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Day out Miscellany Thames walk Walk

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.

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Day out Miscellany Thames walk Walk

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.

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Day out Miscellany Thames walk Walk

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.

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Day out Miscellany Thames walk Walk

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.

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Day out Miscellany Thames walk Walk

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.

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Day out Miscellany Thames walk Walk

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.

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Day out Miscellany Thames walk Walk

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.

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Birds Day out Holiday Miscellany Twitch

Blakeney 2017 – Cley NWT in the wind and rain

Blakeney harbour
Blakeney harbour

The weatherman promised a wet day for our last full day in Norfolk, and we woke up to rain. We took our time there was not compelling reason to get outside, but we did eventually. As we passed Cley it was still raining hard so we cruised on past and grabbed some petrol at a garage in Sheringham before returning to Cley.

The what;s about board for the day was a very short list probably because no one could be bothered to get out to a hide and back. We decided to take a look at the set of three hides near the centre, it was a cold and damp walk out and there was not much to see the usual crowd of Avocets and Shelduck were there the highlight were some baby Shelducks making and appearance from underneath their mother.

Angry Lesser Black-backed Gull
Angry Lesser Black-backed Gull

We walked back the the visitor centre and had coffee, cake and a pee before heading out again to the new Babcock hide which had been worth a visit the day before. We were not disappointed the Common Sandpipers and the Ringed Plover showed well in the scrape just in front of the hide. The walk back to the centre was even wetter, we lingered and watched the superb video in the exhibition space, some really good photography and time lapses.

We felt we had made as much of the day as we could given the weather so we went back to the hut and tidied up to save some time in the morning when we would reluctantly leave Norfolk. We had a meal at The Moorings to look forward to after the great meal we had one evening earlier in the week..

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Birds Day out Holiday Miscellany Twitch

Blakeney 2017 – Cley NWT and The Quag

View of Cley marsh with blue sky
View of Cley marsh with blue sky

The weather promised to be great day, sunny and quite still. We decided a walk from the Cley NWT visitors centre would make for a pleasant day. We arrived at the visitor centre at just before 10 and had to wait a few minutes to get in and check the what’s about list. Of note was a Black Winged Stilt at the Quag which is a lovely small body of water a couple of miles east down the coast, a place we were quite familiar with,

We made goo progress until we got to a sea breach which I estimate was over a kilo-meter long. We reached a rest point on a hillock and I checked out the car park in the distance to see if the coffee van was there, alas it looked like it wasn’t. We rested for a while then continued the trudge as we got closer I checked out the car park again it looked like there was a coffee van it looked like just another blue van, but it had a queue of two waiting.

The new Babcock Hide overlooking Watling Water Cley
The new Babcock Hide overlooking Watling Water Cley

We grabbed a coffee from the man in the van and wandered up to the next little hill to enjoy it. On the way I noticed a drone flying over the marsh. We got to our favourite bench on the hill for a spot of sea watching, when suddenly a woman started shouting at her partner to get the bee off of her, he said he could not see any. Helen stepped in and explained that the noise was the drone over the marsh which sounded like a bee!

We headed off to the Quag, and managed to get there by avoiding pebbles all the way. There were some cows in a field and we noticed, unusually, a Bearded Tit fly in and settle briefly. We sat for 5 on a large lump of wood probably washed up in the winter storm to see if it emerged again, but it did not. At the Quag itself things did not look promising although there were some scopes trained om the water no one seemed to be looking though them. We took a look ourselves then moved round a bit and tried again, the Black-Winged Stilt was behind a small island and was not showing really well. It was a first for us they are quite rare in the UK and normally found in the south of France.

The coast road at Cley
The coast road at Cley

We walked up the lane to the coast road and checked the bus times, we had time for a coffee so we used the junk/book shop and tea room. Just before the bus we due we went out to the stop but the bus was just pulling past, I had read the timetable wrong. We had a 30 minute wait so had a quick browse around the junk then sat on the war memorial and watched some children doing cycling proficiency lessons until the bus came.

It was early afternoon at the NWT centre so I had coffee and cake and Helen a cheese scone, then we headed to the new Babcock hide. We were pleased to be able to watch Common Sandpipers and a Little-Ringed Plover. We got back to the hut at about 17:00 and spent the evening watching the Woman in Gold staring Helen Mirren which we both enjoyed.

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Day out Holiday Miscellany Photography

Blakeney 2017 – Blickling Hall National Trust

Blickling Hall
Blickling Hall

The weather forecast was a mixed bag, and there were differing opinions. I went with the met office app which does an animated rain radar, and prediction as it was the most optimistic of the options. Given the weather uncertainty we decided Blickling Hall National Trust was probably the best bet as it offered both indoors and outdoor options. We were not early getting up and left the house at about 10:30 which was perfect as the house opened at 11:00.

There was some rain during the drive there but it was much brighter when we arrived, at the car park. There is a new system in the car park and you have to present your membership card to the ticket machine to park. Some people were having trouble with one machine and a queue was forming, so Helen went off to find another machine. My card albeit not valid for entry worked first time, then Helen returned with another ticket, so I gave mine to the people having trouble. I got told off at the welcome hut for not having the right card, but you have heard that story already.

Blickling Hall
Blickling Hall

As the weather was fine we took the chance to do the long walk around the perimeter of the estate. It was quite warm and I was soon down to my t-shirt, it was a lovely walk if a bit humid, the light was great to show off the greens of spring.  Eventually we got back the house but our path was blocked by tree felling, so we had to do a detour to get around and to the cafe for lunch. We were almost the last people in the queue before they shut the doors because they had run out of tables. The people queuing got complimentary brownie cake for their trouble. I had the leek and potato soup and Helen a cheese sandwich.

After lunch we had a look around the house and grounds close to the house. The walled garden was again well tended, and the house had an Indian influence. The second hand stamp and book shops were our last port of call before heading back via Cromer and the coast road. We stopped off at East Runton to look at a surplus shop but they did not have any poncho’s.

For dinner we went to the Moorings and had a very nice meal, which we liked so much we booked a table for Friday.