The attractions of this mainly riverside walk include some beautiful and historic buildings, culminating in a personal favourite, Chiswick House, shown on the left. These pleasures easily outweigh the traffic noise and descending aircraft which accompany parts of the walk.
The Hammersmith stretch features not one but five pubs, at Chiswick House thereís a good cafť, and Chiswick High Road has many coffee shops, so refreshments are not a problem.
The Thames is a different character here, upstream of central London. Still tidal, it can expose a lot of mud at Hammersmith, and occasionally floods the road and pavement in the Chiswick section.
Hammersmith Bridge was built in 1887 by Joseph Bazelgette, the man who sorted out Londonís sewers. In 1939 a pedestrian spotted an IRA bomb and threw it in the river. The terraces near the bridge (right) include two pubs, where you may be able to lunch upstairs.
Hammersmith and Chiswick were originally fishing villages, but the trade was destroyed by the introduction of the flush toilet in the nineteenth century. Iíll leave you to imagine why. Hammersmith village centre has long since disappeared, but was where Furnival Gardens is now. A V1 bomb destroyed the buildings in the second world war, and it was left as an open space. The opposite river bank is green and wooded. (Below).
The Dove pub, originally a coffee house, is one of the oldest (and smallest) pubs in London, and looks directly onto the river. Rule Britannia was probably written in The Dove in 1740.
Kelmscott House in Upper Mall was home to Arts and Crafts designer William Morris, and before that the first working telegraph was set up in the garden, although no-one except the inventor could see the point of it.
The Black Lion (below) is another ancient pub, alleged to be haunted, and frequented by residents of nearby Hammersmith Terrace. Itís said the writer and MP AP Herbert used to declaim poetry at the bar in the nineteen sixties.
St Peterís Square (pictured below) is unusual both in the architecture Ė notice the eagles still on some of the porches Ė and the fact the garden is open to the public.
Walpole House is one of Chiswick Mallís finest, simple Georgian with little adornment other than wisteria.
Chiswick Eyot (pronounce Ite) is a small island in the Thames, reachable at low tide. When high flood walls were built alongside the river at Hammersmith and elsewhere, this area was left without, to preserve the atmosphere, and the road is sometimes wet after a high tide. Individual houses have their own flood protection.
Fuller's Brewery is one of the last remaining breweries in London, known for its London Pride. It's just off the walk, in Chiswick Lane to the right of Chiswick Mall.
Bedford House and the adjoining Eynham House, once one residence, are not easy to see behind high walls and flood gates, but do repay scrutiny. Former occupants include original owner, the Earl of Bedford, and in the twentieth century an entire family of film stars, the Redgraves.
St Nicholas's Church is the centre of the original village, with Church Street still featuring sixteenth century timber framed houses amongst the more modern eighteenth century stuff.
The Lamb Brewery (now occupied by other businesses) towers above.
The riverside walk passes the site of Thorneycroft's shipyard. In the early nineteen hundreds even the owners realised a shallow tidal river was a daft location for a shipyard, and warehouses and light industry took over until the nineteen eighties, when sympathetically designed housing was built, and the riverside path opened up.
As you approach Chiswick House, you'll see the view pictured at the head of this page. Designed by the Earl of Burlington and finished in 1729, it is one of the first classical buildings to be constructed in Britain. It owes much to the designs of Italian Renaissance architect Antionio Palladio, who is honoured with a statue.
Let's forget the English were a couple of hundred years behind the times; this house was very influential, and aristocratic families in prosperous eighteenth century England built classical houses all over the place, setting a style which was later adopted for public buildings too. We really ought to say thank you to the Earl of Burlington.
The picture above is of the Ionic Temple in the grounds. (Do you really not have one in your garden?). The photo on the left is of the house from across the lake. You'll see both views on your walk, as did (amongst others) the eighteenth century Duchess of Devonshire, friend and political ally of the Prince Regent. This was a favourite place of the Duchess.
I hope the waterfall is working on your visit. It usually is nowadays, but in the eighteenth century the unfortunate servants, who pumped frantically whenever an aristocratic party approached, could never raise enough pressure. There's nothing to beat an electric motor.
Distance 6.8km / 4.2 miles.
1. If you take the District or Piccadilly line tube to Hammersmith from central London, leave the platform by stairs near the back of the train. After the ticket barriers, exit into a shopping mall, going straight across (you have to jink round an escalator to do this). Follow signs suspended from the ceiling to the Apollo theatre, which lead you left to an exit to the road.
2. Cross the road and turn right, with the front of the Apollo to your left. (This is a major music and comedy venue).
3. Follow the pavement past the end of the Apollo turning left into Queen Caroline Street.
4. At the end of the street, turn right onto a path. (The only alternative is to fall in the river).
5. Continue beneath Hammersmith Bridge along the riverside path, past the Blue Anchor, the Rutland, and boat clubs.
6. Continue by the river with a green (Furnival Gardens) on your right. The original fishing village was here.
7. The path leads you through a passage behind some buildings, including the ancient Dove pub.
8. The path becomes a road (Upper Mall). William Morris lived at no 26. Also see the plaque about telegraph experiments.
9. Pass Latymer Prep School and Upper School, and Linden House which was built 1730-ish for a merchant and is now a sailing club.
10. Pass the Old Ship, and a green Ė notice the single wall left from a demolished building.
11. Path reaches a brick wall and turns right. The Black Lion is ahead; walk past it up Black Lion Lane to the main road. Take the underpass beneath the road.
12. Turn left by St Peterís church to go into St Peterís Square. The garden is open, a rarity in London.
13. Return to the underpass, go back to the Black Lion, and turn right onto Hammersmith Terrace behind Georgian Houses. Look out for blue plaques.
14. Morton House on the right has two small fire insurance plaques from the 18th century. The private fire brigade would only fight the fire for people who were insured.
15. As you pass a side road, Eyot Gardens, you step from Hammersmith W6 into Chiswick W4. The road youíre on is now Chiswick Mall.
16. A nephew of Sir Robert Walpole (Britainís first prime minister) lived at Walpole House in the late 18th century. WilliamThackeray attended when it was a school. Jasper Conran sold it for £12.5m in 2008.
17. Fullerís Brewery is in Chiswick Lane, just off Chiswick Mall.
18. The Earl of Bedford had a house on Chiswick Mall, now split into two (Bedford House and Eynham House) Bedford House was occupied 1945-54 by Sir Michael Redgrave and his family of actors, including Vanessa.
19. Near the church (which is at the original village centre) turn left from the road onto the riverside path. Continue past modern housing.
20. Next to Chiswick Pier, turn right, away from the river past a small domed kiosk. Continue straight on by a road.
21. At a traffic roundabout, bear right along Grantham Road. (Check the road sign).
22. At the end of Grantham Road, youíll see the gateway to Chiswick House ahead. Cross at the pedestrian refuge which is slightly to your left. If the trafficís too heavy, walk further down to the left to a lights controlled crossing.
23. Go in through the gateway, reach the front of Chiswick House, and turn left. Walk down the side of the house and turn right to walk along the back.
24. Go straight ahead through a classical archway, then take the first path on the left and walk parallel to the Ďha haí (a brick lined ditch) on your left. Youíll see a statue of Venus on a pillar straight ahead.
25. Turn ninety degrees left at Venus.
26. At the end of this path, thereís one path to your left (to the house) and three paths to the right. Take the last on the right, and walk past the Ionic Temple.
27. You will soon see a bridge on your left; turn left to go over it.
28. Turn left the other side of the bridge, to walk alongside the lake.
29. At the end of the lake, turn left past a waterfall and keep going until youíre in front of Chiswick House again. (Note: the cafť is not far, to your right as you face the house.
30. Turn your back to the house, leave through the gate and return the way you came, along Grantham Road to the roundabout and then the river.
31. Turn left along the river path and return to the church.
32. Chiswick Mall is now to your right, but you go straight on along Church Street.
33. The houses either side of the entrance to old Lamb Brewery were both pubs until the 1920s. The Old Burlington is the oldest house in Chiswick (from the 1500s).
34. At the end of Church Street, near a busy roundabout, turn left and pass the entrance to an underpass. Stop to look at Chiswick Square. Thereís an information plaque on a house wall.
35. Return to the underpass entrance and go down.
36. At the end of the underpass, go right, up the ramp. Thereís a sign pointing to Devonshire Road.
37. Bear left to walk up Devonshire Road, dull at first but with boutique type shops later.
38. At the end, go right onto Chiswick High Road, cross, and turn left at the lights into Turnham Green Terrace. This leads to Turnham Green tube station.
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