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.

Thames Path – Cookham to Marlow

Bourne End Sailing club
Bourne End Sailing club

Planning further ahead on Saturday evening I realised if I could do the short 5 miles between Cookham and Marlow it would give me better option for the next leg, so I headed off the Marlow to get the train to Cookham. It turned out that the trains were not running, but there was a replacement bus service running, I had a twenty minute wait. Before leaving the have I taped up the blisters on my feet with some non stretch medical tape it seemed to make a world of difference.

It was not clear where the bus would stop, so I positioned myself with a good view of the whole of Station Approach, where the bus was reputed to hang out. A coach turned up and and I asked for a ticket to Cookham, the drive said I’m not taking any money, to the three of us waiting just got on. There are no ticket machines at the station so getting a ticket was going to be a challenge. I sat back and enjoyed what might be a free ride. No one wanted to take my money at the other end and the station was closed, so thanks for the free ride Great Western Railway, if you want your money get in touch.

Hawthorn just outside Marlow
Hawthorn just outside Marlow

The weather driving over was very cloudy but turned out to be the overnight rain clouds being dispersed by the sun. I soon found my way to the path and crossed the river on a footbridge at Bourne End, then I came across a sailing club about to start a race. I had a go at a time lapse of the race in progress. It took two goes as most of the race took place down river from the start line where I first started the photo sequence.

Just outside Marlow I found a convenient bench for a chance to rest and take in the Thames silently flowing past. The final leg into Marlow did not take long and you have to head inland a little. There is a church yard right on the river next to the old iron/steel suspension bridge, where I got some photos. I headed up the high street and ended up in a Starbucks where I sampled one of their Peru Piccino which is a double restretto with a small amount of milk and froth, I thought it was very nice, just the right balance of coffee and milk. It was a great day for a walk and set me up nicely for the next leg.

Thames Path – Staines-upon-Thames to Windsor

Interesting house on the Thames
Interesting house on the Thames

I was hoping to get in a couple of stretches of the Thames Path over Easter but due to various commitments I did not get a chance until the Sunday, and Easter Monday looked like it might be a wash out due to the remains of hurricane Kate passing through. The clocks went forward so I lost an hour, but I was still in Windsor by 09:45, to catch the 10:12 train to Staines. The car park at Windsor station is a bit of a ball ache after I had rustled up enough change for the meter after poking around under the car seats, I fond out that the reason there was a queue at the machine was because it was credit card only and the slowest machine in the world.

Finally when I got to the station and had purchased my ticket (£4.40) I found out the train was cancelled, luckily the next train at 10:23 was  fast one so little time was lost. The weather was clear and great for taking photos, but there was a brisk breeze and a chill in the air, so I was happy to sit on the train for 20 minutes before it left the station. The forecast was for heavy showers so I had my poncho with me as well as my camera bag to keep things dry.

Egyptian goose with young
Egyptian goose with young

Today’s walk would be less than the usual 10 mile minimum, but the next convenient stage would be Maidenhead, but that would be a 15 miler, tempting but the boat race was on and with the prospect of a choppy river due to the wind I wanted to watch it on TV. It was ironic that the race was on and I would be walking a different direction, with a bit of planning it might have been an experience to walk the race section with all the crowds about.

The day would be a mix of sun and rain, which I was soon reminded of when a downpour had me sheltering with some team supporters of people doing the Devises to Westminster canoe race. The sun soon came out and dried my poncho. On the way I saw some parakeets and a kingfisher flying away, then amazingly I saw an eagle owl in a cage in someone’s back garden.

Bridge over the river Thames
Bridge over the river Thames

I was caught out again after a bridge crossing at Windsor great park. It really lashed down with hail and everything, the poncho provided little protection and neither was there any around, so I plodded on until Datchet where it stopped and I popped in for a coffee and sandwich at the Costa coffee. It was 14:00 so time was a bit tight for the boat race, I had an hour to get to Windsor, so I did not linger too long at the coffee shop. Despite more rain I would have to walk through it.

It was not far to the station and my parked car. The traffic on the way home was quite busy so rather than M25 I peeled off onto the M40 and went via Beaconsfield. I was back in good time for the boat race but I missed the women’s race which was the one to watch as one of the crews nearly sank.

Tropical Nursery tour at Kew Gardens

Special orchid display in the Princess of Wales Conservatory Kew
Special orchid display in the Princess of Wales Conservatory Kew

I noticed on the Ian visits website that there were tours round the Kew gardens tropical nursery so I sent an e-mail off on Thursday but didn’t get a reply the next day so I tried again on Friday. By lunch time I had decided that I not got a place but when on checking my e-mail I noticed that there was a reply from the lady at Kew . It said i should phone her back by 12 o’clock so it looked like it was a bit late however on rereading the e-mail I noticed that it said call by 12 o’clock or just turn up on the day so that’s what I decided to do.

I was up at a reasonable spent hour an tinkering around on the computer then headed off to buy the M25 about town 2 o’clock writing good time on 11 o’clock at the Ferry lane car park. The parking machines were solar powered and apparently there was not enough sun to power them so I had to get the parking ticket at the entrance booths. It is not cheap getting into Kew gardens it cost me £7 to park and £16 50 to get into the gardens on top of that I was having to pay £10 for the tour, however they have been in the new recently due to funding issues so they need all the support they can get. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-31715081

The squirrel that thought I was a tree and climbed up my leg and onto my rucksack today at Kew Gardens
The squirrel that thought I was a tree

The weather was sunny and warm a coat was not necessary iI spent a couple of hours wandering around the park looking at spring flowers taking photos then I stopped off at the Victoria gate cafe for lunch. I have a packet of crisps and a hummus, beetroot and carrot sandwich which was very nice I took them and found a bench in the sun to eat it, as the cafe was heaving with people. There was plenty of wildlife about particularly birds, I spotted lots of Ringed-necked Parakeet, Greater Spotted wood pecker and a couple of Jays. As I was walking along the edge of the lake I spotted a fat looking squirrel eating a nut sat on a branch of a bush. I stood and watched tit for a while it seemed quite tame and I was able to get within 2 metre of it. The it moved towards me ran up my leg and and then onto my rucksack had a look around realised there was nothing to eat then head back down the way it had come.

I took the long route round to the White Peaks cafe and shop which was the agreed meet up for the special tour of the Tropical nursery. I arrived at the allotted time and we hung around for 10 minutes, then the nice volunteer took all 9 of us into the largest green house in a botanical park in, I’m not sure if she said United Kingdom, Europe or the World. In any case it was very extensive. The tour was very informative and the works had left out examples of Succulent, Carnivorous, rare and Orchid plants which the guide knew all about, and was very good and explaining to us. After the tour I headed home.

Sample of succulent plants in the Tropical Nursery Kew
Sample of succulent plants in the Tropical Nursery Kew
Inside the Tropical Nursery Kew
Inside the Tropical Nursery Kew

The Brunel tunnel

Isambard Kingdom Brunel Rotherhithe Tunnel under the Thames London
Isambard Kingdom Brunel Rotherhithe Tunnel under the Thames London

Ian Visits came up trumps again the Brunel Tunnel under the Thames is open for the weekend due to a line upgrade to convert from four to five carriages per train. I got in quick and managed to get myself a ticket before that sold out less than an hour later.

I was up early and managed to get the 08:46 to London Euston from Berkhamsted, which unusually had no free seats. On arrival I used Google maps to find out how to get to the Brunel Museum at Rotherhithe. You may not be aware but Google recently announced it had all the public transport times so when you ask for directions not only does it know which trains and buses to use it knows when the next one is. This is a great improvement on trying to read the bus maps that have no road names and then work out the coded bus stop you need to be at.  It suggested Victoria line then Jubilee but I fancied the bus so set the options for buses only. 68 then change at Waterloo bridge to the 381. The 68 arrived as I got to the bus stop.

Wapping Tube Station
Wapping Tube Station

It was still raining when I got off the bus at Waterloo bridge but there was some sun to the south in the distance which was good because I was lugging three cameras with me. The 381 took me past the Kirkcaldy museum of material testing which I had visited a few weeks before. The bus passed through some interesting areas where you could see that there had in the past been companies that manufactured goods. For example I saw a building with a painted sign for a company that made tin boxes. Further on there is evidence of shipping with old warehouses, pubs with nautical names (The Shipwrights) and even the London nautical school. By the time I got off the bus the sun was out.

Once alighted I followed the signs to the Brunel Museum and the staff there directed me to Rotherhithe station which was the correct place to congregate. I was early but they let me join the queue, but not before I stocked up on batteries for my flash. I would have to wait for the allotted time but thanks to my trusty insulated foam sheet was able to sit down while I waited, all the time the sky got bluer and the clouds more fluffy and white.

Thames Vista HDR
Thames Vista HDR

The 1100 tickets were called and we were guided into the closed station, and given blue surgical gloves to put on, then told to gather at the top of the escalators then we were taken down the steps to the platform of the station. First we had to have the obligatory Health and Safety briefing which explained why we had to wear gloves, dirt and weil’s disease so don’t touch stuff and then suck your thumb. We then stepped down on to the track and were led into the tunnel, our guides explained some of the history and features of the tunnel when we stopped every 30 metres. Eventually we came to the next station Wapping where we crossed over and went back up the other side to where we started. Then we left the station via the escalators not forgetting to throw the gloves away and disinfect our now sweaty palms.

As the weather was bright I decided a walk along the Thames path would be nice and provide plenty of photo opps . I followed Jubilee walk which keeps you as close to the river as is possible and you get to see some interesting buildings, most of them dock related so lots of converted warehouses with cranes sticking out of them. Just as it looked like the next shower was due I came across the Design Museum and popped into the cafe for a sandwich and coffee it was pretty average and cost £8.50!

Tower Bridge over the Thames London
Tower Bridge over the Thames London

Tower bridge was nearby so I carried on and crossed the bridge and attempted a panorama set at the mid point. On the other side was St Catherine’s dock always a good place to take photos so had a wander around. There are old buildings, boats and bridges. From there I headed towards the tower of London, then consulted Google maps for an escape route. At the no. 15 bus stop I got chatting to a fellow photographer who had a spirit level bubble in his hot shoe. I have one but it is a sharp cube that stands proud he had one that was more or less flush. He said he got it from Amazon and with the power of the internet so did I got just £1.99 a bargain.

I alighted at Aldwych and walked over the road and jumped on the 68 to Euston. It was pouring down at Euston and I had 10 minutes to spare before the 14:54 to Northampton . I grabbed a coffee and a paper then headed home to process my photos.

Oxford on a sunny Spring day

Pitt Rivers musuem Oxford
Pitt Rivers musuem Oxford

Woke up to a sunny day which according to the weather man would be warm at 16 degrees C. A trip to Oxford was in order, a quick Google threw up a Cezanne exhibition at the Ashmolean and an exhibition about the Japan tsunami at the Pitt Rivers, then of course there is always a good browse around the great book shop called Blackwells.

After a leisurely breakfast we headed out to the Thornhill park and ride which is the best way to “do” Oxford from our side. A bus was waiting when we got there and we were soon treading the streets off the City Centre. We headed first to the Ashmolean as it was a paid for and timed entry, £20 lighter but having got some back from HMRC via gift aid we were viewing some rarely seen Cezanne’s. Helen would have liked more paintings , there were quire a few sketches, but was impressed by the Sisley river scape painting.

Natural History Museum Oxford
Natural History Museum Oxford

Next we headed towards the Natural History museum to seen the photo exhibition in the Pitt Rivers we stopped at an independent coffee shop and grabbed a falafel and humus sandwich coffee and cake which we ate on a bench outside the museum. Apart from being a great museum full of Natural history cabinets the building is very interesting. if you take a look from the outside the windows frames are all different, they have a similar overall design but some have more ornate edges than others. On the inside there are a series of columns that are part of the balcony that gives views over the ground floor, each one is made of a different UK rock variety.

Blackwells Oxford photo point
Blackwells Oxford photo point

Whilst there I took the opportunity to take a panorama of the main hall, which also has a very ornate steel roof with lots of glass panels in it. We then ventured in to the Pitt Rivers part where we had a look at a photographic exhibition of how a museum in Japan salvaged lots of museum pieces which were affected by the 2011 Tsunami. They really had their jobs cut out restoring photos and negatives which were water damaged.

In the Pitt Rivers main section with all its glass cabinets full of stuff, and the curators with wind up torches always ready to show you where the witch in a bottle is displayed, I got into a conversation with one regarding photography in such a dark place. I promised to post the photos on his Flickr group.

It was about 14:30 by the time we had finished, and we had had enough of walking around so we headed back to the bus stop via Blackwells the best book shop in Oxford followed by the covered market, and went home. All in all a lovely day out and the weather made all the difference.

Signs of spring in the air

What lovely weather we are having this weekend. After spending most of Saturday tinkering with and Arduino circuit trying to collect reading  from my weather sensors, we decided we should get out into the fresh air.

We parked up near Dancersend Manor and walked to the base of the big will to the south, then along the base of the hill till we popped out at the water works the other side of Dancersend NNR. Then we walked up the hill through the reserve and out the other side back towards the Manor house. Here are some pictures of the spring flowers.

Tree bud
Tree bud
Winter aconites
Winter aconites
Crocus
Crocus

Spring is here, a trip to Kew Gardens

Frittilary
Frittilary

The weather has been great all week, at work I have been doing timelapse videos of a new sewage treatment plant all week, but more of that later. I suggested that we go to Kew to see the place in all its spring glory. We decided to go and take the mother in law.

Woke up this morning early the day looked like it would be blue skies and sun all day. We headed off just before 10am, picked up our guest and headed off towards the M25. The traffic was OK and we were soon round the M25 and onto the M4 heading towards London. We exited at J2 and picked up the road that crosses the Thames at Hammersmith Bridge. Just after the bridge if you take the first right and then follow the signs to the Kew car park, (tight and narrow left between two houses), we arrived just short of 11am and easily found a place to park. Parking ticket is £6 and if you like you can park for free on Kew road but it can be a bit tricky.

Entrance to the Gardens was quite steep at 10p short of £14. The car park is on the Thames side of the park and there were no queues. Any way £40 worse off and we were into the gardens. The river side of the gardens is not really on the main drag so we headed east towards the pagoda end and took in all the plants and trees. there were some fritillaries, which are a lovely flower they come in purple and white and look like bells hanging from a bent over stem. fritillaries are quite rare and declining, but are native to the Thames valley and Suffolk. Another highlight was two types of wild garlic, Ransomes and Few-flowered Garlic. I have come across Ransomes in our local woods but I have never see the Few-flowered ones, which were not as pungent as the Ransomes.

Tulips
Tulips

There were lots of trees in bloom including Rhododendrons, Magnolias, and plenty of cherry like blossoms. After a trip up the treetop walkway, (Helen and her mum chickened out) we headed over to the most easterly green house. After looking round the green house the plan was to meander our way back towards the west end where we entered. We stopped off at the botanical art exhibition and I managed to miss the bit that connected the old building to the new building, so that pleasure will have to wait until next time.

After looking round the middle greenhouse I struck up a conversation with a lady who was taking a panorama shot using a panoramic attachement on a tripod. We exchanged tips and I passed on the name of the software I use Hugin (here is the link http://hugin.sourceforge.net/). I took a good look at the camera bracket she was using because my one made from B&Q angle irons is not up to the job. If you are reading this can you send me a picture of your bracket. She she was a member of the Muswell Hill Photographic Society, and had got a couple of pictures commended in the Kew gardens photo competition.

Pond panorama
Pond panorama

We had lunch at the Pavilion, where there was lots of nice food on offer including plenty of veggie options. As it was only 12 we opted for a lighter lunch of sandwiches, followed buy the obligatory day out cake. Once refreshed we headed over to the last of the greenhouses the Princess of Wales conservatory, where all the tropical stuff is housed. Helen did not like the humid atmosphere she claims it makes her hair curl so she looks like Bonnie Langford!

Turns out there was another green house to look round, the one with the giant lilly pads. Today however they were not giant, they had obviously had a clear out and started again as the pad were only up to a foot across. I tried taking a panorama shot here as I thought it would be a bit like the St Pancras one with roof offering an interesting pattern. If it works you may see the results here, but at time of writing it needed a bit of tweaking to get the handrails to line up correctly. Sometimes you wish you had the tripod and pano head with you, but when you set out you just can’t be bothered to lug all the gear around.

Boule do neige
Boule do neige

We stopped for Tea/Coffee before a look round the obligatory shop, then headed back to the car with a brief stop to look at the river and eat and ice cream. The drive back was a breeze and we stopped of in Tring to get some tea (salad and stuff) and to place a bet on the Grand National, I choose the favourite and a rank outsider. The favourite came in 3rd so I might get some money back but not as much as I bet, there is probably a life lesson there, a £10 in the hand is better than one passed over the betting shop counter.

All in all a great day out with great weather, Oh and I forgot to mention we added a bird to the life list, Ringed-necked Parakeet, Helen’s mum spotted it at first I thought it was a sparrow hawk, it was travelling fast and had hawk like wing silhouette, but the give away was the slim pointed tail. When it circled round you could clearly see it was a bright green bird so there was no doubt, about the identification.