This long Woodland Trust walk will take you on an urban journey from one bank of the Thames to the other. As you walk from Bishops Park to Battersea Park you’ll get to know Fulham and Chelsea like you never knew before.
This long walk designed by Woodland Trust and available from walking app Go Jauntly is a perfect one to do on a weekend. It’s quite long, because it takes between 2,5-3hrs. It gives an opportunity to see wide range of attractions and will certainly make you hungry enough to sit down at one of the pubs or cafés somewhere along the way.
Read this post and discover the ancient trees, historical pottery, old houses and a different face of Chelsea. If you would like a map for this walk, download Go Jauntly for your iPhone for free.
The ancient trees that Woodland Trust wants to draw your attention to are in Bishops Park and Battersea Park at two different ends of the walk. Which route you choose between them is up to you.
Woodland Trust walk on Go Jauntly begins at Battersea Park, but for me it was more convenient to begin in West London. The route I chose was random, because that’s what I love about urban walking the most. It leads through very interesting streets of Fulham and Chelsea and is a real delight to every city walker.
Bishops Park to start with
Bishops Park is a great place to hang around. It has the park-y bit with London plane trees, and alleyways for strolling, and the palace part with beautiful walled garden and various trees.
As you stroll through Bishops Meadow you’ll see lots of London plane trees, the most popular trees in the capital. They’re usually characterised by pale grey-green bark, smooth and exfoliating, or buff-brown and not exfoliating. The leaves are thick and stiff-textured, broad, superficially maple-like. The tree is a hybrid of two other species. Biologist are not sure whether the hybridisation occurred somewhere in Spain or in Vauxhall Gardens where the tree was discovered by John Tradescant the Younger in the mid-17th century.
Fulham Palace full of fun
Fulham Palace houses paintings and artefacts showing the history of the building and the site it stands on from prehistoric times. For centuries Fulham Palace was the country residence of the Bishop of London, Lord of the Manor of Fulham, and in the last century became his only home. Bishops moved out of here in mid 1970s and now live near St. Paul’s Cathedral. The present buildings date from the 15th to 20th century and are Grade One listed.
You can read more about interesting history of the building and the site on Fulham palace’s website, and visit it anytime. There’s a lot going on there throughout the year – there are family-friendly events, concerts and more to choose from. Inside, there’s another café.
I like pictured below neo-Gothic (or Tudor-Gothic) lodge built around 1815 which stands at the palace gate. It was rendered to imitate stone and the pink colour was applied later. Notice also the moat surrounding the palace area.
Nature of the city
As you walk around the palace you’ll see various trees’ species, like black walnut. If you’re curious what each of them is you can check out the labels.
The walled garden is a pretty enclave to the south east part of the park.
As you stroll through its alleyways you’ll see flower beds and interesting flower compositions. You may also have a chance to spot a fox or two, or a lazy cat inside the greenhouse.
Woodland Trust walk on Go Jauntly suggests that there’s a stall with fresh veg and fruit but I think it’s open only in warmer months. When I did the walk in January the stall was there but empty and sheltered in the glasshouses. It still looked pretty and inviting though.
The wall of the garden together with All Saints’ church tower just behind the garden’s wall make for a pretty view. It feels more like a small town picture than the middle of the city.
As you go out from the walled garden and head to the left, you will see huge 500+ year old tree, which is one of the highlights of the Woodland Trust walk. It’s the Fulham Palace Holm Oak. Although the core of the original trunk has rotted away, the main branches have become new trunks and the tree’s leaves give off an air of health and vitality. It looks majestic as it relaxes on the edge of the park.
Make your way around it and head towards the Thames to go out from the park. As you approach the barrier you’ll see that it’s a really good viewing place for the Thames. You can see it here in all its glory, as well as admire Putney Bridge and the buildings on the other bank. Interesting fact about Putney Bridge – it’s the only bridge in Britain to have a church at both ends
One million books
When you cross the street, you’ll see The Eight Bells pub and, soon after, an old bookshop Hurlingham Books. The pub is on Fulham High Street and the bookshop on its corner with Ranelagh Gardens.
The Eight Bells was first licensed in first half of 17th century but was used not only for pub purposes. From 1886 to 1888, Fulham Football Club used the pub as a changing room, as they played at the nearby Ranelagh House until that site was used for housing.
Hurlingham Books claims to be the oldest independent bookshop in South West London. It’s family-run business. Ray Cole who started the business is still the one who opens it every single day. They look like a very friendly traditional business and if you love books, you should pop in there on this Woodland Trust walk. The shop has very limited space but they stock a large selection of fiction, poetry and general interest books. If they don’t have what you’re looking for in the shop, you’ll be pleased to hear that they may have it in their warehouse which houses over a million books of hard back fiction, Art, Photography, Children, and many more!
Really big surprise
You’ll probably be as surprised as I was that part of Fulham High Street near Putney Bridge station doesn’t look very much like a high street. It’s a narrow passage and nothing else. The reason behind it is that the original Putney Bridge had a slightly different trajectory and lead to that part of Fulham High Street. When the new stone bridge was built in 1886 on a new alignment, a new road – Putney Bridge Approach – was laid to connect the northern end of the new bridge with Fulham High Street at its junction with New King’s Road: in consequence the southernmost stretch of Fulham High Street was reduced to a cul-de-sac.
The next part of this Woodland Trust walk leads along New King’s Road. There, I saw, one of the most interesting things on this walk. In fact, when I first saw it, I couldn’t figure out what it was. A jug? A ceramic pot?
A sign gave me a clue… I searched for The Fulham Pottery online and the mysterious construction turned out to be a large kiln. There used to be a pottery on this site and what we can see today is all that remains of the original pottery. It’s Grade II listed. Fulham Pottery produced salt glaze pottery and operated from 17th century until 1969.
When you get to Parsons Green, you’ll see five fine Georgian houses with their names Sefton, Cradley, Belgrave Albyn and Rosslyn written on large white stucco panels over the doors. They look very interesting overlooking the green. Unfortunately, I didn’t find any more information about any of them.
A different Chelsea
Great thing about this walk is that even though the map designed by Woodland Trust in Go Jauntly gives you a certain route to follow, you can divert from it and explore whichever of the little streets you like. If you don’t find anything interesting in one, you can always try another one.
After passing through Parsons Green I went into Delvin Road and then into Elthiron Road and came across these houses basking in the winter sun.
After Eel Brook Common I turned into some really different streets of Chelsea. Not the ones with beautiful mansions and pretty front doors but more industrial ones.
There, I came across The Old Gas Works. The one in Chelsea has been turned into affordable studios and offices to let and is a community of 300 entrepreneurs and artisans.
I returned to King’s Road for a short while to soon turn to Lots Road welcoming me with this bright green building.
As you walk along this street you’ll also find an interesting shop Nordic Style, filled entirely with… Nordic style furniture and home décor. Lovely place.
As I strolled through the backstreets I loved seeing this view which reminded me of the old meeting new and how the two intertwine.
Near the river
I was very pleased to find out that this Woodland Trust walk took me to Stadium Street which I’ve always wanted to see. After I passed that pretty little street, I came (again) to another part of Lots Road. There’s quite a surprising building to see there – former Lots Road power station. It used to supply power to London underground.
The station was built end-on to the Thames, on the north bank of the tidal Chelsea Creek and its construction was completed in 1904. If you follow Lots Road to get to the station you’ll eventually reach another interesting place – Chelsea Harbour. This power station stopped serving its purpose in 2002 and there are plans to redevelop the site into shops, restaurants and apartment and construct more buildings including two sky scrapers.
The rest of the walk leads along the Thames. It’s always nice to be able to stroll along the river. It’s not only beautiful and refreshing but also brings back different memories. Then, it crosses Albert Bridge and ends in Battersea Park. Similar to Bishops Park this is such an interesting site that it can be a separate walk on its own.
This walk finishes in Battersea Park where you can see some more of the ancient trees, like hybrid strawberry tree which probably dates back to 1850s.
It’s amazing how many different things you come across on this walk. You start at one park and finish at another, on the other side of the river. In between you stroll through peaceful streets of West London getting to know its character and history. It’s a fantastic walk for weekend and will satisfy your hunger for some proper urban walking with all its attractions.
Have you done this Woodland Trust walk but took a different route to me? If so, share your findings in the comments below.
If not, let us know what other West London walks you like.