After a 10-week break due to high covid cases and risk, I came back on Abingdon bridge to carry on with the Thames Path walk.
The plan is to reach Oxford today and Cricklade by Wednesday evening but the weather forecast is looking awful today and it’s going to be a challenge avoiding floods and muddy paths at this time of the year. But I’m looking forward to the journey: I’ve been missing being out on the trails.
To start with, as I left Abingdon, passing geese, swans and ducks; the path was quite muddy.
I crossed over the weir which was such a nice feeling and a great way to start the walk- to be over the water again. The path initially was a little away with from the Thames. With the Thames on my right, my first aim for the day was to reach Sandford lock which was around 4.5 miles away. The weather stayed dried at first but it wasn’t forecast to stay dry all day so I knew I would have some rain on the way but I was prepared and still very much looking forward to the walk.
This was a interesting route today because The Thames seemed to be taking us East to take us West and it’s a bit of a loop. So I will use the terms ‘on my right’ and ‘on my left’ rather than my usual North bank and South bank because theoretically, I would now be on the North bank but when I get to Oxford (without crossing the river), that will end up being the South bank and it could be quite confusing. Well it is to me anyway!
After much mud, a decked path meant my boots got a rest from the wet mud. I past what looked like a new Thames Path sign. At that point, I was away from the Thames, with some woods to my right, and the Thames beyond the woods.
It was nice to hear the sounds of the Thames again. Even though it was quite windy, and that’s one of the main sounds that can hear in the background, I can hear a lot of birds and I can hear the water from the Thames a little bit as well (even though it’s behind the woods), which is lovely.
After a while, I joined the side of the Thames which was lovely but also meant that I was more exposed to the elements: wind and a little bit of drizzle but no heavy rain yet.
It was nice to see on my left some young trees, fairly recently planted.
The path was quite muddy, but not impassable. I was really glad to have my winter hiking shoes. My my hands were cold inside my gloves and got a little warmed up as I upped my pace a bit. I felt well equipped and kept warm all along the wall. I had my snood on my chin to keep a little bit warm from my neck and upper-chest.
After about 45 minutes on the path, I didn’t see anyone apart from some dog walkers in Abingdon before the weir. It’s been absolutely quiet, if a little lonely, no walkers, no runners and cyclists. Nothing but interesting footprints in the mud, the woods, some birds and the river. It was a cold winter Sunday morning, so I expect people stayed in the warmth.
I spent about 10 minutes under the railway bridge to get changed, so I could add my rain cover trousers which I was trying for the first time (lend to me because I couldn’t fit in my original ones!). The rain was not really heavy then but more constant, and I knew it was only going to get worse.
It started to rain heavier and the wind was quite strong. There were waves on the Thames because of the wind.
I saw a few rowers who were very brave going through the waves and I also saw three cross-country runners now who were saying they had chosen to run the wrong way. By this they meant against the wind. I had mostly the wind behind me or slightly on the side.
I couldn’t find anywhere adequate or dry place for lunch after that.
I got myself a companion, which was a stick! Very useful as a walking pole as it was just the right height. Is got me through the mud, keeping stability with three point of contact.
I reached Sandford lock at about 12pm. There was nowhere to stop for lunch. There was a pub on the other side of the river. But it meant crossing and then ordering something and my aim was to just have a sandwich and keep going. Another day, I’ll come back for a walk and try the pub. It is called the King’s Arms.
I spent five minutes talking to a lady while we were standing in the rain. After a railway bridge the path was tarmac so I left my trusty companion, the stick, on a side by a tree. Hopefully someone else can use it.
The sounds changed. Although I was approaching Iffley lock, and you could hear the sound of the water pushing through in the lock, the predominant sound was now cars in the background : I had just crossed under the A423 bypass by Oxford. It’s a little bit sad you can barely hear any birds, etc. even though you’re still near nature.
There were a lot more rowers and rowing clubs and boathouses as I walked towards Donnington. One other thing that shocked me as well was the sheer amount of pollution waste on the side: food and drinks packaging left, despite the bins from Oxford Council being there, but also waste from what looks like seats and mattresses and carpets, probably for the boats moored there, and all types of rubbish.
I finished in about 4h35.
I was absolutely soaked but felt warm all the way thanks to having the right gear for the rain.
That’s 9.99 miles /16.08 km covered.
I took my rain over-trousers off and ate my sandwich before I took the train(s) back home.