Writing Portfolio


The Capital Ring: Richmond to Osterley Lock

To Richmond, to continue with my walk along the Capital Ring. A nice day for what promised to be a waterside walk, starting with the Thames and continuing with the Grand Union Canal. Around four miles in total.

As well as the prospect of hiring a rowing-boat, this part of the Thames also has a riverboat service which can take you to Hampton Court for £8:50, and that’s for a journey of one-and-three-quarter hours. Walking along the riverside in the opposite direction, I passed the site of Richmond Palace, another old Royal residence which I happen to know a bit about thanks to one of my Londonist articles – it used to be called Shene in the Middle Ages but was renamed Richmond by Henry VII when he rebuilt it (before beating Richard III at Bosworth Field, he’d been the Earl of Richmond; the Lancastrian claimant with a title relating to a Yorkshire town). A favourite residence of Elizabeth I, the palace survived until just after the Civil War, when it was demolished.

After passing the western edge of Old Deer Park (so-called due to its former use as a royal hunting-ground), I crossed the Thames at Richmond Lock. This dates back to the 1890s and was built to ensure a minimum depth of the River between Richmond and Teddington (the demolition of the Old London Bridge some six decades beforehand having resulted in greater tidal fluctuations upriver); the sluice-gates are closed unless there’s a high tide. There are toll-booths on the accompanying footbridge but tolls – one penny each – haven’t been charged since the Second World War.

At Isleworth, the path briefly diverted inland just as the Thames passed Isleworth Ait, one of the longest of the Thames islands. Back on the riverside, and going through the outdoor seating area of the Town Wharf pub, I crossed a small stone bridge over the Duke of Northumberland’s River and then passed a row of Georgian houses by the church, where I even got to wander along the shoreline (it was low tide) and see some birds – Black-headed Gulls mostly, but also Teals and Cormorants. before turning my back on the Thames for the last time on this walk and entering the Syon Park estate.

This is the London residence of the Duke of Northumberland – hence the name of the river I’d just crossed; the grounds were laid out by Capability Brown in the eighteenth century. After crossing the estate, I was in Brentford – the old county town of Middlesex and a place I last visited many years ago, when Watford had an away game at Griffin Park. My route through Brentford this time was to link with the Grand Union Canal at Brentford Lock (at this point, the Grand Union Canal and the River Brent are one and the same, the Brent having been canalised as part of the Grand Union downriver from Hanwell).

For the rest of the day’s walk, it was a simple enough job of following the towpath of the canal, through the frame of a disused warehouse, under a railway line and then under the A4, past a lock gate (Clitheroe’s Lock) then alongside the M4 and over to the other side of the canal at a footbridge called Gallows Bridge (this proclaims the canal to be the Grand Junction, the canal’s old name). 

I’ve done a fair amount of canalside walking in recent months, what with writing-up walks along the Regent’s Canal and the River Lea/Lee. Section 7 of the Capital Ring ends on the Grand Union just before Osterley Lock, not long after the canal passes under the M4; I called it a day there, half a mile from Boston Manor station, and got the Tube home.

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