A pleasant south bank riverside stroll from the heart of London to the fringes of the leafy upper Thames.

Starting point: County Hall, Westminster Underground station is on the north side of Westminster Bridge.

Finishing point: Putney Bridge, Putney Bridge Underground station is here

Length: 7.5 miles

Ordnance Survey Maps app route link here

Download the GPX file for this route here Westminster Bridge to Putney Bridge

I walked this part of the Thames Path with my fiancée, Kristina, who isn’t a big fan of walking in general.  I usually carry out my walks by myself when she doesn’t dig the idea of an early rise to trundle off through little-known reaches of London.  This time she was actually quite enthusiastic about this walk, after I promised to pack a tasty picnic!

We began from Westminster Bridge, up to which I recently completed the Thames Path from the Barrier, downstream.   In the league of dramatic vistas in urban walking you can’t really beat the views from here – Lambeth Palace, County Hall, The London Eye, the Savoy, and the Palace of Westminster with Big Ben, all in one quick anti-clockwise 360 degree spin.  Perhaps the views at Tower Bridge come close but the river is much wider there and I think I prefer the feel around Westminster.

The weather was nice and the day was young so we set off along the south bank of the Thames.  You cling to the Thames past these postcard-selling views all the way to the SIS building at Vauxhall Bridge.  We stopped to ogle this strange behemoth of a place, almost Babylonian in character, but seemingly completely dead at the weekend.  Not a soul anywhere to be seen and the CCTV cameras didn’t seem to be watching us either.  None that we could spot anyway.  I’m sure they scrutinise every single person who gets too close, especially after it was attacked using a rocket launcher in 2000.  In fact, I don’t think they ever caught the perpetrator!

You have to cross Vauxhall Bridge by pedestrian crossing before tackling the crappy stretch between here and Battersea Power station.  You have to leave the Thames quite regularly as there are old jetties and warehouses that block where the path should go.  In fact I would probably urge you to skip this section by crossing to the north bank using Vauxhall Bridge and then crossing south again when you reach the attractive Chelsea Bridge.  It’s a bit of a diversion but you will get lovely views of the iconic Battersea Power Station.

On this walk we stuck to the south bank rigidly and passed Battersea Dogs & Cats Home beside the towering gasometers.  We could hear barking from over the wall, hopefully some lucky hound meeting its new, caring, owner for the first time!

Battersea Park comes next, of which I hold very fond childhood memories.  I spent many a day tumbling around the ‘adventure playground’ in the park and making dens in the small copses of trees.  The Chinese pagoda beside the Thames is completely incongruous but a well-loved addition to the river.  And I love it too.  We stopped for our picnic on a grassy bank overlooking the water and soaked up the growing periods of sunlight between fast-moving clouds.  People were attempting, feebly, to fly a kite and were getting a mighty workout from running up and down the grass.  But the kite wasn’t having any of it…

The Thames Path takes you past the gloriously ornate Albert Bridge with its signs demanding that soldiers at the now defunct Chelsea Barracks break their march stride in order to prevent a resonant wave smashing the structure to pieces!

Following the path for the next few miles there’s little to note on the south bank besides some quirky riverboat residences positioned just right so that you can peer into their interiors.  Some are really lovely and I wouldn’t mind having one myself, if I could ever afford the berthing fees.  The main attraction here is the former Lots Road Power Station over the river. It is a little-known building really considering it’s hefty size and the fact it only recently came out of commission.

Beyond here there are a lot of new developments which meant quite a bit of diversion from the Thames Path but these are clearing up all the time.  Our walk was marred slightly by having to keep cutting to and fro between the busy main road and the river but it’s not too awful.  Crossing Wandsworth Bridge Road is unpleasant but you do get to see the atomic-era styled advertising rig in the middle of the adjacent roundabout – woo!  After crossing the road you have to navigate some backstreets until you suddenly reach the River Wandle.  From here the Wandle Trail reaches all the way to Croydon – something I will definitely be doing this summer.

You cross that river by bridge and then after another backstreet prowl you enter Wandsworth Park.  This has a shady riverside promenade and a sun-baked cricket and football pitch in the middle.  There were more kite fliers and a lot of sweaty picnics going on and I wished I’d brought a second lunch, Hobbit-style, for the afternoon.

Putney Bridge, our finishing point, is visible from Wandsworth Park anyway so we forged onwards to drench our escalating thirsts with lovely cold beer.  Pleasant residential streets for the Thames Path after Wandsworth Park but you suddenly rejoin the river just before a pub with a large patio drinking area.  This Youngs Brewery pub, called The Boathouse, pretty much marked our finishing spot. A few pints later I could feel a tightness around my head from the strong sun and decided to call it a day.  We strolled up to Putney Bridge, a mere 100 metres away, and then found our way home.

This walk is a nice one.  Not amazing, but just nice.  As I mentioned before it could be worthwhile mixing up the choice of south and north paths so that you avoid some of the grottier areas but the sense of the river changing its purpose is palpable in just these few miles.  The heavily touristy Westminster region is a nice place to start from but then you get to explore the industrial and then the residential Thames as well.  As ever the Thames is a vital crossroads to so many London walks and I expect that many others will intersect and re-visit this path in future.