Thames path 2 – Day 3 Buscot to Newbridge

The taxi arrived on time to pick me up from the rose revived public house who had kindly let me park my car in the car park for the day. The taxi journey took about 20 to 25 minutes and dtrop me off at the national trust car park near Buscot Weir.

The river bends and twists quite a lot up at this end but it’s an approximately 15 to 20m wide most of the time. I saw a few pill boxes as I started out on the walk and I made a note to try and find out why there are so many this side of the country.

The weather was sunny and promised to be in 21 degrees during the heat of the day so I erred on the side of caution taking less clothing than I actually needed early in the morning. There was still a bit of chill in the air but the sun was warming me up.

The day’s walk would be 15 miles and would include two pubs en route and one at the end. as I approached the first pub Ye Olde Swan I noticed in the field what I thought might be hares ears but on closer inspection they turned out to be clumps of snakehead fritillaries. I pulled in at the pub for a glass of orange juice and soda water and polished off a couple of packets of crisps. Over the river and next to the thames path were a bunch of wigwams which seems to be very well equipped including log burners inside.

Wildlife was out in force on the next stretch to pub number two I could hear Curlews around calling and surprisingly I heard a ruddy duck and then a bit further on her the cuckoo which I did managed to track down and got great views of. I thought I could also hear warblers in some of the reeds and rushes.

When I reached the Trout Inn at Radcot I continued on I wasn’t ready to stop, I figured I would stop somewhere in the Chimney nature reserve. I got close up views of another Cuckoo about halfway through the Nature reserve. I eventually stopped at Shifford lock, where the lock keeper roped me into holding the painter of a barge with only one person onboard. I rested after the exertion and eat my sandwiches, taking my time because I had made good progress.

I got to the Rose Revived about 1600, but did not stop for a drink, I headed straight back.

Thames path 2 – Day 2 Cricklade to Buscot

This next step of the thames path with prove a transport challenge. The number of buses between Buscot and Cricklade are pretty few and require a change and take about 2 hours . My solution was to order a taxi life is to short to worry about things like that.

I had an early start at 6 left the house at just after 7 that got me to Buscot village at about 8:30. It took me 10 minutes to get sorted get my boots on and by the time I had walked to the village shop and the taxi arrived more less as I got there. Perfect timing!

The taxi dropped me off at the centre of Cricklade, in fact, exactly where I am parked the car the previous week so I didn’t miss a single foot step of the path. The river meanders quite a lot at this stage of the 10th and so the path is not no direct so although I would be walking 13 miles, as the crow flies it was considerably shorter.

The weather was 5 degrees so freezing I set off at a fairly good pace to get the blood circulating and warm me up. By about 10:30 the sun was starting to show through which made a big difference.

I passed through Castle Eaton which I remember from the first time I walked the Thames. The Jehovah witnesses were knocking on doors as I walked through the village. I avoided eye contact as I was on a mission to get some miles done. I did find time to look at the church of St Mary’s which is 8th Century.

Towards Kempsford the path goes along a main road for about 2km which is not fun. I chose to leave the path and take a longer route via the edge or RAF Fairford. It was a good decision as I witnessed 3 B52s taking off. When I got to the perimeter fence there were lots of, mainly men, on step ladders taking pictures.

The road into Welford, then took me into a private housing scheme around a gravel pit. The houses looked very modern and had open plan living all with a water view, and all identical.

At Lechlade i stopped for a coffee at Lynwood & Co they do a great coffee and great pistachio coconut and carrot cake. There were only a few miles left to Buscot Weir where the days journey finished.

Thames Path 2 – Day 1 Cirencester (source) to Cricklade

I enjoyed walking the Thames path a couple of years ago and decided that I would walk it again this year. The weatherman was promising good weather for Saturday and Helen was away so it seemed like the right day to start. I was not wrong.

Thams path day 1 Cirencester to Cricklade

The Thames Path is a National Trail following the River Thames from its source near Kemble in Gloucestershire to the Thames Barrier at Charlton, south east London. It is about 184 miles (296 km) long. A path was first proposed in 1948 but it only opened in 1996. The Thames Path’s entire length can be walked, and a few parts can be cycled. Some parts of the Thames Path, particularly west of Oxford, are subject to flooding during the winter. The river is also tidal downstream from Teddington Lock and parts of the path may be under water if there is a particularly high tide, although the Thames Barrier protects London from catastrophic flooding. The Thames Path uses the river towpath between Inglesham and Putney and available path elsewhere. Historically, towpath traffic crossed the river using many ferries. but crossings in these places do not all exist now and some diversion from the towpath is necessary.

The far end of the Thames is 1:40 drive from home, so I managed to get an early night and left the house at 05:45. Unfortunately I just missed the 07:30 bus from Cricklade, where I parked the car, to Cirencester. I then had to wait till 08:12 which was the one I had planned to get. It was cold at the bus stop. Google maps was tellin me that there was a 51a bus at 08:12 but the notice on the bus stop said otherwise. I toyed with Uber but then ended up downloading the StageCoach app, which confirmed the 08:12 was a thing.

The bus sort of followed the route would be walking, it was quite foggy in places but the sun was out and burning it away pretty quickly. I got off the bus at Chesterton Cemetery then walked through the grounds of the Royal Agricultural College where there was lots of jogging going on. There was not much jogging happening when I was at college! I soon left the grounds and into the countryside. There were a few small hills to cross, the only ones of the day, before I got to the source of the Thames. I had been up for 4 and walking for one hours by that time, so I sat on the rock that denotes the source, ate my sandwiches cheese pickle sandwiches and regretted not having a flask of coffee with me.

The monument

A couple arrived and we got talking one of them was doing the last stretch, but in the wrong direction. They kindly took my picture while I stood in front of the stone monument and sign point past the source it self, a pile of rocks. There was no water in sight. I headed off on my way just a tad to fast as it would result in blisters towards the end of the day. It is about a mile or so of walking before you get to a riverbed with water in it, but an friendly old boy walking his dog assured me that a month ago the field around were flooded.

The far end of the river is very clear, in the bright sun I could see the clak gravel bottom of bright green under water plants. I could see a swans head as it reached down in the the depths to graze on the weed. The path is very easy to follow just keep the river on one side and if crossed keep it on the other. For lunch I stopped at the White Hart in Ashton Keynes, where a pint of orange juice and soda water and a fish finger really hit the spot. They kindly refilled my water bottle.

Near the start of the Thames for real

I then entered the stretch that would take me through loads of gravel pits. I guess they are there from building the M40. From a walking point of view they are a bit tedious, I prefer meadows. Quite a few of them are private and some have houses or holiday house clones encircling them. I was not in the best of moods as that point because my quick pace had now resulted in blisters on both feet. I had had a similar thing happen a few times before, you would have thought I had learnt my lesson by now.

The last couple of miles took me back on to meadows again and my spirit rose gain. I stopped and took a timelapse with my new DJI Osmo Pocket camera. Then headed towards Cricklade where I grabbed a coffee and a cake before finding my car and heading home. It got home almost exactly 12 hours after I left a long day, but it was great to be back walking the Thames Path.

Blakeney 2017 – Cley NWT in the wind and rain

Blakeney harbour

The weatherman promised a wet day for our last full day in Norfolk, and we woke up to rain. We took our time there was not compelling reason to get outside, but we did eventually. As we passed Cley it was still raining hard so we cruised on past and grabbed some petrol at a garage in Sheringham before returning to Cley.

The what;s about board for the day was a very short list probably because no one could be bothered to get out to a hide and back. We decided to take a look at the set of three hides near the centre, it was a cold and damp walk out and there was not much to see the usual crowd of Avocets and Shelduck were there the highlight were some baby Shelducks making and appearance from underneath their mother.

Angry Lesser Black-backed Gull

We walked back the the visitor centre and had coffee, cake and a pee before heading out again to the new Babcock hide which had been worth a visit the day before. We were not disappointed the Common Sandpipers and the Ringed Plover showed well in the scrape just in front of the hide. The walk back to the centre was even wetter, we lingered and watched the superb video in the exhibition space, some really good photography and time lapses.

We felt we had made as much of the day as we could given the weather so we went back to the hut and tidied up to save some time in the morning when we would reluctantly leave Norfolk. We had a meal at The Moorings to look forward to after the great meal we had one evening earlier in the week..

Blakeney 2017 – Cley NWT and The Quag

View of Cley marsh with blue sky

The weather promised to be great day, sunny and quite still. We decided a walk from the Cley NWT visitors centre would make for a pleasant day. We arrived at the visitor centre at just before 10 and had to wait a few minutes to get in and check the what’s about list. Of note was a Black Winged Stilt at the Quag which is a lovely small body of water a couple of miles east down the coast, a place we were quite familiar with,

We made goo progress until we got to a sea breach which I estimate was over a kilo-meter long. We reached a rest point on a hillock and I checked out the car park in the distance to see if the coffee van was there, alas it looked like it wasn’t. We rested for a while then continued the trudge as we got closer I checked out the car park again it looked like there was a coffee van it looked like just another blue van, but it had a queue of two waiting.

The new Babcock Hide overlooking Watling Water Cley

We grabbed a coffee from the man in the van and wandered up to the next little hill to enjoy it. On the way I noticed a drone flying over the marsh. We got to our favourite bench on the hill for a spot of sea watching, when suddenly a woman started shouting at her partner to get the bee off of her, he said he could not see any. Helen stepped in and explained that the noise was the drone over the marsh which sounded like a bee!

We headed off to the Quag, and managed to get there by avoiding pebbles all the way. There were some cows in a field and we noticed, unusually, a Bearded Tit fly in and settle briefly. We sat for 5 on a large lump of wood probably washed up in the winter storm to see if it emerged again, but it did not. At the Quag itself things did not look promising although there were some scopes trained om the water no one seemed to be looking though them. We took a look ourselves then moved round a bit and tried again, the Black-Winged Stilt was behind a small island and was not showing really well. It was a first for us they are quite rare in the UK and normally found in the south of France.

The coast road at Cley

We walked up the lane to the coast road and checked the bus times, we had time for a coffee so we used the junk/book shop and tea room. Just before the bus we due we went out to the stop but the bus was just pulling past, I had read the timetable wrong. We had a 30 minute wait so had a quick browse around the junk then sat on the war memorial and watched some children doing cycling proficiency lessons until the bus came.

It was early afternoon at the NWT centre so I had coffee and cake and Helen a cheese scone, then we headed to the new Babcock hide. We were pleased to be able to watch Common Sandpipers and a Little-Ringed Plover. We got back to the hut at about 17:00 and spent the evening watching the Woman in Gold staring Helen Mirren which we both enjoyed.

Blakeney 2017 – Blickling Hall National Trust

Blickling Hall

The weather forecast was a mixed bag, and there were differing opinions. I went with the met office app which does an animated rain radar, and prediction as it was the most optimistic of the options. Given the weather uncertainty we decided Blickling Hall National Trust was probably the best bet as it offered both indoors and outdoor options. We were not early getting up and left the house at about 10:30 which was perfect as the house opened at 11:00.

There was some rain during the drive there but it was much brighter when we arrived, at the car park. There is a new system in the car park and you have to present your membership card to the ticket machine to park. Some people were having trouble with one machine and a queue was forming, so Helen went off to find another machine. My card albeit not valid for entry worked first time, then Helen returned with another ticket, so I gave mine to the people having trouble. I got told off at the welcome hut for not having the right card, but you have heard that story already.

Blickling Hall

As the weather was fine we took the chance to do the long walk around the perimeter of the estate. It was quite warm and I was soon down to my t-shirt, it was a lovely walk if a bit humid, the light was great to show off the greens of spring.  Eventually we got back the house but our path was blocked by tree felling, so we had to do a detour to get around and to the cafe for lunch. We were almost the last people in the queue before they shut the doors because they had run out of tables. The people queuing got complimentary brownie cake for their trouble. I had the leek and potato soup and Helen a cheese sandwich.

After lunch we had a look around the house and grounds close to the house. The walled garden was again well tended, and the house had an Indian influence. The second hand stamp and book shops were our last port of call before heading back via Cromer and the coast road. We stopped off at East Runton to look at a surplus shop but they did not have any poncho’s.

For dinner we went to the Moorings and had a very nice meal, which we liked so much we booked a table for Friday.

 

Blakeney 2017 – Holkham walk and Cley Spy woodland walk

Holkham Beach

Up slightly earlier than usual as we had an appointment for a bird walk at Holkham at 10:00 and I also had some back exercises to do. My back was improving I’m not sure why but I was determined to do the same each day to ensure what ever was working continued. I had homework from the osteopath, hot and cold packs, walking, driving and stretches I did while walking.

The website said meet at the car parking hut, but it was not clear where it was and it appeared to have lived to make way for a repair to the culvert at the entrance. Helen managed to track down the ranger, and get the complimentary parking ticket included in the £5 walk fee. We were the only real birders so the walk was a bit light on birds but we did learn a lot about the estate, and the warden was very knowledgeable about all the surveys they do and the contributions they make to the national record keeping.

Bayfield Hall

The walk took in both the hides the George Washington and the Jordan tower hide, from where we saw four Spoonbill, one of them flying. The route back was via the beach was became a bit of a slog, and we were glad to be back on hard standing. Back at the car we decided to head to Cley Spy for lunch.

The art cafe does some very nice lunches most of them vegetarian, I had a falafel salad, and Helen home made beans on toast. The reason for heading to Glandford what primarily for lunch, but also to have a browse around Cley Spy and do the Bayfield woodland walk.

After a lovely lunch we headed out on the walk, it was warm and humid so quite energy sapping. The highlight of the walk was Jays and Treecreeper. At Bayfield Hall we stopped off at the wildflower cafe for a quick refreshment then finished off the last mile of the walk back to the Glanford commercial centre where we were happy for a sit down in the comfortable car seats.

We decided to stay in for dinner and had salad.

Blakeney 2017 – Cley NWT and Felbrigg NT

Servant Corridor Felbrigg

The weather man promised a mixed day bright start with an increasing chance of rain as the day in folded. We decided on Cley for an early walk then the Bird Photographer of the year exhibition and Felbrigg National trust property for when it was raining.

We left the house before 10 and drove to Cley which is just around the headland so to speak. There was the odd spit of rain but we checked in and then headed out to East Bank to see what was about and have a look at the new hide/shelter. There were plenty of Avocets, the odd Ringed Plover, the usual Redshank, as well as little brown jobs (Sedge Warbler and Reed Buntings). The highlight was a couple of Weasels running along the track at the bottom.of the East Bank.

Avocet Cley Marsh

The new shelter although windowless was a welcome shelter from the wind and rain, we shared it with an elderly couple competing on id’ing the bird first. We took a quick look at the sea which had taken over the bank which makes the walk to the car park relatively easy, making it look like a real hard slog. We scanned the sea for seals and seabirds but there was not much to see, so we headed back into the wind to try out the hide near the visitors center.

There was only really Avocet to see from the hide, so we did not stop long. Back at the visitors center the exhibition was not quite ready, so we headed to Felbrigg planning to return via Cley on the way home.

We parked up and Helen threatened violence if food and coffee were not forthcoming, however my back needed straightening so I risked a wander up to the house and back before we ventured in to the cafe. At the ticket office I was informed that my NT card with an expiry date of June 2018 was not valid, because the previous one, due to expire June 2017 was still valid. They let me in but warned me that I needed to use the old one until June. It was not clear and they did not tell me when I could start using the new one, however just like you do when you receive a new credit card I had already destroyed the previous card.

Sedge Warbler Cley Marshes

At the cafe we had some lunch I had crab sandwich and Helen backed potato with baked beans,. The house is fairly interesting it had last been lived in back in the 20’s so there was not a lot of contemporary stuff which I really like. I was able to give one of the volunteers  some advice on his diet to help with his gout based on someone I know who managed to stop gout by changing diet, it is all about reducing the reducing your intake of purines apparently. Helen went to have a look around the shop while I sat in the courtyard and tried to get pictures of  Chaffinches scrounging crumbs from the tables.

On the way out we had a stroll around the extensive walled gardens, which in my opinion are the jewel of the property. I was amazed at the number of Blackbirds around the gardens. We drove back via Cromer to Cley where we had a look at the fantastic photos of the Bird Photographer of the year exhibition.  We had a walk out to the hides to get 10,000 steps on the fitBIt there was not anything that we had not seen earlier, Helen was disappointed to not see Bearded Tits.

Back in Blakeney I picked up an Amazon delivery from the post office then we went back to the house and had veggie sausage sandwiches and salad for tea,  then settled in for the evening to watch Patriot on Prime, and a couple of beers from my Adnams mini keg of Best Bitter.

Blakeney 2017 – Holme and Titchwell

Holme beach

First full day in Blakeney we were up at reasonable time but did not leave the house until just after 10. We drove out to Holme NWT and would work our way back to Blakeney with a few stop offs.

Although it had been raining on the way there by the time we got to the reserve the sun was out. At the gate we blagged our way in by saying we were going to renew our membership, which Helen did while I straightened my back out. We then headed for the pines where a Spotted Fly Catcher had been seen. It did not take us long to find, posing in it’s distinctive more upright pose that other birds of it size. We then headed along the boardwalk along the dunes until there was an opportunity to get on the beach a mile or two down.

Holme beach

It was nice to be away from the crowds at one point we seemed like the only souls on the beach. We wandered slowly along the beach back to level with the pines and headed back to the visitor centre for a coffee then got back in the car and headed to Titchwell stopping on the way at Thornham deli to grab a vegetable pasty to eat at Titchwell.

At Titchwell the recent spots board was interesting, I wanted to see the Turtle Dove and Helen the Yellow Browed Warbler. We headed first towards the Fen Hide. We saw two baby pigeons in a nest and heard Reed Warblers but failed to get the birds we wanted. We headed straight out to the sea and sat and ate our pasties in the edge of the dunes. After Helen went to hunt for waders on the sea edge I took a timelapse set on the brick building rubble on the beach.

We headed back into the reserve and stopped off at the modern looking Parrinder the highlights were Turnstone and baby Avocets, being protected by all incoming birds by a parent. We tried again for the star species but dipped, however on the way out to the car park we got fleeting glimpses of another Spotted Fly Catcher high in a tree.

We stopped off at Deepdale on the way back where Helen bought a couple of books. Back at the hut I had a shower before we went to the White Horse for dinner. I had the Bream on roasted fennel and saffron potatoes and Helen the Haloumi salad both delicious.

Blakeney 2017 – The journey there

Cley Windmill view

Another holiday in North Norfolk! We haven;t been for just over a year. We left the house just before 10 and obeyed the SatNav which took us on the M25 to the A1M then Cambridge way and through Thetford forest via Mildenhall and Lakenheath. We stopped and at the Lakenheath watching area but as promised by the website it was like most weekends, nothing was happening, so we stretched our legs for 5 minutes and carried on to Swaffham  where we grabbed supplies at the Waitrose.

The cottage was a bungalow just off Mariner Hill and had a parking space which is very rare for Blakeney. Parking was a challenge but a neighbour put us right, the parking for the cottage was not outside by the other side of the next door neighbour. I would have loved to see the plans for the cluster of houses, because there were parking spaces belonging to houses opposite and orphaned well kept gardens.  We unpacked and I did me Osteopath homework to sort out my back, then we went for a walk.

Blakeney harbour sunset

We walked to Cley along the sea wall the weather was warm despite the breeze, and the weather for the week promised more of the same if not warmer. At Cley we got the bus back to Blakeney, had a swift half and booked a table for Sunday evening then retired to the hut for some more back exercises and a salad dinner. We watched Babs on iPlayer which I thought was average and Helen really enjoyed. Helen then watched Graham Norton Show while I went down to the quay to get some pictures of the Sunset.

We were looking forward to the  rest of the week.