The ‘Needs to Know’
Distance: 5.9 miles (9.5km)
Time to walk: Roughly 2.5 hours, although you could easily make a day of it, taking in Hampton Court Palace & the surrounding area
Difficulty: Mostly on hard surfaces & man-made paths. This is an easy flat walk, suitable for all seasons
Parking: We parked for free on street in Hampton village, which is also worth a look round as it has an eclectic mix of shops & cafes etc. If you fancy a cheap & cheerful coffee & a bite to eat then we can recommend the small, unpretentious cafe over the road from the station
Public toilets: Cafes etc en route. Be aware though, there’s nothing on the 3 mile stretch along the Thames between Kingston & Hampton
Map of the route:
This really is a superb walk which starts outside the gates of beautiful Bushy Park where we’ll see lots of deer, before passing briefly through the town & picking up the Thames Path heading upstream for several miles around the perimeter of Hampton Court Park on a well made track shared with cyclists. It then passes in front of the palace & continues through the gardens past the maze, before returning to the village
We’ll pick up more on history etc as we go, so rather than waste any time…
1. We parked in Hampton itself, down one of the residential streets where there’s no restrictions & then walked back through the town, across the bridge over the road near the palace. We then turned left & walked towards Hampton Court Green car park which is next to the entrance to Bushy Park near the bus stop
Walk through the gates – the sign on the railings gives you some idea that you’re in for a real treat on this walk!
2. Bushy Park is the second largest of London’s Royal Parks covering 1,100 acres. Most of the park is open to the public & in September 2014 most of it was designated a biological Site of Special Scientific Interest together with Hampton Court Park & Hampton Court Golf Course
The area now known as Bushy Park has been settled for at least the past 4,000 years & finds date it back to the Bronze Age. There’s also evidence that the area was used in the medieval period for agricultural purposes. When Henry VIII took over Hampton Court Palace from Cardinal Thomas Wolsey in 1529, the King also took over the three parks that make up modern-day Bushy Park: Hare Warren, Middle Park & Bushy Park. A keen hunter, he established them as deer hunting grounds. There’s been several additions over the years which we’ll see on the way
The path through the park’s straight ahead & quite clear…
We’ve only walked 100 yards & under the tree on the right’s a very large stag – a sign of what’s to come!
3. The grass path meets a hard one & our route’s straight ahead…
It was a Saturday morning when we walked here & there were major riding school lessons taking place here
4. Follow those bikes & cross the bridge!
The small stream that we’re crossing is actually one of a number of man-made ones in the park built in Victorian times as a water supply
5. Carry on straight ahead to the junction of five paths…
If you have the time turn left & visit the Woodland Plantation. The Waterhouse Woodland Garden, originally a woodland walk created in 1925, consisted of two early nineteenth century plantations. It’s a very tranquil place & well worth a look
6. We need to take the right path though into the garden opposite…
This is one of the other formal gardens of the park & it’s a little cracker – meandering paths, lakes & various trees…
It’s worth keeping your eyes open for the wildlife in here
7. Keep going through the gardens until you reach the bridge which is where our time in the formal part of the park ends. Today Mary Poppins was feeding the birds (no bread please!)
Exit back into the main park through the gate to the right of the bridge. Our path lies to the left past the tree stump, but…ever had the feeling you’re being watched?
8. There’s deer & their young all over this next stretch of the walk. Follow the path through the trees to Chestnut Avenue where we turn right, walking along the verge, avoiding both the traffic & deer!
Chestnut Avenue connects the main south & north gates & allows vehicle access from 6.30am until dusk or 7.00pm in the winter months. From the mid 19th century until World War II, Londoners came here to celebrate Chestnut Sunday & to see the blossoming of the trees along Chestnut Avenue. The customs were discovered & resurrected in 1993 by Colin & Mu Pain
9. At the end of Chestnut Avenue is the impressive Diana Fountain. Most people think it refers to Princess Diana, but it’s a 17th century statue & water feature in an 18th century setting with a surrounding pool & mile long tree lined vistas which honour the Roman Goddess Diana. Originally created for Somerset House in the 1630s, & remodelled about 1690, the fountain has stood in Bushy Park since 1713
Both the fountain & the avenue form the ceremonial landward approach to Hampton Court Palace. The cormorant on top has one of the best views around!
10. Take the first left exit off the roundabout towards the park cafe which offers some fine coffee
At the cafe walk diagonally left towards the lake passing an excellent information board telling you what to look out for in the park
11. This section contains several beautiful & connected lakes, all with seats to spend a few moments…
Turn right at the first lake & follow the path…yet another lovely area
Keep your eyes & ears open
But just chill….
12. You’re hopefully getting the message by now that we absolutely loved Bushy Park & think it actually ranks above Richmond. Given the number of anglers lazing around, there must be some pretty big carp in these lakes
Bushy Park’s many ponds & streams are home to a very good range of fish including perch, roach, chub, bream & rudd. In 2002 Anglers Mail reported the catching of a 5lb 1oz crucian carp. Some carp in Bushy can grow to over a metre in length & up to 35lb in weight
13. Continue round the lake & over the bridge which crosses another Victorian stream…
Turn right after the bridge & walk along the track to the hard road which will lead us out of the park
On reaching the road turn right again passing more lakes…
…to eventually arrive at the gate which is one of the exits from the park
14. So exit into the street, turn right & follow it round the corner to arrive at the traffic lights
Cross the road, turn left & pass the entrance to Hampton Court Palace Golf Club…
…& continue round the corner towards Kingston Bridge
Until Putney Bridge was opened in 1729, Kingston Bridge was the only crossing of the river between London Bridge & Staines Bridge
15. Don’t cross, but turn right down Barge Walk at the sign of the Thames Path…
We’re now going to follow the Thames Path all the way back to Hampton Court. The Thames Path is a National Trail following the River Thames from its source near Kemble in Gloucestershire to the Thames Barrier at Charlton, south east London. It’s about 184 miles long & opened in 1996
The path’s entire length can be walked & some parts can be cycled. Most of it is on the original towpath & some parts, particularly west of Oxford, are subject to flooding during the winter. The river is tidal downstream from Teddington Lock & parts may be under water if there is a particularly high tide
16. If you fancy a nice, very expensive, riverside apartment then there’s some attractive ones in Kingston, plus you could throw a paddle steamer in too!
Turn round & you get a better view of Kingston Bridge
17. Nothing to do now but simply enjoy the next 3 miles. A word of warning though as some of the cyclists think they own the Thames Path!
As it was the weekend there was plenty of activity on the river including lessons being “shouted” out to rowers of all shapes & sizes
The Kingston Rowing Club was slightly further along, actually on an island in the middle of the river. This is Ravens Ait Island which is currently run as a conference centre & wedding venue
18. Slightly further on a slightly quieter gravel footpath splits from the main path & saves us from dodging the bikes
It also gives us a better chance to look at the surroundings…
19. Next along’s Thames Ditton Marina which appears to be a fully working boatyard
Pass the large house on the right called The Pavilion & look for some steps & a brick door in the wall on the right. Normally you can walk through here & follow a grass path to Hampton Court, but when we visited the annual deer cull was taking place
20. Not a problem though as the Thames Path will take us where we want to go – watch out for those pesky cyclists though. Yes…you take up all the path why don’t you!!
Eventually the Palace walls come to meet us…
…& there’s a view through the gates to the formal gardens beyond
21. Keep walking towards the bridge, but look for an iron gate through into the palace grounds…
The main entrance to Hampton Court Palace is on the right but, if you haven’t bought a ticket (& they’re expensive!) you’re not coming in
Hampton Court Palace was originally redeveloped in 1515 for Cardinal Thomas Wolsey, a favourite of King Henry VIII. In 1529, as Wolsey fell from favour, the King seized the palace for himself & later enlarged it. Along with St James’s Palace, it’s one of only two surviving palaces out of the many owned by King Henry VIII
In the following century, King William III‘s massive rebuilding & expansion project, which destroyed much of the Tudor palace, was intended to rival Versailles. Work ceased in 1694, leaving the palace in two distinct contrasting architectural styles, domestic Tudor & Baroque. King George II was the last monarch to reside here
22. The good news about Hampton Court Palace is that you don’t have to pay the hefty price to enjoy some of the grounds. One thing not to miss is the amazing walled vegetable garden. Continue straight ahead past the rose garden following the signs for ‘The Maze’
Hampton Court Maze was planted some time between 1689 & 1695 by George London & Henry Wise for William III of Orange. It covers a third of an acre & contains half a mile of paths
The maze was planted as part of a formal garden layout known as the ‘Wilderness’. There were at least two mazes originally planted of which the current maze is the only survivor. It’s the first hedge planted maze in Great Britain. The term ‘wilderness’ refers to a place to wander
23. After the Maze is The Lion Gate which takes us out of the grounds & into the street again
Exit through here. Straight ahead’s the Diana Fountain again, but now we’re going to follow the path left, back round to the main entrance
Depending where you’ve parked, it’s now either back over the bridge into the village or right at the junction to arrive back at the Bushy Park gates
This truly is a lovely walk. Water, a royal Palace, history, park & wildlife. It’s not a walk where you’re likely to encounter mud so it would also be good to do at any time of the year. Obviously it can be combined with a visit to the palace & formal gardens, but there’s enough to see without that
Don’t miss the vegetable garden though!