Non-Fiction Review: London Thames Path, by David Fathers

OVERVIEW

book cover

David Fathers presents a unique and richly illustrated guide to the London section of the Thames Path, newly updated to reflect the city’s ever-changing landscape.

The iconic path, which stretches from the lost floodplains of Richmond all the way  to the Thames Barrier, is a panoramic 40-mile walk through 2000 years of London’s history.

  • From the old docks and wharves that primed the Industrial Revolution, through the heart of British Government, Monarchy and Church to the City of London that took its very existence from the river.
  • From the site of the Putney Debates at St Mary’s Church to Wren’s mighty baroque cathedral of St Paul’s.
  • From the great Victorian engineering works of Sir Joseph Bazalgette and his attempts to clean up a polluted London and the river to the Thames Barrier seeking to protect huge parts of London from rising sea levels.
  • From London Bridge, site of the oldest crossing point, to the Millennium Bridge, the Thames’ newest crossing. 

This book explains the panorama we see today, what came before and how the changes came about. Each double page shows the distance covered so you can plan your own tour of the river.

MY REVIEW

Disclaimer: Although I received an electronic copy of this book from the publisher, the opinions below are my own.

My early years were spent living in a town situated on the River Thames. My mother and I would walk home from the shops via the riverbank. My family would take walks along the river at weekends. I knew of a couple of historic locations close to my house, but there’s much about the river I didn’t know either then or until I’d read this guide. (My community is outside the area featured.)

The London Thames Path is divided into two sections: the first covers the northern side of the river from west to east, and the second takes you along the southern side in the same direction. Each two page spread details a segment of riverbank often no more than a kilometer in length, and readers should be able to identify where they are thanks to the illustrated map of each portion. Points of interest are numbered appropriately, although some aren’t obvious to spot in situ while others no longer exist. These are varied, but all are of historical and/or cultural value. Walks can take you past ancient buildings, the sites of long-gone pleasure gardens, blue plaques, and bridges. Want to know what’s on the other side of the river from where you stand? Each spread includes a page reference to its opposing location. There are also special features regarding Westminster Abbey, an engineer who created a sewage system which helped clean up the river, and the times when the Thames would freeze over. Each page is highly illustrated instead of containing photographs.

This is not a guide that will tell you where the best place is to stay, shop, or eat while you’re on your walk. Nor does it give precise directions to each location featured. I couldn’t do any of the walks while reading this guide, but I was able to follow along using a map on a Smartphone. I’m looking forward to getting a paper copy, however, and utilizing it the next time I’m in London.

RATING

Rating: 5 out of 5.

BOOK INFORMATION

Publisher: Frances Lincoln

Publication Date: 13 September 2022

Book Information

DAVID FATHERS

David Fathers originally trained as a graphic designer and now runs an internet company. However he has always had a passion for drawing, painting and maps. Nearly ten years ago he was commissioned by the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew and Wakehurst Place to create their first digital visitors guides. These are still in use today.

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