I did it – today’s walk from Putney to Kew finally closed the loop around the whole of South London.

It’s been an extremely long time in the making, what with weekend Tube line closures and various commitments, but walking the 6 mile gap between Putney Bridge station and Gunnersbury station, via Kew Bridge, means that I have walked a line all the way around South London.

Distance: Approximately 5.5 miles from Putney Bridge to Kew Bridge, or 6.5 if you include the walks to tube stations.

Starting Point: Putney Bridge tube station (District Line)

Finishing Point: Gunnersbury station (District Line and Overground)

Ordnance Survey Maps app route link here

Download the GPX file for this route here Putney Bridge to Gunnersbury via Kew Bridge

It’s a freaky thing to be able to walk that whole line in my head. I never dreamed I would be able to feel so connected to the city purely by walking it and learning how it all jigsaws together. There are a LOT of parts to it but it makes a glorious and worthwhile whole.

It was a late summer’s evening when I last touched on Putney. I sat slowly cooking in the sun in a riverside pub. This was before this site even existed, but that day’s walk from County Hall to my drinking hole can surely claim to have at least helped to birth the seed that became Walk Around London. This time it’s January and cloudy but not chilly.

Putney foot bridge, looking south

The District Line carries you to Putney Bridge station, from which it’s only a short half mile walk across the signposted footbridge to the Thames Path on the south bank. After helping a little old lady hulk her bag full of presents for her 11 grandchildren (they ALWAYS tell you that don’t they!) I turned right and into Putney’s waterfront. Joggers and cyclists, as well as buggies, all need to be avoided here but thankfully only the former two dangers are present beyond the bridge.

Fulham FC's Craven Cottage ground with Hammersmith Bridge in the background, Thames Path

A string of really nice ornate boozers hug the Thames just west of Putney. I’m quite frankly astonished that I’m yet to try them out. I admired the effort but not the skill of several kids crewing a boat on the river. There are boating club houses for several hundred metres of the bank here. Fulham FC’s ground, Craven Cottage, had it’s floodlights on and glimmering through trees along the north bank. It’s a very pleasant stretch of the river, full of all of Britain’s national stereotypes except the curry house. But there is a Thai restaurant.

From here on the Thames Path degenerates into a muddy trail. I leaped from patch of semi-dry to patch of gravel to patch of grass. This carried on pretty much all the way to Kew.

The character of the river swiftly changes once you’re beyond Putney. The drips of industry become more sparse and make way for more residential property that sometimes opens right onto the Thames. But only on the north bank. The south bank is happily unobstructed between Putney and Kingston.

The Thames is at it’s most meandering here with what looks like a short distance on paper actually translating into a fair old stroll.

As I whizzed past the London Wetlands Centre a huge double chevron formation of geese honked and bombed over my head and down into the Thames as a chocolate dog ran around excitedly. The beautiful facade of the Harrods Furniture Depository appears from nowhere in all its peachy-pink and yellow stone wonderment. I’m not sure if it is still a warehouse, but it is flats then they have a stunning view.

The Harrods Furniture Depository building near Hammersmith, Thames Path

Hammersmith Bridge is one of the prettiest on the whole river with its strange green paint job and ornate embellishments. One thing it could do with though is a bit more headroom along the footpath, it’s very low indeed. I strolled opposite some pubs on the other bank which I do have a strong knowledge of and let my mind wander back to a lovely sun-baked afternoon spent on the balcony of The Dove.

Hammersmith bridge, south side, Thames Path

The Dove pub on the north bank of the Thames at Hammersmith, a nice sun trap in summer

The view of the north bank is gradually hidden as more thin tree trunks populate the south bank. But then viewing the other side becomes less of an attraction when the spectre of sodden feet raises its mucky face. The mud got a lot worse between Hammersmith and Barnes. The first opportunity I got to walk on tarmac was taken with a helpful tree trunk used as a step to get over the concrete wall. The waterfront at Barnes could do with a bit of love I think. There’s potential but at the moment it feels like it’s just a motor-thoroughfare. The Bull pub looked interesting and I might have stopped for a beer but it was too early – I often forget how early I do some of these walks. They’re almost always before pub opening time.

An islet with what look like gorse bushes growing on it, Thames between Hammersmith and Barnes

the White Hart pub just past Barnes, Thames Path south bankWhen you get to Barnes Bridge itself you need to take the path that goes under the main span rather than the one going to the pedestrian crossing or you’ll suddenly find yourself pressed up against a concrete wall with trucks belching smoke in your face. Yum!

Chiswick Bridge came and went, with another nice looking pub just south of it, The Ship. That was the final bridge I needed to tick off in London. But I didn’t realise at the time.

As the long curve of the river begins to turn north again you spy the green ironwork of the tube and overground bridge up at the top of the Kew peninsular, which means you can almost see the end point. The path beyond Barnes is a lot drier, overall, and you even get some tarmac in places. I wasn’t wearing my trusty 1000-mile socks today and I could really feel the difference. Later in the day I prodded around and sure enough felt some bulges of blisters after only this short distance. Astonishing how important your socks are!

The Kew Tube and Overground bridge from underneath

The National Archives, as viewed from the Thames Path near KewI found myself weirdly interested in the underside of the Tube bridge before conquering this final reach of the Thames Path south bank. Kew Bridge Pier jutted into view shortly after the ugly National Archives building passed on my left. As I crossed under the span of the bridge I realised that I had connected to the walk I completed in the summer, from Kew to Hampton Court Palace, and therefore walked the perimeter of south London. I had also removed that stupid little gap from my wiggly map of walks done. It was a great feeling, albeit tempered by the knowledge that a north London perimeter walk is a larger challenge.

Houses along the Thames Path near Kew, must worry about flooding

The walk was a nice one. No denying that. It could have done with being longer, so perhaps a 17-miler from Putney to Hampton Court would make sense. That would be all of what I consider the ‘suburban Thames’ in one go. On its own though this one is great if you have a couple of hours to kill, and probably wonderful if you have several hours and the money for alcohol!

Narrowboats at Kew Bridge Pier, Thames Path south bank