Hello, Mrs Hg137 here.
Mission accomplished! Thames Path walk complete! Apologies in advance for quite a long post.
With Christmas gone and 2016 approaching fast, we had just a few days left to complete the Thames Path before our self-imposed deadline of December 31st; we had been keeping an eye on both our social diary and the weather forecast and had decided that December 29th was the day for the final section of the walk.
So we arrived bright and early at Canary Wharf station and exited the Jubilee Line into … a sharp shower of rain. Oh dear! That wasn’t in the plan. But it cleared within 5 minutes, leaving clear air and winter sunshine.
We turned south onto the Thames Path and set off past the skyscrapers and oh-so-expensive apartments overlooking the river. We had lots of caches loaded, but didn’t have high hopes of the first few, as they hadn’t been found for a while. And so it proved. We couldn’t find them either, though our cache searching gave us a chance to inspect various bits of dockland hardware, such as the chains and hydraulic ram at Millwall Old Dock.
By now we were in the Isle of Dogs, and a sudden change in feel; the houses were smaller, the people weren’t all business folk rushing about; London is very curious for this: completely different areas can be just a few yards from each other, or on opposite banks of the Thames. But – we had started finding caches at last. Our first success was cunningly concealed under a post box, and the next was at another unusual feature on the riverside – a ‘park’ made out of planks. Reading the cache notes and the noticeboard, we discovered that this was where IK Brunel had built the Great Eastern, then, and for some time, the biggest ship in the world https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SS_Great_Eastern . It seemed an odd spot to have chosen, very close to some tight bends in the river and without much space around it – but we’re not brilliant inventors.
We found another couple of caches as we walked through Tower Hamlets, though we had to abandon the search for another as a traffic policeman stopped nearby. Oh dear, we really couldn’t risk being stopped by the police twice in three weeks! Then suddenly we entered a small park with a panoramic view across the river to the Cutty Sark and to the old Royal Naval College at Greenwich. Here, too, is the end of the northern bank section of the Thames Path. (Three and a quarter miles to the barrier, said a sign.) The rest of it is on the south bank, though it is not at all a straight line to the finish!
The way to the south bank of the Thames is through a 1,215 foot long pedestrian tunnel under the river, and this is also a virtual geocache, one of only 193 left in the UK. Down the stairs, through the tunnel, and up in the lift we went, both of us separately counting away at geocache clues as we went; luckily, our answers matched. It was a well-used walk under the river, but a slightly odd and eerie place; I wouldn’t really want to be down there alone, and it is said that it’s haunted. And all of a sudden we were back out in the light, only yards away from the Cutty Sark and surrounded by crowds of tourists. (Three and a half miles to the barrier, said the next sign; curious, we should be getting closer.) We set off along the Thames Path again, pausing to eat our lunchtime sandwiches on a seat in the sun overlooking the river, looking back at Canary Wharf and watching the tide rushing in.
After lunch we set off again down the south bank of the Thames. As soon as we had cleared the naval college the crowds melted away and we were almost alone once more, amongst wharves and industrial areas. (Four miles to the barrier, said the third sign; this really didn’t seem right as we knew we were going in the right direction, though fortunately the distances dropped after that!) Every so often we passed an old pub – the Trafalgar, the Cutty Sark, the Anchor and Hope – but, cache-wise, there was little to stop for as almost all the caches between Greenwich and the Thames Barrier are challenge caches, and we haven’t qualified for any of them. So on and on we walked, following a big loop north and then south around the Greenwich Peninsula, better known to most as the home of the O2, formerly the Dome, and where we went to watch the gymnastics during the 2012 Olympics. It was just a little dispiriting to look back across the Thames to Canary Wharf and to realise that we were now only about a mile from where we had started that morning… Part way around the loop in the river we reached a sign telling us that we were now on the Greenwich meridian; we had to check that, so out came the GPS; that was correct, so the rest of our journey would be in a whole new hemisphere! As we rounded a bend in the river and passed under the cable car, the Thames Barrier came into view and in not many more minutes, we were there. Journey’s end!
Appropriately, there’s an earthcache, the Tide Lord, to mark the spot. I think our cache log says it well enough:
“ We did it!!! Finally at the Thames Barrier … and an earthcache to puzzle over. The item that forms the puzzle gave us the chance to reflect on our whole journey … which has been very varied indeed … including multiple tree climbs, paddling through icy water, being stopped by the police … and so much more. “
But we weren’t finished yet; we needed to return to Canary Wharf to catch a train, and we had some more caches planned for the return leg. A bus back to the Cutty Sark, transferring to the Docklands Light Railway and back under the Thames, and we were almost there. We stopped part way back to find a picture puzzle cache, ‘1 Canada Square’ The idea is simple, the finding less so; the cache description is a panoramic view of Canary Wharf, and the cache is located ‘within 20 metres of where the picture was taken’. Again, I’ll let our cache log tell the tale:
”Our Thames Path mission complete, we were making our way back from the Thames Barrier to Canary Wharf station and we thought this should be somewhere on the way. (Well, Mrs Hg137 thought it should be, as she had spent hours … and hours … and hours inspecting assorted electronic views of the area to come to a likely location).
And so we pitched up in the likely place in the gathering gloom. A short search found us this cache. Woo hoo! “
Just one more cache to do now, and it was pretty dark by now. On our last caching mission/walk we had tried, and failed, to find a Church Micro based on the floating church in Canary Wharf. But we didn’t give up. A short message session with the cache owner and a slight readjustment of coordinates suggested we had been close, but not that close. So back we went, and ten minutes searching in the dark behind concrete pillars and underneath railway lines found us the cache. The last cache of the year, and a warm sense of achievement at getting this one. Unusually for an urban cache, this one contained a trackable, ‘Dick’. It has an interesting mission but that’s a topic for another blog.
Apart from the satisfaction of completing the Thames Path, today was another landmark caching day: only the second time that we had found five cache types in one day: a traditional, puzzle, earth, virtual, and multi cache. A good note on which to round off our caching for 2015, and time to wish all our long-suffering readers best wishes for the year ahead.
Thames Path statistics :
Route length : 6.75 miles
Total distance walked : 184.75 miles
Caches found : 8
Total caches found : 337