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Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Best dog walks in West London: Thames Tow Path Chiswick/ Hammersmith/ Barnes

I am a big, big fan of walking along the Thames. I love the history. I love the riverscape. I love watching the rowing eights and the other boats going by. For me it's pretty close to perfection.

My number one, all-time favourite West London walk starts on Church Street, Chiswick, just beside the Hogarth roundabout. The nearest underground station is Turnham Green. If you come by car you could park at the Chiswick House car park, just off the A4/ Great West Road and walk down to Church Street.

And if you do park there, be sure and look in at Hogarth's house as you walk along the A4 towards Church Street. It used to be the great man's country retreat to which he came to escape the hustle and bustle of eighteenth century London. Back then he would have looked out at gently rolling meadows with a sleepy cow track running by. Today, were he to return, he'd think he'd landed in an earthquake zone with the traffic thundering past, and shaking the foundations of his lovely home.

Hogarths' House, Chiswck with his old mulberry tree still standing in the foreground

Pop in if you have a moment and aren't in the company of your pooch (it's not an open-to-dogs venue), and enjoy the atmosphere. It's a timeless sort of place - if you're deaf to the din of the A4/ Great West Road outside.

As you cross the Hogarth Roundabout (there is an underpass so you don't have to risk a kamikaze chicken run) spare a glance for Chiswick Square, the smallest square in London, which consists of two houses on each side and the historic Boston House at the back. All three houses date from the 1680's.

Best dog walks in West London: part 2: Thames Tow Path
Chiswick Square, the smallest square in London

Walk down Church Street towards the river, and you will pass the Old Burlington on your left and the lovely church of Saint Nicholas (on your right) where the great man (Hogarth) is buried. You can read a post I did about the Saint Nicholas churchyard here: Saint Nicholas churchyard

Front Facade of the Church of Saint Nicholas, Chiswick

The Old Burlington is now in private hands. But back in the day it was a well-known public house called the Burlington Arms. The notorious highwayman, Dick Turpin, is said to have celebrated his wedding breakfast here. It still has four front doors, outside one of which is a cupboard in which the drunken and disorderly used to be locked up for the night.

Best dog walks in London: Part 2: Thames Tow Path
The Old Burlington, one-time hang-out of Dick Turpin


Best Dog Walks in West London: Part 2: Thames Tow Path
Church Street, Chiswick

Best dog walks in West London: Part 2: Thames Tow Path
Church of Saint Nicholas


Now carry on down to the river, and take the little path on the right that runs along the side of those newish-looking, red brick houses. It will take you to the Thames tow path that runs along the riverbank.

Look over to the left when you reach the river and you will see the island of Chiswick Eyot (pronounced 'eight' by those in the know). I think you'll have to admit that this is not London as we know it. What a riverscape! Here it is one day at low tide:

Chiswick Eyot, River Thames at low tide

And here it is another, sunnier, day at high tide:

Best dog walks in West London: Part 2: Thames Tow Path
Chiswick Eyot, River Thames at high tide

Keep on going on the tow path, and it will take you past all the newly-built housing and out into the relative wilds of Duke's Meadows. Ah, this is more like it. Now keep on going, past the bandstand, and on towards Barnes Bridge. You'll see lots of traffic on the river. It's still a busy place.

Best dog walks in West London: Part 2: Thames Tow Path
Rowers on the Thames

When you get to Barnes Bridge, you need to go up the steps and across the bridge to the Surrey shore.

Best dog walks in West London: Part 2: Thames Tow Path
Barnes Bridge from the Middlesex shore

Now you want to turn left and follow the elevated pathway that hugs the river and gives you some stonking views of the Middlesex shore. You will see the Bull's Head public house on your right. Carry on to the start of the Leg of Mutton nature reserve, and follow the path to the left through the trees along the riverbank. As you go, watch out for the funky cow that someone has put out to pasture on their upper-storey roof terrace.


Follow on down the tow path, which leads you through the woods and on around the edge of the Leg of Mutton wildlife reserve.

Watch out again for the rowers. There are lots of eights out on the river at all times of the year.

Best dog walks in West London: Part 2: Thames Tow Path
Girls' rowing eight
Keep on going until you have Hammersmith Bridge in sight.

Best dog walks in West London: Part 2: Thames Tow Path
Hammersmith Bridge and some recent storm damage
I love the sturdy elegance of Hammersmith Bridge, and the clashing green colours that they use to paint it. I don't know who decide on that combo, but I think it's so wrong that it looks great - if you know what I mean ... .


Best dog walks in West London: Part 2: Thames Tow Path
Hammersmith Bridge
Now you need to cross the bridge. When you reach the other side turn left into the Lower Mall. There are a few good watering holes on the Mall with riverside terraces where they don't mind the odd canine or two stopping by. Check out the Blue Anchor and the Rutland Arms:

Best dog walks in West London: Part 2: Thames Tow Path
The Rutland Arms and the Blue Anchor
Or you could pop into the Dove, a little further along, for a snifter or a bite to eat. The riverside terrace of the Dove is a particular favourite of mine. They have first class tucker, great views and they're wonderfully pet friendly. This is their website if you want to check them out: The Dove, Hammersmith

Best dog walks in West London: Part 2: Thames Tow Path
The Dove

Sign above the door of the Dove


Now that you've wet your whistle in one or other or all of the fabulous pubs on offer, carry on along the river, past the colourful little waterborne community.

Best dog walks in West London: Part 2: Thames Tow Path


Take a look, back over your shoulder at the splendid view of Hammersmith Bridge.

Best dog walks in West London: Part 2: Thames Tow Path
Hammersmith Bridge

Now just keep on along the Upper Mall, which leads into Chiswick Mall. The river-side homes along here are to die for: really, really lovely properties. The only snag is that the Mall is prone to flooding. The folk who live here follow tide tables to figure out when it's safe to park their cars outside, and if you take a closer look at most of the front gates you'll notice that they come with high-tech hermetic seals and waterproof screens to keep the river out.

The Chiswick Mall continues on past Chiswick Eyot, the island in the river, and carries on to where we started on Church Street.

Best dog walks in West London: Part 2: Thames Tow Path Chiswick/ Hammersmith/ Barnes
Chiswick Eyot from the Chiswick Mall


If you'd like to do the walk, here's a map to help you find your way. I've marked the route in purple arrows and put a big house in where Hogarth's old digs are.


Best Dog walks in West London: Part 2: Thames Tow Path Chiswick/ Hammersmith/ Barnes


Just a word of caution: if you do this walk on Boat Race day (Sunday 6th April, 2014) it's going to be very, very busy and you'll be really pressed to get a table in any of the lovely waterside pubs. The Boat Race is a top event, and if you want to come to see it, that's great, but if you'd rather enjoy a peaceful walk along a lovely bit of the river, I'd save this one for another date.

All the best and happy hiking,


Bonny x

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