One of the Ramblers' calls on the candidates at the last Mayoral and GLA elections was to support improvements to the Thames Path and other major walking routes in London.

In June 2018, TfL invited Inner London Ramblers to join Will Norman, London's Walking and Cycling Commissioner (a post which was another one of our campaign asks!) to celebrate the opening of a new riverside stretch of the Thames Path, joining the Thames Barrier to Woolwich.  Des Garrahan, former national Chair of the Ramblers and Inner London Area member represented us.

Previously, taking the extended Thames Path past the Barrier at Charlton required an inland diversion with a long drag down the busy A206; a forbidding prospect.

Now, the path takes, (at least during the daytime) a largely traffic free-route, with much more riverside walking.  This is made possible by two pieces of new infrastructure and negotiation of access through the former Siemens factory on the Westminster Industrial Estate. 

It creates the possibility of a fine day out, walking from Greenwich North to Woolwich, taking in the sights of the Dome, the Thames Barrier, and Woolwich Arsenal in just a couple of hours of walking.  A return to central London can be made by train from Woolwich or, more spectacularly, by boat.  Soon, the Crossrail service will make it even more accessible.

Westminster Industrial Estate

The first new section of the walk takes you through some splendid remnants of the area's industrial heritage. 

Follow the sign-posted route for a few tens of metres and, on your left, you'll see a new ramp, making the route accessible to wheeled-visitors.  

Ramp to Westminster Industrial Estate
Ramp to Westminster Industrial Estate

At the head of the ramp, you get the first view of the old industrial estate, soon to become residential properties. Access to this area is subject to an agreement between the local council and the landowners. The gates you can see close at night.

Entry to the Westminster Industrial Estate
Entry to the Westminster Industrial Estate

Continue through the site until you emerge back onto the public road. To your left, at the end of Warspite Road,  is the next new section of path - the 'flyover'.

The Flyover

With the domestication of Bugsby's marshes since the start of this century, this stretch of the river is where you start to see the low density industries that used to characterise much of the Thames' South Bank.  The flyover is, in fact, a shared use bridge, taking walkers and cyclists round some industrial units, hugging the river and dropping down onto an existing walkway into Woolwich.

The new flyover
The new flyover

It's a stretch of only a hundred metres or so, but it descends to the walkway in front of an established purpose built housing estate, and views open up down the river to the shiny, Crossrail-induced, post-industrial developments of the new Woolwich and, beyond.

Downstream to Woolwich
Downstream to Woolwich

From here, it's a riverside walk into Woolwich, where you can start the Capital Ring, catch a train or boat back to Central London, or enjoy the fine old arsenal buildings.  The gentrification of Woolwich in preparation for the opening of the Crossrail line is going at pace, and it's already possible to pay six pounds for a pint of craft beer there. 

Conclusion

This new stretch of the Thames Path is a welcome improvement to a previously unpleasant diversion.  It demonstrates, again, the foresight of making new riverside developments incorporate public riverside space, even if it isn't initially accessible from both sides.  The only downsides are that the route isn't a public right of way, and is inaccessible for several hours a day.

nb The photos accompanying this article were taken on the 1st of July 2018.