Now you can walk the whole length of the River Thames, from source to sea

Published 30 January 2022

Crayford Ness – the end of the Thames Path Extension, but now also on a through route all the way to the sea.

No matter what way you look at it, the fact that the Thames Path’s eastern end terminates in East London looks odd. A walking trail that follows the River Thames should surely go all the way from it’s source to it’s end. Given the Thames flows into the sea, shouldn’t the Thames Path end at the coast as well?

Of course common sense often doesn’t always match the complicated world of practicalities. And for whatever reason the original trail went all the way from the river’s source before terminating at the Thames Barrier, near Woolwich.

There have been attempts to extend the route eastwards. Most notable of these came in the form of the 10 mile/16km Thames Path Extension. This took the trail right to the edge of Greater London, to Crayford Ness. It’s a glamorous spot where you can look across the murky water with a scrap yard behind you. But that was as far as the Thames Path ever got.

But it is possible to continue all the way to the sea. And now the route to do it is fully signposted. Whilst not part of the Thames Path, the route is part of another National Trail: the England Coast Path.

If you’re not aware of it, the England Coast Path is a massive project to create a National Trail that goes round England’s coastline. It’s been going on for some years and there’s still a lot of work to do. However at the beginning of 2022 a stretch opened from London to the sea. For 49 miles/79km, it follows the River Thames on the southern shore from Woolwich to the Isle of Grain. By the time the trail’s complete, there will be an equivalent route along the north bank too.

You may think the England Coast Path going so far from the sea sounds a little crazy. And in a way it is. But it reflects the difficulties of crossing the Thames east of London. The only road crossing is the Dartford Bridge.

Father Thames may stand at St John’s Lock, Lechlade, but he can now watch over your walk on the Thames for much longer.

Although those on foot can’t officially use it. Quite why this is given they will convey bikes and their riders, is another question. But there we are.

Further towards the see, there’s a ferry that runs between Gravesend and Tilbury. But it only runs six days a week. In contrast, you can use the Woolwich Foot Tunnel to cross the river 24/7.

So the England Coast Path must come inland and then back out again. But that’s fine because doing so it provides the Thames’s missing link. A waymarked path that will take you all the way to the sea.

On reaching the Thames Barrier, all the walker need do is continue on along the Thames Path Extension to Crayford Ness. A few miles on, at Woolwich, they’ll be joined by the England Coast Path. When the Thames Path Extension ends, keep on following the Coast Path signs and voila.

Okay, it’s not the Thames Path. But if you’re aim is to walk the whole length of the river, you now can do just that. Of course whether you’d actually want to, well that is a whole other question indeed.

You can find out more about the England Coast National Trail on its official website.

Comments

Jon Jeffery

21 March 2022 at 4:52 pm

Hello

I was wondering if you could tell me how much of the new Thames pathway from Grain to Woolwich is accessible by an electric wheelchair.
Thank you in advance.

Best wishes
Jon

Andrew Bowden (Rambling Man editor)

21 March 2022 at 4:58 pm

Hello Jon – as I haven’t walked it myself, I couldn’t tell you want the path is like.

Have your say