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.