Thames Path – Clifton Hampden via Abingdon to Lower Radley

Butter cups and daisies Lowe Radley
Butter cups and daisies Lowe Radley

I missed a couple of weekends on the Thames Path as I was on holiday until n North Norfolk for a week. The weather man promised sed me fine but cool weather which turned out to be perfect for me, blue skies and fluffy clouds and a perfect temperature for walking. I did not get up as early as I might have planned. I drove to Lower Radley CIA the Oxford ring road, where I parked as near to the river as I could get, then I had a half mile walk to the Radley station where I could get a bus to Abingdon. The bus arrived about a minute after I arrived, then as we pulled into Abingdon the T2 pulled into same bus stop perfect timing. I got off the bus in Clifton Hampden a smidge after 11.

Wier at Abingdon
Wier at Abingdon

The path is very rural and unpaved most if the way to Abingdon. I could have stopped at the village of Culham, but wanted to get two thirds of the way before I stopped for lunch, which would be at Abingdon. Just before I got there I stopped and put a pair of socks over my 1000 mile socks as I was still having issues with blisters, I’m not sure if I need to have my need two layers or one and tight laces or loose, but the issue is a around the ball of my foot.

Boat house on the Thames
Boat house on the Thames

It was only then a short walk to the Nags Head on the river by the bridge at Abingdon. I had a half of beer and a great wood fired pizza which went down a treat. The pub also sold steaks delivered to the table on a hot paving stone. I took the opportunity to try a time lapse sequence using the Magic Lantern software I had installed on my Canon 70d. It allows you to more finely control aspects of the cameras features. Also using the SLR means I can use manual exposure which you can’t do with the GoPro.

The final stretch was rural again, which I expect most of the remaining 60 miles will be. I turned in land at the rowing club at Lower Radley and was soon reunited with the car. With hindsight I could have done a bit further as the final mileage was just short 10 miles. The next stretch will take me to past Oxford, then I think it will become more of a challenge to get appropriate public transport.

Thames Path – Benson to Clifton Hampden

Pill box near Benson lock
Pill box near Benson lock

I had another free day but was not up too early, I looked at the map and considered Abingdon but it would mean a 13 mile hike, so I settled on Clifton Hampden it would make for a circular walk next with Abingdon as the mod point and a land crossing between the loop of the Thames.

I parked up at the Barley Mow car park just over the river in Clifton Hampden. They clearly get flooded as the pavement was raised in stretches. The plan was to walk to the intriguingly named Golden Balls roundabout, and get to the bus to Benson. The route would mean a 3 mike walk in land. The walk was pleasant starting out at the picturesque chocolate box village of Clifton Hampden, then round the back of the Culham science establishment, and through a bluebell wood in bloom. The sunny weather made for a pleasant walk although there was a chill wind. The timing would be tight for the bus and they pass once an hour. When I got to the roundabout I saw the bus pass it was running late BT four minites but I still missed it.

Clifton Hampden
Clifton Hampden

There is a Notcutts garden centre on the roundabout so I went in there to get some coffee and cake and while away 40 minutes before heading out to the bus stop again. At the bus stop I saw a convoy of about 50 large customised motor bikes drive by. The bus did come just a few minutes late to my relief, the fare to Benson Marina was £2.20. The bus stop is in a sort of side road but cars had parked in the site road in such a way that the bus had to reverse back into the main road traffic to leave the bus stop.

View near Days Lock on the Thames
View near Days Lock on the Thames

From the marina it is country side al the way to Shillington bridge where you have to leave the river then down an alleyway to the main road where for about half a mile you have to use the pavement before you can get back onto the riverside. My next stop would be Day’s lock near Dorchester, where I chanced upon a guy just about to take his boat through the lock. I took the opportunity to take a time lapse sequence, whilst chatting to the boat owner. He was on his way to Rugby to some low cost marina he had found. He did gardening jobs to earn a living and seem be a happy with his lot puttering about the country on the rivers and canals. I closed the lock for him to save him having to moor up and return.

After the previous days efforts I was keen to get back to the car, which did not take too long. The weather was just about holding out and it was still cold. This weekend I managed to get another 20 miles done and had 70 miles left to go so I was past the 100 mile point. The next walk would be a circular one taking in Abingdon which is on a big bend in he river.

Thames Path – Pangbourne to Benson

Old Ferry crossing on the Thames near Wallingford
Old Ferry crossing on the Thames near Wallingford

I was up fairly early for for a leisurely start and to give me time to research my route and transport plan. I left the house at 08:40 and drove the B4009 to Wallingford, where I parked in the long term car park for £2, it is free after 13:00 on a Saturday. The planned bus was from the market square but I could not find bus stop B (C and A were clearly visible). I asked one of the bus drivers bit they did not know. He asked a colleague who did not know bit when I said I was after a 134 bus he said I had just missed it. I wandered over to where it had left to investigate my options, when I noticed a taxi in the rank. The driver suggested £20 to get to Pangbourne, so rather than mess around I would take him up on his offer.

About 15 to 20 minutes look later I was £20 lighter but I had saved a lot of time. The public transport option involved a bus and a train with a wait for each, a total of one hour and twenty minutes. I will try the taxi option again in future.

Thames countryside view
Thames countryside view

From Pangbourne, unusually the Thames Path goes up a steep hill away from the river, then when you get back to the river it is a path parallel to and high above the river on a steep escarpment. At some point I passed a pillbox, which was from WW2 when the Thames was considered a place to retreat behind should the Germans start to invade southern England.

I missed a sign a mike or so out of Goring but it was only a short back track to the official Thames Path. I was in familiar territory as I had been out this way to look at Monkey Orchids at a nearby nature reserve. At Goring I fancied an early lunch and the Pierrepont cafe near the bridge did a great smoked salmon, avocado, and poached egg on toast, which I washed down with an americano.

Dining room over the Thames at Goring
Dining room over the Thames at Goring

Suitably refreshed I crossed the bridge and joined the path on the opposite bank, my next stop would hopefully be for a coffee at the hotel Moulsford, which I had spotted on the OS map. However the beetle and wedge website looked a bit posh for just coffee. *Set on the banks of the River Thames immortalised in ‘The Wind in the Willows’ and Jerome K Jerome’s chronicled escapades of his friends’ visits in ‘Three Men in a boat’, the Boathouse Restaurant emphasis is on quality of food, wines and service.” I grabbed a custard and chocolate bun just in case.

It did not take long to get to Moulsford, and although the hotel catered for walkers and coffee I walked on up the hill into the village, as the path did not follow the river. About a half mile of busy road was next, then a farm track took me back to the river. Just before the river I got a view of a viaduct and it seemed like a great place to get a time lapse sequence, I was hoping for a train or two to pass. I sat down and ate half my bun, which like the food at the café was excellent. Whilst I waited the 10 minutes I usually give a tone lapse a train did pass and I also watched some parachutists in the distance jumping out of a plane. The weather although sunny with clouds, was great there was a cold wind as the weather man had promised.

Thames countryside view
Thames countryside view

The path keeps to the countryside for a few miles, I heard the distinct sound of a reed warblers and stopped to watch it through my binoculars, it was my first this year. A mile or two outside Wallingford I stopped for a rest on a memorial bench for Dennis William Wilson, who liked fishing according to the plaque. The Thames had become noticeably narrower at this point, an indication that I was making progress, in fact I was over the halfway point.

When I got to Wallingford I decided to walk on to Benson to make the next leg to Abingdon slightly shorter, it felt wrong to walk past the car, and as it turned out quite rightly so. It was only about a mile and a bit to Benson lick where the path crosses the river again. My plan was to get a bus from the stop outside Benson marina. I arrived about 10 minutes early for the bus but twenty minutes late I had still not seen a bus apart from one that was on its way to Watlington. The timetable said there was a bus every 30 minutes, so I popped over the road to get a drink at the marina, then headed out to the stop with 16 minutes to wait.

Lots more pill boxes

Thames Path – Sonning to Pangbourne

New foot bridge in Reading
New foot bridge in Reading

The BBC weather promised cold but sunny with showers, however when I woke up the that sounded optimistic. It was grey and was threatening to rain. I was on no hurry as finer weather was promised later. I dropped Helen off then drove through the rain to Pangbourne.

It had clearly been raining a lot as there were lots of puddles on the road some starting to look like the start of a flood, as the covered the width of the road. To get to Pangbourne I had to pay £4 to cross the river. I parked up at the station car park and purchased a ticket to Reading for £3.50, and as luck would have it a train arrived as I walked into the platform, it was the 09:57 to Paddington.

Reading station is a modern building, painted mainly blue and silver, a big walkway above the platforms houses down eateries and there are escalators and lifts to move people about. It was still raining so I popped into the Starbucks opposite the station to figure out my next move. Cinnamon bun and Peru Piccino in hand I checked my phone for options to Sonning. A bus was due in 15 minutes, so I consumed my purchase and headed out to find the bus s stop. There was building going on and temporary bus stops on place, could not find the 127 stop? No but a bus employee who I asked pointed out that the 128 was pulling into the street just behind me! The driver stopped even though it was not the correct stop for which I thanked him. The one way to Sonning was £2.

Snake\'s Head Fritillary
Snake’s Head Fritillary

The sky was getting brighter as I alighted in Sonning village, and it was a short walk to the bridge where I could join the Thames Path where I had left off on Sunday gone.

The path was muddy grass which was slippery and hard going but it was only a couple of miles to the edge of Reading where the path became paved. On the hard to get to side side of the river was an old barge which looked like it might be sinking and was covered on top with tarpaulins. Inside out of sight was a drummer drumming away on his drum kit. In the middle of Reading is what must be a new footbridge because it is not marked on the OS map.

Pangbourne to Witchurch bridge
Pangbourne to Witchurch bridge

After Reading I passed some snake’s head fritillaries growing by the  river, I’m not sure I have ever seen them growing wild. A few miles later the path because very uninspiring with the path being narrow and had river to one side and a brick wall topped by a railway on the other. I occasionally heard the odd gun shot and even machine gun fire which I thought was strange. When I got to Mapledurham lock I found the source of the shots. There was a WW2 re-enactment going on in the grounds of the house there. I had not passed any coffee stops and was hungry by that point, there was a sign at at the lane entrance to the lock suggesting a tea room being open, but it was closed which was really annoying as it was about to pour down. I had to shelter under the small roof of a notice board while the squall passed.

The last few miles would have been more enjoyable had I not developed a blister on my right foot again. I could not figure out why so I re-laced my boots as I had left a few holes out to remove the pressure on my big toe, but it had not helped. I carried on to Pangbourne which did not take long. The days mile tally was 10 miles a comfortable distance.

 

Thames Path – Windsor to Cookham

The River Thames and Bridge from Windsor to Eton
The River Thames and Bridge from Windsor to Eton

I was confused over the distance from Windsor to Cookham, I got it in my head that it was 15 miles but it turned out it was only 10, so a nice distance. A work colleague lives in Cookham, so I sought advice re parking. I aimed for being in Cookham at 09:00, as the buses worked at that time. For the first time the satnav did not suggest the M25 so I went via Beaconsfield, cross country.

I parked up and found the bus stop and by chance Max was there, and offered me a lift to Windsor, what a star. We walked back to his house and uncovered his convertible Mercedes, I would arrive in Windsor in style thanks to Max. I started at the Riverside station, and ignoring the map did not cross the river so I did a 1/2 km detour having to double back. My first stop was Boveney Lock to start this blog entry, usually I got the chance on the bus or train.

Dorney Lake Olympic rowing lake
Dorney Lake Olympic rowing lake

At Dorney Lake I cheated by taking a very slightly short route taking in the Olympic rowing venue, there was a lot of activity going on, with rowers training and a Triathlon, just finishing. I say cheating but in the very loose terms, because my plastic map of the path takes you that way because when it was printer the path had a detour. The weather had turned out gorgeous, blue skies with con trails building as the morning went on. I was down to my T-shirt, but it was cold when stopped. At the end of the lake where the Triathlon had taken place a coffee stall was still open so I stopped for a coffee, I was at mile 3.88.

As you approach Maidenhead the Riverside houses are very opulent, I imagine they run into the millions of pounds. Quite a few own the bank but the foot path cuts the house off from the river. Just before Maidenhead you pass under the brick railway bridge built by Isambard kingdom Brunel, it has the widest and lowest self supporting brick arch. It looked to me like it needed a bit of TLC there were bushes growing out of it.

Barge on the Thames at Cookham
Barge on the Thames at Cookham

At the Maidenhead bridge at Windrush  VW (where I bought my Golf) I crossed the river and stopped in the Blue River Cafe for lunch, of Toast vegetable and Haloumi sandwich, which came with chips, I washed it down with a pint of orange and soda. While munching away I spotted my first Sand Martins of the year, as well as a Grey Wagtail. Unusually I started to get a blister after Maidenhead and my pace slowed a bit. Opposite Cliveden I rested for 5 minutes on a handy bench, it was peaceful and quiet until two elderly ladies came along and sat down and started nattering to each other.

I tried to contact Max as I got back to the edge of Cookham, but had to leave a message. Once in Cookham I took a look at the Stanley Spencer Gallery, which is £5 to look round but worth it as the paintings are curiously interesting, they are slightly impressionist and often contain the depiction of some biblical scene. By the time I had looked around the gallery Max still had not contacted me so I headed back to the car, then home.

I investigated my blisters when I got home they were not particularly large but they we deep and in an awkward position on the ball of my feet right near the base of my second toe in. I was using my new lined socks from Tesco which were fine on the first outing but had subsequently bee washed, the lining and the out seemed to be fused together and resisted being pulled apart. My theory is that the linings should slide over each other to stop the skin being stressed, and the lack of that property caused the blisters. I will revert back to my old thin silk lined socks that I wear over normal day socks in future and make a note to source some more. I bought them from an outdoor shop in Liverpool Centre more than 10 years ago and they have served me well I only hope I can find a replacement.