Hammersmith Bridge to Barnes Wetland

From London, West London

Late one night in 1939, a local worker notices smoke and sparks from a case left on Hammersmith Bridge. He opens it. And then throws it immediately into the river, where it explodes. Had it not been for the actions of this quick thinking man, an IRA bomb would have certainly damaged this ornate, green bridge over the river Thames.

Hammersmith Bridge
My Walk Starts At The Grade II Listed Hammersmith Bridge
  • Start of Day: Hammersmith Station or Hammersmith Bridge Road Bus Stop, Zone One, London
  • Cost of Day Out: Moderate
  • History Content: Moderate

[1] Hammersmith Bridge, built in 1827, is designed by Joseph Bazelgette. This lovely bridge is targeted twice more by the IRA. The last, in 2000, causes enough damage to close the bridge, adding to the numerous other times this bridge is closed, due to damage from today’s heavy traffic.

Hammersmith Bridge
Hammersmith is One Of My Favorite Bridges in London

From the bridge, I descend onto the [2] Thames River Path on the south side of the river. It’s much greener and less built up on the south side. And in spring, there’s the added bonus of banks carpeted with lime green shrubbery and wild flowers

The Thames Path
The Thames Path on the South Bank

I walk along the wooded Thames path behind [3] St. Paul’s School, where Gustav Holst teaches as a music teacher from 1905 until his death in 1934. When I get to [4] The Swedish School next door, I make a sharp left inland for the [5] Leg O’ Mutton Reservoir.

The Thames Path
Walking Along the Back Of St. Paul’s School

Had it not been for some determined locals, this reservoir would now be a complex of flats. When the Victorian reservoir is decommissioned in 1960, the community pull together to change the council’s plans. Even the local milkman chips in, by distributing leaflets on his rounds!!

Leg O'Mutton Reservoir in Barnes
The Leg O’ Mutton Reservoir Is Now A Local Reserve In Barnes

Thanks to the residents of Barnes, this mutton leg shaped lake now holds rafts for birds to nest in. One of its paths runs alongside the Thames Path. And so as I walk it, I also enjoy glimpses of the blue river Thames through the still bare tree branches.

Wild BlueBells In the Leg O'Mutton Reservoir
Wild Bluebells in Leg O’ Mutton Reservoir

Next door to the Leg O’Mutton Reservoir is the [6] Small Profit Dock Gardens. As fascinating as the name is, I can’t seem to find any history on it. But I do find a fine pair of Egyptian geese wandering about. And some beautiful cherry blossoms in bloom.

Small Profit Dock Gardens in Barnes
Small Profit Dock Gardens in Bloom

I emerge out of Small Profit Dock Gardens to the main road. I have been forewarned to look out for the life size cow on the balcony on the corner of [7] Gerrard Street. It appears that the fad is taking hold, when I spot a life size Storm Trooper a couple of houses down!!

Life Size Sculptures on The Balcony of Houses Along Barnes
Life Size Sculptures on The Balcony of Houses

[8] Lonsdale Road takes me towards the heart of Barnes. The walk in gives me some great views of [9] Barnes Railway Bridge. This 1849 bridge is only one of three bridges along the Thames that allow pedestrians and train to travel along the same crossing.

Barnes Railway Bridge In The Distance
Barnes Railway Bridge In The Distance

There are some rather handsome buildings along Lonsdale Road. The [10] Bulls Head Pub has some dainty wrought iron balconies. And when I carry on to [11] Terrace Roads, there are more examples of 18th century buildings and pretty balconies.

The Bull's Head Pub Along The River in Barnes
Beautiful Buildings Along the River Front in Barnes

Whilst sipping a turmeric latte at the [12] BoatHouse Cafe, I look up Barnes’ history. It’s name derives from the Anglo Saxon word for barn. The medieval manor here, Barnes-Elms, is, at one point, home to Francis Walsingham. He is a faithful servant of Elizabeth I, uncovering the Babington plot that condemns Mary, Queen of Scots, to death.

Boathouse at Barnes With a Reflection of Barnes Pond In Its Mirrors
Barnes Pond Is Reflected In The Mirrors of the Blue and Spacious Boathouse Café

My next stop is [13] Barnes Duck Pond. There used to be four ponds here. And until the 19th century, cows grazed on the green. There are still some notable older buildings around the common, including [14] Millbourne House and the [15] Sun Inn.

Barnes Duck Pond
Barnes’ Famous Duck Pond

Carrying along [16] Church Road, I come across the medieval looking [17] St. Osmund’s Catholic School. Past a charming row of bakers, grocers and florists, I find the Grade II listed [18] St. Mary’s Church, one of the oldest buildings in Barnes. However the only old parts that survive the 1978 fire, are the tower and Norman chapel.

St Osmund's Catholic School
St. Osmund’s Primary School on Church Road

Crossing [19] Castelnau, I arrive at [20] Barnes Wetland Centre, nominated by the BBC as one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the London area. The four Victorian reservoirs are now a bourgeoning oasis for birds, water fowls, voles, otters, water plants and wild flowers.

Bright Yellow Marsh Marigold At Barnes Wetlands
Bright Yellow Marsh Marigold At Barnes Wetlands

To best appreciate the enormity of its landscape of lagoons, islets and pastures, the Observatory by the entrance, and the Peacock Tower at the far end of the “wild” section, provide some stupendous views of the reserve.

View of Barnes Wetland Centre From The Peacock Tower
View of the Wetlands From the Peacock Tower

The highlight for me are the ducks. There are just so many varieties. Helped by the information boards around, I am glad to report that my fowl vocabulary has vastly improved.

Ducks At The Barnes Wetlands
Close Encounters of the Duck Kind At The Wetlands Centre

The Trust helps protect duck species all over the world, by working with local communities. It’s heartening to know that this reserve, which is so close to the heart of London, enables increasing number of wildlife to thrive here, as reported by the BBC .

Barnes Wetland Centre
The Wetlands Trust Also Protects Bird Habitats All Around The World

Sadly I have to leave the fascinating Wetlands Centre. Continuing along Queen Elizabeth Walk, I am soon back on the Thames Path. About 90 yards down, towards Hammersmith Bridge, I pass the one mile marker of the Head of the River Race. It’s not to be confused with the University Boat Race which also runs the same course, about a fortnight later.

Memorial to Steve Fairbairn, Founder of the Head of the River Race

As I head back to Hammersmith Bridge, I pass by [21] Harrods Furniture Depository. This is where men, and families, store their possessions just before leaving for lengthy stints to the various corners of the British Empire. Today it is much more prosaic, having been converted to luxurious flats.

Harrods Furniture Depository

I’m back again at my beloved Hammersmith Bridge. As I cross underneath the very low bridge, it is quite startling to hear how close the rumble of the traffic above is, leaving me in no doubt as to the fragility of the bridge.

I’m Soon Back At Hammersmith Bridge Again

As I clamber back up to the bridge I am back amongst traffic and the humdrum of the modern world. Such a world away from the wild, wild, wetlands of Barnes, just a stone throw away.

Ducks and Trees at Barnes Wetland Centres
The Ducks and Trees I Leave Behind At The Barnes Wetland Centre

Some Important Tips

  • Tube Map and City Mapper are free apps that provide London maps, route planner and train/ bus times from your nearest stop.
  • Only Oyster Cards, purchased at stations, or contactless cards are acceptable on Transport for London.
  • The AA Walk Around Barnes Wetlandspdf guide here
  • Boathouse Cafe, Barnes – Facebook Page
  • St. Mary’s Church (website) – open weekdays from 10:30 – 12:30 Climbing the tower is a popular event during the annual Barnes fair.
  • Barnes Wetland Centre (website) – open everyday. 10% discount if you buy your ticket online. Ticket can also be converted to an annual membership.
  • Head of River Race – route and date of next race
  • Keep the Thames Clean
My Route Around Barnes
My Route Around Barnes Minus Wandering Around The 40 Hectares Wetland Centre

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