Chertsey to Shepperton
The pathway again follows the roads alongside the river all the way through Staines until I reach Penton Hook Lock. The “hook” is an impressive full loop in the river, forming a pear-shaped island to the south. The river followed the loop until the very early nineteenth century; with erosion making the neck ever narrower, until finally the waters broke through and boats were able to take the short-cut across the top. The lock was installed in 1815 and the island has been allowed to take on a wild appearance.
From Penton Hook to Chertsey the towpath becomes narrow, forcing its way between the river on one side and the road on the other. With the number of people on the path today progress is somewhat slower than my normal pace as I shuffle around people coming in the opposite direction and try to overtake those who are forming a slow procession moving in the same direction.
Chertsey Meadow is the last water meadow on the Thames. Almost a constant feature of the upper and middle reaches this is the last one I will pass through. On the opposite bank a new view begins, one which will be very common over the following two days. Bungalows and boat-house line the bank. An idyllic location in the nice weather, but what happens when the river waters rise? There will be miles of these dwellings just a few feet above the water level and I wonder whether they are able to obtain insurance.
I soon reach Shepperton. This part of the Thames was originally a tangle of incoming waters and islands that made navigation very difficult and took a long time to pass through. There is a ferry to take the walker to the opposite bank, but I am going to award myself a little cheat here. I am stopping for the day, and will be starting tomorrow from the opposite Weybridge bank. The next three days will take me through our capital city and some very different surroundings.
The Thames Court, Shepperton
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