It’s a bit of a mash-up, but somehow it seems to work.
You can get down and dirty with mud, bushes and wetlands one minute. And then the next, admire opulent Georgian houses, shiny newbuilds and quirky eateries on this Fulham to Chiswick section of the Thames Path.
The Thames Path was launched in 1996 and is only one of 15 National Trails to follow a river. It measures 185 miles and runs from the source in the Cotswolds, to the Thames Barrier and on to Woolwich.
I love the crazy contrasts along this west London slice of the path. Bustling London life –cyclists, walkers, joggers. Dog owners calling fugitive pets. Parents pushing pricey prams with determination.
All this exuberance is set against time-stopping tranquillity. Swans gliding on the tide, the harmony of rowers making their boats sing, houseboats hugging the shore and fireball sunsets sliding behind Hammersmith Bridge.
Here are some sights worth noting along the route.
THE RIVER CAFÉ
Designed by Richard Rogers (sadly no longer with us) for his wife, Ruth, who runs this iconic Italian restaurant. A laidback garden – that mercifully hasn’t been tamed within an inch of its life – sits in front of the industrial-chic building.
HARRODS FURNITURE DEPOSITORY
Former warehouse in pink terracotta that once stored bigger items that wouldn’t fit into the luxury Knightsbridge department store. Built in 1896, and then given a facelift by architect WG Hunt in 1914, this is one of the most attractive buildings along this stretch. It’s been turned into Harrods Village (the fate of many a warehouse site), where a three-bedroom flat will set you back £1.6 million.
Friendly neighbourhood arts complex, with cinemas, theatre, TV studios and café. Check out one of the area’s best restaurants, SAM’S RIVERSIDE: with river views, Parmesan churros, fresh oysters and light souffles. Behind the restaurant is SAM’S LARDER where you can buy deli goodies. And just across the street, SAM’S KITCHEN is a good walker’s pitstop for coffee, breakfast or lunch.
And don’t miss the unofficial garden on the slipway next to Riverside Studios and Hammersmith Bridge. There’s a bit of argy-bargy between the rogue, local gardener and Hammersmith & Fulham Council, as the latter says it requires access to the slipway. The rogue gardener doesn’t want to move.
Designed by William Tierney Clark, who also designed the suspension bridge at Marlow, further along the Thames. This was also the location for a scene for the James Bond movie, No Time to Die, starring Daniel Craig, Rami Malek and Lia Seydoux. Here, James Bond meets M for a quiet conversation, with the handsome, green bridge in the background. Currently, the bridge is closed to vehicles, so it’s ideal for walkers and cyclists.
Pretty little cottages, that wouldn’t look out of place at the seaside and lively pubs, like The Rutland Arms, for a riverside pint and fish ‘n’ chips. Also, look out for the rowing clubs – lots of kit sorting and boat cleaning going on.
Previously Hammersmith’s old wharf and industrial area stood here, but it was destroyed by bombing in World War Two. Furnivall Gardens was created in 1951, named after Dr Frederick Furnivall, co-creator of the Oxford English Dictionary and founder of Furnivall Sculling Club back in 1896. Now, it’s an open green space with trees offering shade for walkers, picnickers and children attracted to a small playground.
THE WILLIAM MORRIS SOCIETY
A small museum in the coach house and basement of Kelmscott house, now a private residence. Morris lived at Kelmscott House from 1878 until his death in 1896. Exhibitions by Morris and those inspired by him.
THE DOVE PUBLIC HOUSE
Known fondly as “The Dove”, in Dove passageway. The perfect spot for a drink in what I call “a real pub”, with great views of the river. The building was originally a coffee-house in the early 18th century.
Plenty of blue plaques in and around Hammersmith Terrace, including:
Sir Alan Herbert, author, humourist and reformist MP (1896 – 1971)
Sir Emery Walker, typographer. In the 1950s, his daughter unveiled the blue plaque on Sir Emery’s Arts & Crafts house. You can tour the house at certain times.
Eric Ravilious, painter, designer and illustrator (1903 – 1942). He served as a war artist, and was the first British war artist to die on active service in World War Two when his aircraft was lost off Iceland.
MARI DELI DINING
A charming little Italian café, with outside space. The owners fly in buffalo mozzarella from Naples every Friday.
THE ELDER PRESS CAFÉ
Lindsay Elder opened the café as a local hub for gatherings, coffee and tasty treats. Try the morning roll (a kind of cinnamon bun, but better) with your coffee. There’s a small garden at the back.