Thames Path – Windsor to Cookham

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

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

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

Dorney Lake Olympic rowing lake
Dorney Lake Olympic rowing lake

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thames Path – Sheperton ferry to Staines-on-Thames

Unusual house on the Thames with unusual ornaments.
Unusual house on the Thames with unusual ornaments.

The weather was sunny and Helen fancied a quiet day pottering around the house, I um’d and ah’d about a local walk but settled on another section of the Thames. You can get a bus from Staines-on-Thames to Sheperton and it takes 20 minutes. The walk would be less than 10 miles but would get me almost to the M25 which would be a milestone and Staines would be easy to get to for the next leg which would take me to beyond Windsor and Eton.

I arrived in Staines-on-Thames at 10:25 and parked up at a car park opposite the bus station, but the next 458 was due to leave at 10:59, so I had a mediocre coffee at Coffee Corner at the entrance to the shopping centre. The 458 was on time and I was soon back at Sheperton train station, and walked down to the ferry where I had finished the day before.

Polar bear on a balcony at a house on the Thames
Polar bear on a balcony at a house on the Thames

Guessing that the path would be muddy I wore my walking boots it was a good choice as the path was muddy at times. At Laleham I took a slight detour in land in search of a coffee shop, but found nothing, I had to settle for an oyster from and ice cream van at Penton lock. I had spotted a few strange fibre glass objects on houses since the start of the walk, some sun having shop mannequins, a Stan Laurel, and finally just before Penton lock a polar bear. Whilst eating my ice cream quite a few two man canoes were portaged round the lock it appeared to be a race as they were mainly jogging and support crews were on hand with energy drink and treats.

It was less than two miles to Staines-on-Thames and was done quite swiftly. I toyed with the idea if walking a bit further but saw a sign that said 10 miles to Eton, which was perfect, I’m sure I saw a bus service to Eaton from Staines. Just as I got back to hr cat it started raining as promised by the BBC weather service.

Thames Path – Teddington to Sheperton Weybridge ferry

Sheperton to Weybridge ferry
Sheperton to Weybridge ferry

It started out a cold day, when I got up at 7:30 it was snowing, however this just mean that the promised frost did not appear so the car windows did not need scraping. The plan was to attempt to walk from Teddignton and to use the ferry at Sheperton. I parked up near the ferry on the Weybridge side, the rules of the ferry are that you should ring a bell changed to the jetty, but only on the quarter hour. I arrived at 5 past 9 so had a 10 minute wait. I rang the bell a few times s but no one came so I rang the number on the sign, a polite man answered and apologised for not hearing the bell, because the chandlers shop door had been closed. The £2 one way fee was swift due to the two outboard motors. He had to dodge a few rowers and canoeists who were holding some sort of slalom event in the weir.

The walk to the station was 20 minutes and I found a handy Costa coffee just before arriving. The ticket to Teddington was £4.40, not bad I suppose compared to previous Thames sections. The journey took 20 minutes, and I was soon back at the footbridge at Teddington where I had started a few weeks back.

The Kingston Royals
The Kingston Royals

I crossed the river again at Kingston. Parakeets were everywhere, and I heard a loud  woodpecker a clear sign that spring is imminent. The path splits into two a high road and a low road, I took the high road because it was not muddy. Both followed the Thames around Hampton park in a big curve making it a sort of peninsula.

I took a wrong turning using a gaye into the Hampton park and had to retrace 300m, then I found the right gate and was happy to see that the cafe was available in the non-ticket area. I had egg and cress with crisps and a coffee. They had free water either iced or lemon sliced. I welcomed the rest I was 6 miles out and not quite half way. I visited Hampton court some years ago and can’t remember too much of it, but from the outside it looks grand, I made a mental note (and clearly a typed one too) to take the time to visit again.

I crossed the river river at Hampton not far from the entrance to the court,I would stay on the southern bank AL the way back to the car. At Molesey there was a lot going on, a relay running race and lots of rowing. There were a lot of house boats and water from chalet type residences as well as high end mansions on the Northern bank.

Mythical beasts
Mythical beasts

I had a plan to stop at the only possible stop on the path back to the ferry, a pub at Sunbury locks. I reached the locks but there was no pub, there were buildings that could have been pubs but no pub. You can imagine my joy when just after the locks there was the pub, called The Weir, a freehouse to boot, I had a half of Twyford Tipple and a packet of Jalapeño crisps. A chance to test my feet was very welcome and I only had about 20% of the distance left to walk. It was starting to look a bit greyer outside which reminded me that rain was due early afternoon, the time was 14:00.

The final stretch was not to bad and the rain held off. The path was really in the country side now. I got back to the car and thought I would take a look at the chandlers over the other side of the ferry they had a sale on. I had to go back to the bridge and down ferry road to get there. It turns out it was not a chandlers but was full of cheap clothes and nautical related tat. There were a couple of weather stations going cheap at £25. I moved on then stopped at a Snow and Rock shop outside which cars were hunting for parking spaces. I had a look round but even the stuff on sale seemed expensive.

The walks are becoming easier my feet do not ache as much and I think I can easily do a 15 miler if I needed to, but I will keep the stretched to 10-12 miles but push out longer if it seems appropriate.

Thames Path – Tower Bridge to Mortlake

The old and the new
The old and the new

Sunday was my opportunity for a walk so I went to bed early for an early start. We got new neighbours on Saturday but we have not really heard a peep out of them yet. I drove to The London Wetland Centre at Barnes and is run by WWT. They have free parking but the sign at the entrance suggested a £10 “donation” would be required if you did not have proof of entrance tickets on exiting, I took a chance, and in any case they do good work so would rather pay them than a car park.

The plan was to walk to Mortlake then public transport my way to Tower Hill then continue where I left off last week. By the time I got to Mortlake I had walked 4 miles, and I realised I may have bitten off more than I could chew. I threw caution to the wind I would see how I got on, and made a note to improve my map measuring technique.

International Martime Organization
International Martime Organization

I had a message from a friend last who I had not communicated with for some time, but whom I have known for man years, and we always seem to be able to carry on where we left off. Anyway he had read the blog, yes people do read it and asked if he could join me for a section near Oxford, I jumped at the chance it would be great to meet up again. It would probably be warmer by the time I get that far, and having access to another car would save buses  or doubling back.

I splashed out £12.10 on a travel card as I was not sure what i really needed then got the South West train to Waterloo and then the Bakerloo for a stop and jumped on the District line to Tower Hill. I planned on walking for another hourish  before a break for lunch.

Chelsea Bridge
Chelsea Bridge

The Southbank Centre seemed like a good place for some lunch, egg sandwich and hot chocolate, and evaluate the distance left. It turns out there was another 8 miles back to Barnes further than I ideally would have preferred but doable, that remained to be seen however, but with rests at arcticle points I should be OK. I left the the Festival Hall at 12:40.

You start to leave the tourist crowds behind after the Houses of Parliament, so the walking starts to get a bit easier, I put a spurt on for a bit to get some ground behind me. At the bridge before Battersea I crossed over to avoid a hike in land around the old power station. I upped the pace again though Battersea park where I passed the Peace Pagodas. At the village I was forced in land by a path closure, and took the opportunity to stop for a well earned coffee and carrot cake. The cake was a double portion there was a clear portion line down the centre, however two slices was just too much for me.

Peace Pagodas
Peace Pagodas

After Putney bridge is an area where Londoners go to mess about on the river.There were lots of people in rowing boats and some evidence that sailing went on too. I think there were races going on as there were a couple of launches with load hailers.

Back at the Wetland sensor was obvious that the parking would not be free as you needed a token to get out, so I went to the entrance and purchased one of the £10 tokens. This Thames walk is becoming an expensive task, what with the petrol, coffee stops and the rail ticket today it probably cost me over £50! The total distance today was 15 miles and and managed to fill in a gap I now had a continuous stretch of about 40 miles of the Thames done. Only 140 miles to do.

Thames Path – Teddington Lock to Mortlake

RNLI Boat on the Thames near Kew
RNLI Boat on the Thames near Kew

At loose end I couldn’t figure out what to do this Saturday the weather was absolutely lousy in Aylesbury. When I look at the BBC website I noticed that the middle of the day so I have to plan to walk some of the Thames Path.

The plan was to drive into London and park at ham House the National Trust property then walk down to Teddington by the Lough get the train to Mortlake and then walk back along the Thames Path. By the time I got to ham House the rain stopped, at 11 degrees it wasn’t exactly exactly warm. It took 40 minutes to walk to the station at Teddington, the ticket to Mortlake was £4.20.

Twickenham Bridge with Richmond Railway bridge in the back ground
Twickenham Bridge with Richmond Railway bridge in the back ground

I got a FitBit for Christmas and it has encouraged me to walk more, so much so that I like to do a 10 Mike walk every weekend. So far I have been pretty successful 4 out of 5 weekends I have done more than 10. Last weekend we were away but I still managed an 8, and one of the weekends I did a 15 miler, which was probably a bit too far, but something to work up to.

On the way to the station I passed the Laboratory of the Government Chemist, I wonder what goes on there? A train came within 10 minutes which was handy, the journey would be a smidge over 20 minutes. The first stop was strawberry hill somewhere I gave never been. Next stop Twickenham, there was no match today, even though the Six Nations starts today, I checked before I set out as I did nothing t want to get stuck in traffic for a match. I could see lots of terraced houses from the train nearly all of them had skylights so as to maximise the expensive properties in this part of London.

The river with easy to find from Mortlake station just follow the streets to go downhill. Passed a brewery on the way now owned by Budweiser I did and acute bridge and then joined the Thames Path for some time it’s a very hard surface with no mud. I had chosen the right side of the river on the other side side properties with Gardens extending right down to the riverbank full stop that meant that the footpath went in land.

Richmond Bridge over the Thames
Richmond Bridge over the Thames

Illegal to eat keyboard I heard and saw a lot more ringneck parakeets than I had thus far on the walk. At the bend in the River Thames became rather choppy and I could see white horses on the River. From the Kew side of the river you get a great view of Syon House and the remains of an abbey. There was a handy bench so I rated for five. Tween the thames path and Q Gardens there is a waterfield haha a 1.0 possible to beat like a portcullis didn’t like it had been put down for some time. Just passed Kew Gardens is the Surrey golf club, then on the right an island called Isleworth Alt. At Richmond lock I crossed the very ornate footbridge, then headed into Richmond in search of coffee.

I settled on a place called Topshop Cafe on the high Street, a strange place. It appeared to be a long established place run by middle Eastern people, judging by the food on the menu. There were hanging plants all around, with that succulent green grass like plant in. In a corner three menu had a large Gaggia coffeeake in pieces and seemed to be discuss how to fix it. My American was strong and bitter typical of middle Eastern preference for the beverage.

I was 7 miles in to the walk but less than three remained, but I had a plan. I would continue on the path, and all pas the ferry to Ham House to take a look a bit further on where I could see a museum marked close to Eel Pie island, which I might also take a look at. I was tired by the time I got to the ferry, but alas it did not seen to be running despite what Wikipedia said as well as the signs on the jetty. There was a light on but no one seemed to be there. I waited five minutes and there was still no sign of life so I decided that i the best bet would be to double back to the bridge at Richmond where I found a cafe under the bridge in an archway. The coffee was better than the last place and the apple cake divine. Whilst day in cafe I took a closer look at a dog tag I had found on the path,it had a mobile number on it so I texted the the number to tell them and offer to post back. I got this polite reply; “Thank you so much. Yes, that’s our Sam. He was out for a run there this morning. Don’t worry about returning, I can easily get a new one – it will probably cost more for the postage! Many thanks anyway.”

I had sore feet for the final mile back to the car and the seats were a welcome relief. I had walked at least12 miles, a good walk. I missed the M4/M25 turn off and had to double back, a theme is emerging! I stopped off a Tesco for dinner and picked Helen up. We were home for the rugby England v Scotland in Murrayfield.

Emelina the luxury motor yacht

Luxury yacht Emilina moored on the Thames London
Luxury yacht Emilina moored on the Thames London

When I was in London the other day I took a picture of a large motor yacht or Gin Palace as they are sometimes called. Emelina was moored the seaward side of Tower bridge, when I got home I decided to do some investigating to see if I could find out a bit more. It turned out to be very easy possibly because of the unusual name, and the fact that it was a big yacht.

Emelina is 51 m (167 foot) long and was created by Codecasa boat builders in 2008, it can sleep up to 12 passengers, thats about 3 times the number of people I can comfortably sleep in my house. As well as the 12 passengers there is apparently accommodation for a crew of 10. The twin Catterpillar engines produce and impressive 9788hp and can help the yacht reach speeds of 17.5 kts. I guess this is probably not possible when full oaded with fuel (8o,000 litres) and water (20,000 litres). The fuel can possible allow for a range of 4,000 nm.

A few other facts about the yacht are : it has a Jacuzzi Spa but no helicopter landing pad, the interior was designed by Studio Dellarole and the hull is made of aluminium.

Google also also popped up a link to a site that allows you to see the location of lots of boats including Emelina you can see her current location at the Marine Traffic website (click on the “Show live map button”). When I looked on Sunday she was in Dagenham but now she is moored in Amsterdam.

I did a panorama photo from the riverside which is now on Google maps.

Busy weekend

Stag and deer
Stag and deer

Helen was away at the weekend and I am off to Belfast this morning so you will be treated to a blog post of my busy weekend. I dropped Helen off at the train station of Friday evening then settled in for an evening in front of the TV, followed by going to bed early, as I had plans.

I was up at a reasonable time grabbed some breakfast and a strong coffee and headed out to the woods at Ashridge, the rut had started so I might be able to get some pictures. The weather was perfect for photography a clear atmosphere and a few whit fluffy clouds against a deep blue sky. I parked up in a car park which is close to a large open field where the stags tend to congregate and do their strutting about.

Walking through the woods I spotted the odd deer and a couple of stags, but they are hard to get pictures of in the shaded woods. 100th of a second at ISO 800 is about all you can hope for, still the new 40D I’d slightly better at high ISO’s than the old 20D. I did a circuit of the field and took a few landscape shots of the trees which were just starting to turn autumnal. The deer were gathering but there was not a lot of action, and I had other things planned.

Thames view around Little Wittenham
Thames view around Little Wittenham

On the way back through Tring I called in at R’s but I got know answer, so I went home and had some lunch then headed over to Wendover for a haircut, which was more eventful than usual when the guy having his haircut in the chair next to me had his ear snipped with the scissors. He got a free haircut and I thanked my luck stars I was not their 5minutes earlier is I might have been in that seat. I grabbed a paper and went home.

I gave R another call and got hold of him, and popped round for a coffee, it was good to catch up. Then I was back to the woods to have another crack at the rut. I was not disappointed. Two stags were on the rise in the field and occasionally challenges came from the edge of the field, which drew the stags down closer to where I had positioned myself and within lens shot. At one point I saw charging and crashes as their antlers clashed. I left at about 17:30 clearly sunset is the best time of day.

I grabbed an M&S curry on the way through Tring then went home to watch Hard Candy on Netflix, which although got good reviews was rubbish, I lasted 30 minutes in. Again I had a fairly early night as I was going to give the deers another chance in the morning. There was not much action in the morning at 08:30, but it was nice to be out in the woods when it is quiet, on such a nice morning. Next it was back to the house to make Tumbet for a quick Sunday evening meal, you can make it ready to put in the oven for later. This time I used new potatoes which I boiled and skinned red peppers for a jar, which made it easier to prepare and tasted great.

Ewelme view
Ewelme view

I was due to pick Helen up at 1600 from Didcot so as the weather was again great I headed out early to Little Wittenham to get some pictures around the river Thames. I grabbed my 10-22mm lens and polarising filter, it was to be one of those days. Over and around Little Wittenham there is some thing called Earth Trust, which I must find out some more about, it looks like they have been planting trees and putting up walks and generally doing stuff for nature conservation.

Helen’s train was on time and the Tumbet was great we watched the film Tyranosaur, which although very hard hitting was very well made, a great story and well acted. That’s what I call making the most of a weekend.

Swinbrook on a lovely day?

A bend in the river Swin
A bend in the river Swin

We were up early for a walk with A&C, the plan was to drive to Swinbrook, to do a walk along the river Swin, look at the church where some of the Mitford sisters are buried, then have lunch at the Swan Inn.

It took us an hour with mishap to get to Swinbrook, even after A had missed a turning! We parked at the pub and waited for Helen to get permission to leave the car there for the morning. The sewage treatment plant smelt like it needed a service, there was some sort of in balance going on.

The walk was a 5 mile circular one that followed the river then crossed over the other side. That meant it was going to be fairly level walking but there would be opportunities for some muddy patches.
About 3 miles into the walk we got stumbled into Asthall and The Maytime Inn was a welcome establishment to have coffee at. The pub seemed very posh and the landlord had some amazing green with a bold yellow check pattern! The coffee was good and came with some nice biscuits.

Swinbrook valley view
Swinbrook valley view

I got a set of panorama shots in the church yard. The village was typical Cotswold stone, very idyllic, as we left the church a couple of Morgan cars drove past with suitcases strapped to the rear. After Asthall you have to walk on a small road but there was not that much traffic, and as an added bonus there were a few sightings of Whitethroat, a first for A&C, and a lovely view of the valley as the road with higher than the river. At Widford there is an old mill that has been converted into dwellings, and it was our point to cross the river for the second time and do the final mile back to Swinbrook. From the bridge we saw a Grey Wagtail.

We took a look at the Widford church we seemed very old the layout was unusual in that the pews were in open top bovexes with doors to get to each set which would probably seat about 4 people. More panorama shots were taken.
On the outskirts of Swinbrook we spotted what looked like a Muntjak but turned out to be a Hare! The girls manged to find the Mitfords head stones and had a good look round while a took a couple more panorama sets.

Widford church
Widford church

Back at Swinbrook Swan Inn we got back into normal footwear, and then headed into the pub. There were quite a few black and white pictures of days of old and the people who live in big houses. The food was reasonable, but the service was quite poor. Especially when we ordered a bottle of wine and A had to go to the bar and find out where it had got to half way through the main course. She gave them her look of disapproval.

The drive home was again un eventful. We had had a great day out with A&C, and hope to return again someday. Perhaps eating at the Maytree Inn at Asthall instead. It was early to bed for us as we had a coach trip to Minsmere arranged with a pick up from Bedgrove at 07:30.