Thames path 2 – Day 7 Pangbourne, Reading and Henley-on-Thames

The weather was looking like rain later in the day so I made the decision to try and get up early 0530 breakfast and was in Henley-on-Thames to catch the train to twyford and pangbourne at 07:23. The train was very quiet I managed to charge my phone on the first one to twyford. Total journey with only 36 minutes which had me on the thames path by 8 a clock, a great start.

The first part of the path out of pangbourne had lots of barges and river cruises parked up and many of their occupants were out walking their dogs in their dressing gown. It wasn’t long before I reach Tilehurst where the path goes in land through a housing estate then back over the railway and down onto the path, just at the point of a welcome to Reading sign.

After about a mile of path with a railway embankment to the right and the river to the left I came across so small marina. An angler got talking to me and asked me to identify the fish he described to me wondering whether it was a salmon or trout. I decided it was probably a trout but I did ask being a fisherman he should be able to identify the fish in the river.

As I approached Reading I noticed quite a few rowing boats about, it turns out the Reading amateur regatta was on. For the next couple of kilometres I had rowing boats passing at race pace or heading back to the start. The finish was near Cavendish bridge in the centre of Reading I stopped there for a coffee from the rowing club.

As I left Reading I passed the Oracle building, on the grass fields by the river some one was flying a model aircraft. I was surprised how quickly I got to Sonning. I decided to treat myself to a pizza in the Coppa Club. It was very noisy with families with small children, however the place was busy which is always a good sign for a restaurant. My pizza was average, but it filled a hole nicely, and the establishment was close to the Thames path.

I tired a bit as I got towards shiplake another walker slowly caught up and overtook. Before he passed I asked if he was walking the Thames he said no he was just on a local walk. I sat for a while in the centre of shiplake near the post office. As you leave Shiplake you go down a footpath which goes past the house which has a large gauge model railway in the garden. You can see a station which is in my mind either Swiss or Austrian mountain station.

Once I hit the river again it was a bit of a sprint to get to the rowing museum at the edge of Henley. When I got to Henley there was a lot more people about people who only managed to get within less than a mile of the town. I dump my stuff at the car in the car park at the railway station, then heading into town where there was supposed to be a food festival on.

The food festival wasn’t up to much just a few stills and to do it was raining and the end of the day so there wasn’t much left and some of them were even closed. I grabbed a coffee from an independent coffee shop then headed back to the car and drove home via the country roads Christmas Common, Watlington and Chinnor.

I was home by 4 so despite a very early start and quite fast walking during the day it still took the whole day to do the 15 and a bit miles.

Thames Path 2 – Day 6 Shillingford to pangbourne

Shilling to Pangbourne about 17 miles. I left the house early again arriving at station at approximately 8:15 there was a train at 8:30 to Didcot. The train was on time and I grabbed a taxis at Didcot station which took me to Shillingford and the kingfisher Arms. Taxi cost for £25 and paid by contactless card. The weather was pretty grey and even raining on the way to Pangbourne. However the BBC weather promised that the sun would start shining at around 12 and before that it would brighten up.

Halfway to Wallingford a dog came bounding towards me and jumped up leaving muddy footprints on my clothes. Some dog owners need to take more control of their dogs. At Wallingford I took a detour into town for coffee and cake and then picked up some sushi at the local Waitrose. The weather continue to be very windy so listening to podcasts was a bit of a challenge.

The path is pretty rural from then on and the weather perked up there were some great landscape pictures with great blue skies and white fluffy clouds. I passed the nature reserve where in a previous year I had made a visit to see the monkey and frog orchids. Just after the nature reserve is about the only significant Hill on the Thames path where the past leaves the river for a while and goes up high on the escarpment. As I hit the hill some raising music came on a podcast I was listening to it encourage me to walk faster up the hill clearly my attempt at starting to run again was paying off as it had improve my fitness slightly.

After the hill you hit the little village of Whitchurch on Thames and it is a very short walk down the road to the toll bridge which links Whitchurch to Pangbourne. In Pangbourne a festival was going on I didn’t stop but grabbed a coffee and then headed straight to the railway station car park to pick up my car. It had been a long day at 17 miles but well worth the effort.

Thames Path 2 – Day 5 Iffley Lock to Shillingford

Day 5 on the Thames path today i would be doing from Iffley lock just outside Oxford to Shillingford. I phoned the kingfisher pub the night before to ask if I could park my car in the car park and a very kindly agreed. I got up at about 06:30 and after some breakfast and some driving I arrived at Shillingford in time to get the 08:28 bus to the edge of Oxford near Iffley Lock. The Kingfisher landlord popped out to say hello and even offered me the use of the pub toilets before I set out. Apparently people often park with asking, so he was quite chuffed that I had taken the effort to ask, and I was very grateful.

I started walking at about 0900, it took only 10 minutes to get to Iffley Lock, but not before a visit to Tesco express to grab a Danish. There were lots of activity going on on the Thames as I headed out of Oxford, rowers and joggers mainly. The path was clear but the edges were quite overgrown with spring plants. The weather looking was good with a blue sky and cumulus clouds, albeit a tad hot when the sun was out. The cuckoos were out in force and I heard three before I stopped for a rest at Radley College boat house, where a group of oldish people were launching preparing their wooden Thames rowing boats for a trip along the river.

The path sticks to the right hand side of the river in the direction of flow until a I was just outside Abingdon, where you cross the river. There were quite a few people around I guess because it was a lovely day and it was a bank holiday weekend. In Abingdon I stopped at the Nags head pub where I ordered a veggie burger and chips which went down nicely. The break was perfect timing as I was a third of the way to Shillingford. Whilst eating my burger the landlord asked two youths who worked there to clear the weeds out of the borders, and to be careful with the stinging nettles, one of them explained that she could not because she was slightly allergic to them they give her a rash!

Around Appleford on Thames I got talking to a couple who were walking the Thames path this weekend. They weren’t doing it weekend after weekend like me or all in one go but had spent some time over the years doing stretches. This weekend they would be doing the last 20 miles on the Saturday 10 miles from Abingdon to Shillingford, and then 10 on the Sunday to wherever that is. The path crosses the river at Clifton Hampden, and a bit further on I sat and watched the people in their gardens mowing the lawn on there sit on mowers. Very grand houses with very long lawns leading down to the river’s edge the type of lawn that would need a sit on mower.

A few miles later nearing the end of the day I caught up with the couple I had met earlier. Earlier in the day when we had passed I had promised them a lift to Didcot if we arrived at Shillingford at the same time. They were very grateful for the lift and even sent me an email a few days later. We keep in touch every so often by email.

Thames path 2 – Day 4 Newbridge to Iffley Lock

An early start but not rushed one got me to Iffley near rosehill Oxford by 8:30. I used a royal Cabs taxi app to get a taxi, however the GPS was not quite locked in so the taxi went to the wrong address. It took me 5 minutes to hunt them down and get them to right place. My driver was very friendly and got me to the Rose Revived pub for around 0930.

About two miles in I caught up with a group of walkers who were just a little bit slower than me. I was crossing a field of sheep and baby lambs who kept clear of me, but one mother didn’t seem to want to get or move away from me then I heard a cry from the riverbank. I couldn’t see the lamb but there clearly was something hidden by the bank. On closer inspection there was a lamb in the water up to it’s neck and it was shivering. I took off my camera and rucksack so by laying on the riverbank was able to reach down to grab the lamb. Unlike cats and dogs there’s not a lot of slack in the skin around a lamb’s neck however I was able to grab enough to hoik the little one out of the river.

I got to Pinkhill lock and took some time out for a rest and some sustenance. I took a timelapse while a few boats went through the lock, I helped them with the lock gates. The group I had passed earlier caught up, I had a chat with some of the ladies. They were also dong the Thames path they came from st. Albans. They had transport challenges as well and as a group they had started hiring minibuses to help them get from A2B.

At the trout Inn I had seared sea bass for lunch. A female Mallard was being harassed by males who in turn were harassing the dinners. Suitably amused and refreshed I talked the final stretch, south past Oxford. I passed Port Meadow and massive flat green flood meadow. The path was busy clearly popular with Oxford people for a walk. To the south west of Oxford I went wrong passing under a railway bridge when I should not have, but I saw the remnants of what would have been a train turntable. I guess it was being preserved for prosperity but it was unloved and rusting away.

I passed the Head of the River pub where a wedding party was boarding a river boat. I was tired at that point so was keen to plod on. When I got to Iffley at the academic boat house I saw a group of people putting their boat away. We had been crossing paths all day. The wedding party was being dropped off at Isis Farmhouse, a pub I want to visit one day.

I soon got to Iffley lock and headed up hill and away from the river to find my car. It had been a long day 15 miles in total.

.

Thames path 2 – Day 3 Buscot to Newbridge

The taxi arrived on time to pick me up from the rose revived public house who had kindly let me park my car in the car park for the day. The taxi journey took about 20 to 25 minutes and dtrop me off at the national trust car park near Buscot Weir.

The river bends and twists quite a lot up at this end but it’s an approximately 15 to 20m wide most of the time. I saw a few pill boxes as I started out on the walk and I made a note to try and find out why there are so many this side of the country.

The weather was sunny and promised to be in 21 degrees during the heat of the day so I erred on the side of caution taking less clothing than I actually needed early in the morning. There was still a bit of chill in the air but the sun was warming me up.

The day’s walk would be 15 miles and would include two pubs en route and one at the end. as I approached the first pub Ye Olde Swan I noticed in the field what I thought might be hares ears but on closer inspection they turned out to be clumps of snakehead fritillaries. I pulled in at the pub for a glass of orange juice and soda water and polished off a couple of packets of crisps. Over the river and next to the thames path were a bunch of wigwams which seems to be very well equipped including log burners inside.

Wildlife was out in force on the next stretch to pub number two I could hear Curlews around calling and surprisingly I heard a ruddy duck and then a bit further on her the cuckoo which I did managed to track down and got great views of. I thought I could also hear warblers in some of the reeds and rushes.

When I reached the Trout Inn at Radcot I continued on I wasn’t ready to stop, I figured I would stop somewhere in the Chimney nature reserve. I got close up views of another Cuckoo about halfway through the Nature reserve. I eventually stopped at Shifford lock, where the lock keeper roped me into holding the painter of a barge with only one person onboard. I rested after the exertion and eat my sandwiches, taking my time because I had made good progress.

I got to the Rose Revived about 1600, but did not stop for a drink, I headed straight back.

Thames path 2 – Day 2 Cricklade to Buscot

This next step of the thames path with prove a transport challenge. The number of buses between Buscot and Cricklade are pretty few and require a change and take about 2 hours . My solution was to order a taxi life is to short to worry about things like that.

I had an early start at 6 left the house at just after 7 that got me to Buscot village at about 8:30. It took me 10 minutes to get sorted get my boots on and by the time I had walked to the village shop and the taxi arrived more less as I got there. Perfect timing!

The taxi dropped me off at the centre of Cricklade, in fact, exactly where I am parked the car the previous week so I didn’t miss a single foot step of the path. The river meanders quite a lot at this stage of the 10th and so the path is not no direct so although I would be walking 13 miles, as the crow flies it was considerably shorter.

The weather was 5 degrees so freezing I set off at a fairly good pace to get the blood circulating and warm me up. By about 10:30 the sun was starting to show through which made a big difference.

I passed through Castle Eaton which I remember from the first time I walked the Thames. The Jehovah witnesses were knocking on doors as I walked through the village. I avoided eye contact as I was on a mission to get some miles done. I did find time to look at the church of St Mary’s which is 8th Century.

Towards Kempsford the path goes along a main road for about 2km which is not fun. I chose to leave the path and take a longer route via the edge or RAF Fairford. It was a good decision as I witnessed 3 B52s taking off. When I got to the perimeter fence there were lots of, mainly men, on step ladders taking pictures.

The road into Welford, then took me into a private housing scheme around a gravel pit. The houses looked very modern and had open plan living all with a water view, and all identical.

At Lechlade i stopped for a coffee at Lynwood & Co they do a great coffee and great pistachio coconut and carrot cake. There were only a few miles left to Buscot Weir where the days journey finished.

Thames Path 2 – Day 1 Cirencester (source) to Cricklade

I enjoyed walking the Thames path a couple of years ago and decided that I would walk it again this year. The weatherman was promising good weather for Saturday and Helen was away so it seemed like the right day to start. I was not wrong.

Thams path day 1 Cirencester to Cricklade

The Thames Path is a National Trail following the River Thames from its source near Kemble in Gloucestershire to the Thames Barrier at Charlton, south east London. It is about 184 miles (296 km) long. A path was first proposed in 1948 but it only opened in 1996.

The Thames Path's entire length can be walked, and a few parts can be cycled. Some parts of the Thames Path, particularly west of Oxford, are subject to flooding during the winter. The river is also tidal downstream from Teddington Lock and parts of the path may be under water if there is a particularly high tide, although the Thames Barrier protects London from catastrophic flooding.

The Thames Path uses the river towpath between Inglesham and Putney and available path elsewhere. Historically, towpath traffic crossed the river using many ferries. but crossings in these places do not all exist now and some diversion from the towpath is necessary.
The Thames Path is a National Trail following the River Thames from its source near Kemble in Gloucestershire to the Thames Barrier at Charlton, south east London. It is about 184 miles (296 km) long. A path was first proposed in 1948 but it only opened in 1996. The Thames Path’s entire length can be walked, and a few parts can be cycled. Some parts of the Thames Path, particularly west of Oxford, are subject to flooding during the winter. The river is also tidal downstream from Teddington Lock and parts of the path may be under water if there is a particularly high tide, although the Thames Barrier protects London from catastrophic flooding. The Thames Path uses the river towpath between Inglesham and Putney and available path elsewhere. Historically, towpath traffic crossed the river using many ferries. but crossings in these places do not all exist now and some diversion from the towpath is necessary.

The far end of the Thames is 1:40 drive from home, so I managed to get an early night and left the house at 05:45. Unfortunately I just missed the 07:30 bus from Cricklade, where I parked the car, to Cirencester. I then had to wait till 08:12 which was the one I had planned to get. It was cold at the bus stop. Google maps was tellin me that there was a 51a bus at 08:12 but the notice on the bus stop said otherwise. I toyed with Uber but then ended up downloading the StageCoach app, which confirmed the 08:12 was a thing.

The bus sort of followed the route would be walking, it was quite foggy in places but the sun was out and burning it away pretty quickly. I got off the bus at Chesterton Cemetery then walked through the grounds of the Royal Agricultural College where there was lots of jogging going on. There was not much jogging happening when I was at college! I soon left the grounds and into the countryside. There were a few small hills to cross, the only ones of the day, before I got to the source of the Thames. I had been up for 4 and walking for one hours by that time, so I sat on the rock that denotes the source, ate my sandwiches cheese pickle sandwiches and regretted not having a flask of coffee with me.

Thams path day 1 Cirencester to Cricklade
The monument

A couple arrived and we got talking one of them was doing the last stretch, but in the wrong direction. They kindly took my picture while I stood in front of the stone monument and sign point past the source it self, a pile of rocks. There was no water in sight. I headed off on my way just a tad to fast as it would result in blisters towards the end of the day. It is about a mile or so of walking before you get to a riverbed with water in it, but an friendly old boy walking his dog assured me that a month ago the field around were flooded.

The far end of the river is very clear, in the bright sun I could see the clak gravel bottom of bright green under water plants. I could see a swans head as it reached down in the the depths to graze on the weed. The path is very easy to follow just keep the river on one side and if crossed keep it on the other. For lunch I stopped at the White Hart in Ashton Keynes, where a pint of orange juice and soda water and a fish finger really hit the spot. They kindly refilled my water bottle.

Thams path day 1 Cirencester to Cricklade
Near the start of the Thames for real

I then entered the stretch that would take me through loads of gravel pits. I guess they are there from building the M40. From a walking point of view they are a bit tedious, I prefer meadows. Quite a few of them are private and some have houses or holiday house clones encircling them. I was not in the best of moods as that point because my quick pace had now resulted in blisters on both feet. I had had a similar thing happen a few times before, you would have thought I had learnt my lesson by now.

The last couple of miles took me back on to meadows again and my spirit rose gain. I stopped and took a timelapse with my new DJI Osmo Pocket camera. Then headed towards Cricklade where I grabbed a coffee and a cake before finding my car and heading home. It got home almost exactly 12 hours after I left a long day, but it was great to be back walking the Thames Path.

The Ridgeway – Ashbury to Letcombe Bassett

Time to get back to the Ridgeway, after a few months of absence. I plotted the next 12 miles from Ashbury and determined that Letcombe Bassett and therefore Wantage would be the best place to leave the car. 12 miles would be tough as it was my first walk of that distance for a while and also there were no coffee stops or cafes on the route. One of the downsides of the Ridgeway is that it does not really go through many villages or towns near them but hardly ever through them.

I left the house at 08:10 dropped Helen up the road and headed to Wantage, ignoring the Sat Nav and going south of Oxford to get to the A34. I was hoping the rain/drizzle would stop by the time I got to Wantage but it had now. I sought out a shop to get some cheap waterproof trousers, and found some for £7 on the market. I suspect the vendor could have applied surge pricing as it was the type of inundation that makes you really wet. I grabbed a coffee in Costa to get my bearing and figure out how to get to Ashbury. Uber said there were no cars available so I wandered over to the local taxi rank. An old man seemed to be headed the same way so I held back rather than grabbing the only taxi waiting.

It wasn’t long before a taxi turned up, the driver was not very talkative and when he was he mumble quietly, so there wasn’t much conversation, he dropped me at the top of the hill where the Ridgeway crosses the B4000, which saved me having to walk up it from Ashbury. I headed off down the path the rain continued and I realised that I wold have to put the waterproofs on if I wanted to stay slightly dry.

The walk was pretty uneventful to start with but there were some ancient monuments to take a look at Wayland’s Smithy was the most interesting and the only one where I came across anyone else out having a look. I plodded on and passed a trough with a tap and a notice that said the was was fit to drink and that it was to celebrate the life Peter Wren who loved the countryside. I had a drink to save the water I was carrying. We need more taps like that in the countryside, to go with the benches you sometimes come across. Both would be very welcome on a long walk.

Eventually I came across a lady on a bicycle followed by three dogs, she stopped and told me an old dog was lagging behind a bit. About a quarter of a mile later I came across a setter who looked like he was on his last legs, it was all he could do to lift his head to look at me while he plodded past. next up was another lady and a dog this time both were on foot. The lady explained that she trying to keep off the slippery chalk, however she was running out of grass and was in danger and slipping down, I offered here a hand down but she said thank but no thanks so I left here teetering on the edge of a grass patch.
not many people Old dog

A couple of 4×4 drove up and 4 men with fluorescent orange flags got and walks across a field down to the valley. There were small sections of corn growing they clearly were running a shoot for pheasants, which were quite numerous in the area. Finally I arrived at Letcombe Basset, but unfortunately there was no pub so I settle for a bench at a junction. It had stopped raining for a while so I took the opportunity to take my waterproofs off to let my now slightly damp jeans dry out. While I was doing so a man drove out out of a parking space then moved his van into the vacated space then drove off in the car. Between each move he left a vehicle blocking the highway, there was no traffic.

The walk to Letcombe Regis was along a road because I missed a turning for a foot path, I tough someone had blocked the entrance but studying the maps more closely a complaint would not be necessary as google streetview allowed me to see where the foot path entrance was that I missed. In the village there was a big retirement complex which was run by Bupa. It was quite well done and I guess catered for all sorts of retired people, that that did and did not need care. There was a brand new village shop and cafe, it was a bit strange, clearly run by locals, but there was not much useful produce in the shop cuppa soups cakes and biscuits the sort of thing you would need if you were visiting an elderly relative! I stopped for a weak coffee and move on.

The path back to Wantage was paved but cross country I imagine that maybe it was built by the manor house at Letcombe Regis for staff in the bygone days, I wasn’t complaining it made for easy walking. In Wantage I popped into the cobblers to ask about leather glue apparently Bostik 6092 is the best stuff, but they could not sell me any even though I don’t look like a glue sniffer. In specsaver they did not have my contact lens fitting I was not being successful on the shopping front. I did manage to get the ingredients for Lhaksa at Sainsbury’s.

I dropped by Rory’s to fix his PC and he bought me a pint at the Akeman in return, it was good to catch up. The Lhaksa worked out OK.

The Ridgeway – Overton Hill to Ogbourne St George

Typical Ridgeway path view
Typical Ridgeway path view

After a successful testing of my back finishing off the Capital Ring, it was time for a new challenge, The Ridgeway. I got up early as getting to the far end would take some time 1:30 to Ogbourne St George then another 1:30 of buses to get to Overton Hill. The final miles of the M4 and A346 was typical of the countryside I would be walking through, rolling chalk down which was looking great in the spring light, even under the overcast skies.

View from the Ridgeway
View from the Ridgeway

Parking in Ogbourne St George was easy, a sleepy village with a pub, B&B, and hotel. I had to walk about a mile to the main roan to find the bus stop, then had a 25 minute wait for X5 bus at 09:46. It was a good job i did not try for the earlier bus because there wasn’t one. The X5 never turned up but the 80 at 09:52 did, and I was soon in Marlborough. A coffee at Nero wash down a pain au raisin, while I considered my next move, the 42 passed through West Overton and departed in 30 minutes so I scrubbed the idea of a taxi to keep costs down.

I had to walk a mile to the start of the Ridgeway at Overton Hill, my FitBit had registered 3 mikes by that point. Just before the start I took a quick look at The Sanctuary a stone and wood circle. The beginning is a by way and as such is a series of white scars caused by off roaders, which luckily for me are banned from 1 October to 30 April. The path keeps to the ridge, as you would expect to, he views are distant, a.x there are barrows and stone circles to be seen all over the landscape.

Barbury Castle from the Ridgeway
Barbury Castle from the Ridgeway

There was a codd wind blowing so i did not hang about, the occasional breaking of the clouds bought welcome warming sunshine. The path was fairly quiet considering the status of the path I passed a few walkers and a couple of mountain bikers. I had a ack lunch and stopped at about mile 4 of the trail.

Ogbourne St George from the Ridgeway
Ogbourne St George from the Ridgeway

There were plenty of birds about and they were easy to spot because the land scan had few trees so they congregated in the odd hawthorn that edged the path. I spotted Twite, Skylarks, Lapwing, and Chaffinch to mention a few. The path rolled with the hills but stayed high all the time, one of the higher points was Barbury castle which is now just earth banks, I’m not sure what it looked like when it was first built. I stopped for my second sandwich after the castle on a long grass stretch, called Smeathe’s Ridge and used for gallops, it had stunning views all around.

Ogbourne St George Thatched Cottages
Ogbourne St George Thatched Cottages

The trial descend as it gets to Ogbourne St George and I left the path 200m before the bus stop I started at to take a look at the river that runs through, it was a bit of a disappointment because it was dry. It gave me a chance to see the rest of the village as the car was parked at the other end of the high street. In all I had done just over 10 miles of the path, so if I could keep that rate up and slightly more I should be able to do it in another 7 sections. Lets wait and see if I manage it.