Kingston Trails


River Thames Ramble

This trail begins in Hamlands and makes it's way alongside the River Thames, across Kingston Bridge to Hampton Court.
For a shorter walk start in Canbury Park Gardens and end at Hampton Wick Pond.
The walking is easy, level and the majority of the trail is signed as the Thames Path.
Each section is just right for a challenging stroll, where you can enjoy the changing scenery of sailing clubs and marinas, locks and weirs, or parks and promenades.
To get to Ham Lands you can catch the 371 bus from Kingston (Get off on Broughton Avenue/ Ashburnham Rd), or alternatively there is a car park on the edge of the river at the end of Ham Street.
Go Top
1 Ham Lands

Ham Lands is a place of natural beauty, public enjoyment and an ecological site of great value.

Lying adjacent to the Thames, this local nature reserve is an extensive area of grassland and scrub with abundant wildlife and a network of paths. The site was once extensively excavated for gravel, then back-filled over time with a variety of soil types from all over London. This has created a unique mosaic of different vegetation types attracting many butterfly and bird species. In spring, the site is full of hawthorn blossom and in the summer, the meadows support hundreds of wild flowers. Popular with horse-riders, dog-walkers and nature-lovers.

For more information visit

After exploring this wonderful area (there is a good view across Petersham Meadow from the car park at the end of Ham Street) head south east across Hamlands to Teddington Lock. Alternatively you can arrive at Teddington Lock by walking southwards along the riverside on the Thames Path, passing Eel Pie Island on your right.

2 Teddington Lock
Approaching Teddington Lock from the South Teddington Lock Temporary moorings at Teddington

Located between Hampton and Kew, Teddington Lock is a unique and important river landmark. It connects the non-tidal Thames, running through Oxford and Henley, to the tidal Thames, and is a key gateway for local people, through the historic Teddington footbridge and river towpaths.

Teddington Lock is the largest lock on the River Thames and is owned and managed by the Environment Agency. Teddington Lock contains heritage features of regional and national significance, including the enormous barge and skiff lock and original lock office. The site is located inside a designated conservation area and is at the very centre of the Thames Landscape Strategy region. From the early 19th century, when the Corporation of London opened the original timber pound lock to the public, Teddington Lock has always been a key site along this stretch of the Thames. In 1857, the original lock was replaced and a new skiff lock added to accommodate the increasing craft and commercial freight traffic. The lock cut was extended, boat slides were added and in 1904, the enormous barge lock was built to cope with the larger freight carriers. This broad arrangement of locks still remains today and whilst freight traffic has been all but replaced with pleasure craft, the site provides a unique reminder of the river history and heritage associated with Teddington Lock and the wider river corridor.

It is manned 24 hours a day 365 days a year.

From the Lock, head south for 0.9 miles along the Thames Path, passing a number of apple trees and Trowlock Island, until you get to the junction with Lower Ham Road. On your left will be the Half Mile Tree.

3 The Half Mile Tree

An elm tree known as 'Half Mile Tree' was a local landmark on this spot for centuries. Its name denotes the appropriate distance to Kingston. In its later years it was hollow, and it was said that a man could stand upright within its mighty trunk. Later the trunk was filled with concrete in an attempt to preserve it. Recorded on an Ordinance Survey map of 1863, the elm was probably more than 500 years old when it was finally felled as unsafe in 1951, to be replaced a year later by the present horse chestnut.

The half way tree also marks the entry to Kingston from the rural towpath that runs through Ham Lands to Teddington Lock and on into Richmond. The towpath forms part of the Thames Path National Trail which follows the river for 184 miles from the river's source in the Cotswolds to the Thames Barrier at Greenwich.

Take a moment to appreciate the view downstream towards Teddington Lock and upstream to Kingston's railway bridge and Kingston Bridge itself. This is a stretch of the Thames which is recognised as one of the world's great river landscapes, where Londoners can escape the hustle and bustle of city life.

Continue south along Lower Ham Road, until you reach the northern edge of Canbury Park. Steven's Eyot is situated just across the water from here.

4 Steven's Eyot

The small island just across the water from the northern end of Canbury Gardens is called Steven's Eyot, after the boatman who lived in the only cottage that stood in the marshland that once covered the area. The Boaters Inn now stands on the site of the cottage.

A riverside view of Steven's Eyot Steven's Eyot Steven's Eyotn

Leave Lower Ham Road and follow the footpath along the river front, through Canbury Park Gardens.

5 Canbury Gardens
Canbury bandstand, home to weekly concerts in summer

Canbury Gardens is situated between the River Thames and Lower Ham Road and is within easy walking distance from Kingston town centre. Canbury Gardens covers an area of 14.5 acres and contains the Boaters Inn public house plus the Kingston Rowing Club and the Sigi Cornish Tennis Club, both of which are privately run. There are also some hard surface tennis courts which are privately leased but open to the public.

The site plays host to the Dragon Boat event and other regattas and was the home of the first ever Green Fair in the UK, which was held annually until 2009.

On site is also a children’s playground which caters for kids between the ages of 3 and 14.

In the Summer Canbury Gardens plays host to a variety of bands performing every Sunday afternoon, from brass to concert bands, from local to national, from amateur to professional, all free for your entertainment.

For more information click here

Buses that run close to this site include the 65.

Continue to walk along this riverside path, looking up to admire the London Plain trees, our next point of interest.

6 London Plain Trees (Platinus x Hispanica)
Plain Trees of Canbury Park Gardens

Canbury gardens is lined with majestic London Plane trees which provide a welcome shade during hot summer days. They can be found all over London, along avenues, in squares and in parks, but how much do you know about this iconic city tree?

Despite their name, London Plane trees do not originate in London, in fact they do not originate from anywhere in Britain at all. They are an introduced species of tree which in almost every instance will have been planted deliberately rather than grown naturally.

It is thought that the London Plane tree is a hybrid –sources state that the hybrid may be Spanish, French or American plane trees.

The London Plane is such a popular and successful urban tree because of its high tolerance to pollution, compacted soil and pruning – things that all city trees experience in abundance. You can see evidence of its pollution resistance by peering closely at the bark of the tree. You will see that it naturally falls away from the tree trunk in small plates, giving the bark a dappled multi-coloured effect. This method of renewing its bark enables the tree to keep breathing despite the fact that it might be in an area of high particulate pollution, which is something that would normally build up on a tree.

Did you know?
Kew Gardens estimate that 50% of all the trees planted in London are London Planes!

Exit the park and continue south, walking under the railway bridge along Thames Side, passing car parking on your right. You will see a large white wooden building on your right, this is Turks Pier. Walk to the end of the building and look right to see the actual pier.

7 Turks Pier

Turks Pier is where you can catch a boat to Richmond (1 hour) or Hampton Court (35mins) on one of the fine vessels of Turk Launches.

The company is a 300 year old river boat company that cruises along one of the most picturesque stretches of the Thames in South West London.

The family company can be traced back to 1710 when it was established by Richard Turk; although records of Turk built boats extend back to the 12th Century. The focus was primarily on building passenger wherries and fishing punts, but reputation soon spread and Turks expanded into making boats for English and foreign royalty and exporting pleasure craft – especially touring canoes and skiffs - all over the world, often winning prizes at international exhibitions. One project even involved building boats for the amusement of Queen Victoria on the Home Park waters.

The present day Turks was pioneered by Michael Turk who has been a Swan Master and Bargemaster to the Vintners' Company and a Queen's Waterman. He is also a Past Master of The Company of Waterman & Lightermen of the River Thames.

Michael took on the ambitious challenge of constructing the Grand Turk in 1997, a full size replica of an 18th Century British frigate. She sails complete with 12 cannons, three 100ft masts and 22 working sails. She is a magnificent sight, the first of her kind to be built in over 150 years and she featured in the ITV series 'Hornblower'.

Michael's son, Richard Daniel Turk now runs the company and is carrying on the tradition of Turks river businesses whilst expanding the company to meet modern demands.

For more information click here

Turks Pier New Southern Belle run by Turks Boatyard

Continue to walk south along the riverside, between the river and the back of John Lewis department store, until the path opens out to reveal a brick ampitheatre. On your left will be the John Lewis Mosaic.

8 John Lewis Mosaic

This fabulous mosaic depicting three iconic buildings on the Kingston riverfront was made to celebrate the 20th Anniversary of John Lewis during 2010. Save the World Club, a local Kingston Charity oversaw the work. More than 300 local people took part including 200 John Lewis partners, 16 young offenders, and many volunteers. It took 3 weeks to make and contains thousands of pieces of glass and ceramic tile- each one individually cut to fit perfectly.

Save the World Club

Kingston Mosaic walkabout

Stand facing the mosaic, a few metres to your right lies the 14th Undercroft and bridge. You can look at the remains through the glass wall.

9 14th Century Undercroft
14th Undercroft

Down by Kingston riverside are the remains of Kingston’s medieval bridge and the undercroft of an important medieval house.

This chalk and flint barrel-vaulted cellar or undercroft was originally beneath the old Rose and Crown Inn at the north end of Old Bridge Street at its junction with Thames Street. The John Lewis underpass now crosses this spot—once very important, as Bridge Street was the main thoroughfare leading to the old bridge. The medieval Rose and Crown had been a superior hostelry but lost its importance in 1828 when the new bridge opened upstream. The skill of the construction and its decorative checker pattern rear wall bear testimony to the work of the craftsmen and the quality of the building.

Archaeologists excavated the vault and it is now preserved with the bridge remains in the John Lewis basement.

No need to move as you can view the remains of Kingston's first bridge next to the Undercroft.

10 Kingston Bridge (past and present)

Next to the 14th century undercroft, lies the remains of the original Kingston Bridge, which crossed the Thames about 100 feet downstream from the present stone bridge, which was built in 1828.

Archaeological evidence suggests that there was a bridge in existence around 1170 and would have originally been a wooden structure. The huge north wall, which you can see, shows stages of building and many later repairs using bricks and flints. The space between the walls was filled with sand and gravel and paved with cobbles, some of which are used on the walkway showing the location of the old bridge landing. From this support, the first stone arch reached the first stone pier and so on onto the riverbank where the timber structure began.

Residents of Kingston broke the bridge deliberately in 1554 to stop Thomas Wyatt and his rebels from crossing. For this loyalty Queen Mary Tudor gave Kingston, already entitled by Royal Charter to hold two annual fairs, the right to hold an additional fair on two days in July.

The wooden bridge was in constant need of repair for which tolls to use the bridge were charged until 1565 when Robert Hammond gave enough land to the bridge wardens so that rents therefrom would pay for repairs.

By the early 19th Century the structure was totally inadequate and a new stone bridge was built. The river was dredged to allow navigation by vessels with increased draft. Tolls were charged for crossing the bridge with only Kingston Charity school children exempt . In 1838 passengers avoided paying the toll for 13 days by walking across the ice. The bridge became free from toll in 1870 to much public rejoicing.

The bridge was widened in 1914 to help accommodate the trams and widened and strengthened again in 2001 to cope with heavier, modern traffic.

The early bridge remains and the vault were judged to be important enough to be preserved when the area was developed. They were lifted from their sites, removed and stored until the basement of the new building was ready. They were then hoisted into position as closely to their original level and orientation as possible.

Facing John Lewis's basement, turn right and walk under Kingston Bridge, (noticing the underside of the arches, where you can see evidence of its widening). Immediately turn right again and walk up the stairs. Walk across the bridge to a round about, take the first left, walking alongside the A308 and continue for a few hundred metres until the entrance to the golf club appears on your left (Home Park Terrace). Take this left and enter the park. Walk across the cattle grid and take a path on your right, you should reach the pond after 80 metres.

11 Hampton Wick Pond

Created in the time of Oliver Cromwell, the ancient Hampton Wick pond is now a wildlife haven looked after by Historic Royal Palaces. Hampton Court Palace sits nearby.

Many thousands of years ago the river Thames would have meandered its way through the park, which today is evidenced by the underlying sands and gravels which were deposited here. In the present day these free-draining deposits have given rise to the gentle slopes of acid grassland which can be found near the pond and support a diverse range of flora and invertebrates.

Overlooking the pond on a slope to the east is a 12 sided brick building – the ice house. Built around 1625, the building would have been filled in the winter with ice from the pond, and used throughout the year to keep meats, fish and other perishable food items from the palace cold.

The pond by day is visited by many different species of bird, including Kestrel, and by night is an important foraging ground for bats. Fishing is banned to ensure that the balanced ecosystem of the pond is maintained, but many people flock to its fringes nonetheless to picnic, walk and relax.

Home Park, the parkland in which Hampton Wick pond is located, stretches across 750 acres, and contains 300 fallow deer. The oldest tree in the park, an English Oak, is thought to be over 1000 years old. You can visit the park from 7am everyday; it closes at around dusk. Entry is free.

Retrace your steps back to the roundabout. Head towards the bridge, but turn right just before, along a path to the west side of the river. Continue to walk south along the riverside for 0.9 miles, Raven's Ait will be on your left.

12 Raven's Ait

The island has been put to a variety of uses over the years. It has been the home of TS Neptune, a sailing, canoeing and boating training establishment, and in the 1980's the the Inner London Education Centre (which trained youth and community workers). In 2009, after The Ravens Ait Hall Management Company Ltd went into administration, the island was home to eco-conscious squatters who wanted to bring the island back into community use. Today it is a wedding and corporate venue.

For more information click here

Continue to walk south for 2 miles, following the bend in the river. You will pass grand Palace gates and a little further on your right, you will get to a gate where you can enter the palace grounds.

13 Hampton Court

Hampton Court Palace was originally built for Cardinal Thomas Wolsey, Archbishop of York, and a favourite of King Henry VIII in around 1514. Only 14 years later, when Wolsey fell from favour, and knowing his enemies were engineering his downfall, he passed the palace to the King as a gift, who then enlarged it.

Between 1532 and 1535 the Great Hall was added, which features a carved hammer-beam roof. This was an important palace room as it was here the King would dine in state seated at a table upon a raised dais. He was so impatient for the work to be complete that masons were made to work throughout the night by candlelight.

Many Kingston tradespeople helped to build the Palace in the 16th century. William Morer of Kingston was paid 10 shillings for 500 floor tiles for the Great Hall and Edmund More carved the royal arms on stone tablets over the gateways. The water supply from Coombe Springs on Kingston Hill was piped under the river by gravity to the palace in lead pipes. It was used for cooking, washing and 'flushing'.

The next substantial rebuild and expansion project was done for William III and Queen Mary II in 1689, who intended to demolish the ‘unfashionable’ Tudor palace in stages retaining only the Great Hall. Sir, Christopher Wren was called upon to design the new palace. New wings around the Fountain Court were built containing state apartments and private rooms, one set for the King and one for the Queen. But work was halted in 1694, after the death of Queen Mary leaving the palace in two distinct contrasting architectural styles, Tudor and Baroque.

The Palace was opened to the Public in 1838 during the reign of Queen Victoria and today is cared for by Historic Royal Palaces, an independent charity.

Summerson, John (1969). Great Palacespp.12-23). Hamlyn Publishing Group Ltd
Williams, Neville (1971). Royal Homes. Lutterworth Press

To return to Kingston town centre (Cromwell Road bus station) catch the 411 to Kingston from just outside the Palace gates. Alternatively Hampton Court railway station is just the other side of Hampton Court Bridge, where trains go to central London.