London Loop – Kingston Upon Thames to Hatton Cross

Deer rut in Bushey Park
Deer rut in Bushey Park

This section was going to be a strange one, from Kingston ending up at Hatton Cross tube station, and thankfully a shortish one, 8.5 miles, after the previous days 15 miler. It would be the first time I would not use my Railcard as I would be using the car and a bus.  I would be doing an official section so it was well documented.

I set off at a reasonable the and set the satnav for the NCP car park at the Hatton Cross station. It took me round the M25 and M4 things went a bit wrong after that.  The satnav said I had arrived but it was nowhere to be seen, I carried on a bit but then had to stop to consult Google maps, which soon got me to outside the station but the on a road with no access to the far park, it was on the A30, so I had to go 1 mile back and forth to get to the entrance.

The Shot Tower Crane Valley
The Shot Tower Crane Valley

Luckily the bus was due and I was soon en route to Kingston, as we got closer things became familiar as places I had passed when doing the Thames Path. The bus stop was near the bridge on the side I had finished but it did mean I would miss a few hundred yards of  the Loop. Once across the river I entered Bushey park which was very popular, with loads of people about. I could not resist a stop at the woodland garden coffee establishment for a coffee and a piece of cake, I had to take the day easy, after all, because of my sore foot.

The deer in the park were in full rut and far more approachable than the ones in Ashridge. There were plenty of photographers and long lenses about. The path keeps mainly to the wooded and lakes areas. It was a real pleasure to walk through, alas it came to an end and the path spent a while on roads and in housing estate until it enters Crane Park, and follows the river Crane for a mile and a bit.

BA Hangar heathrow
BA Hangar heathrow

Halfway through the park there is a shot tower which has been renovated and is now a visitor centre for the London Wildlife Trust, unfortunately it was closed, I bet the view is good from the top. According to the web “Once the site of the Hounslow Gunpowder Mills, Crane Park Island is a beautiful reserve where you could be lucky enough to spot a majestic kingfisher or the threatened water vole.

It is a mosaic of woodland, scrub and reedbed, which due to careful management provides a home for the increasingly scarce water vole.

The island welcomes visitors throughout the year and has good facilities for people with disabilities. School children on specially organised visits can investigate the rich aquatic life in the shallow stretches of the Crane.

NCP car pak under the flight path at Hatton Cross
NCP car pak under the flight path at Hatton Cross

The old Shot Tower was opened as a visitor centre in 2004. It is open to the public every Sunday afternoon between 1.30pm and 4.30pm and for special events. Call 07702 669 888 for details. It was 13:20 so I hung around for 10 minutes, until a lady on a bicycle turned up and opned up shop. I asked if it was worth climbing the stairs to the top, and convinced me it was. Given I had walked quite a way by then ot was quite some effort and a bit of a disappoint men as the view was not quite over the tree tops.

Next came Hounslow Heath which is a large expanse of heath land and I spotted quite a lot of birds about. It is directly under the Heathrow flight path so it can be a bit noisy. I got my scanner out and listened to the air traffic controllers and ground staff going about their jobs. I passed through a wood called Donkey Wood and joined a river for the rest of the walk, it was pretty uninspiring as it looked polluted and ran down the back of houses and industrial buildings. I hit a dual carraige way and had to walk about 1km along the pavement to get to Hatton Cross station before I could tick that sections off.

London Loop – South Coulsdon to Kingston upon Thames

Sir Francis Crick Institute
Sir Francis Crick Institute

A bit of a milestone thus section as I was about to hit the Thames again, so that is kind of halfway. It was a going to be a tough one because the distance is more than 12 miles, but I figured if I start out early I would have plenty of scope for rests. I was up at 7 and resisted the urge to switch my PC on and be distracted by the internet, I was aiming for the 08:11 but when I got to the station I was in good time for the 08:01, which was slower but got to Euston 4 minutes earlier.

I expected to use the Victoria line but Google maps suggested an alternative, using the Thames link from St Pancras, which meant a 5 minute walk. It gave me an opportunity for another London terminus tick and a chance to see  the Sir Francis Crick Institute building. I noted that the cafeteria had a few two people tables but mainly a few long tables with chairs down each side. I guess that it means that people will mix more because they end up sitting next to people. In my work cafeteria all the tables are round and you end up with the same people on the tables each day. With a long table you still get the groups but they are sat next to other groups rather than being isolated. I quickly took some pano shots as the building is tall and hard to get into one shot.

Suburbia seen from the London Loop path
Suburbia seen from the London Loop path

At the St Pancras I quickly found the right platform and my timing was perfect, the train pulled away about 30 seconds after I boarded. The Thames link crosses the river close to Tate Modern in fact the station is over the river and you get a great view of the gallery, The Shard and The City buildings named after thing you find normally in a kitchen. The train went as slow as it did last week and after crossing the Thames soon joined the same set of rails. I theorised that it always went slow but would speed up when it got away from all the junctions and was speeding through the countryside to Brighton.

The route out of Coulsdon was quite well signposted and although it starts off in the town soon you are in the countryside. At the edge of Coulsdon I came across a funeral directors called  W A Truelove & Son Ltd which I thought was an interesting name. Close the Oak Park I cheated a bit, missing off a dog leg to avoid a couple of hundred yards of road, and I thought I had missed the Mayfield lavender. I had but not only was the place closed but the lavender was obviously in hibernation with hardly a purple shade evident in the field. There was however a red phone box and a wooden gazebo, which I guess photographers use as props. The path I took did run along one edge of the field.

Spaceship building
Spaceship building

I rejoined the path at a road crossing and entered Oak Park, it started to rain so I took the opportunity for a rest and a coffee in the café, in the hope that the rain would stop when I ventured outside again. The BBC had promised rain but when I checked the latest predictions it was more optimistic. I had to cross a Golf course with dual carriageway between first and second 9 which must be a pain for the players. The LOOP is not well sign posted across the course, and I clearly looked lost too, as a cuple of golfers asked me if I was, not that they could tell me where the path was!

Banstead Down is an SSSI and I saw my third Jay of the day, the first one in a front garden. I also noticed holes with acorns in the bottom evidence of squirrels and jays preparing for winter. The Golf course dumped me into a housing estate, which looked quite posh. Then I noticed that I was in the borough of Epsom and Ewell, and a sign informed me that it was twinned with Chantilly France.

Across Warren Farm Woodland Trust I had to keep to the paths as there were of dog walkers and shit when you are off the paths. I got to Ewell Castle School.ans then into the centre of the town it was lunchtime and the first good establishment I came across was an Italian, it was empty which was a bit worrying, but it looked good and they has spaghetti di mare on the menu. I needn’t have worried as no sooner as I has orders more customers started to arrive. They served bread in a basket which was a nice touch, I ordered a Perrier to go with my lunch which turned out to be a 75cl, I was not carrying water so managed to drink it all. The spaghetti was excellent, and I lingered a while to finish off he water and avoid a stitch when I did get back on the Loop. As I left the restaurant the sun was shinning.

Berrylands interesting building
Berrylands interesting building

I walked though Bourne Hall which now has an interesting spaceship of a building housing a museum of local history. A sign told me I had 7 and a quarter miles to Kingston. I passed East Ewell station and realised I was off the path so I ended up taking a longer route and missing a kilometre of the path, but I was soon back in n the Loop path.

Next up was Hogsmill NR and Jays number 5 and 6. The path follows the very long reserve for quite a few miles. At one point the path went along a road rather than keeping to the rivers edge, seemed like a pointless detour so I kept to the river. Before the detour I stopped at a Toby Inn for a lemonade and to rest my feet.

Crossed dual carriageway with a double back to use a subway, then into Elm Wood meadows. The path continues to follow the river Hogsmill until you finally hit a housings estate then you go under a railway, but not before spotting 9 Parakeets in a flock. I passed Hogsmill sewage treatment which smells of piss, so I did not hang around. Next up was Surbiton cemetery and some near by stone masons. The outskirts of Kingston came swiftly after and my feet had had enough, 15 miles seems to be my upper limit. I weaved my way up Kingston high street dodging the shoppers, and found the station. I has a painful run to get to platform 3 for the 16:18 to Waterloo, it saves me waiting 15 minutes for the next train.

I got off at Vauxhall and got the Victoria line to Euston then made the mistake of thinking I could get a bottle of water from M&S (no queue at the checkout) and get to platform 8, I missed the train by seconds, so had to get one 20 minutes later. As it happens the second one almost caught up with the first one, so little re was lost. All in all a good day where I managed 15 miles, which although probably a bit too far is good to know I can.


London Loop – Croydon to Coulsdon

London loop view near Croydon
London loop view near Croydon

Holidays and other stuff had got in the way of London Loop sections, although it was a Sunday the weather looked good so I got up early and headed to Berkhamsted, to do the section from Croydon to Coulsdon.

On Saturday I did a trip to Banbury to have a look at the North Signal box, which was to be demolished on Monday. I invited my dad and Helen’s dad and they both enjoyed the opportunity, to have a go at pulling the leavers, something they had never got to do whilst young train spotters.

Strange pond with daisy circle
Strange pond with daisy circle

It was cold and overcast when I got to the station, but on the journey to Euston on the 08:40 the clouds started to clear. The Victoria line took me to Victoria station where I had time to get a coffee before the slightly delayed 08:32 to Brighton could take me to East Croydon. I’m not sure if it was because the train was delayed or not but they announced that it was not stopping at some of the scheduled stations, and then proceeded to stop many times between stations. Eventually slightly later than advertised the train got to East Croydon and I alighted.

It took a while to find the tram stop as I had exited from the station via a side entrance and the tram stops are at the main one. The trams have quite an acceleration on them and quickly get up to speed, there should be more adoption of them in my opinion. I got off at the Combe Lane stop and quickly found the LOOP path.

Urban view on the London LoopThe path is again surprisingly rural sticking to woods, meadows and down land, I eventually got to Selsdon where a parade of shops was a great place to get some lunch, as I was travelling light with no camera bag. I grabbed an egg sandwich Snickers, and a bottle of water at the  cooperative, crossing back over the road I noticed a .non-branded fried chicken takeaway, and so I popped in GR some chips to go with my lunch. The menu pictures showed MacDonald style chips so I ordered a large portion. When the portion was handed over it was a large box full of chips the type of they use to hold the chicken meals they sold. I tried my best but could not finish them, and I had to save my egg sandwich for later. I later lost the Snickers from a hole in the carrier bag I was using.

The path was really against the grain of the landscape constantly crossing hills and valleys rather than running along the valleys. It was as if I was in the Chilterns with chalk downs and clifss evident. A very just be landscape looking really great in the autumn sun.

Mini observatory on the London Loop
Mini observatory on the London Loop

I passed through quite a few City of London Corporation park lands, and a could of National Trust parcels of land. Henley comments n also has an airfield in the middle of of it but there was no vantage point from the path nor any evidence of activity. It was however still owned by the ministry of defence.

The final mikes after Coulsdon Common involved walking through or past some strange names such as Happy Valley, Devilsden woods and For thing Downs which was about mile and a half of hill with great views all around. Just before Happy Valley I came across a couple with several dogs including two Labradors one of the came bounding towards me followed bt the second one which was a bit bigger, and proceeded to body slam me against the inside of my right knee, almost taking me out out in the process. I was lost for words at the time, the bloke looked concerned but the woman just said “Labradors are boisterous aren’t they?”, I just carried on walking with a bit of a limp. Had I been a smaller person or someone who was frail they definitely would have floored the person. The last mile was down hill and got me to Coulsdon South rail station, where I had a half hour wait for a train to London Bridge, which stopped first at East Croydon.

I has a rush from the mainline station, with only minutes to spare to get to the underground then to the right platform at Euston for the fast train to Berkhamsted. I had time to grab the Snickers I owed myself and a bottle of water before running to the platform to get on the train. There were not many spare seats but I managed to find a single spare seat.

All in all a a good day out with lovely landscapes and beautiful skies. Quite a long walk at over 12 miles for the day.


London Loop – Orpington to Croydon

Saint Giles the Abbot Church Farnborough
Saint Giles the Abbot Church Farnborough

My first free Saturday for a few weeks due to other commitments, so in order to keep the momentum up I headed to London for another section of the Loop walk. We were moving into newly refurbished offices at work and I felt a little guilty about not heading into work, but there were plenty of volunteers. My plan was to involve a tram, the official section was Orpington to West Wickham but that was 9 miles below my target of more than 10. The path passes Croydon station but would have been too far, but I noticed a yellow spot and rail symbol on the OS map which turned out to be a tram, and the path crossed the road at a stop, and the distance would be over the 10 mile mark, perfect!

The weather was blue skies but chilly, as I left the house to catch the 08:11 train from Berkhamsted, and would cloud over later. So the weather would be good for photo’s. The train was on time it was the fast train that took only 30 minutes.i n the ticket hall were two gentlemen in dark Gray suits with slightly oversized but slightly slimmer than usual brief cases, I was intrigued as to who they are and what was in the cases. They were in front of me in the coffee queue and I noticed that both had the same ties on, which had a symbol which I imagined was a masons symbol. I concluded they were masons and they had some sort of ritual item in the cases.

Shire Lane near Keston Village
Shire Lane near Keston Village

The Northern line to Embankment got me to within walking distance of Charring Cross where the train to Orpington would be waiting. I did not realise the Northern line went to Charring Cross first so ingot off there, not sure if the walk is shorter from Embankment but that is what Google suggested! The Orpington 09:00 train was waiting on platform 6 I had 3 minutes to spare!

I dropped by the bakers I stopped at the end of the last section and bought an iced bun it went down very well. The path very soon goes rural party due to High Elms country park and partly because of a golf course, three miles in I could have been any where in southern England’s countryside. At four miles I passed the Met Police dog training centre entrance, and a garden centre with some friendly ducks. At the top of Holwood hill is the Wilberforce oak where Wilberforce was inspired to talk to Pitt about ending slavery. Then I passed through Keaton village and Hayes heath where there are some grand houses with a view of the valley. The path stays high in the spirit of the loop which takes in some of the high points in London.

Wilberforce Oak
Wilberforce Oak

I passed some shops and grabbed a sandwich and fruit for lunch, then continues on to Wickham church where a bench in the grave yard made a great place to stop. Whilst sat there a portly man walked up the hill in a pair of Speedos and a rucksack, and proceeded to go into the church! At mile 9 I was on a country road and heading through Shirley, then I headed up the steepest hill of the day where from a viewing platform I got a great view of London, it was a shame that the weather had turned a bit and the sky was overcast. Just set back from the top of Addington Hills was a house which when I got closer appeared to be a restaurant. It turned out to be a Chinese restaurant and Karaoke bar their website.

Tram to Croydon
Tram to Croydon

From the top of the hill I descended through the woods and eventually came to a tram way and the platform. I had to ask someone which side to stand on to get the tram to Croydon. The tram was very swift especially when starting off, I guess due to the electric motors. I alighted at Croydon East station and checked out the train departures board. The quickest route to Euston was via Victoria but the trains heading that way appeared to be delayed so I got the train to London Bridge instead. There was one due in 3 minutes which had no stops in between. Looking out the window you pass close to Millwall football ground where the players were warming up and the fans were passing through the turnstiles.

London Bridge station is under the Shard and it is just a short walk to the underground entrance, where I got the Northern line all the way to Euston then the fast train to Milton Keynes which stopped at Berkhamsted.

Thames Path – Cricklade to the source

Gravel pit around Cotswold Water Park
Gravel pit around Cotswold Water Park

Although the previous week was a failed attempt to finish the path off, it did set me up for a 13 mile final day with easy transport options. On Friday I phoned The Thames Head pub and asked if it would be OK to park in their car park for the day, a kind lady said it would be fine and thank-you for asking. I got the impression that people park their without asking! The journey there was straight forward I was up early enough to avoid the traffic at the A40/A34 roadworks. I had some Cirencester taxi numbers to hand but decided I would drive through the town. In the market square there were plenty of taxi’s and I made a note of the company name and number. On the way out of town I stopped in a lay by and phoned up Phoenix Cabs and they gave me an estimate of £15-£20 to get from the pub to Cricklade my start for the day, took them up on the offer.

Cotswold Cottage on the Thames Path
Cotswold Cottage on the Thames Path

I parked up at the pub and only had a 5 minute wait for the Taxi. The driver took me cross country and we crossed the Thames path a few times on the way, and passed through the Cotswold water park. By the time we arrived at Cricklade high street the meter said £34.40, but the driver kindly only charged me £25, a bit more than the estimate but I had saved my self quite a bit of messing around. It was not quite 10:00 one of the earliest starts I had had for some time.

I soon found the path again and was delighted to see a bullfinch fly from one bush to another. The weather was looking good although it was a bit humid and there was a risk of showers, but that meant blue skies and clouds perfect for photos. The path from Cricklade soon passes through loads of gravel pits now making up the Cotswold water park, this meant that compared to the previous few legs there were lots of people about. I passed through Elmlea meadow NR where there was lots of bird activity quite a few warblers and reed buntings as well as my surprisingly my first Kingfisher of the walk. The river was more of a brook and at times hard to see not only because the path does not always follows the rivers edge but also because it is quite overgrown. Once past the gravel pits I came to Summerford Keynes where I found a lovely bench for a rest and some lunch, of Bleu D’Affinois sandwiches, which went down a treat.

Field view on the Thames Path
Field view on the Thames Path

The river got narrower and narrower, but then for a few miles it became wide and shallow with a chalk bed, and very clear. I had been slowly catching up with a young couple, but each time I stopped for photo’s they got ahead again. Following them was a mistake because they lead me to a river crossing that would have needed us to take off our boots and roll our trousers up above our knees. Luckily the missed turning was only 50 metres back, and I took the opportunity to skip off ahead while they consulted their map.

Helen’s dad had arranged to meet me to walk the final few miles and have a look at the source. He called me up and said he was at Parker’s Bridge just between Ewem and Kemble, I was only about 30 minutes away. I needed a rest by the time I found him. My left hip had been playing up a little bit earlier in the day but I had walked through it, but even so I took a couple of Paracetamol to take the edge off. I was very happy about the hips situation it means I should be able to up my mileage, ideally I would like to be able to do between 15 and 20 miles in a day. I noticed that the Volvo from passenger tyre was a bit flat and we agreed to check it out when we returned later.

Storm over field on the Thames Path
Storm over field on the Thames Path

We set off for the final stretch of about 3 miles, the river was very over grown but at times it was clear in the woods, and you could see that the river bed was chalk and sometimes there were sections 6 feet deep and you could see the bottom, it was very clear. As we got towards the last A road crossing it looked like the rain showers I had avoided all day were about to dump on me. Sure enough as we got within a mile of the source it started to chuck it down, so the poncho came out for the final stretch.

The source itself is in a field full of cows just at the edge of a woods, and is a pile of stones, disappointingly there was no water trickling out. A couple of yards away are a couple of oak trees and a stone plinth marking the spot. We took a few photo’s then sheltered from the rain just inside the woods, but soon got bored and decided that we would have to brave the weather again. At the edge of the cow field we stopped tracking back the way we had come as there was a more direct route back to The Thames Head pub where I had left the car. We had a pint of summer ale and a packet of crisps then drover a back to Parker’s bridge to drop Helen’s dad off and check the tyre. It was very low on pressure so I used my pump to top it up and left the pump with the Volvo in case it was needed on the journey home.

The source of the river Thames
The source of the river Thames

The drive back took longer than necessary because the A40/A34 interchange was busy, then I made a bad decision to go back via Thame rather than Bicester, so I hit more traffic on the Oxford ring road. I was home by 18:30 after picking up Helen.

I really enjoyed the Thames Path walk, for many reasons. It meant I knew what I was doing each free Saturday and made the most of my leisure time. I have lowered my resting heart rate from 78 down to 62. I have managed to keep up with all the podcasts I follow. Although it would have been nice to share the journey with someone it was also good to have some quality “me” time. I’m now looking for the next walk, the options are the Ridgeway, which will be a real logistical challenge, but a Facebook friend suggested the London Loop, which will be easy to do logistically and will have plenty of photography opportunities.

 

Thames Path – Radcot Bridge to Cricklade

Pillbox on the Thames
Pillbox on the Thames

It was getting more and more time consuming getting to a starting point on the Thames because of the distance from home, I had only 30 miles to do so I took the opportunity to do it all in a weekend. Helen was busy on Friday night and Saturday night so I hooked a room at the Cirencester Travelodge for the Saturday night, the plan was to get 16 miles from Radcot to Circulate done on the Saturday then finish off on the Sunday.

I was not up quite as early as I would have ideally liked and then a false traffic alert on the satnav caused me to reroute, all conspired to get me to Cricklade later than I planned. The parking was free and the wait for the early bus was short, I was soon on my way to Swindon bus station. Interestingly the bus did a tour of the town before heading to Swindon and stopped at the bus stop opposite the one I got on at before heading to its advertised destination, which probably explains why it was early?

Overgrown Thames \"Path\"
Overgrown Thames “Path”

Swindon has some very depressed areas and the bus seemed to pass through most of them, the bus station could also do with a bit of a spruce up. The next bus pulled into the station very soon after the first one terminated, the driver did not have any change so u got a five find note and a £1.40 voucher in return for my tenner. Whilst waiting for the bus to leave I contacted my Faringdon taxi company and arranged a taxi for 10 minutes after the bus arrived, this week they only wanted a tenner, I’m sure it was £20 the week before.

On the bus to Faringdon we passed through Shrivenham and just outside we looped into the entrance of a defence establishment that looked very secure with its razor wire topped fences around the golf course! At Faringdon the taxi was waiting for me so no time was wasted, just before 11 I was on the path walking.

The path was in long grass which had tilted over under the weight of the overnight rain this meant that it was easy to get tripped up my stepping on one end with one foot and trying to swing the other under the grass stems. The grass bring wet also meant damp trouser bottoms. The path was very quiet just the odd fisherman near the bridges, and canoeists and the odd pleasure craft on the river.

The Red Lion Castle Eaton
The Red Lion Castle Eaton

The BBC weather had promised dome sun but it was overcast a looked like threatening rain. It was good walking weather, and I was soon down to my base T-shirt layer. Just outside Lechlade I came across a fox wandering across a field adjacent to the path, which is the second one I had seen on the path. At Lechlade I stopped off for a sandwich and coffee for lunch in a cafe just just off the river.

There was a two mile stretch which was on an A road and one map I had recommended getting a taxi, so who am I to argue. After finishing my sandwiches I walked into town to find one. I also needed to find some paracetamol as my hips were complaining, probably because it had been two weeks since the last walk, I was out of practice.

Friendly cows on the Thames
Friendly cows on the Thames

There was no taxi to be found but a very kind gentleman buying the Telegraph in the Londis, with a posh voice asked if I was going to Buford, which was a nice gesture, so I hit the road and braved the two mikes of A road, which it turned out has a good verge with a sort of path on it. I was glad to get back to the countryside and away from the traffic noise, even if the paracetamol wax having little effect, the pain was bearable I would just gave to break a bit more often, walk a bit slower, and bear it. Mental note to self start walking to work to sort that one out.

The path is away from the Thames for quite a distance until you get to Castle Eaton, I found and a bench for a rest just inside the pretty village, then just the other side the Red Lion pub, where decided I would have some dinner to save messing about when I got back to the car, also resting for a while did my hips a world of good. I sat in the pub garden over looking the Thames which was now only about 20-30 feet wide, how different that is compared to the width at Woolwich ferry.

The scampi and chips were average but beggars can’t be choosers the beer was nice. The final 4 mikes seemed to go on forever, but eve really I hit the edge of Cirencester where I picked up some crisps and a bottle of beer, then grabbed the car and headed for the Travelodge for a week earned rest.

Thames Path – Newbridge to Radcot Bridge

Radcot Lock
Radcot Lock

This stretch is probably the most isolated one so far, possibly the whole Thames, 10 miles with just one bridge between the start and finish points. I parked up at the Maybush pub at Newbridge just before 10:00 the plan was to seek permission to leave my car there then bus it to Farringdon via Kingston Bagpuize, then find a taxi to get to Radcot Bridge, so I could walk back to the Maybush.

The pub did not open till 10:00 so I popped my head in the kitchen door and asked if I could leave my car, they kindly agreed that it would be OK. I cross the river to find the bus stop outside the pub on the other side of the river. I would have a 20 minute wait for the X15 bus. The bus was on time cost £1.70 and I got off at Spring Hill where I had another 10 minutes to wait for the Stagecoach 66 to Swindon, via Farringdon my destination. The bus was again on time and my fate was £3. So far so good, my next challenge would be to find a taxi in Farringdon.

A bend in the river Thames
A bend in the river Thames

I got a taxi number from the tourist information office and arranged to be picked up from the market square, they said they could do a car in 30 minutes so I went in the cafe on the square for a coffee and a piece of apple cake. The cage was both a cafe called The Faringdon Coffee House and a restaurant called Al Roche Lebanese Restaurant.

The taxi was 5 minutes late and cost £10, the driver dropped me off in the pub car park by the bridge, which I had to cross to get on the path. The weather was bright but overcast, hazy and quite humid, so I soon list my out layer. The path was over grown and became increasingly so as the day passed. The was lots of bird life about of note were quite a few curlews, warblers including reed, and reed buntings. I saw a warbler which was light grey with a very black head which at first glance was a black cap but which I decided needed to be looked up when I got home.

Hot tub at the Maybush pub at Newbridge
Hot tub at the Maybush pub at Newbridge

I skipped The Trout inn at the only road I would cross that day, and eventually stopped at mike 5 the halfway point, where I found a foot bridge to sit on and enjoy the view. Whilst sat there eating my Aldi home brand Nutella spread sandwiches, I could hear Cuckoos and Curlews calling constantly, and apart from the OS aircraft there was not a man made sound to hear. At one point a stoat started its way up the bridge, but turned back when I reached for my camera.

The rest of the path was a rural as ever and I did not see a soul except for a couple at a lock. I passed a few boats and a couple of pedalos as I got close to the Maybush pub, as well as a few walkers. I had truly been on a remote stretch where people don’t really venture. I arrived at the Maybush at 15:30 and had walked just short of 10 miles, which meant I may have cut some corners because my guide book said 10 exactly.

Thames Path – Newbridge to Wolvercote

Newbridge on the Thames
Newbridge on the Thames

This stretch took a bit of thought because it was starting to get rural. I knew where I had to start/finish but how far to walk so I could get to the other end easily was an issue. Kinston Bagpuize was an obvious choice (including the strange name), but would have involved a long walk and buses to get to Wolvercote. In the end I decided to go for Newbridge by taxi from Oxford centre, it would mean I could do a 11 mile stretch and set myself up well for the subsequent leg.

I parked in a car park at Wolvercote and walked into the village where I got the bus last time. Interestingly the village has quite a few pubs two of them overlooking a village green, it seemed quite quaint. As I approached the bus stop a bloke in a hoodie walking towards me looked at me and seemed to change his mind, and go to the bus stop stand there and spit, then when he realised I was going to the bus stop he walked up the road I had come from, looking back at me. He was acting very suspiciously.  I had a 10 minute wait for the bus, but I never saw any more of the dodgy geezer.

Lots of Goslings on the Thames
Lots of Goslings on the Thames

It did not take long to get to Oxford on the number 6 bus, which dropped me off at the cross roads at the north end of the high street. I dropped I to Starbucks for a coffee and cake, and asked about a taxi rank, which I found after a Kenyan Puccino. The taxi office was a strange place having loads of high value slot machines along side the despatcher. The estimate was about £28 to Newbridge, a lot but I did not have much choice the next bus was in two days!

I got chatting to the Lithuanian driver, who had been working since 1800 the day before, his views on immigration were interesting given that he was one himself, he clearly considered himself European and not an immigrant it was the people from outside Europe who need to be controlled. It just proves that the whole situation is almost intractable.

Vintage lorry
Vintage lorry

I was dropped off at the bridge at Newbridge where a sign explained that there was another 40 miles to go, however I was doing a stretch the wrong way so my total would only be 40 once I had done the days 12 miles. Not long after I started I came across some geese and goslings there were at least 50 goslings with about 10 adults. The route was very rural and I kept on catching up with a family in a barge at locks and moorings, until I got to the Ferryman pub opposite Bablock Hythe, where I stopped for a coffee.

The path forces you inland for a couple of miles and runs parallel to the river about half a km inland. There were lots of sheep in the fields and at one field boundary with a lot of bleating going on all the mums were corralled for shearing. At Pinkhill  lock I stopped to eat my Belgium beer cheese sandwiches, which I had packed because the path did not really go near many option for food. Two lock keepers were on duty one young lady and and older woman I wondered if the younger one was and apprentice.

Buttercups
Buttercups

On the last leg I could hear a music beat in the distance and eventually came across a rave on the other bank. The meadows were very covered in buttercups and other wild flowers a sign of ancient fields with no pesticides. After 4 hours I hit the 10 mike mark and only another like and a bit got me back to the car, but not before seeing two blokes swimming in the Thames.

I drove home and had a quick shower before we went to A&C’s for dinner followed by a Proclaimers gig at the Waterside Theatre.

Thames Path – Lower Radley to Wolvercote via Oxford

House on the Thames
House on the Thames

Woke up to overcast skies and light rain, as well as a bad nights sleep, but I was still determined to get another stretch of the Thames under my belt. I would be passing through Oxford hopefully stopping off at a Hindu Festival at Rosehill I had seen posted on Facebook. I was up early and unusually had scrambled eggs on toast for breakfast.

Where to end the walk was a challenge, the Pear Tree Park and ride was about the right distance but a half mile walk from the river. My plan was to park at Wolvercote near the river then walk to the park and ride, but when I got there I was right next to a bus stop so after a short wait I was on my way to the city centre to get the 35 to Lower Radley where I had finished the week before.

House next to Folly Bridge Oxford
House next to Folly Bridge Oxford

Whilst in a queue of traffic near my destination I saw a woman and no less than three young kids on a three person bike (one kid looked too young to pedal) they were on an incline and very low gear but they got to the top in the end. The bus to the centre took in a neighbourhood with some very large three storey houses, I wonder who lives there perhaps the Oxford professors?

A short walk from one end of the high street to the other was needed to get the bus out of town, then a short wait for the 35. The first bus was £2.10 and the one to Radley station was £2.60, what with the free parking it would be a relatively cheap transport day.

The path is a bit over grown from the rowing club and I noticed a few Fresh water clam shells on the path. I’m not sure what would be able to dive for them then eat them, and also leave them on the path. I heard a Cuckoo which sounded quite close, and after scanning the tops of the trees I managed to get a glimpse, I always think it is better to see a bird than just hear it to claim the tick on the year list.

Buttercup field showing ridge and furrow
Buttercup field showing ridge and furrow

At Iffley lock I headed away from the river and up hill through a very well to do area called Rosehill where the Festival was being held. It turned out to be not what I was expecting, it was a small affair all indoors, I was expecting a big setup. I did not stay long as the food was not ready and I was expecting rain early afternoon and needed to get a move on.

The towpath became very good as I approached Oxford, and I passed a lot of college boat houses. Many of the boats rowing past were being shouted at by their coxes, one especially wax causing everyone one on the river bank to look round to see this small woman in the back shout at the top of her voice. I passed an interesting building which I later regretted not checking out. it was the Isis Farmhouse at Iffley it is a pub but s inaccessible by road, there were blackboards advertising food and it looked run down in a good way. I skipped it because it was too early for lunch. I eventually got to the Head of the River pub in Oxford, I looked around for a good establishment but there was nothing else near by I ended up spending £15 on a Prawn and Crab Linguini.

Weir at Wolverton
Weir at Wolverton

On the way out of Oxford I came across a pub called The Punter, a bit if a player in words, do they mean a customer or a person in a boat, or both. The river was tree lined and a boat with a French name was moored up, at a glance you could have been in France. Soon the I was in a rural area with meadows on each side, the buttercups showed evidence if ridge and furrows farming.

At Godstow lock there us a ruin of a nunnery and I found out that the meadows had not had chemical fertiliser on them for 4000 years and many rare wild flowers grow. Four walls but no roof was left if the nunnery. A short walk in land got me back to the car, it turns out I had parked near the wrong tributary. The total mileage was 11 miles a good distance. The next leg was going to be a challenge, not many towns, villages or roads about.

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.