I do plan to continue blogging about our holiday earlier this year, to Dubai, Australia and New Zealand but – new to blogging – it is taking me a while to get to grips with the mechanism. Also I would like to blog about current activities, so here is my first blog about one of the Healthy Walks organised by Elmbridge Borough Council. There are walks on every day of the week: short walks for people recovering from illness; longer 8 or 9 mile walks for the fit and energetic, and distances in between: 3-5 miles particularly suits my ability and time available.
My favourite walks finish at a café for coffee or small lunch, almost mandatory! Leaders plan the route, bring first aid equipment and ensure the necessary health and safety forms are completed. Louis and Gillian became leaders on the Elmbridge Borough Council Walking for Health programme specifically to offer walks that include dogs. Louis is the leader and Gillian brings up the rear with their rescue dog Shayner trotting alongside.
In mid March I joined Louis and Gillian’s Towpath and Desborough Island walk. We met at the Riverhouse Barn in Manor Road, Walton-on-Thames, where Louis and Gillian noted everyone present and any health issues. The weather was crisp but dry as we set off, a group of about twelve walkers.
We walked by ‘River House,’ at one time the home of Sir Arthur Sullivan, the composer who became famous through his collaboration with William Gilbert. Their best known compositions include ‘HMS Pinafore,’ the ‘Pirates of Penzance’ and ‘The Mikado.’ The landscaped gardens of ‘River House,’ with established trees and shrubs, were left in Trust for local people, so we followed Louis along the winding path and down the steps to reach the towpath. Just past the historic Anglers pub I noticed swans near the jetty, giving credence to the name of the nearby Swan public house.
The day was brightening as our group continued along the towpath towards the new Walton Bridge. JMW Turner painted the river looking towards the Walton bridge in 1805 and a ferry is known to have worked at this crossing in the 17th century. Five bridges followed, with over thirty years of debate taking place before the latest, sixth, Walton Bridge was opened in 2013. This is a tied arch, single span bridge. The removal of the piers of the previous bridge allows wider river views and enables easier navigation for boats, rowers and other river pleasure seekers.
Opinion is divided as to the choice of the bright cream colour for the new bridge. Someone said that it is a colour easily seen by flying swans and birds, to prevent them flying into the structure, in which case it is a good choice: whatever the reason, I like the colour and the new one is a vast improvement on the old dilapidated bridge.
We continued past the marina, under the bridge, pausing to admire a pair of proud ducks and their ducklings on the river bank at Cowey Sale, an old river crossing site before the first wooden bridge was built.
Desborough Island was created when the Desborough Channel was cut in 1935 by the Thames Conservancy, who named it after Lord Desborough the Chairman of the Board. This cut made the river journey much shorter by avoiding that part of the Thames that wound around Shepperton and Halliford.
Today members of the Shepperton sailing club and other pleasure craft may be seen in fine weather, cruising around these meandering bends. There are two narrow bridges from the towpath to the Island. We crossed over the bridge farthest away, continuing along the footpath beside a bend, taking us close to the Shepperton side of the Thames.
We paused to look across at the sailing club yachts. Nearby a beautiful white house is set on a sloping lawn. Whenever I pass this house it appears empty so I daydream about who might own such a property but spends little time there. We chatted as we walked, making new friends: in twos or threes, some solo, as we progressed along the footpath, on to an overgrown section where the path gets little sun and is often muddy. Eventually the path opened onto a narrow tarmac road that led us back to the second bridge where we took the steps down to the Walton side of the river.
The sun was stronger on our return: geese, swans and ducks waddled about on the grass beside the river bank, the occasional ‘quack’ telling their friends to move, as they proudly showed their brightly coloured plumage in the bright sunshine.