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North Castelnau, along with Barnes High Street, Church Road and White Hart Lane, is one of the four main retail areas of Barnes. A comprehensive listing of Barnes shops, pubs, cafés, restaurants and useful services is available on this site.
The Trail Extension continues along the towpath past St Pauls School and Chiswick Eyot (pronounced eight), the small island (at high tide) in the river - the Thames is tidal from the sea as far as Teddington lock, 10 miles upstream of Hammersmith, and at Hammersmith the difference between high and low tide can be more than 6 metres.
St Paul's School was founded in 1509, at the height of the Renaissance in England. Originally sited by St Paul's Cathedral, the school moved four times before occupying its present riverside site in 1968. It survived the Plague, the Great Fire of London and the Civil War, and in 1870 was one of only two day schools included by the Clarendon Commission as one of the 'nine great public schools' of England. The Trail Extension takes the visitor past the extensive playing fields and the School Boat House. It also passes the back of the Wathen Hall www.wathenhall.com, the centre-piece of the music facility at St Paul's. Opened to the public in 2000, it offers an impressive programme of concerts.
A number of gates connect the Trail Extension along the towpath to the Leg O' Mutton nature reserve. A former reservoir saved from development by local action, the 600- metre-long reserve (more information here and here) has become a hidden treasure, where ducks and other water birds can breed. In winter, there are teal, tufted duck, widgeon and shovellers. Trees have colonised the brick and concrete sides of the reservoir and reeds have grown in shallow places. A path goes round the lake and has entrances to Lonsdale Road and the Thames Path.
Beyond the reserve, the towpath joins up with Lonsdale Road opposite Gerard Road, from where you will see Barnes Railway Bridge, another Boat Race landmark. Follow the flood wall to the junction with the High Street, and cross the zebra crossing. There you will find Oar 6, The Terrace and can rejoin the main Barnes Trail - either back along the High Street and Church Road towards the Red Lion, or on along the Terrace and under Barnes Railway Bridge.
Before the flood wall was built, the Thames often overflowed onto this end of Lonsdale Road. Many of the houses have very solid front garden walls as their original flood defence, some still with the wooden rails into which flood boards could be slotted. Older Barnes residents remember the river flooding along the High Street in the 1960s and joining up with the Pond.
On the sign:
Hammersmith Bridge, built in 1887 is a Grade II listed structure and is now painted in its original green. The delicate suspension design, unsuited to today's traffic has been strengthened many times, as closer inspection will show. Despite that it survived IRA bombs in 1938 and again in 2000.
Castelnau was named after the home of the Boileau family, originally Huguenot migrants. Major Boileau gave land for the building of Trinity Church in 1868 and The Boileau Arms was built in 1894, but has changed its name since. Opposite is the former Bridge Hotel (built 1904) with an original gas lamp hanging over the door.
The grand building known as Harrods Depository was originally Cowan's Soap and Candle Works which provided hundreds of jobs for local people until its closure in 1888 as a result of a fire. By 1894 it had become a storage facility for the world famous department store, for furniture that was too big to display in the shop itself. Now it has become a key landmark along the University Boat Race course.
The building of the Harrods Village Estate helped in part to fund the creation of the Wetlands wildlife preservation in Barnes.