Barnes and the London Wetland Centre




3.75 miles (6kms)

0ft (0m)
1hr 30min

About the walk

Rowing boats, like birds, glide gracefully through water and also, like birds, you'll see plenty of them during this easy walk. Barnes has long been associated with the Oxford and Cambridge Boat Race. Indeed, the footbridge, added in 1895, was specifically designed to hold the crowds watching the last stage of the 4.3-mile (7km) race to Mortlake.

Loads of birds

The riverside functions rather like a wildlife highway, providing a natural habitat for birds. There are plenty of them to see without having to put a foot inside the London Wetland Centre (LWC) - but to omit it would be to miss out on a very rewarding experience. So why not extend the walk and visit the LWC? There are more than 2 miles (3.2km) of paths and 650yds (594m) of boardwalk to explore once you have paid the admission charge.

Four reservoirs and a vision

The mother hen of all bird sanctuaries is the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust at Slimbridge in Gloucestershire. It was founded by Sir Peter Scott, son of the great explorer, Scott of the Antarctic. One of his father's diaries carries the words: 'teach the boy nature' and this was indeed achieved, for Peter Scott became a renowned painter and naturalist. In recognition of his achievements, a larger-than-life sculpture of him stands on a raised gravel island at the entrance to the LWC, the only inner city wetland reserve in the world.

There are now nine wetland centres in the UK. This one began with four redundant reservoirs owned by Thames Water. They formed a partnership with the housing developer, Berkeley Homes and donated £11 million to help construct the centre. The 105-acre (43ha) project took five years to complete. In 2012 the centre was voted the UK's favourite nature reserve in the Countryfile magazine awards.

Once inside, there are three main sections: world wetlands, reserve habitats and waterlife. The first contains captive birds from around the world – North America is accessed via a log cabin complete with authentic furniture. There are information panels too. One of them contradicts the popular belief that swans mate for life. Another tells us about meadowsweet, which is found in damp woods and marshes and used in herbal teas, mead flavouring and even air fresheners.

A chorus of facts

Back to birds, and why do they make so much noise? The dawn chorus is their way of telling other birds where they are – 'keep off my patch!' is the message – but it's also to attract a mate. Some birds with colourful plumage find this easy, but others have developed a distinctive song to attract attention, of which the cuckoo is a good example.

Walk directions

Turn left out of the London Wetland Centre and follow the path, initially to the left of the Barn Elms Sports Centre and Boathouse and then beside some sports fields. At a T-junction turn left along the well-signposted Thames Path, alongside the river in the direction of Hammersmith Bridge.

About 225yds (206m) along the path on the left is a stone post, denoting the 1-mile (1.6km) marker of the Oxford and Cambridge University Boat Race. Steve Fairbairn, who was born in 1862, founded the Head of the River Race and this was the start of the world-famous, annual boat race that takes place in March.

The landscaped area of smart flats on the left is called Waterside and, a few paces further, a red- brick building bears the name Harrods Furniture Depository. Once past this, as if replicating the trademark Harrods colours of green and gold, is Hammersmith Bridge. Follow the path past St Paul's School, where Planets composer Gustav Holst was a music teacher. On the opposite side of the river, Chiswick Church's green roof is visible.

Pass a metal gate to the Leg o' 'Mutton Local Nature Reserve. If you have time you might want to visit this. Created around a former reservoir, it is home to birds such as reed warblers, pochard and herons, as well as three species of bat. Continue following the Thames Path to Barnes.

Just past the Bull's Head pub turn left into Barnes High Street. Continue to the junction by the little pond and bear left into Church Road. Pass the Sun Inn to reach a row of village shops and 100yds (91m) further on, the lychgate to St Mary's church. At the traffic lights continue ahead to return to the London Wetland Centre and the start of the walk.

Additional information

Riverside tow path, muddy after rain

Views across the Thames

London Wetland Centre (LWC) is a no-go area for dogs

AA Street by Street London; 0S Explorer 161 London South

At LWC (pay if not visiting)

At London Wetland Centre

Been on this walk?

Send us photos or a comment about this route.

Know a good walk?

Share your route with us.


Read our tips to look after yourself and the environment when following this walk.

Find out more

About the area

Discover Greater London

Greater London is one of the world’s largest urban areas; 33 boroughs stretching north to Enfield, south to Croydon, east to Havering, west to Hillingdon and with central London at the heart of it all.

Greater London was officially created in 1965, but the boroughs themselves all have their own histories going back much further. Greenwich is home to the Prime Meridian, which all clocks on earth take their time from, while Hounslow contains Heathrow Airport, one of the busiest airports in the world. Greater London contains a multitude of parks and green spaces, from the six Royal Parks (including Richmond Park, Green Park, Hyde Park and Regent’s Park) and other huge open spaces like Hampstead Heath and Clapham Common; to smaller community spaces like Clissold Park in Stoke Newington and Burgess Park in Southwark.

The centre of London has its quiet spaces too, like Coram’s Field by Great Ormond Street, and Camley Street Natural Park, a stone’s throw from King’s Cross and St Pancras. One of the city’s most impressive features is the London Underground. Beginning in 1863 as the Metropolitan Railway, it took commuters into The City from the suburbs of Middlesex. It was the first underground railway in the world, and now consists of 11 lines, 270 stations, and 250 miles (402km) of track. It’s estimated that nearly five million journeys are taken every day, and there are nearly one and a half billion riders each year.  At peak times, there are more than 543 trains whizzing around the Capital.

Why choose Rated Trips?

Your trusted guide to rated places across the UK
icon example
The best coverage

Discover more than 15,000 professionally rated places to stay, eat and visit from across the UK and Ireland.

icon example
Quality assured

Choose a place to stay safe in the knowledge that it has been expertly assessed by trained assessors.

icon example
Plan your next trip

Search by location or the type of place you're visiting to find your next ideal holiday experience.

icon example
Travel inspiration

Read our articles, city guides and recommended things to do for inspiration. We're here to help you explore the UK.