I stop for a pint of soda water
and lime. Two very beautiful girls are waiting by the bar one in insanely high heels. The barman is looking at them with a dazed expression but he manages to tear his attention away long enough to serve me.

Most people are sitting out in the sun but there is a shady porch and I sit there to drink my soda water. I have a long way still to go so I don't linger.

Butterflies are everywhere. I see a comma, a common blue, some orange tips, speckled woods, the birds are
singing violently, everybody seems to be trying to make up for the late, late Spring.

A boat goes by with a grave grey dog on it, the woman steering smiles at me as she goes by, seeing me photographing her dog.

And then a very elderly but very fit looking man, stripped to the waist paddles by in a canoe.  There is
something very democratic about the river. Fit young guys sculling or racing in canoes, but older people too. Gigantic floating gin palaces of the very rich but tatty little canoes and rowing boats and modest canal boats with old grey dogs on them. I like it because there is so much variation and usually, even on the best walks (perhaps especially on the best walks as moorland and mountain tend to be like this) there is little change except subtle variation in the view, sometimes for miles.  Here, there always seems to be something happening in or on the river.

And now the sound of bongo drums echoes over the water. It is faint but as I walk along becomes more
distinct. I can't really see the source but my camera can see further than me and I try, not noticing the life sized Laura Croft until I get back. I do see a strange sinister looking figure but it is too far away to make out, again until I download the photo.

The walkway opens out as I come into Walton. There are women rowing, training hard, and the sun is
sparkling on the water beautifully.

I pass a brace of promising looking pubs (for work purposes) and then as the river bends I see an ugly and industrial looking bridge in the distance which my map tells me is Walton Bridge.

When I get there a lot of work is going on and the Thames path is diverted. I have to wait for a digger to
cross before continuing but the diversion is not far.  I pass some damp meadow festooned with Cuckoo Flower.

As I rejoin the river there are a group of swans including one that is absolutely huge - I think the biggest swan
that I have ever seen.  A little further on a swan flies by and I am pretty sure it is the same one, going by its size.

After Walton Bridge and big Desborough Island I pass one last Thames Ait. Called D'Oyly Cart Island.  It
has an elegant footbridge and one imposing looking house amongst woodland (and lots of signs announcing that it is private)

And so I come to the confluence of the Thames and Wey. Things get very complicated here with several islands.  It seems that if I wanted to continue on the Thames Path I would have to get a Ferry to the Shepperton side.  This is slightly vexing as I would love to
get the ferry but I am not going that way. The sign says that you should ring the bell on the quarter hour if you want to go across. £2.00 with a a bike which seems quite reasonable.

I take a look through my bins and spot the ferry and a group of passengers on the North side of the river, and wait a little to take a photo of it crossing (behind the little narrow boat).

But it is not for me alas and so I keep on as the footpath turns south. I am not actually clear which river this
is, whether it is still the Thames or it is now the Wey, but I think because the islands complicate things it is still the Thames at least until I pass a big weir on the other side.

Weybridge is a little unexpected. I know it is a wealthy commuter belt town, but it is also quite quaint, or at
least this bit by the river is. It reminds me a bit of Burnham on Crouch in Essex. Old pubs, boatyards and little snickets. I follow one of these, past a decent looking pub, following my old 50,000 OS map with difficulty.

I have to go across Willet's Ait, but it is not clear if I am taking the right bridge and there are confusing signs. One welcomes me to "Surrey's best kept secret" but most warn it is private.

 I follow a path that does not correspond with the map and go round a turn and find a mum with a small boy
negotiating a very precipitous little footbridge.

And find myself at the Thames Lock of the Wey Navigation. And it is absolutely charming.  After the bustle of the Thames it is completely peaceful. A volunteer for the National Trust, who own the waterway, it seems, is taking the sun and he gives me a smile. Otherwise there is no one around and the canal, lock and lock keepers cottage are all beautiful.

I would be happy to find a seat and bask in the evening sun here for an hour or too, but time is slipping away.  The first part of the walk is as delightful as the lock. I have the Wey on one side of me and the navigation on the other, the path on a
narrow thread of land between.

After the weir the navigation widens. Big houses on the other side have lawns that slope down to the river. It
is tranquil and beautiful until I duck under a small bridge and then have to cross the road.

On the other side there is a lock. A woman sits on a folding chair, smoking and reading as if it were her
garden though there are no houses on this side of the road.

The narrow towpath runs alongside the road for a while but this road is not busy so this is no great hardship.

Then a small bridge takes the path over the navigation and I lose the road completely for a spell.

This section is pleasant but a little odd. My side of the river is like many a rural canal tow path but the other side is modern gleaming glass croydonacious buildings.

This run ends with a massive set of mill buildings. At first I think it is a modern development modeled on the
old mill, but looking at further it all looks old but cleaned up and converted.  There is a huge mill pond behind it but it still seems enormous for a slow stream in the South of England to be powering.

 The sun on the weir is fantastic but my attempts to photograph it do not do it justice at all.

Beyond the mill the navigation grows tranquil and beautiful again, the millpond (mill lake in truth) replacing buildings on the far side.

A bit further there is wooded enclosure with nothing growing on my side of the canal. This puzzles me and then I see that there are three shetland ponies in the
further end. These look very sad and out of condition but they do not look particularly thin so I hope it is just that they are old. Still, I cannot see what there is for them to eat in the enclosure and it is sad in all this spring luxury that their home is devoid of grass.

At New Haw there is another lovely lock cottage. And then I am on the last section of today's walk, a dead
straight run of navigation.  Just as I start I come across a cluster of boats, a few people sitting in one drinking wine.  I take a photo of the first boat, advertising the skills of its blacksmith owner and say hello to the drinkers as I pass.

I am not entirely sure how I am going to get off the canal and to the railway station. There is a little patch of green marked on my map (I have gone onto the 25,000) which I hope will take me from the canal to the
road as no other obvious access is marked.

I find the woods and a little pathway which I take, this wends through very thick scrub and then lets me out on a concrete roadway. There has clearly been recent work here but no traffic. I take the road and can see a closed gate further on. As I get near to this I see it has a mass of notices on it and I think I can probably guess what they say.

The gate is chained shut so I climb it and indeed the notices forbid access to those
not wearing hard hats and high visibility jackets. Idiotic. If it is dangerous why not put something at the canal end of the path?  I walk round to see that there is a path gate by a house just round the corner and that has notices too.

Oh well, I hope I can get back this way on Monday!   My other worry is the frequency of trains which I have entirely neglected to check out in advance.  Byfleet and New Haw is not a famous station and I am a little worried that it might be one of those tiny
commuter stops that has barely any trains except for a flurry going into London in the morning and a flurry coming out again at night.

I buy my ticket from a machine and haul my weary self up to the platform.  There is a train to Waterloo due in six minutes.

Now that really was a very, very enjoyable walk.



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