Too enclosed for the mind to breathe, too urban – why seek to walk to Downing Street, when it is best sometimes to shut the door and walk away from it, to a quitter, riverside town such as Maidenhead, where there is rest to find and less trouble. So, while many have started looking towards that street, and we have provided a series of Downing Street Walks to assist them to find the way, what of an escape for rest, to a gentle town beside the green reaches of the River Thames; a place such as Maidenhead?
The back way out of Downing Street westward opens onto St James’s Park, with little paths by the lake leading to Buckingham Palace, but here it is time to bid farewell to the pomp of power and splendour – there is a walk ahead, through Green Park and beneath an underpass past the Duke of Wellington’s House and across Hyde Park.
Cut through the streets of Kensington, by Holland Park (where a great house once stood, destroyed by our German friends seventy-five years or so ago) and Hammersmith to the Thames, where the Thames Path is a convenient pathway. This could be followed all the way to Maidenhead, but it is a long way round, so cross to the Surrey bank and continue just to Brentford, where the Middlesex elections used to be held: rowdy affairs they were by every account written, and the most infamous saw John Wilkes elected even though the Commons tried to bar him. ‘Wilkes and Liberty’ was the cry, though Wilkes was an immoral character but very popular. To the present day though, at Brentford the Grand Union Canal joins the Thames: follow the canal inland past Southall and what is currently not an airport, to Yiewesley and Shakespeare's Way. There is always someone quoting Shakespeare on such a walk, so embrace the path you are on.
It is a short walk on the bard path until you reach the Slough Arm of the Grand Union at the boundary of Buckinghamshire; the Arm here soon enters a long cutting, hiding the path from all the world around. It is a long, straight route then for miles to the edge of Slough – which was a pretty village once, before developer arrived and John Betjeman rendered his judgement on this town, the uncomfortable southern powerhouse of Buckinghamshire.
Crossing south through Slough on a route marked for a cycle path, the cycle route then turns west, beneath the motorway and to the Jubilee River (man-made as a drainage river), and this leads all the way up to the road which will take you over Maidenhead Bridge: cross this bridge into Berkshire at last and find the refuge from the unforgiving town which you so need.
- Ordnance Survey Explorer (1:25 000) series:
- Ordnance Survey Landranger (1:50 000) series: