|Previous Oar||Trail Map||Next Oar|
The Barnes Trail Extension takes you along much of the course of the Oxford and Cambridge University Boat Race, a unique sporting event between crews from the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge. It is watched by thousands along the banks of The Tideway, between Putney and Mortlake, and by millions more on TV around the world. First raced in 1829, The Boat Race is one of the oldest sporting events in the world. The course is 4 miles 374 yards (6.8 km); the race is rowed upstream, but is timed to start on the incoming flood tide, usually an hour before high tide, so that the crews are rowing with the fastest possible current. 31 March 2013 saw the 159th Boat Race.
The river bank is part of the Thames Path National Trail, which follows England's longest river for 184 miles from its source in the Cotswolds to its mouth in the Thames Estuary.
The Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust's London Wetland Centre was voted the UK's Favourite Nature Reserve by the public in the Countryfile Magazine Awards 2012. Although close to the heart of the capital it is a haven of tranquillity for both wildlife and people. The Centre contains numerous different wildlife habitats such as lakes, pools and gardens that are home to birds, frogs and newts. In the decade since the centre opened, over 200 species of bird have been spotted, making it a birdwatching paradise.
The Barn Elms playing fields are a major area for sport with facilities for football, cricket, athletics, rugby, softball and tennis. There is also a small fishing lake, managed by Barnes & Mortlake Angling and Preservation Society. Barn Elms Sports Trust (BEST) is a charitable trust dedicated to ensuring the future of Barn Elms; on 8 September 2012 the playing fields reopened as a community sports hub, with three brand-new tennis courts, a multi-use games area, new cricket nets and the renovation of many pitches. The new building has six changing rooms and a community/function room serving refreshments.
Also on Barn Elms is the separate Barn Elms Sports Centre, a 52 acre multi-sports facility that hosts the Elms Gym, numerous tennis and beach volleyball courts, AstroTurf playing surfaces and a whole range of grass sports pitches. Although actually in Wandsworth, its location makes the gym very attractive to Barnes residents.
The next Oar (E2) is at the south end of Hammersmith Bridge, over a mile away. Continue along Queen Elizabeth Walk, and then along the path to the left. The half-mile stretch to the river passes between the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust and the Barn Elms playing fields. When you reach the river, turn left and follow the wooden fingerposts past the Fairbairn Memorial, the Harrods Village Estate and Harrods Depository.
Should you be in need of refreshment when you reach Hammersmith Bridge, a 100-metre detour along Castelnau leads to the shops, restaurants and pubs of North Barnes. Oar E2, The North End of the Meander and Hammersmith Bridge, is outside The Bridge pub. A short-cut along Castelnau takes you the mile back to the Red Lion and the main Barnes Trail. If you'd rather keep walking along the towpath, you can read the information on the Oar here.
On the sign:
Commemorating the coronation of 1953, this path offers a delightful walk to the river (1/2 mile).
On the left, the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust occupies 100 acres of former farmland and later reservoirs. Peter Scott, the naturalist, successfully fought to prevent urban sprawl here and created this home for rare waterbirds. On the other side lies Barn Elms, once the site of the medieval manor house. Sir Francis Walsingham received Elizabeth I here. He was Elizabeth I's notorious spymaster, head of a network of domestic and foreign spies, rather like the combined heads of MI5 and MI6 today.
In the 18th century the manor house became the Kit Cat club with famous Whig party members. Finally it was the exclusive Ranelagh Polo Club with a golf course, fishing lake and more famous names of the day who were members. The club closed in 1939. In 1954 the by then derelict house was destroyed by fire. The gatehouse can be seen at the entrance to this walk and a reduced lake further along.