Capital Ring – Boston Manor to Hendon Central

Rubbish on Horseden Hill
Rubbish on Horseden Hill

Keen to get back on the Capital Ring after two weekends off due to a weeks holiday in Kent, I was up early, on the 07:46 Metropolitan train from Amersham, destination Boston Manor. The weather was a bit grey with a chill in the air but the forecasters promised sunny with showers later on. The journey to Boston Manor was a bit tedious as twice i would have to travel up a branch line only to have to reverse to go a couple of stops up another branch. Annoyingly I missed a connection at Harrow-on-the-Hill so waster 12 minutes.

At Rayners Lane I crossed platforms to get the Piccadilly line, interestingly the trains seemed really low, and there was a step down to the train, i guess the trains have to go in smaller tunnels, and the Rayners Lane platform is slightly higher than most, turns out the all the Piccadilly trains are low. I changed again at Acton Town and got on a Heathrow train, full of people and their luggage, it always makes me wonder where they are all flying off to.

Harrow on the Hill high Street
Harrow on the Hill high Street

The path follows the river Brent for a while passing factories and through a couple of golf courses. It all becomes a bit urban at Greenfield where a main road and railway needs to be crossed. I took the opportunity at Westway Cross retail park to grab a coffee which i drank outside in the sun, i also eat a pain au raisin that i had purchased a at Local Sainsbury earlier.

Horseden hill was a hard slog and when I eventually go to the top to enjoy the view it was somewhat spoilt by the rubbish left behind bu some people who had picnicked there. Down the other side of the hill and on the flat I was passing through what was clearly a very old Oak wood, judging by the size of the trees.

Harrow School Building
Harrow School Building

Next up was Harrow when I walked up the high street, which was almost deserted, I guess it was the school holidays. I made the security guard a bit twitchy by stopping to take photographs of the historic buildings. I was quite tired by this time and the walk to the edges of Wembley was a challenge with not much to see.

In a moment of madness I had decided at this point to see if I could do a long day as I had been just making the 10 miles on some of the previous days, target changed from Wembley Park to Hendon Central. I got to Brent Reservoir and had a longish break to build up my strength for the next few miles. It was a pleasant place to stop I could watch the boats in a sailing race whilst enjoying the warm sun.

The Windermere Pub Kenton
The Windermere Pub Kenton

I really had had enough by the time I got to Hendon Central, which was quite familiar as I would sometimes pass down the road when I have occasionally driven into London. Looking at Google maps it the journey bac was going to be a ball ache. I consider a taxi to a Metropolitan tube station but in the end waited for an 83 bus, which took me to Wembley Park, ironic that I had already walked past it.

I had a 30 minute wait for the next Amersham train, I guess I had just missed one. The platform was crowded by families with small children dressed up as princes and princesses it turns out that Disney on Ice was at the Arena. I was glad to get back to Amersham but still had a chore to do get dinner from Waitrose in Chesham.

 

Capital Ring – Wimbledon to Hanwell

I had been looking forward​ to this section, finally I would be onto a more pleasant section, Wimbledon to Hanwelk would involve two trenches of parkland and two stretches next to water. The parklands are Wimbledon Common where i would be on the look out for Wombles, and Richmond Park where i might spot some deer an other wildlife. At Richmond i would be back next to the Thames and then follow the river Brent. All that sounds much more interesting than the walk so far, although it started to improve on the last stretch.

The weather promised to be cloudy but bright and unseasonally warm, potentially 16 degrees. I consulted Google maps, and there was not much between car and train when i took into account total time as Hanwelk is a bit out of the way, and difficult to get to Wimbledon from. I opted for the train as it would allow me to be more flexible.

I had got a cramp as i stretched when i woke up and my calf muscle was sore and torn, i thought it would ruin my day but i reckoned the walking would do it good.

I got a free parking space but just missed the 08:01, but the fast 08:11 was soon whisking me away to Euston. I went wrong at Earle’s court and has to double back as i got the train going down the Richmond rather than Wimbledon branch, but lost less than 10 minutes. At Southfields I then managed to walk a couple of hundred yards in the wrong direction.

It was not long before I got to Wimbledon Common, after passing the car park full of Chelsea tractors I was soon in woods and fields, and immediately spotted a Goldcrest and mistle thrush. The air temperature was high enough for me to walk with just a t-shirt. Eventually I came to a road which is the border between Wimbledon Common and Richmond Park, interestingly it had a separate crossing g for horses riders who were everywhere. The deer in the park were obviously thriving, there were notices about the cull which has just finished.

Richmond Park is distinctly different in terms of habit, I guess the deer have some influence over that. Again there were plenty of Londoners make the most of the open space and weather. The path is straight forward straight then a 45 degree turn which I missed so walked the long way around an enclosed nature reserve. On the far end there is a car park with a coffee shop which I made use of, it was time for a rest.

There is a lovely meadow after you drop down from Richmond park called Petersham I’m guessing it is not built on due to flooding and I bet is has some rare species on it. The other side of the meadow I hit the Thames but on the other side of river from where I had walked the Thames Path. Soon I was in Richmond, near the bridge there was some boat building and repairing going on in the sun. There was a prty atmosphere with alll the Rugby fans gathering outside the pubs for a beer and some lunch before the match later on.

Whilst stood around taking in the atmosphere a guy walked past he looked professional and had a TShirt on with a website http://richardwalkslondon.com/ on investigation Richard McChesney is a serious walker and has plans to set a record for the first non-stop walk around the M25, he reckons it will take 48 hours, and for the whole time is is not allowed to not be on his feet. I would struggle to do 48 hours staying awake let alone havng to stay on my feet and walk.

At Isleworth i had to take another detour when builders had blocked a section of the river path. I joined the river again at a pub called Town Wharf, where i had  a conversation with a local at the bar turns out he has an interesting job, locksmith at the British Museum. I was keen to sit down so had to make my excuses, i hope i did not offend. The jumbo fish finger sandwich went down a treat on the Riverside terrace. I was sat next to a bunch of Scotland supports who thought they were going to beat England at Twickenham!

Eventually you leave the Thames for the Brent, i realised that getting to Hanwell and then getting home for the Rugby would be a challenge so i bailed out at Boston Manor station. Interestingly the first stop was Northfield which was an interesting balance seeing as i started at Southfields. At Leicester Square there was lots of chanting as more Arsenal supporters got on and supporters of another team were on the platform.

I comfortably made the 15:54 from Euston but that would mean missing most of the first half of the rugby. I got the BBC radio app loaded and got most of it when there was a signal.

Capital Ring – Penge to Wimbledon

I fell out of love with the Capital Ring I think because I started it at a time when the days were short, and the first few legs were very urban and not very inspiring. I have been doing some more local outings which made a change. I liked the idea of doing walks with an overall aim or purpose, so I took a look at the map and determined that one more leg and I would be back into a more interesting part which would last for most of the rest of it.

I checked the weather and determined that Saturday was the right day, Sunday promised rain all day. I was up early and aiming for the 08:11 from Berkhamsted. It looked like things were going well, I got the last free parking space at the station, then realised that I would make the 08:01, I got my ticket and had time to get a coffee as the train arrived, I walked out of the coffee shop as the train doors opened.

Three generations of males joined me at the table I had on the train, boy younger than 10, father and grandfather, they were off to Manchester to watch Bournemouth play Manchester United. I commented that Bournemouth did not sound like they belonged in the Premier division, apparently a few years back they had collection buckets going round the stadium to keep the club going.

The start took me up Crystal Palace hill qhuch was the start of a long section high which descended and ascended often. After a particularly steep climb I came Streatham Common where a handy community cafe served me a cortado and a pain au raisin. I rested for a while taking pleasure in watching all the joggers that spring had bought out many of them having to break for bro a walk, probably due to lack of practice over the winter months.

The path crosses quite a few commons some of them divided by roads. I passed through Streatham and Balham before eventually reaching the edge of Wimbledon, where the houses got grandeur. Wimbledon was full of more joggers and appropriately people playing tennis. The weather was reasonable qarmand sunny perfect weather for getting out of the house.

I decided to go to Southfields station to to ensure I had done more than 10 miles, luckily for me there was a chip shop just opposite the tube entrance so I stopped for some and was given a high portion I only managed half of. The journey back was via Victoria and Euston. I was back in Berkhamsted before 16:00.

Capital Ring – Falconwood to Penge East

Early start at Berkhamsted
Early start at Berkhamsted

Late night Boxing Day party I thought would have dampened my enthusiasm before a walk, but I got to bed at a later but reasonable hour, and felt refreshed rather than hung over. A quick breakfast of left over Christmas food, hot cross buns, and a coffee and I was set to get the 08:53 from Berkhamsted. There were lads of free parking spaces, but I managed to miss the 08:46 while I got my ticket, annoying especially as the coffee shop was shut. I had time to spare so headed into Berkhamsted town to see if data could find a coffee shop open. I thought I was out that for luck but then noticed that Love Food Dining was open, they sold take away coffee and dam fine coffee in my opinion.

Eltham Palace water supply
Eltham Palace water supply

The train was packed but I found a seat. It was a frosty start to the day, and quite cold at -1 degrees C, but the weather forecast was a fine day, and with the sun almost as low as it get the photo opportunities were there for the taking. The train was delayed a little bit when we were held waiting for a signal outside Euston.

The transit to Falconwood was via the Victoria line to Victoria then a Southeastern train to my destination. The train was a bit slow and stopped for what seemed like every station, but eventually I got there. I was planning about 10 miles for the day, and was hoping I might get get to a camera shop at Euston on my way home to buy a new lens to replace my mid zoom which had finally packed in after over 10 years of service. I was going to invest in a 16-35mm f4.0 L IS USM.

Extreme Christmas
Extreme Christmas

En route to Waltham I passed through yet another Leafy London Suburb with lovely houses. I passed by Eltham Palace which is run by National Heritage. It was a strange building from the outside, some of it clearly less than 100 years old, but it has a mixture of parts that suggested that there had been some sort of building there for a very long time. It also had a moat.

On the other side of the track things were a bit more run down and I spent a couple of miles waking along paths between by run down housing estates, however I got great views as of Docklands from the slightly elevated path.

Cyclo-cross rider at Beckenham Park
Cyclo-cross rider at Beckenham Park

At Downham high street I looked for a cafe but could not find one that looked worth trying. Eventually I came across a McDonald’s drive thru, so stopped for a filet-o-fish and some chips washed down with a coffee. It is an interesting process these days, rather than talk to someone you use a large, 40 inch touch screen to order and pay then your food is delivered, although I realised once I was tucking in that you could order in the traditional way at the counter.

Things got a bit rural for a while as I passed through Beckenham Park, there was a cyclo cross competition going on, so I paused for a while and took some shots of the action. I carried on and things were pretty urban for the rest of the section with ntil I got to Penge East. As I approached I could see the Crystal Palace aerial beckoning in the distance.

Kent County Cricket Club
Kent County Cricket Club

I had a bit of a wait for the next train to Victoria again a bit busy but it is easy for one person to find a seat. The connections went well and at Euston I had a 30 minute wait for the next train, and with a Calumet (photographic shop) just around the block it seemed rude not to pop in and have a look. As luck would have it they has the lens and in stock and it did not take long to negotiate a better price than those list, I was a few hundred pounds lighter. Probably the most expensive wait for a train I have ever had.

I grabbed the rear most carriage to ensure easy access to the exit at Berkhamsted Station. I had got be another 10 miles of the Capital Ring and has a new lens, which will be taking pictures for this blog in the very near future.

Capital Ring – Cyprus to Falconwood

University of East London
University of East London

Having finished the London Loop I needed a new challenge, I thought I would give the Capital Ring a go. the Ring is a whisker over half the distance of the London Loop at 78 miles which breaks down into 6 or 7 stretches, of reasonable length. It is another route around London but closer to the centre, and I hoped would be a bit more urban than The Loop.

We finished work on Wednesday the 21st so I thought I would get my first section done on my first day off. Trouble is it is a week day so travel would be more expensive. I knew the first off peak train from Berkhamsted was the 09:31 so I aimed for that. I was not too sure of the best option so went to the ticket office, it turns out that my Railcard was only valid on trains after 10:00 so I opted for the £20 one without the Railcard discount. I had to be on a train back before 16:49 which would suit me fine.

John Burns Woolwich ferry
John Burns Woolwich ferry

I had puzzled over where to start, my book and early Xmas present from Helen started at Woolwich and went clockwise, and from experience I knew following book was best done on the same direction. I could however start anywhere on the Ring and just loop back to the beginning of the book as necessary, so I went to bed thinking somewhere north of London would be best given the train restrictions. One final look at the map in the morning and I changed my mind, the route passes close to a DLR station just north of Woolwich ferry so I decided to start there, just a mile from the start of the book, and a chance to use the tunnel, as when I did the Thames Path I had used the ferry.

The train was on time and empty at Berkhamsted, but by the time we got to Euston most seats were taken. The weather was forecast as sunny but there was a most about, which I hoped would make for good photos. The northern line took me to Bank the I got on the DLR to West Ferry then changed to the Becton line for the final leg to Cyprus. I had a front row on the train and with no driver’s cabin you get great views of Docklands as we passed through.

Boat on the Thames
Boat on the Thames

I soon reached Gallions Point, which at first glance looks like it is spelt wrong but when I checked on Wikipedia it all made sense, “Gallions Reach is a stretch of the River Thames between Woolwich and Thamesmead. There are various locations on both sides of the river named after Gallions Reach. The area is named for the Galyons, a 14th-century family who owned property along this stretch of the river.”

At Woolwich ferry I chose the tunnel rather than the ferry which I used when I did the Thames Path, deep and long is as much as I have to say about it. The getting the modern bit wood panelled lift back up to the surface is worth the ride and save some energy. I was still on familiar ground as the path again follows the Thames Path, but after  a mile I took a left through Marion Wilson animal park where in the middle is a very secure couple of fenced areas containing ducks and chickens on one side of the path and deer, with antlers, on the other. I think it was run by Greenwich council for children to experience where children can experience a kind of farm like environment.

Shooters Hill
Shooters Hill

I crossed a busy road BT was soon in another ark this time Charlton Park which contains Charlton hall a grand Elizabethan, I think, building. I came across auch needed WC and a great little cafe where I had a cheese sandwich and a coffee for lunch. 

The next significant milestone was Shooters Hill in Greenwich borough. The path was in the woods but not at all muddy. It was however hilly. I passed a castle then a cafe both at the top of hills. I was glad of the final descent.

At Shepperdleas Woods I had had enough and decided that Falconwood station on the South Eastern Railway line, to Charing Cross, was the place to finish off. I had a two minute wait, for the relatively busy train but I found a seat without any trouble.

I made short shrift if my London transit by getting off at London Bridge and walking to the Northern Line, I got to Euston with 4 minutes to spare for the 16:34, which was well within the time cut off for my off peak ticket. I think I am going to enjoy the Capital Ring.

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.