Boxing Day. Fulham are playing Wolves at Craven Cottage in the early kick-off. The match presents a glorious two-hour window of opportunity when the pubs on the Hammersmith Bridge to Putney Bridge circumnavigation will be relatively quiet.
I start at The Old City Arms, 107 Hammersmith Bridge Road. It is hard to miss. Bright red in colour––although didn’t it used to be bright blue?––within spitting distance of the “Weak Bridge” sign, which provides a disconcerting welcome to car drivers about to cross Hammersmith Bridge. There is little time to dally, though. The referee has blown his whistle at Craven Cottage. The first half is under way and I still have four miles to cover.
I follow the route along the north bank of the river, travelling in a clockwise direction. I briefly speculate about the price of a flat in the fancy new developments, which have sprung up on the waterfront, close to the Bridge. A little bit of Chelsea in Hammersmith. There is a sign saying that a show-flat is open for visitors. Wisely, I decide that it is a fantasy, better left unvisited.
On the opposite bank, the Harrods Furniture Depository stands majestic and aloof; nobility from an older time. It marks a transition: a point where the buildings end and a false countryside begins. In the river, a line of cormorants hold their wings out to dry atop an emergent sandbar, black wraiths against the water.
I spot two geese, which I can’t immediately identify. Their pink legs fool me into thinking they may be Greylags, but these are more unusual. I take a mental note to look them up when I get home, but a helpful information board saves me the bother: Egyptian Geese. They seem a long way from home. Although only a short distance from Harrods.
Plenty of ducks: I spot Mallards, Tufted, and Teal, before I reach The Crabtree, Rainville Road. It is almost warm enough to drink outside, and the beer garden is about as close as it is possible to sit and sup by the Thames, but I am drawn inside by the warmth and the live TV.
There is not much noise coming from the Cottage. I take that to mean that the home side are not doing well. Police line the streets outside the ground. I hurry past, glad to hit the Thames path again in Bishops Park. The ecclesiastical setting is not conducive to drinking, and there are no more pubs on the circuit until after crossing Putney Bridge. The up-side is that there are still birds to be seen. By far the most abundant are the colourful green parakeets, noisily making their presence known, calling from the low branches.
Crossing to the south side of the river, there are two pubs in quick succession, The Star and Garter, 4 Lower Richmond Road and The Duke’s Head, 8 Lower Richmond Road. Drink up here, because there is still a long stretch of the riverbank ahead.
The slipway from the rowing club to the river is a potential hazard for the incautious drinker. I stick studiously to the main path, which quickly becomes an unpaved track, leading through a tree-lined avenue, which would look more at home in the middle of rural Hertfordshire rather than in the heart of London.
A signpost, perpendicular to the path, points the way to The Red Lion at Barnes. It involves a one-mile detour there and back; tempting, when there are no closer staging points on this side of the river, but I am conscious of the time. The match is close to ending at the Cottage, and I want to be back across Hammersmith Bridge before the football crowds emerge. A big black crow sits a solitary silhouette in a stark tree, overhanging the Thames. I could take it as an omen of bad luck. It is for Fulham: Wolves score a late equaliser.
In the end, I am back with time to spare. I pause a moment on Hammersmith Bridge, looking north. The Blue Anchor, Rutland Arms, The Dove, The Old Ship: they all stretch away into the misty distance towards Barnes Bridge. It makes me wonder why I didn’t go in that direction in the first place?
© Beery Sue
Beery Sue finds fouls and fowls alongside the Thames.
Discover where else Beery Sue drinks in Pub Crawls of London #1: The People’s Vote