Through the Old Deer Park it’s usually as soggy as anything underfoot as the Thames routinely floods the grassland here. Richmond Lock is a puzzling construction, always worth pausing for a look, as it looks like nothing so much as an ornate railway bridge with no railway attached. There’s pedestrian access over the top and it is the furthest downstream of all the Thames locks, as well as being the only one operated by the Port of London Authority. Bypassing the busy town and suburb of Richmond, walkers stay on the towpath to approach Richmond Bridge in short order, although this is an excellent point to start or end a day’s walking with its rail, Tube and bus connections.
Pass the lofty heights (in more than just the geographical sense) of Richmond Hill and do your best to look like a respectable citizen. Next up is the beautiful Petersham Meadows, with its famous grazing cows, one of the loveliest views on the whole of this walk. Descend from the hill and (on a quiet day) it’s possible to believe you’re back in the countryside. However, its sense of bucolic peace makes this paradoxically one of the busier and more popular places you will visit. Now you’re into historic territory with the Royal Star and Garter Home off to your left and the beautifully-preserved 17th-century Ham House ahead.
Across the river is Twickenham and Eel Pie Island, famous as a community of artists and jazz/blues musicians. And now we are approaching Teddington Lock, the end of the tidal Thames and the site of the longest weir on the river. We pass under Kingston Bridge and through Kingston-on-Thames, the site of much modern riverside development, before approaching Hampton Court, another lovely stretch with historical associations to rival anything we have passed in central London.
Ahead of us are many riverside communities on the outskirts of the south-west London suburbs – Hampton, Sunbury, Shepperton, then Surrey’s Weybridge and Chertsey. But they will have to wait for another day.