I’m typing this well over a week after this walk. It’s been such a busy time of the year.
I set off on Saturday, 4 February 2023 for a hike based on an All Trail route, which I modified slightly. I parked at the delightful Whitehall garden centre and tea room, in Woodborough, and walk a circular route.
Here’s my map.
Much of the area reminded me of the route we took with Aimee and Richard on my Walk Across Wiltshire in June last year.
It was a little cold be a nice walk and I was just so relieved and happy to have gone out, after about 10 days cooped up at home, isolating because I managed to catch COVID for the first time in three years of avoiding it.
So I took it easy as I was still very tired from it.
Here are a few pictures from the hike.
I used my trusty trail running shoes as my hiking boots were falling apart after around 10 years of using them.
Next outing next month, because this coming weekend, I’ll be volunteering at the Festival of Tomorrow. But I might post about my plans for walking Hadrian’s Wall.
The scenery was so beautiful, almost a winter wonderland at times.
The route was good. We used this All Trails route but we did it backwards which I was glad about as it would have otherwise started along the main road. It was nice to start the walk on the Ridgeway.
The All Trails red route isn’t easy to follow as it’s not on the actual paths so if you decide to do this walk, follow the closest (marked as a dashed line) path to the red line.
It took us 2h40 to walk the 11.5km, a little faster than the average time published on All Trails. That’s also a little longer than the All Trails map but only because we kept walking at one poi t while chatting and drinking coffee from Andrea’s flask. It wasn’t hard to get back on track and in terms of elevation the hardest part was the hill back towards the road in the last 30 minutes. So no massive challenge.
I decided that in 2023 I will do as many miles as I can but I know that I can’t plan too far ahead without a chance of it being cancelled, because my mother has been taken ill in the last few weeks, and I may have to go France at some point during the year.
Having said that I’m now planning some walks twice a month, on weekends, trying to train through the winter so that I can hopefully do a longer walk later on in the late spring or summer.
I’m still not sure whether to do a portion of the South West coastal path (which is a dream but also very hard) or maybe I should leave it for another few years… Another consideration is whether I should walk the Cotswold Way which is more local but very difficult to find accommodation along, and I don’t really think I’m not ready to do wild camping quite yet! Finally I could do Hadrian’s Wall. I’ve looked up a company who can support and provide accommodation or I’ve looked up the logistics of doing it by myself, but it’s about the same cost so it’s something you’ll have to consider.
Today, the walk started with the heavens opening the second I parked. It’s was wet and windy on)off the whole way. On the way I managed to somehow lose my backpack rain cover before Broome Manor. It was a slow pace walk because of the dog stopping to sniff everything and mostly because my fitness levels have gone downhill since my last walk, but I’m not happy with it.
It’s a pity that the rumbling M4 noise was in the background pretty much the whole walk but otherwise the walk was great, despite the wind and rain. Missy got super muddy especially in the fields South of the M4 at Wroughton. They were saturated with water and I wished I’d got wellies at that point. My boots held ok, though and Missy got a bath as soon as we got home.
In summary, I’d do the walk again. It’s a really pleasant walk especially with the dog.
Some pictures of the walk:
I look forward to another walk in a couple of weeks hopefully, weather permitting.
I started the walk around 08:00 from the Bridge in Cricklade, where I last stopped.
This last leg of the Thames Path has been much delayed so my rushed decision to get on the path today was definitely a very good one. A what a beautiful day for it!
I decided to return to using the DSLR camera for this last section, rather than using my phone for camera.
Shortly after I started walking, I managed to get lost following the path in Cricklade but soon re-joined it.
I met many people on the way and had some really lovely chats. The first couple I met was walking their dog, between Cricklade and Latton. From early on it was a warm day and I took my zipped long sleeve top off and was in my t-shirt for the rest of the day.
As I left Cricklade, you could hear the murmur of the A419 cars, the backdrop of planes in the sky but thankfully, also, the birdsongs closer to the ear which made the walk so pleasant.
By the lakes, I saw some people doing water-skiing and all along the walk, I met dog walkers. Just past Ashton Keynes, I saw Colin, who I hasn’t seen in ages. That was lovely.
Overall, my progress was slow due to taking pictures and chatting with people but I made the most of the beautiful day, and saw much wildlife, both flora and fauna, especially around the lakes, as I crossed the Cotswold Water Park. So many buttercups fields!
It felt quite sad to see so many trees cut down on the Thames side – especially by the fields that are trempled by cows already – there is a slight feeling of destruction and emptiness, in contrast with the lush fields, flowers and diversity in other neighbouring fields.
The paths got busier around the water part and Neigh Bridge Country Park.
It’s been such a contrast to my earlier cold, lonely winter walks!
If you read my earlier posts, you may remember a near-miss incident with cows in a field… so I had a little stress when I saw these cows waiting at the end of a field… so I took to the left side to follow the field away from them.
Then a family arrived, from the opposite direction, and opened the gates. ALL the cows started to run and charge towards me! I was petrified. But I stayed as calm as possible. The family looked at me but none of them asked how I was. They just stared! I can’t describe how brainless one would be to do what they did. The other issue was that the farmer who had their cows in one field will have to find their cows. I was ok but I wasn’t happy.
Getting to the Source
I carried on until Ewen; there the Thames stared to get drier. I had my sandwich on a seat with a ‘Millenium seat’ plate on.
It was quite a sight to see the Thames’ bed empty after Ewen. Quite sad in fact. But I guess it’s the time of the year where this area is dry?
Here’s a shot from ‘within’ the Thames river bed, upstream and downstream.
Then it was a few more miles until I finally reached the Source. It is marked by a stone and a signpost. I chatted with a few more people there.
Then I made my way, across the trainline, to the local pub: the Thames Head Inn, to celebrate the end of the walk.
I am just having a glass of Champagne this evening, while writing this post to celebrate, too.
22km in about 6hours.
It took me a little longer than hoped due to detours, but, I DID IT! I completed the walk: the whole of the Thames Path from Barrier to Source.
STATS: I walked a total of 204 miles (326 km) and spent £830 in travel and accommodation costs in total over the 14 sections. I have a spreadsheet with all the details if anyone is interested.
Planning a mad 3-day walk in a fortnight, again… watch this space 🙂
I started back at St John’s Lock, by the Trout Inn, in Lechlade, with the sun shining this time, rather than in the dark. I was just one bridge away from Halfpenny bridge in Lechlade which should have been my finish yesterday. Today’s destination was Cricklade.. The gusts of wind were very strong but I wanted to make as much progress as possible before the stormy weather forecast for after 13:00 in the afternoon.
I’ve been looking forward to this part of the walk: practically on ‘home turf’ now.
Before 10am I walked up to the Roundhouse footbridge. It was sunny, but quite windy which made it much harder to progress especially as it was a headwind. I only did two kilometres in 45 minutes, but it was much better than yesterday, and it wasn’t raining.
The wind kept getting worse. At this point I checked the weather forecast app on my phone. I’d checked in the morning and saw it’s be cloudy and no rain until 15:00 but what I had failed to check was wind! the wind was blowing up to 45mph: no wonder I could barely stand, never mind walk, in places! It had now got very cloudy with an occasional drizzle.
I stopped to have my sandwich and got the raincover on my backpack before Hannington Wick, There the Thames path was diverted away from the Thames which wasn’t much fun, especially when the ground was so muddy. I saw a couple walking in the other direction. They came from Cricklade and they said they had seen no one else and be on the path so far today. At that point, I knew the rest of the walk would be very lonely.
Castle Eaton was nice but, just my luck again, the Red Lion pub was closed so no lunch and no break away from the wind, for me!
The Thames path got back to the bank of the Thames again for a bit. The wind was really really strong and I had nowhere to stop but I was really hungry and thirsty, and I started to get headache. After a while I stopped in a field. I just sat there with the gale force wind in my face, eating crisps and drinking water. After that, it took me a little while to start again, because I was getting really tired.
I found the Thames path completely flooded at this point, so I had to try and work my way around rather than turning back and giving up. I did go through quite a lot of high water. Thankfully, my shoes are still fairly waterproof and then re-joined the banks of the Thames and carried on.
From then on, I went through many other flooded areas of the path. At one point I went over the barbed-wire next to a gate and later literally climbed over a gate and jumped the best I could to not have to completely submerge my shoes.
I finished a challenging 11.78 miles (which is just over 56 miles or just over two marathons in four days). But I’ve just had a lovely cuppa at my friend Claire’s, in Cricklade which made it all worthwhile.
The next and last section of the path (12.5 miles) is planned for the end of the month, but the last part of today’s walk was so challenging with mud and the Thames bursting out in places, that I now doubt I will be able to do it this month.
Beautiful pink and red skies greeted me as I left Swindon on the bus this morning. Transport was a little stressful as I was quite close in connecting buses in Swindon but managed to get onboard. Then the bus towards Oxford was over 20 minutes late and I was close to miss that last connection but made it so that all turned out to be a good start.
Today was the first day in all 12 days so far on the walk when I had no idea where and what sort of time I might finish. The original plan was to walk to Lechlade but as I was so tired yesterday, I gave myself an option to end at Radcot and either walk 40min or take a taxi to the closest bus stop.
It felt colder today and the wind and rain were already pretty awful when I left Newbridge , so I decided I needed to keep my head down and enjoy the views as much as I could, when I could.
I did take a smaller lighter backpack today , and I already had my rainproof trousers on from the start.
Since I left Newbridge, it was windy and rainy. Then I went through some woods that were practically impassable, having to walk through huge amounts of mud; I made myself some poles out of wood and basically sort of ice skated through the mud. It was pretty horrendous. It took me 45 minutes to do the first mile of the walk! Then as I left the woods, I was exposed again to the elements. I just put my head on and took a step at a time. What was nice was to see a lot of birds.
In the whole 30km today I’ve only see one person on the Path, all day. There were people at places where I stopped but no walkers at all. It is a very lonely and removed part of the walk, not helped in my case by the bad weather.
When I thought things were bad… I accidently then got my ring finger whacked between the wooden post and a metal gate! What an idiot! Suddenly it took my mind off the weather and any other struggles!
I managed to go wrong along the water at a footbridge before Chimney Meadow, as I failed to cross the footbridge. You can probably see that on the Strave map as a bleep 🙂 The riverside was treacherous so I had to be super careful. The waters were high as you can see in the photos so I went very very slow again.
The rain hadn’t stopped in hours. I found a bird observatory and stayed there for a bit of respite from the rain and wind, for about 15 minutes.
I eventually reached the Trout at Tadpole Bridge. I was hoping to dry a little bit get a restful 30 minutes, but it was closed! I stopped under a platform/shelter in the pub garden there for a few minute. I had a snack but I was getting cold. Everything was really really wet; my backpack was wet and even my waterproof gloves were wet. I wished for a little bit of a break in weather for five minutes…and when I set off again at about 14:00, the rain stopped!
Past Rushey Lock and Weir, I saw cows in the field and I walk past them fairly close but quite peacefully. I was brought up on a farm and never have had issues with cows. Then, as I went to exit the field, I took a bit of a wrong turn while struggling my way through the muddy field and carried on too far past the gate. At that point, I stopped to check my map and I heard a noise…I lifted my head an I saw them, all of them, running towards me. I hurried through the mud towards the gate to the corner of the field, closed the gate securely and then took a video (below) of them coming towards me. They obviously wanted food, but it was a little bit tense!
I arrived in Radcot around 16:00 and was offered a cuppa tea by one of the locals in the pub who were there and chatting with me about the walk. I dried my coat a little bit in front of the fire, put my gloves and hat on the radiator; I did change my socks, so I got fresh socks for a fresh start. My snood got dry so that was nice. I decided to carry on.
The sun set around 17:20. I walked in the dusk after Kelmscott Manor. There was a memorable moment when I heard a lot of crows: hundreds, I’d say, in the trees near Kelmscott Manor. It was very impressive. As I came closer, just at once, as if I’d dreamt it, the cacophony stopped abruptly. Not a single kraa to be heard!
The wind had died down, it was getting very dark and the river is very quiet there. I kept walking.
I arrived near Lechlade at St John’s lock in the dark, after 9h30 of walking.
That always a bonkers day of walking by my standards: somewhere between a nightmare, an adventure and a pilgrimage! I managed to make it to Lechlade after 1h30 in the dark. I was very glad I decided to press on after Radcot!
It’s been a difficult start of the day as I realised my top backpack pocket was open on the bus. My key was hanging out (luckily it’s strapped in with a hook) and my wallet was missing! I’d not slept well and with accumulated fatigue for days, it was starting to have an impact. I was very annoyed and getting upset. I stopped at the next possible stop and ran back to my bus stop. The wallet wasn’t there. And walked back home where I found it. What a panic. At that point I know I’d missed my train and I wouldn’t start on time (by 07:15) so I had to re-plan.
I headed for the next possible bus and train. And rescheduled my day, then making it very difficult to plan a lunch break. It also meant later finish and likely missing dinner time (it’s Valentine’s Day!).
Leaving Oxford, I could see allotments the other side of the Thames. It was paved yesterday until Osney bridge but this side of the bridge it is a track. There were clear skies apart from some clouds. It was quite cool to start with.
After a while I could feel the sun behind me streaming light and tiny bit of heat through the trees. It was a much nicer day to walk than yesterday with lovely colours, warm light and nice shadows, as well as lovely bird songs.
Just by Fiddler’s Island, I saw a woman in a bikini who was going for a swim without a wetsuit – that was very brave. It was only six degrees and a little bit windy out there.
The path was clearly signed which is lovely.
I then saw more people who were swimming!
Just before that I was playing puddles-slalom as there were a lot of puddles from yesterday’s rain mainly I guess. I saw quite a lot of people going past, walking and on their bikes probably going to work in school.
It was just really nice to see some geese landing in sync on the Thames, making a lot of noise and splashing.
I went past Godstow abbey, before crossing under the A34.
After I crossed under the A34 the Thameside felt much quieter.
The paths became very muddy again after some time, quite slippery. Then it’s started raining.
I had to walk through flowing water as I couldn’t balance on muddy piece of wood alongside the Thames and couldn’t risk falling. So I went through the water as safely as I could, and then just after that I crossed another muddy of water, more standing water to that time so that part is almost not passable now.
I spent a few minutes getting my rainproof trousers on, gloves and hat under the Swindord bridge.
At exactly 11am, after crossing the under the footbridge, the heavens opened.
Diversions from the side of the Thames are never very pleasant when they go past roads. And this one was no different but the good thing about it is I was behind the trees away from the wind and rain for a few minutes.
The river coming off the Thames looked like a chemical pollution as I cross pink Hill lock. The rain had mostly stopped.
The rain stopped. When I approached Bablock Hythe, I walked through muddy fields and a group of people on horses went past.
I had lunch at the Ferryman Inn in Bablock Hythe. After that my pace really slowed down.
My feet were very tired but I made it to the Rose Revived, in Newbridge, waited a couple of hours for my bus(es) home to get there in time for Valentine’s dinner. 15.78 miles (25.40 km) in just under 7h30.
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.
I was lucky enough to be invited by my friend Andrea to join her for a walk, today. Joanna, another friend, joined her too so we went along, the three of us, on a circular walk from Bibury to Coln-St-Aldwyns and back to Bibury.
Apart from being very muddy, we were blessed with a beautiful sunny morning. The temperature was around 8 degrees Celsius but feeling nice and actually warm when in the sun.
After weeks of staying in a lot (I realise I haven’t posted on here for over a month), it’s been so good to walk and talk (my two favourite things).
I took a few photos on the way. I loved that we were by the river so much. Some of the climbs were a bit challenging but I’d done part of this route (clockwise) in the summer so I knew what to expect. I love that we saw a couple of red kites and also a few snow drops. It almost felt like spring for a while.
When we got to the river crossing at the bottom of hill in Coln St Aldwyns, we missed a turn and went too far for about 100 metres. We quickly realised that we seemed to be in someone’s driveway and turned round. There, a lovely lady opened her window and offered us some chocolates as she explained they were trying to give up chocolate. She gave us the box! How slightly random but amazingly kind is that?!? It turned out they were my favourite kind too. As we walked around the church in Coln, we did offer some of the chocolate to other walkers, sharing on.
We stopped at the Coln Café, at the community stores and managed to order some hot drinks just before the café closed. It’s such a lovely and friendly place. A lot of cyclists stop there too. We sat in the garden there for a few minutes, drinking our coffee and teas. I used the café’s toilet (the public toilet in Bibury were all out of order: all four of them!) and we when back down the hill and back along the river to Bibury.
We planned to go on another walk very soon as we all really enjoyed!