Ten Questions Answered about the Beautiful Thames Path

Thames Source – closest train station is Kemble

Walking the Thames Path from the source of the River Thames to the engineering marvel of the Thames Barrier is a flat, well marked, picturesque walk of about 300km. Here are some questions I had before starting and the answers learnt by actually walking it!

  1. Are some seasons better suited to walking the Thames Path?
  2. How far do I have to walk everyday?
  3. Do I need to walk it all in one go?
  4. Can I get food and water along the path?
  5. Do I need to pre-book my accomodation?
  6. What are the costs for doing the Thames Path?
  7. Will my phone have signal along the Thames Path?
  8. Will I get lost?
  9. What are the best tips for walking the Thames Path?
  10. Is it worth the effort?
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What cannot be captured in a photo….

Living in London has been fun and whilst there have been many interesting sights to see (and therefore photograph for this blog), there have been many experiences that do not lend themselves to a photo. Here are a few…..and as I write these, I realise that many of these do not require necessarily the location of London to experience but only the openness to enjoy the many small joys in life.

Turn the snowdrop over! There are all kinds of variations on the inside of the flower. A hidden secret! Exquisite!
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Money Saving Hacks in London

Tower Bridge

London is a very expensive city to live or to visit but there are countless ways to save money. Some of these do require some time and administration on your part but it’s worth it for the thrill of knowing you got a great deal or the feeling that haven’t been duped into paying for too much. Even if the savings don’t feel like much, every little bit helps.

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Another Dispatch from London

London is a major city and there are always fabulous events happening, something to feast the eye around every corner and the opportunity to see and do things which are quite special. These are but a few recent examples.

Grand Designs is a TV show where the host, Kevin McCloud follows home owners building their dream home from blueprint to completion. There are often elements of interesting architecture or design and lots of drama in the form of cost and schedule overruns. Recently, there was an event held called Grand Designs Live. We had the opportunity to peruse stalls related to all aspects of home-building and design but best of all, we could see Kevin McCloud himself! He looks and sounds just like he does on TV!

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Tower of London

Considering the crowds, a visit to the historic Tower of London seems to be a “must do” for anyone visiting London. This building complex which dates back to 1066 has been used as an armoury, the Royal Mint, a dungeon, a menagerie, the home of the Crown Jewels and the site of a number of executions. Amongst the executions are some of the wives of King Henry VIII. Here are my tips for a good visit.

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Lovely London in Springtime!

London is gorgeous in springtime. People start to wear lighter jackets and sometimes you even see some shorts and skirts with bare legs! The flowers that sprout up everywhere are simply joyous. These flowers can be observed just doing everyday things around London. No special trip to some pricey gardens required. Just keep your eyes open and feast them on the cherry blossoms, daffodils, bluebells, hyacinths, tulips and all the other plants bursting into life to celebrate a new year of growth.

Columbia Road Flower Market – so unbelievably beautiful (but you will have to battle the crowds!)
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London is not dismal!

All across the world when you speak to someone about their home country, you will get a stream of negativity. I have seen this from Australians, Canadians, Germans and now the English. You could argue that there can’t be anything too terrible by this list of countries. They are affluent, high-functioning, first world nations and not war torn, famine-stricken back-waters. In the UK, the most common reaction when a local finds out you have relocated there from the paradise that is Australia is “but WHY!!?? It’s DISMAL here!”

Dismal, what a horrid word and what a sad sentiment to say about ones own country. Defined as causing a mood of gloom and depression. Common synonyms are bleak, cheerless, desolate, dreary, and gloomy.

No country is without it’s problems, big or small. This is the case with the UK. Things are tough for many in the UK. Energy costs are high and inflation is high and yes, the weather is often grey and rainy. In London, the city is grimy, the rental market is insanely competitive and the cost of living vs average earnings makes things very difficult. You could also argue that politicians are lousy people no matter what country you are in. Nevertheless, there is plenty to be positive about.

Big Ben – looking spectacular on a gorgeous blue sky day!

It could be argued that without having some bad times you don’t appreciate the good times as much. Similarly without experiencing some grey and drizzly weather, you don’t appreciate the gorgeous sunny, blue sky days. Weather reporting in the UK is unreliable (apparently there are good meteorological reasons for why forecasts are more difficult in this part of the world). There have been many a day that have been predicted to be rainy but all of a sudden, the clouds will part and the sun and spectacular blue skies emerge. The side effect of the drizzle and rain is a beautiful shade of lush greenery here in the UK. This is something that someone who has lived in the dry parts of Australia really appreciates.

Anyway, the worst of the winter is over and there are the most glorious signs of spring everywhere. There are snowdrops, crocuses and daffodils. The cherry blossoms have come out and they are so enchanting, that it is impossible to say that London is dismal!

Cherry Blossoms in London – Aldgate Square
Snowdrops – the first harbinger of spring!
Turn the snowdrop over! There are all kinds of variations on the inside of the flower. A hidden secret! Exquisite!
Purple Crocuses near Horses Guard Parade
Springtime Daffodils

If you are sick of the cold, grey London weather, one of the best things is that London is a major transport hub. From here, there is so much of the globe which is easily accessible. Perhaps a short trip to the south of Spain for some warmth and Moorish architecture!

London is a massive city and the result is a melting pot of diversity. A huge number of people from all over the world live and work here and also plenty of tourists. The result is a dynamic city with lots of diverse, delicious choices to tickle your fancy in food and events.

An array of paella at the Portobello Road Markets
A lion dance during Chinese New Year blessing a restaurant for a good business year ahead.

There are plenty of other advantages of living in a big city. There are plenty of free and paid events, performances and lectures. There is also loads of opportunities to meet interesting people. The population density also means that the apps like Olio, that helps to reduce food and non-food waste work really well.

Olio is an app which helps prevent waste. Food Waste Heroes collect food which can no longer be sold and help to distribute it into the community. On this night, we got all these lovely Pret items for nothing.

London is very famous for it’s theatre scene. There are so many shows which are playing that the competition is fierce and the talent and quality of the productions outstanding. Whilst it may seem expensive to go to a big name show, there are plenty of ways to score a cheap(er) ticket.

West End Production of Sylvia based on the life of famous feminist activist Sylvia Pankhurst.

London is full of iconic sights. It’s hard to feel dismal when you look up and you see something majestic like Tower Bridge.

Tower of London
Changing of the guards at Buckingham Palace
Victoria Memorial – crowds anxiously waiting for the changing of the guards
A great view of St Paul’s Cathedral from One New Change
City of London Skyline
Tower Bridge – often mistaken for London Bridge. It was painted in browns during the war to minimize visibility to protect it from bombing but was painted since in white, red and blue to celebrate the Queen’s Jubilee. An iconic sight in London. Yet, before it was built, there were a huge number of competition entries as to the type of bridge that should be built across the Thames that can allow ships to go through. This bridge could have looked and operated in a completely different way! That’s the beauty of design! Different ways to achieve the same outcome!
Glass walkway on Tower Bridge. You can see the cars and river go past below!
These old motors used to be the way that Tower Bridge was raised to allow boats through. The system has been upgraded and these are no longer being used.
London City Hall
Westminster Abbey
Westminster Abbey

In addition to the iconic sights are the hidden gems. Walk around, look up, look around and you may see something interesting. Here are some cool places and things in London that I’ve accidentally stumbled across whilst wandering about.

The Iconic Lloyd’s building
Westminster Cathedral
Australia!
Triton and Dryads Fountain – Regent’s Park

The people in London are kind and friendly people. This has been unexpected. It has not been difficult to meet people who have transitioned from being new acquaintances to being friends.

The public health system in the UK is dysfunctional at times but is free and is very good. The medical staff do their absolute best and are kind, supportive and competent.

When you need to get out of London, the UK is a big country with centuries of history to explore.

Castle Acre Castle
Bailey Gate, Castle Acre built in about the year 1200 and you can drive through it today!

No place is perfect. There will always be good and bad. Hopefully you can look around your life and there are some positive things, some joys, however small in size and that things are not dismal for you.

Canary Wharf – A glimpse into a parallel universe!

What would London be like if development was allowed to proceed without planning restrictions for old buildings? Large areas of London are protected against development because of population density limits, restrictions on views and of course preservation of old buildings. This preserves the historic buildings and neighbourhoods but has the side effect of limiting growth. It keeps the city more low-rise and gives parts of London a grimy, run-down, aged feel. Some areas are charming and historic, other parts, look like they need a good scrub and a facelift (and before London cleaned up it’s act, it used to be a lot dirtier!). Prince Charles successfully advocated for many years that no other buildings could exceed the height of St Paul’s cathedral – which meant some of the most valuable commercial real estate in the UK (the city of London – sometimes called the square mile) could only be built to an amazingly low density. Going to the Docklands area of Canary Wharf is an insight into what London might look like if large scale development was possible.

The Docklands area was once a thriving area by the Thames River for port activities, merchants, industry, warehousing and engineering. Due to the criticality of this area for London, it was the target of severe bombing during the second World War. After the war, it struggled to rebuild as the area was not suitable for larger modern container ships. In the 90s, after a lot of feet-dragging by the government, the area was finally transformed and re-emerged as an area for business. Large corporations (particularly banks) established their offices there. Tall office and residential buildings sprung up and this area become a posh, gentrified part of town.

Now, Canary Wharf is a modern, skyscraper filled central business district of shiny glass and steel. People live in the residential buildings in modern new-build, albeit expensive, apartments. The modernity of Canary Wharf is a massive contrast to other areas of London, so much so that it has something of the feel of an American city about it. Canary Wharf is also trying to become an entertainment and dining precinct. Many famous restaurant franchises have already opened a branch in this area. It’s also very well connected with a number of different commuter trains lines running through it including the recently completed (but wholy un-originally named) Elizabeth Line.

We recently visited the Canary Wharf areas to see their free Winter Lights event. Interesting and artistic light displays were set-up in a circuit around the main area. This free event has been very well attended and there were crowds of people walking from one exhibit to another. This free, public event is quite a smart tactic to draw people into a predominantly business district after dark – in the freezing cold depths of winter. Many of these people will duck into the warmth of a restaurant or shop at some point during their Winter Lights walk. Others may be drawn to Canary Wharf for the first time by this event and be struck by the modernity, the entertainment, the restaurants and other amenities available!

Canary Wharf Winter Lights
Canary Wharf Winter Lights
Canary Wharf Winter Lights
Canary Wharf Winter Lights
Canary Wharf Winter Lights
Canary Wharf Winter Lights
Canary Wharf Winter Lights
Canary Wharf Winter Lights
Canary Wharf Winter Lights
Canary Wharf Winter Lights