Susie Rushton: A riverside idyll that's mostly undiscovered

Urban Notebook
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The Independent Online

This week, for the first time this year, going out into the open air became a pleasure rather than something to be endured. Spring has arrived. In the city, on a sunny bank holiday, the challenge is to find a walking route that might be pleasant, not too overcrowded, and book-ended by decent pubs. So we set off to Richmond on the Thames Path, joining at Hammersmith Bridge.

Given the balmy day, and that this stretch had featured as the backdrop to the Oxford-Cambridge Boat Race just 48 hours earlier, it was amazingly quiet; too quiet, I thought, as two wild-eyed men, one with tattoos on both cheeks, passed us. (It's a beautiful spot for a murder.) But from then on, the only people we met on the path were dog-walkers and the occasional jogger.

Tourists, it seems, don't know about this stunning stretch of green riverside London, far from the traffic and commotion. And what a dreamy, almost unbelievable, view of England they're missing: the cricket pitches of St Paul's school; rowers skimming along the Thames; lovely symmetrical Syon House; Kew Green and the glasshouses of the botanical gardens; Fuller's brewery just after Barnes Bridge and the Ship Inn pub next door, right on the edge of the water.

The walk took three hours. I'll do it again on the next bank holiday; this is a stroll worth repeating.

A good bar is hard to find

Every pleasant riverside walk needs a pit stop in a pub; but in the centre of town, I'd rather meet a friend in a bar than underneath a bank of televisions blaring out the footie. And a good bar is hard to find in London. I usually fall back on Freud, a subterranean cocktail place on Neal Street in Covent Garden, despite the fact that there are never enough bartenders to serve what becomes a crush of customers every night of the week. And seats? Dream on.

I've come to the conclusion that Freud is so busy simply because there's very little competition. On holiday in New York last month, I was reminded of all the little differences between the two cities: our parks are better; their brunch is superior, etc. The lack of a place to buy a well-mixed French 75 in London is one of the most niggling.

Painting the town blue

The election in my constituency of Hammersmith and Shepherd's Bush began with a veritable ticker-tape parade of leafleting for the Tory candidate, Shaun Bailey. The deliveries came through the letter box twice a day; a phalanx of campaigners surrounded the Tube station exits at 7pm, handing out yet more blue leaflets. Labour, by contrast, have so far given me a single newsletter outlining the Government's achievements. From the Lib Dem candidate, I have received nothing. There's the result.

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