Jan17_image039A river walk is a good way to start the year. It’s hard to get lost, though some years we have managed it. This time we didn’t.

This was the 34th walk in the ORRA series. They began in January 2006 with a walk deep in Essex mud, though nobody can quite remember where.

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This outing down the Thames from Hampton Court to Richmond attracted a good turnout with a nice mix of stalwarts and returnees: 19 in all. We could have gone all the way to Tower Bridge if we had had the puff:

The walkers (Should we now be called Amblers, not Ramblers? someone asked) were rewarded with a grey but subtly beautiful London outing, the tiniest touch of mizzle, and very little mud. The paths were unwaterlogged, too: one previous New Year Thames walk at Marlow had to be diverted because the chosen route was deep under water. It could have happened here:

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We circumnavigated Hampton Court without seeing very much of great house or gardens apart from the skating rink penguins. Walls and fences keep out non-paying prying eyes, and the statues were veiled in protective covers for the winter.

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But the river was busy with distractions, especially post-seasonal mistletoe, Saturday rowers, and some interesting boats:

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Jan17_image016Actually on the path, other features. A striking ventilation shaft for a gas tunnel under the Thames, for example:

Jan17_image017And a curious reclining seat for the non ambulatory public, not in loving memory of as so many (upright) others are:

We took advantage of another (upright) seat for the group photo. (All the passers-by were runners and too dedicated to be interrupted, so the picture is another digitalised miracle.)

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Naked commerce interrupted the jaunt at Kingston, where we crossed the river to skirt the Kingston shopping centre, resisting the lure of the John Lewis Sale.

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And then on down the south bank of the Thames, with seagulls and lone swans:

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A ritual dance (apparently) at Kingston bandstand:

Jan17_image024Past a sad memorial to a young woman who collapsed while rowing:

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Photographer Annie gingerly approached a tented angler:

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But how many of them were there inside?

Jan17_image027And then, hungrily, we approached the tidal head of the river, marked by the elaborate engineering at Teddington LockJan17_image028

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Back across the river at the lock, and we tucked in a nice lunch at a cosy slightly inland pub with a Thameside name, not a tied house but The Tide End Cottage:

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After quite a long lunch (including obligatory desserts, of course) the march downriver continued, not too fast, though:Jan17_image034Jan17_image035

Past Ham House..

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..and eventually those of the party who had not bailed out at Teddington were rewarded by the sight of Richmond hoving into view:Jan17_image037

With bridge, watchful heron, ancient boatyard crafts and elegant little alleys:

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From the back streets we popped out at the station, and unsolicited advice from a kerbside evangelical poster:

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The Overground sped us across the top of London, back home in time for tea. A good way to start 2017.

The next (rural) walk will take place on the last Saturday in April, the 29th. God willing, of course.

Words and pictures by Annie and Peter

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