Walk completed August 16, 2014

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Saturday, August 16, 2014 -- Epilogue

“… more chairs. I don’t need any more chairs. I don't need...”

“Ken, you’re talking in your sleep again,” I heard a familiar voice say.

I slowly opened my eyes to realize I was in my easy chair, surrounded by familiar trappings.  Looking out our living room window I could see the red rock walls of southern Utah. An unfolded map was lying on the floor next to my chair.

“I must have been dreaming,” I said to Janet. “It all seemed so real. King Arthur called, and I went to England for the summer. There were rivers and canals, old pubs and old trains, and some friends. Richard Davies and Ben Page, who I met in 2011 on the Offa’s Dyke Path, were there. So was Jack Frost, and he and Daryl May both sent boats to give me a lift. A U.S. Marine was there, and lifted my spirits. I made new friends, too. It was hot, and hardly ever rained. It seemed like I was really there.”
“Of course it’s hot,” replied Janet, “you live in the desert and you’ve been home all summer. You can't go anywhere, especially England, until you get your passport renewed. It expired in 2012, remember? Get your passport renewed, and maybe you can go to England next summer.”

“Next summer? No, I guess not. The real thing could never be as wonderful as the dream I just had. ”
“Well, you can think about that later. In the meantime, we’re having guests for dinner tonight, and you still haven’t brought in those three extra chairs from the garage like I asked.”

 “Oh, right.  The chairs.”

© 2014 Ken Klug

Thursday, August 14, 2014

August 14, 2014 -- Day 60, Shepperton to Staines, 8 miles

I returned by train this morning to Shepperton, this time to walk to Staines where my journey began two months ago. As I rejoined the pastoral Thames one last time, I slowed my pace, to savor the final hours of the walk and reflect on my experiences.

Paramount, as always, are the people I was fortunate to meet along the way. That good fortune continued today, when I met John and Wendy, from Vancouver, B.C., who’ve been walking the Thames from its source. They’ve also walked the Irish Coast to Coast, although by a more northern route than I took. John is a fan of Ernest Shackleton, giving us something else in common.

John and Wendy

About an hour later I met Harry, from Ross on Wye, who was on his way to complete his 5th annual walk of the Thames Path from the source. Harry also walked the Thames to its source 50 years ago before there was a path.


Finally, as I crossed Staines Bridge, I knew the loop had been closed and the walk was finished.
Staines Bridge

Thames from Staines Bridge
But I still had one more task to complete. Two months ago I had affixed a zip-tie to an old fence about 100 yards from the bridge, and promised myself to return and cut it off. As soon as I cut it, King Arthur appeared, along with members of his court.

“THREE CHAIRS FOR SIR LOST-A-LOT!” exclaimed the King.

“No, really, your Highness,” I protested. “I’m feeling fine. I don’t need any chairs.”

“Hip, hip, hooray,” shouted the court. “Hip, hip …”

“My hips are fine,” I interrupted. “My feet and knees are a little tired, though.”

“Three more chairs for Sir Lost-a-lot!” exclaimed the King

“NO, REALLY, I DON’T NEED ANY MORE CHAIRS!! I don't need any more chairs! I don't need any more chairs. I don't need any mo....."

© 2014 Ken Klug

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

August 13, 2014 -- Day 59, Thames Path, Shepperton to Richmond, 17 miles

Today I took the train to Shepperton, walked the Thames towpath back to Richmond, and returned to my hotel by train. Most of the walk was in sunshine. Clouds accumulated in the afternoon, and threatened rain, but never made good on the threat.

Although I pretended to be in the countryside, I was near enough to the city to encounter many dog walkers, joggers, casual cyclists and tourists, but far enough from the city that people actually greeted me, despite the backpack. The first person who I met and who actually engaged in conversation was Adam, rowing a solo scull. He confirmed that sculls are actually as unstable as they appear, and that it takes some experience to maintain balance. Hmmm, why am I feeling another challenge coming on?


The next people I met were walkers, John and Norma, who are walking the Thames Path in sections. Or at least I think those are their names. They had just pointed out to me the last pub on my route before Richmond, and I was so absorbed in the prospect of a bowl of soup that I forgot to write down their names. Writing down names isn’t really necessary, because I have a mind like a steel trap. Nonetheless, the couple in the following picture will help my ego tremendously if they confirm their names are John and Norma. Or maybe it was Russell and Norma.

John and Norma, possibly

On that note, I’ll let some pictures describe the rest of the day.

Bridge at Walton-on-Thames

Swanish Armada


Trailside Garden

Kingston Bridge

Richmond Bridge

© 2014 Ken Klug

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

August 12, 2014 -- Day 58, Thames Path, Richmond to Pimlico, 18 miles

I’m back in the countryside again. Well, if you look at the map, you’ll see I’m still surrounded by urbanity, but much of today's walk felt like the country, and large promenades made even the city portions enjoyable. Apartments built along the river were planned with wide riverside plazas adjacent to the walkway, giving even private property a park-like setting.

The Thames from Richmond Bridge

Battersea Park along the river

Very upscale apartments

You will recall that yesterday’s walk concluded at Vauxhall Bridge, and Ben led me to the Pimlico underground station to return to North Greenwich. Today I took the underground to Richmond, and walked back along the river to Pimlico. My GPS says the distance walked was 18 miles, but it didn’t seem that far.

Immediately upon leaving Richmond, the Thames Path runs alongside the Old Deer Park and the Royal Botanical Gardens – thus the countryside feeling.
In very short order I reached the Richmond Lock and Weir, where an illuminated signboard notifies boaters of a £5 charge for passing through the lock. No other lock that I am aware of charges boaters to pass through. Intrigued, I asked lock keeper Jim for an explanation. He not only provided an explanation, but described how the system works. (In a nutshell, vessels mooring in areas controlled by the Environment Agency pay a license fee, which includes lock fees. The tidal Thames up to Teddington Lock is controlled by the London Port Authority. The Port Authority doesn’t include lock fees in whatever charges it levies on vessels, so any vessel passing through Richmond Lock is charged.) Jim  also gave me a map of the river, and warned me that the tides for the next few days will be exceptionally high, and will spill onto the footpath in places. (I then recalled seeing a full moon this morning, explaining the high tide.)


Despite the length of today’s walk, it was very enjoyable. I didn’t find any mystery plants, so I spent my time photographing bridges. Below is a selection of what I thought were the prettiest -- many had been freshly painted, perhaps for Queen Elizabeth II's jubilee two years ago. I think I can name most of the bridges, but perhaps somebody more knowledgeable will correct any mistakes I’ve made.

Twickenham Bridge

Kew Bridge

Barnes Bridge

Hammersmith Bridge

Putney Bridge
Albert Bridge

Chelsea Bridge

© 2014 Ken Klug

Monday, August 11, 2014

August 11, 2014 -- Day 57, Thames Path, 15 miles

A sunny morning greeted me as I returned to the O2 to resume walking the Thames Path where I left off yesterday. The tide was out, emphasizing the amount of water that moves in and out of the Thames each day.


After 7 weeks of lovely walks in the countryside, the best I can say about today’s walk is that the morning was sunny. London’s waterfront is in the midst of a construction boom, and the Thames Path was diverted time and time again to accommodate the construction. Sadly, in many places where the Path followed the river, it passes by derelict old warehouses and piers, or through neighborhoods of “social” housing – perhaps historical and necessary, but not picturesque.

Path diversion for construction

Old pier
As in many cities, old buildings have been converted to upscale housing for the wealthy. As I was passing through one such enclave, I met David, who was cycling by. He pointed out a penthouse that was once owned by a rock star, David Bowie. I'm not familiar with David Bowie, but he had a nice house.


Eventually, the path arrives at tourist London near Tower Bridge, with mobs of people. I’ve grown accustomed to herds of sheep and cattle, and wasn’t ready for jostling crowds of people along the footpath. Fortunately, Ben arrived just at that time, and led me through an interesting (if crowded) historic market place. Ben commented that it was not very busy today – on a weekend there would be even more people. Outside the market place we stopped at a cheese store and then a deli, and put together cheese sandwiches to munch on as we continued on our way.

Tower Bridge

The new London Bridge

I had had about enough of crowds by the time we reached Vauxhall Bridge, and decided to end the day, whereupon Ben led me to the nearby Pimlico Underground Station, and reacquainted me with the process of buying a ticket and making train connections, so I could return to my hotel, and write today’s posting.

Maybe tomorrow I’ll find another mystery plant on the footpath. Wouldn't that be exciting?

© 2014 Ken Klug

August 10, 2014 -- Thames Barrier, 5 miles

The sun came out long enough on Sunday afternoon to induce me to walk to the Thames Barrier, the official start/finish of the Thames Path. The Thames Barrier is the world’s largest moveable sea wall, and is designed to close off the River Thames from the storm tides that would otherwise cause disastrous flooding upstream. As I reached the Barrier, the rain started again, but I ducked inside a small cafĂ© for a coke and sandwich, and waited out the squall.


After the rain stopped, I followed the Thames Path to the O2 – a combination entertainment center and shopping mall located at the north end of the Greenwich peninsula. The roof of the structure appears to be a canvas tent.  Intrigued, I wandered around inside, but except for its circular footprint, the O2 was just a typical shopping mall with the usual upscale chain restaurants.


Adjacent to the O2 is the Emirates Air Line, a cable car system spanning the River Thames. I wasn’t inclined to ride the cable car any more than I was inclined to eat in a high-priced restaurant, so I returned to my hotel.


Just as I walked in the door, my phone rang. It was Ben, who lives a few blocks from my hotel. I first met Ben on Offa’s Dyke Path 3 years ago, and Janet and I had dinner with him the following year. Ben and his wife, Emma, invited me to have dinner at their home. It was a pleasant conclusion to the day.

© 2014 Ken Klug

Sunday, August 10, 2014

August 10, 2014 -- Special morning update, Dartford to Greenwich, 4 miles

It was raining in Dartford this morning, with periods of heavy rain. Rather than walk all day in the rain through an urban environment, I took the train from Dartford to Blackheath (near Greenwich, but the trains don’t run to Greenwich on Sundays). When the train arrived in Blackheath, the rain was lashing down. I sat in the station for about 15 minutes until the deluge subsided to sprinkles, and then set out for a 2 mile walk to my hotel.

Although I walked only a total of 4 miles between hotels and train stations in Dartford and Greenwich, I was very wet when I arrived at the hotel about 11:30 am. Fortunately, there was one room available that early, which I took so I could start drying out. Right now I’m about 600 yards from the Thames and about 1½ miles from the Thames Barrier, where I’ll start the final leg of my walk. That will be this afternoon if the skies clear. Otherwise, it will be tomorrow, clear skies or not.



© 2014 Ken Klug

Saturday, August 9, 2014

August 9, 2014 -- Day 55, Dunton Green to Dartford, 12 miles

Today’s walk continued on the Darent Valley Path through Otford, Shoreham, Eynford, Farningham and Horton Kirby. Despite yesterday’s heavy rain, most of the trail was reasonably dry without the knee high wet grass I’ve come to expect. The DVP was well marked, which was important today because my very old map doesn’t delineate the route, but only shows footpaths. I generally connected the ones that I thought would be the DVP, with only a few errors, but the way markings cured those mistakes.

Bridleway north of Otford
River Darent near Shoreham

Farmland near Eynsford

Train viaduct near Eynsford
The sun broke through the clouds, creating another beautiful day for walking.


A beautiful Saturday should bring out the walkers, and it wasn’t long before I met Kevin and Alison. A little farther on, I met Paul and his group of five other walkers (and two dogs) from Oxted/Limpsfield, near Westerham. We had a nice chat, but unfortunately I forgot to take their picture. Surprisingly, all the others I met on the trail were picnickers or local dog walkers – but no serious walkers.

Alison and Kevin
As hinted by its name, the Darent Valley Path generally follows the River Darent until it empties into the tidal Thames at Dartford. The route passes by Lullingstone Castle. I passed by at 11:15, but the castle doesn’t open until noon, so I didn’t stop. I probably wouldn’t have stopped anyway, because the structure looks more like a folly than a real castle. (Follies were typically built by wealthy persons in the 1700s and 1800s to resemble coveted structures, but don’t have any real historical importance other than the folly itself.)

Lullingstone Castle

River Darent near Horton Kirby

After 10½ miles, the DVP dumped me out on the busy A225 at the town of Sutton at Hone, a suburb of Dartford. Rather than pound pavement for the next 3 miles, I took a bus to the Dartford Railway Station, and then walked another 1½ miles to my hotel.
I can see the Queen Elizabeth II Bridge, which spans the Thames, from my hotel room. Unfortunately, it is open only to vehicles -- not walkers -- so I can't hike to the top for a picture. That will have to come later.

QE II Bridge from my room

© 2014 Ken Klug