The area on either side of the river Thames near Putney is one of my favourite places to visit when the sun is out and you want to stretch your legs. From Fulham Palace and its beautiful gardens over Putney Bridge and down the Thames path, this area is both tranquil and packed with some amazing London sights.
The stretch of Thames heading west from Putney Bridge is probably best known for the annual Oxford vs. Cambridge University boat race. But the boat race brings with it hoards of crowds and a febrile atmosphere that I generally try to avoid. For the other 364 days of the year, this section of the river offers a chance to escape the throng of the city and take a more leisurely stroll.
On the Fulham side of the river you have the splendid Fulham Palace, home to the Bishops of London from 1300 to 1975. There is a museum and gallery which I’ve not visited, but the gardens are beautiful and the cafe has some of the most amazing cakes I’ve ever eaten.
Fulham Palace walking over Putney Bridge takes you south of the river and gives you some nice views up and down the stream.
If you take the Thames path along this bank you begin to walk past the boat houses for dozens of rowing clubs. When I recently visited, there was a lot of activity going on with people out for what looked like their first proper row of the year.
On the opposite bank you will also see Fulham Football Club’s ground Craven Cottage, home to the recently erected “Michael Jackson statue”:http://www.guardian.co.uk/football/2011/apr/03/mohamed-al-fayed-michael-jackson-statue placed there by eccentric club owner and former Harrods boss Mohammed Al Fayed. There are also some great modernist buildings nearby, which are really striking against the foreground of the river.
As you walk on past more boat clubs you get to the old Harrods furniture depository, built in 1894 this striking building has, like so many others, been turned into expensive flats. Despite this, the building remains very attractive and retains the original tiled facade proclaiming its intended purpose.
I was planning on walking all the way to the massively over the top Hammersmith Bridge, but at this point I realised my son had thrown his sun hat out of the push chair and we had to retrace our steps instead. This did at least provided me with a chance to look at things from a different angle and pop by the small church of St Mary’s right on the bank of the Thames at Putney.