Riverside Lockdown Walks
The short but sweet Strand on the Green from Chiswick to Kew Bridge makes a lovely lockdown walk
Strand on the Green was a fishing village in the Middle Ages. Now, although it only straggles the river Thames for less than a kilometre, it is a popular walk crammed with history, wildlife and a succession of good pubs.
One can start exploring at the end of Strand at the top of Kew Bridge, from where there are steps down to the river walkway, or, as I did, at Chiswick Railway station (South West trains from Waterloo) from where it is a 15 minute walk to meet The Thames Path at Strand End, a half-timbered house and former sailing club.
Strand is not easy to find, and recent traffic restrictions mean cars are not allowed to drive through the surrounding area. Having said that I hesitate to call it a ‘hidden gem’. On summer weekends the narrow walkway teems with drinkers, bird spotters and dog walkers. Cyclists however are prohibited on the walkway.
The hamlet was simply ‘Strand’ from the 13th century to the 17th century, from the Old English word for a bank or shore. This was a fishing community with a ferry service to Kew.In early days there was no path along the riverbank, just a series of interconnecting wharves.
The opening of Kew Bridge in 1759 and the royal palace at Kew increased the popularity of the area. During the 18th century the village attracted wealthy residents who built some grand homes here and The Bulls Head, City Barge and Bell and Crown public houses all came into existence.
All the pubs are worth visiting, although it is essential to book if you want a table for lunch or dinner.
Take time to look carefully at the houses, some of them now eye-wateringly expensive. The river is tidal here and can rise by up to seven metres at times but that is a rare occurrence these days. You will notice how the houses have protected themselves over the years, some with miniature elevated doors.
Number 65 is marked with a blue plaque noting that the 18th century German portrait painter Johann Zoffany lived there until the end of his life in 1810. Zoffany was a well-known flamboyant character and possible bigamist. He became a close friend of royalty including the German-speaking Queen Charlotte, wife of George III.
Other famous residents include actor Donald Pleasance, writer Nancy Mitford, newspaper publisher Hugh Cudlipp and more recently actor Rhys Ifans and musician Midge Ure.
The modern buildings towards the end of the Strand replaced housing damaged during WWII.
Hopkin Morris cottages towards the Chiswick end of the Strand were originally erected in the 18th century for the ‘poor of Chiswick for ever’ and rebuilt over the years and restored by Hounslow Council in 1973.
In the middle of the river is Oliver’s Island, so called after an apocryphal story that Oliver Cromwell took refuge here when he used the nearby Bulls Head pub as his secret headquarters during the English Civil War. The island was previously referred as simply Strand Ayt. It has been used as a barge factory and is now home to Canada geese, cormorants, grebes, herons and swans.
Keep an eye out for the playful seals which are increasingly found in these waters
This stretch of the river is still popular for those who enjoy a spot of recreational angling with the chance of catching bream or roach, followed by a pint in one or all of the welcoming pubs.
This is the scene in autumn of the annual Thames Tidefest, a celebration of the River Thames which aims to help Londoners reconnect with the river and includes water focused family activities