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.

Thames Path – Benson to Clifton Hampden

Pill box near Benson lock
Pill box near Benson lock

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

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

Clifton Hampden
Clifton Hampden

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

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

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

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

Thames Path – Pangbourne to Benson

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

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

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

Thames countryside view
Thames countryside view

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

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

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

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

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

Thames countryside view
Thames countryside view

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

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

Lots more pill boxes

Thames Path – Sonning to Pangbourne

New foot bridge in Reading
New foot bridge in Reading

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

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

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

Snake\'s Head Fritillary
Snake’s Head Fritillary

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

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

Pangbourne to Witchurch bridge
Pangbourne to Witchurch bridge

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

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

 

Thames Path – Marlow to Sonning

Marlow Thames View
Marlow Thames View

The stretch would be Marlow to Sonning, 15 miles by the time all the walking was done, more than usual but a good test of the effort I have been putting in. I was up at 07:00 and left the house at just before 08:00, time was tight because I thought the bus from Sonning was at 09:00. I got stuck behind lots of Sunday drivers on the way which was frustrating.

I was not sure where to park in Sonning but there was a small parking area just by the river which I spotted straight away. It turned out the bus was at 09:13 but I had a half mile walk to the main road at Playhatch roundabout, I made it with time to spare which was a good job because the bus was 5 minutes early. The one way to Marlow cost £5.10 and would take approximately 45 minutes, not too bad. A few walkers got on the bus getting on at various points, but none as far out as me, I started wonder if I was biting off more than I could chew?

Henley on Thames
Henley on Thames

I made short shrift of leaving Marlow, all paths lead to the river they say. For a couple of miles the path was a bit slippery from the recent rain which was tedious and hard walking. It did not take long to get to Hurley lock where I was able to make use of the only reliable facilities until Henley, however the cafe was closed so no coffee. I watched the canoeists enjoying the turbulent water of the weir. We then passed .section 2hixh was fields to one side and steep chalk cliffs on the other, clearly the river was very slowly inching it’s way north.

After leaving the riverside to cross an estate where i saw a herd of deer being fed, many of them in white coat, i got to Aston where the Flower Pot hotel was not yet open so I dipped put again on coffee, however back down at the River I rested for a while on a convenient bench and ate the Pain au raisin I had purchased at Marks and Spencer on Saturday evenigot

Model of St Moritz rail station
Model of St Moritz rail station

After Hambleden lock I a family in bikes were shouting at the family dog because it has dived into the Thames after a couple of mallards, no soon had it got out of the water it was off across the fields chasing some more, much to the dismay of the patents and embarrassment of the children.

There is a big clue that you are approaching Henley the river widens and becomes very straight with a buildings in the distance. As you get closer you can see the rowing clubs and fields for the parking required. My feet were feeling the miles at that point and I was in no mood for extra foot steps so I dipped into the first cafe I found. It was packed but my order was taken and delivered swiftly. The coffee was great and the Haloumi and pesto/tomato sandwiches hit the spot, although it occurred to me that the salty cheese might make me thirsty later.

Sheds and Tents on the Thames
Sheds and Tents on the Thames

I soon got away from the crowds of Hnely after passing the national rowing museum, on the riverside on the out skirts. Then it was rural for pretty much all the way to Sonning. Not far out of Henley there was on the far bank a traditional boat house and near by on the same property a very modern house. Although you pass Shiplake on the path you really are no where near the village it self and it’s amenities. As I walked the last few miles I started to feel the length of the walk, mainly because I was suffering from a blister on my right foot, and I think as a result I had changed my gait which was causing leg ache. Add to that my thirst as a result of the salty cheese, it was not an enjoyable 3 miles.

Sonning could not come soon enough, and it did not take long. I found the car again ok, and had to stop for two drinks on the way home to satisfy my thirst. Moral of the story is that 12 miles is the sweet spot not too long but a reasonable distance. Looking at the books when I got home I had almost reached half way, and had less than 100 miles left to do. The next few legs would get closer to home.