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.

Thams path day 1 Cirencester to Cricklade
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.

London – Robot exhibition at the Science Museum

My back was still not right, but I managed a 6 mile local walk the day before so I thought I would go a bit further a field, but I was not up to the Ridgeway. Scanning the what’s on on London sites I was reminded of the robot special exhibition at the Science Museum, so I booked myself an 11:00 ticket, giving me plenty of flexibility on time. If things went to plan I would get the tube there then walk back through the London parks back to Euston on the return journey.

I was up early, and managed to get the 08:06, but no coffee as the station cafe is shut on a Sunday. I grabbed the Victoria line to Green park then the Piccadilly to South Kensington. I got out of the pedestrian tunnel early in favour of fresh air and as luck would have I exited right opposite a Le Pain Quotidian where I grabbed an excellent coffee and even better Raisin Danish, which was essentially a Pain Au Raisin but twisted not twirled. I was a bit early and there was just one person and child outside the entrance, I joined them and therefore started a queue, which by 10:00 was a few hundred yards long.

Being the second person in the place meant that I could have a few sections of the museum to my self. I headed straight down to the far end of the ground floor, where there was a section about machine learning. One machine took my photo then deduced I was happy (smiling) and estimated to be 50, I was happy to take that. Next I headed up to the top floor where there are some aircraft and a load of aircraft engines through history, something I was not aware of despite previous visits. I worked my way down to the first floor stopping off to look at some of the stuff, my favourite bits are the mechanical simulation machines, the economy, tides etc. The Robots special exhibition was good and not too crowded, it marked the history of the development of robots, from automata through to the latest ones made by Honda, Toyota etc. Some of them you could interact with.

I had planned to walk back to Euston via Foyles. In Hyde Park I chanced upon some american expats plying baseball in the corner of a field. I got chatting to an older guy who explained that they were not all from the embassy some were bankers and other business people. He asked if I played, I was able to explain that I had when I was young played in the little league. I had to turn down the offer of a game because of my back, which was a shame.

I headed to Buckingham palace via Wellington Arch and Constitution Hill, then down to The Mall, to Admiralty Arch when I took a couple of pictures of one of the Seven Noses of Soho , which are brasses noses on several buildings placed by an artist making a point about the prevalence of CCTV in the city. Next was Trafalgar square where I was starting to flag, my back was hurting. I was amused by a Chinese lady shouting at a group of Chinese children having their picture taken on the steps to the National Gallery. The children wee very polite and obedient I think the lady was just power crazy. I am not sure who they all were but the adults in the group had DSLR’s and a 4k professional video camera.

I jumped on a 29 bus for a couple of stops, and had a look around Foyles computing section, but was not in the mood for buying. It is a short walk to Tottenham Court station and grabbed to the Northern line to Euston. I grabbed a sandwich, then waited for the train to be given a platform. The train was delayed because they were waiting for the police to take a person who had assaulted the guard to be taken away.


The Ridgeway – Overton Hill to Ogbourne St George

Typical Ridgeway path view

After a successful testing of my back finishing off the Capital Ring, it was time for a new challenge, The Ridgeway. I got up early as getting to the far end would take some time 1:30 to Ogbourne St George then another 1:30 of buses to get to Overton Hill. The final miles of the M4 and A346 was typical of the countryside I would be walking through, rolling chalk down which was looking great in the spring light, even under the overcast skies.

View from the Ridgeway

Parking in Ogbourne St George was easy, a sleepy village with a pub, B&B, and hotel. I had to walk about a mile to the main roan to find the bus stop, then had a 25 minute wait for X5 bus at 09:46. It was a good job i did not try for the earlier bus because there wasn’t one. The X5 never turned up but the 80 at 09:52 did, and I was soon in Marlborough. A coffee at Nero wash down a pain au raisin, while I considered my next move, the 42 passed through West Overton and departed in 30 minutes so I scrubbed the idea of a taxi to keep costs down.

I had to walk a mile to the start of the Ridgeway at Overton Hill, my FitBit had registered 3 mikes by that point. Just before the start I took a quick look at The Sanctuary a stone and wood circle. The beginning is a by way and as such is a series of white scars caused by off roaders, which luckily for me are banned from 1 October to 30 April. The path keeps to the ridge, as you would expect to, he views are distant, a.x there are barrows and stone circles to be seen all over the landscape.

Barbury Castle from the Ridgeway

There was a codd wind blowing so i did not hang about, the occasional breaking of the clouds bought welcome warming sunshine. The path was fairly quiet considering the status of the path I passed a few walkers and a couple of mountain bikers. I had a ack lunch and stopped at about mile 4 of the trail.

Ogbourne St George from the Ridgeway

There were plenty of birds about and they were easy to spot because the land scan had few trees so they congregated in the odd hawthorn that edged the path. I spotted Twite, Skylarks, Lapwing, and Chaffinch to mention a few. The path rolled with the hills but stayed high all the time, one of the higher points was Barbury castle which is now just earth banks, I’m not sure what it looked like when it was first built. I stopped for my second sandwich after the castle on a long grass stretch, called Smeathe’s Ridge and used for gallops, it had stunning views all around.

Ogbourne St George Thatched Cottages

The trial descend as it gets to Ogbourne St George and I left the path 200m before the bus stop I started at to take a look at the river that runs through, it was a bit of a disappointment because it was dry. It gave me a chance to see the rest of the village as the car was parked at the other end of the high street. In all I had done just over 10 miles of the path, so if I could keep that rate up and slightly more I should be able to do it in another 7 sections. Lets wait and see if I manage it.

Thames Path – Cookham to Marlow

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

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.

Polzeath to Rock and back.

We thought the weather was going to be bad so we had thought that maybe we would drive to Bodmin and find a cinema to see the film Legend which on looks quite good. However looking at the weather in the morning it turns out that Sunday was going to be OK till late afternoon and it was some Monday when the rain would really start, there was a deep low  coming in from the Atlantic so we changed our plans and were out at a reasonably early time of 9:30.

Rather than head straight to the sea we walked in land up the path that leads to the holiday cottage and then across over the hills and down into rock. On the way we walked through a farmyard where a friendly farmer was happy to tell us where abouts the footpath went through his farm yard.

When we got to Rock we walked down on the beach and round to where the ferries beach and found a cafe called Rock Road where they were serving food and coffee. Unfortunately lunch menu didn’t start till 12 and we were there at about 11:10 but from the breakfast menu chose a veggie sausage bap Helen and egg Royale for me. We managed to get a table right at the front of the terrace so I was able to set up my time lapse camera take pictures of the cloud floating beautifully over the town of Padstow.

The path back to Polzeath was along the beach and round the headland was a bit hard walking because the sand was soft so we did a lot of zig zagging to keep to the firm ground.  Eventually we reached Daymer Bay where we headed in land a short way across a golf course, to get to  the small church of St. Enodoc church where Sir John Betjeman is buried. The church itself is dug into the dunes and is quite small. There had been a wedding quite recently and the arch across the doorway was surrounded by white flowers with the odd pink one which I thought was quite tasteful. We sat on a bench watching the clouds go by another chance for a time lapse sequence. We headed down to the beach and up around the coastal path back to Polzeath, but stopping off for an ice cream at the next beach. The Eton mess flavour was great and the hippies serving it were playing Pink Floyd over the sound system.

We did some rock pooling out on the headland, before we got back, to the village where we stopped at the Waterfront bar Cafe for a coffee and shared some skinny chips between us. We were on the terrace so had another opportunity to capture some time lapse. Whilst we were there I sorted out some of Helens whining (ed: justified complaints) by installing the BT openzone app on her phone, it cheered her up no end. We booked a table for Tuesday evening.

The weather had held and I have been able to get some great pictures with bright white fluffy clouds on deep blue skies. The walk although not that long had eaten up most of the day, which was perfect. For dinner we had the rest of the salad from the day before.

Castle Drogo on the way to Cornwall

Polzeath Beach Cornwall

We were up earlier than anticipated and left the house to go on holiday  just before 8:30. Our late summer holiday was going to be in Polzeath down in Cornwall followed by a week in Devon. Sat nav told us the best way to go was via Bicester and Oxford then down to Swindon and onto the M4 before joining the usual road  to the south west eventually ending up on the A30. We hit the usual big traffic jam at Bristol but the traffic pretty much kept moving and by the time we stopped at the Sedgemoor motorway services just after Bristol we had only lost half an hour which is pretty good going.

As is traditional we had planned a stop at a National Trust property on the way there today choice was Castle Drogo. Helen was not amused when I decided to follow the single track signs to the property. It meant having to stop a few times to let cars and buses go by. In any event we got there without any mishaps parked up and got our tickets to have a look around the Castle. It turns out the castle was in the middle of a very extensive renovation project. The whole Castle is completely enveloped in scaffolding and plastic sheeting. On the inside of the castle they have some of the stuff in storage but they had special art exhibitions on in various rooms where you could see some of the historic things that might have been out had the house was open. The building itself is grey granite which looks very structural and it is a house I would like to return to someday. Our timing was not that great the trips up the scaffolding tower were shut for lunch, so rather than wait an hour we went to get some lunch at the visitors centre.

The queue at the cafe was interminably slow they needed someone to come in and do a time and motion study to get things moving a bit faster. We didn’t fancy the soup of the day or sandwiches so we both settled for cake, we are on holiday after all. Suitably replete we got back in the car and headed to Wadebridge where we wanted to pick up some supplies before heading the cottage in Polzeath.

On the smallish road that got us over the A30 we came across some slow traffic, a couple of caravans, which looked more like chicken huts on wheels and were being towed by vintage tractors, they were from Germany!

We did a quick tour of the shops of Wadebridge and I managed to get a hair cut without queuing, the hair dresser corrected my pronunciation of Polzeath apparently it is zeath pronounced like wreath. The co-op supplied us with some salad ingredients and emergency pasta meal, so we were all set to arrive at the cottage.

We had earlier got a text to say that the cottage was ready which I thought was a nice touch. The final few miles to the cottage were very rural. We found the cottage easily by the instructions provided. It over looks a valley which is a caravan park and even has a distant view of the sea. We were not prepared for the many steps up to the front door. I was regretting buying a new large holdall for holidays, I had to stop for a rest on the way up.

We unpacked and had a sit down then walked down to the beach to have a look around, it was a bit grey and the sea was a bit rough. Luckily for us there was a bar Cafe on the beach where we could get a beer, and some WiFi. Helen had committed the ultimate crime of booking a cottage with no WiFi!

We had salad for tea and I was in bed fairly early with a book.

The Brunel tunnel

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

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

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 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

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

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

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.