29 Mar Riverside
I walked a different part of the river today. And with a different purpose. The riverside walk from Teddington Lock west along the south bank of the Thames is the best way to ease oneself into the dispiriting prospect of shopping in Kingston. A truce before the battle, as it were.
The day started bright, the air cool despite the sunshine. The river was full, flowing fast but smooth, just a few eddies ruffling its surface. Geese graze onshore or paddle nonchalantly upstream, ducks drift aplenty and a solitary moorhen stands dark against the white edge of a small wooden craft. The riverbank is clear these days. Gone is the dejected huddle of old barges that used to clutter this bank, laden with their tangle of rubbish rescued for some unknowable purpose. They must have been moved on in an effort to clean things up, improve the view.
I follow the curve of the river and pass Trowlock Island. Boats cluster at their moorings, the sunlight catching them as they bob gently in the water; houseboats trace the waterline. It’s here you catch a first glimpse of the bridges up ahead at Kingston. Striding on the eye is drawn across to the north side, to a handful of grand houses, river launches with outboard motors tied to private jetties, lawns sweeping up to generous terraces, a conservatory, a gazebo; life in a different genre.
It’s a transport both literal and metaphorical, this riverside walk. Far from the sounds of traffic, it’s rarely busy but there’s always something happening. Reprieve and recreation. You can let yourself be absorbed for a mile and a half in the river’s timeless flow, the babbling and splashing of waterfowl, daffodils full-throated at last as March counts down to April, trees and bushes going through their seasonal warm-up, enough space to see a big sky.
I walk nearer to the water’s edge for a while. Just below me, there’s a tiny curve where twigs, leaves and the usual detritus of the river have been caught between a mooring post and the grassy bank. Shielded from the flow they collect here as if a beaver were gathering his materials to build a damn. Such gentle bucolic musings are part of the joy.
But they evaporate in a moment. A carrier bag, swollen with some other floating refuse has sought shelter here too. A large plastic bottle has paused on its journey, colourless but no longer clear, it has the look of having been waterborne for a while, the plastic turned opaque from exposure to water, sunlight, the grime of the river, the passage of time.