Bermondsey and Rotherhithe sit alongside one of the greatest rivers in Europe, the River Thames. And along that river runs one of sixteen National Trails, the Thames Path. Running from the source of the Thames near Kemble in Gloucestershire (below right) to the sea at the Thames Barrier at Charlton (see above), the Thames Path is 184 miles (294 km) long and passes through rural counties to the east of London into the very centre of the capital. As it follows the course of the Thames, the route is fairly flat and people of all ages and abilities are able to enjoy walking or cycling it. Opening in 1996, the Path is managed by a Management Group who are part of Natural England who publish a five-yearly management strategy and on a day-to-day basis the Path is supported by a small team of National Trails staff and volunteers based in Oxford.
When the Path enters London, its course on the bank of the Thames is diverted to some extent away from the waterside to avoid ancient (and some modern) developments. Getting to and from the Path is pretty easy when compared to other National Trails as transport links along the Thames are well-developed. Walkers can take a stroll for an afternoon or be more ambitious and walk the full length of the Path – and all the options in between! Along the full length, the Path is signposted to ensure no one gets lost along the way. Now many people in Bermondsey and Rotherhithe have never walked the Path – so perhaps this can be an encouragement to venture out and see for yourself why we get so many appreciative visitors on their way through!
In Rotherhithe and Bermondsey, the Thames Path is a major route for walkers making their way through SE16. With fine views of Tower Bridge and Canary Wharf, the route is perfect for strolling families and serious hikers alike. Several sites offer guidance to the prospective walker or cyclist (see below) and National Trails publish leaflets and books that can be carried on the way. If walking from the city, you cross into SE16 at St Saviour’s Dock where the memories of Dicken’s Bill Sykes remain strong. Taking a few roads behind riverside apartment block – previously wharves – takes the walker down Mill Street, Bermondsey Wall West and East Street. (Bermondsey tube station can be reached easily from here.) Chambers Street – where the Thames Tunnel will have a controversial site – leads to Loftie Street, Fountain Green Square and broadening along towards Cherry Garden Pier. Bermondsey Wall East takes the walker past the ruins of King Edward III Manor House to The Angel pub, an historic riverside pub with views of Tower Bridge (below left).
Kings Stairs Gardens press up against the river route to touch Elephant Lane and then past Bombay Court and East India Court to Rotherhithe Street and the village of Rotherhithe itself. The parish church of St Mary the Virgin, the Mayflower pub, Sands Film Studio and the Brunel Museum pack in close round here. (Rotherhithe Overground station is a short walk from here.) Follow Rotherhithe Street ahead and step out past buildings on the riverside. Ahead you will see the red Bascule bridge over the entrance to Surrey Water; crossing the bridge you can see the ventilation shaft for Rotherhithe Tunnel and the Old Salt Quay pub on each side of the inlet. As you pass the pub on your right, you can follow the Path on the riverside for some while with occasional dips back onto Rotherhithe Street (the longest single road in London). When you reach the entrance to Lavender Dock, there are fine views of the Thames both ways and Canary Wharf on the Isle of Dogs opposite.
After a few meters, you dip back onto Rotherhithe Street to pass the Hilton Hotel and the ferry from there across the river. Once past them both, and back by the river, the next sight is Surrey Docks Farm which sits right by the path and is open to the public most days of the year. The Path dips inland for a short distance and takes you through a narrow passage by the Ship and Whale pub and back to tremendous river views and the Helsinki Square. Crossing the lock gates to Greenland Dock, the Path goes past the Greenland Pier and the entrance to South Marina, the largest marina on the Thames. From here some pedestrians make their way to Surrey Quays Overground station and the Thames Path continues into SE8 toward Deptford and Greenwich.
More information from these great resources: