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?

1. Are some seasons better suited to walking the Thames Path?

It’s best to avoid walking in winter or after a period of rainy weather. The path can become flooded (further downstream, this could be due to tides in addition to heavy rain). The option is then to either battle through the thorny brambles beside the trail or wade through mud or water. Neither was pleasant. In winter or after rain, sections of the path can also become very muddy and slippery. It can really slow down the pace if caution has to be taken with every step. Best to plan walks for good weather and take advantage of the longer daylight hours in the warmer seasons.

Walking in the height of summer might also be a little warm but that can be more manageable. Some people take a dip in the Thames, but that’s probably only a good idea if you’re further upstream, as there is sometimes sewage discharged into the river (yes really!) – Thames Sewage

Flooded Thames Path near Putney (late October) – best to attempt the Thames Path in the warmer months as when the weather cools, the track can sometimes be entirely flooded.

2. How far do I have to walk everyday?

The distance to walk daily depends on your fitness level and time available. As a person of average fitness, I found 15km/day was comfortable, 25km/day tiring and 35km/day too much! The table below shows the various towns along the Thames Path. You can then slice and dice the segments to match your physical ability, desire to walk and time available. All of the way along the path can be considered an easy walk, the ground is flat and even.

It is important to note that not every town will have a supermarket, train station or accomodation. Planning is advised. After walking many kilometres, another 30 minute walk to the supermarket for lunch, to the train station or to your accommodation can feel simply impossible!

FromToDistance (km)Train Station at Start of SectionSupermarket at end of section
Source of the ThamesKemble20.12YKemble Post Office & Stores
KembleAshton KeynesYThe Village Shop
Ashton KeynesCrickladeTesco Express
CrickladeLechlade17.54Coop and Budgens (buy stuff for lunch/dinner tomorrow night)
LechladeTadpole Bridge16.25no supermarket
Tadpole BridgeNorthmoor13.36no supermarket
OxfordRadley15.61YWaitrose, SPAR, Londis
RadleyAbingdonYLidl, Waitrose
AbingdonDorchester13.2no supermarket
CholseyGoring and Streatley19.47YTesco Express
Goring and StreatleyPangbourneYCoOp and Londis
TilehurstReading19.79YWaitrose, Sainsbury
ReadingHenley-on-ThamesYSainsbury, Waitrose
Henley-on-ThamesMarlow20.6YLidl, M&S, Sainsbury
MarlowBourne EndYM&S, Tesco, CoOp
Bourne EndCookham17.7YBudgens
WindsorStaines13.52YLidl, Sainsbury
StainesShepperton19.79YM&S, Sainsbury, Coop
SheppertonHampton CourtYTesco, M&S
Hampton CourtKingston-upon-Thames13.04YSainsbury, M&S
Kingston-upon-ThamesTeddingtonYSainsbury, M&S, Budgens
TeddingtonRichmondYM&S, Tesco, Waitrose
RichmondKew Bridge13.2YSainsbury
Kew BridgeBarnes BridgeYSainsbury
Barnes BridgePutney BridgeYLidl, Sainsbury
Putney BridgeVauxhall Bridge12.07Ylots
Vauxhall BridgeWestminster BridgeYlots
Westminster BridgeWaterloo Bridge13.04Ylots
Waterloo BridgeBlackfriars BridgeYlots
Blackfriars BridgeLondon BridgeYlots
London BridgeTower BridgeYlots
Tower BridgeWapping/RotherhitheYlots
Wapping/RotherhitheGreenwich Foot TunnelYlots
Greenwich Foot TunnelThames Barrier9.01YAldi, Sainsbury
Total distance 299km. Distances are taken from the routes on AllTrails
Many canal boats are moored along the banks of the Thames once the river is wide and deep enough to be navigable.

3. Do I need to walk it all in one go?

Some people complete the walk in its entirety on consecutive days whilst most people complete segments of the walk as it suits their schedule. There are train stations at many of the towns along the Thames Path. Don’t forget to account for the distance to and from the train station into your daily distance total.

Thames Path

4. Can I get food and water along the path?

When researching the Thames Path I got the impression that the Thames was lined with quaint pubs and towns and it would therefore be easy to have a meal or find water whenever the mood strikes. This is not always the case. There are towns along the way but until you reach closer to London, there are long stretches of countryside. It is therefore important to carry enough water and snacks to keep you going between towns. Refer to the table above as not every town will have a supermarket.

Potable water is available from taps at the locks along the way. This also applies to toilets. There are some public toilets in some small towns but otherwise, you may have to make like a cow and go in the bushes!

In hot weather, we found bringing frozen bottles of water or juice boxes to be very refreshing. Some snack ideas include banana, peanut butter and honey wraps, granola bars, dried fruit, nuts and chocolate bars. For lunch we would often get a meal deal at the local supermarket. In fact, UK supermarkets have massive selections of reasonably priced sandwiches – often with combo deals that include a drink and a snack.

Thames Path between Richmond and Putney

5. Do I need to pre-book my accommodation?

This is strongly recommended – particularly in peak periods. Not every town has accommodation and not every place to stay will suit. It might be unavailable, too expensive or too much of a detour from the Thames Path. We found that accommodation prices on weekends would be very expensive. Some small towns would have very limited choices. In general, we found accommodation to be expensive, of limited availability but of decent quality. Except for the one hostel, YHA Streatley-on-Thames, cheap hostel type accommodation was not available.

These comments refer to accommodation option within a 30 minute walk from the Thames Path. It is of course possible to catch public transport or a taxi further afield for a place to stay.

Due to the limited amount of reasonably priced accommodation in some places, it is advisable to book ahead. It is also a comforting feeling as you walk, to know that you have a nice place organised to rest and recover overnight. A good night sleep was absolutely essential for walking the next day!

Thames Path – the lush English countryside

6. What are the costs for doing the Thames Path?

In general, we found walking the Thames Path to be expensive due to the cost of accommodation and train tickets. To minimise the cost of accommodation, we would often catch the train back home. Unfortunately, in addition to the cost of the train, it would also take precious time away from walking. Some other strategies to minimise cost include:

  • drinking water;
  • buying lunch at the supermarket instead of going to the local pub or restaurant;
  • spending time to research the cheapest accommodation option for each leg;
  • comparing prices for train tickets using various websites;
  • bringing snacks from home instead of buying them in small towns.

Examples of price of some train tickets and accommodations from September 2023 are as follows;

  • Cricklade House Hotel – £73pn for a double room
  • The Plough Inn, Kelmscott – £86pn for a double room
  • Airbnb in Northmoor – £80pn for a double room and breakfast
  • Room in Oxford – £68pn for a double room, breakfast and shared kitchen
  • Hostel YHA Streatley-on-Thames – £40pn for bunk beds, shared bathroom and kitchen
  • Airbnb in Henley-upon-Thames – £82 for double room and shared kitchen
  • Train from Didcot Parkway to London – £41.80 for 2 with railcard
  • Elizabeth line train from Reading to London – £31.50 for 2 off peak
Picture perfect historic home in a town along the Thames Path

7. Will my phone have signal along the Thames Path?

Yes. We were pleasantly surprised to find good mobile signal along the entirety of the Thames Path.

8. Will I get lost?

With some application of common sense and the use of Google Maps and the All Trails app, no, it would be difficult to get lost. For most of it, you should be walking along the river. The trail is well marked with clear signage and the consistent use of the acorn symbol to indicate the Thames Path. When in doubt, the Thames Path routes in the All Trails app are excellent and Google Maps always comes in handy when looking for the nearest supermarket.

There are often sections of the path which are closed due to damage or because maintenance work is underway. The signs which explain the applicable detours are not always very clear or well located. Asking other walkers coming the other way is often a good way to clear up any confusion.

The Thames Path is very well marked. The symbol for the trail is the acorn.

9. What are the best tips for walking the Thames Path?

  • Do a test walk before starting the Thames Path to understand how much distance you can comfortably manage in a day (and how much you can carry too!).
  • Wear the shoes you will use for the Thames Path during your test walk and in your daily life. These need to be comfortable.
  • Use waterproof shoes for the Thames Path. These are necessary even in summer as the morning dew on the long grass will otherwise soak through your shoes.
  • Long pants are recommended as there are many narrow parts of the trail where there are thorny bramble bushes and stinging nettles.
  • Hydration, sunscreen, hat, band-aids – all the usual sensible things.
  • Prioritise getting a good night’s sleep. This helps your recover from a long and tiring day of walking ready to tackle more walking the next day!
  • Do some pre-planning. Book accomodation en-route and understand where to stop for lunch.
  • It’s typical in the UK for public paths to go through sections of private property. Exercise courtesy and close gates behind you as you make your way.
  • Rubbish bins can be hard to find, but some locks have bins available – ask the friendly lock keepers if bins are not obvious.
  • When going through farmer’s fields, cows are fairly common. They’re harmless unless you get between a mother and her calf. A more serious risk is stepping in a cowpat.
World War 2 Pill Box – there were a number of these along the Thames River

10. Is it worth the effort?

Yes it is. The Thames River runs through the centre of London. It is an iconic and historically important river. The trail is flat, the scenery and towns along the way are very pretty. The countryside is green and lush. Some highlights on the way include the cute canal boats, historical towns, gorgeous English countryside vistas, lovely scenery, locks with well kept gardens and World War 2 pill boxes.

So, is it on your bucket list?

Thames Path
King Penguin – a lovely community event in one of the small towns on the Thames Path.
Thames Path
One of the many locks along the Thames Path
Vegetable gardens grown on top of a canal boat
Clifton Lock – there are many locks along the Thames Path. All of the lockkeepers keep their locks tidy and functional. Many are also avid gardeners. The gardens around Clifton Lock was the best as it was bursting with blooms. Clearly a lockkeeper with a very green thumb!
Thames Path between Richmond and Putney. So close to central London yet alone, totally surrounded by nature.
The Old Royal Naval College, Greenwich
A massive and striking 18m tall statue called Demon with Bowl in North Greenwich.
Thames Barrier – an engineering marvel designed to protect London from being flooded eg. from a storm surge.

Love to hear what you think! Thanks!!