Barbury Castle & Rockley loop – remembering Judith

As I posted earlier, I couldn’t be on the Thames Path this weekend, so yesterday, I went to walk on the Ridgeway, locally from me, away from everything and as an opportunity to remember Judith.

Judith is my friend Richard’s wife. I first met Judith when they both came to see me at the finish line of a triathlon I did where they lived, years ago. Then I met Judith and part of the family again when Richard cycled a Sportive with me in 2013. She absolutely loved walking and is a great inspiration to me. She walked on the Ridgeway many times, including taking groups of students for the Duke of Edinburgh award. She passed away a year ago today. I thought of her on this walk.

So here are some sights from Barbury Castle yesterday morning and the White Horse trail, between fog and sun. I spotted a fog bow (white rainbow) over the Ridgeway. I didn’t know they were a thing until I saw one yesterday! It was a little surreal and very cool!

I cut the route short as poor Missy (now our dog – you may remember us taking her on the Waterfalls walk in Wales) was freezing and wet. I don’t think it was fair on her to try another 6 miles with her feeling cold.

That was just over 11 miles (18 km) in just under 5 hours’ walk. After that I went back in the warmth at home and sat with a cuppa coffee and some bara brith, which I baked on Saturday (if you haven’t had bara brith yet, I recommend trying – it’s a welsh fruit bread ).

Thames Path – Wallingford to Abingdon (section 9)

Section 9 – map

My journey started with an early drive to Didcot before dawn on Sunday morning. There, I parked by Sophie’s house (who joined me on the last leg) by which time it was just getting light. I walked to the station to catch the bus. The 33 Connector runs from Didcot Parkway to Wallingford. But Google maps got me to walk a weird way in the opposite direction from the station. I realised as the bus was due to arrive…and there it was heading towards the station as I frantically ran all the way there. Luckily it was running late and I got in, got a ticket and took my hat and gloves off, and caught my breath.
By Station Road further in Didcot, the bus driver had an altercation with people, asking a van to move out the way and a lady in a Christmas hat came shouting at him at the window. He proceeded to get out the bus again and gave a phone call. Then we went back on our way.
At that point I was a little worried of timings. I felt it was then likely I would finish these 14 miles in the dark, perhaps for the last hour. I did bring a headtorch and a reflective vest so it was a risk I’d prepared for. I hadn’t anticipated it would be because of the bus however! (but that never happened as I finished before sunset)

It was very cold all day.

I started from Wallingford bridge and walked on the south bank of the Thames, past Wallingford Castle meadows, which is a lovely kind of nature reserve. From there, looking back at Wallingford allows you to see St. Peter’s church spire, which is quite a pretty sight.

It was quite windy which made a cold day feel sharply cold. I was wearing woolly gloves, a hat and my winter hiking shoes. I am glad I swapped from my trail running shoes to the warmth and comfort of these winter shoes because the start of the walk from Wallingford was muddy and wet on the ground. Even though, a bit further, as I approached Benson, there were some dry patches, the mud then proved a bit of a regular theme through the day.

It was so nice to be back there by the Thames, especially when I started to hear the sounds of the water by Benson’s lock, now becoming a familiar and reassuring feeling: it’s a nice place to come back to every fortnight.

At Benson lock, there is a little bridge to go over to the lock, and then another bridge crossing to the middle island with a beautiful little lock house from the early 20th century. From then I was on the North bank of the Thames.

By Benson Marina, in the waterfront park where there’s a small swimming pool which is the moment empty because of winter weather and probably COVID. Through the trees, there, on the other side of the road, we can see just about the Benson church. Then I went past a Waterfront Café which looked lovely but was closed so I’ll come back there another day.

The Thames past is diverted away from the riverside at Shillingford bridge.

The walk along the road in Shillingford was horrible. It’s not very nice. I was glad to get back to the Thames. There I had my sandwich in a bus stop, feeling sorry for myself having failed to bring my phone charger pack (which I usually always take with me). It was cold and pretty grim!

After Shillingford, I noticed my phone’s battery power (which I also use as my camera) had halved since it was fully charged at 08:00. The brightness on my phone was too high. As a result I decided to turn off a lot of function on the phone and switch it to airplane mode to save battery.

Sadly, I went past Dorchester-on-Thames and could just about see its church but I couldn’t stop and visit without making myself late and risking walking in the dark. It’s meant to be a lovely Roman town and I hope to return and visit some day soon.

I went past a few fields with sheep. I was hoping for less windy and cold as I crossed back over to the South bank just after Dorcherster-on-Thames but I just walked totally straight in headwind for much of the rest of the day.

Day’s Lock was nice and I saw a handful of people around there, a contrast to the relatively lonely morning of walking so far. I thought I was going to cross on the first bridge (very shiny!) but I ended up crossing over the weir. Crossing the Thames on a weir doesn’t fail to be entertaining and exciting. There is something special, maybe some kind of adrenaline rush, to find yourself over a thin bridge, looking down at the strong water flow under your feet and hearing the rush of the river. I don’t get tired of it.

The cold was making my face very cold and it started to rain; the rain was freezing so I wore my fabric face mask which I keep in my pocket to get in shops and cafés… it was helpful and I then decided I should get a buff for my next walk!

From there, I walked towards Clifton Hampden. I kept seeing the two remaining cooling towers from Didcot (I got to see the big towers being taken down a few years back): it felt like I was on the perimeter of a circle around Didcot, keeping them mostly on my left.
I saw much wildlife on the way today. A lot of red kites, a few flocks of geese, and about 5 herons but they were very elusive so difficult to photograph with my frozen hands.

I stopped at The Barley Mow for lunch. It was very nice and great to have a warm meal after that earlier cold sandwich in a bus stop shelter. I picked up a little bit of local reference to Jerome K. Jerome there with the mention of that pub in Three Men in a Boat: (To Say Nothing of the Dog).

There I switched back to the North bank of the Thames. The path got muddier, the wind got colder and the rain got more regular as I left Clifton Hampden.

I saw some cow in a field on the way and they were very curious about me. I wonder if they thought I’d feed them?

I went under a railway bridge by Appleford.

From then on the landscape was not very different from the rest of the walk, and I kept my head down a lot with the cold weather. The rain stopped on and off but it was mostly dry after Culham bridge.

I took a nice glimpse of the sunset a little after Culham lock.

Finally, the last stretch to Abingdon was pleasant (if a little muddy) and reminded me of the stretch getting into Chertsey last month.

I arrived on Abingdon bridge after 6h30’s walk. It was time for me to grab a hot chocolate and hop on a bus back to Didcot.

Now to plan for the next 5 days which are likely to be in very cold weather, just before Christmas.

Thames Path – Pangbourne to Wallingford (section 8)

Today I had the lovely company of Sophie and of Libby the dog for our 11 miles walk to Wallingford.
The sun was shiny on this cold Sunday morning bringing so much shine to the lovely November colours in the trees.

We started the walk on Whitchurch bridge, leaving Pangbourne behind us.

At Whitchurch, we didn’t follow the Thames as the Thames Path takes it’s longer diversion off the Thames side. Instead we were taken uphill in beautiful woods with lovely colours around us.

It was lovely to walk with company and we kept a very good pace. The sunny morning made it easier too.
Opposite the Grotto (in the other bank) and as we started to encounter more dog walkers, we realised that we were already approaching Goring.

In Goring took a right by the bridge and stopped for coffee and food at the Pierreponts Café. Not only it was a dog-friendly café but the food was yummy and filling and the décor lovely.
We crossed the bridge and took a right in Streatley following the Thames Path signs.
It reminded me of the few times I took a train to Goring and, walking that way, headed straight up the hill (instead to taking today’s right turn) towards the Ridgeway and walked home via the Ridgeway.

We had a little peek inside St Mary’s church in Streatley. A blue plaque showed Lewis Carroll preached there.

The path took us back to the riverside where we walked through the autumn leaves.

Shortly after the lock and weird, we saw a blue kingfisher (Sophie spotted it) on the other bank in a tree, but I wasn’t quick enough to get my phone out.

As we went past a nature reserve, we saw a rainbow which was a surprise on this sunny morning, then there was a bit of cold drizzle which stopped pretty soon after.

We heard the loud bells from South Stoke church and Sophie spotted a heron perched on tree, catching the sun . It’s not clear in the photo but that’s the best I could get.

Through Moulsford the Thames Path took us away from the river again along the A329 for a little bit. When we rejoined the riverside, we went under a railway bridge and then through Cholsey nature reserve.
There were a lot of rowers going past. We sat on a deck for a little break and watched rowing boats going past.

We went under the A4130 and the weather had started the warm up but then turned windy and cold again.

We reached Wallingford and stopped in St Peter’s church for a minute then walked to the Bridge: the end of our walk for today.

We walked 11.85miles (19.07km) in under 4h45, from Pangbourne to Wallingford.
We then walked around Wallingford a bit and found a dog-friendly pub (the Cross Keys), played dominos with a cup of tea while we waited for our roast dinners, and then went onto our bus stop for our onward journey.
I’m planning to get back to Wallingford in a fortnight, weather permitting, to continue on the Thames Path.

Thames Path – Chertsey bridge to Windsor bridge (section 4)

Sun rising on the Thames at Chertsey
Sun rising on the Thames at Chertsey

What a sight to open your hotel room’s curtains to!

I had a great dinner, a great night and a really filling breakfast (vegetarian full English) at the Bridge Hotel in Chertsey. I began the walk in a nice but fresh morning (it was about 3 degrees Celsius when I started), around 08:00, hence all the layers, the hat and the gloves on the pictures.

Different approaches

Depending on the guide book you use, it can be in one go from Kingston-upon-Thames to Windsor (Dillon, P., 2015. The national trails. 2nd ed. Cicerone, p.105.) which is 18.5 miles; or in three separate sections from Kingston-upon-Thames to Chertsey (11miles), Chertsey to Staines, then Staines to Windsor (Hatts, L., 2016. The Thames path. 2nd ed. Cicerone, pp.66-91.). I decided to break this part of my walk in two sections rather than one or three, so today I was walking from Chertsey to Windsor bridge.

Chertsey Lock to Penton Hook Lock

The route this morning started back on the North bank alongside a road: on my left was the Thames and then Chertsey Lock; on my right was the Thames Side road. Although it wasn’t very busy, it was a change from the peaceful wooden areas from yesterday. The Thames itself seemed really quiet and also very high.

The ground was muddier than yesterday walking through grass. The grass was still wet and so were my shoes and socks, very quickly so I was considering changing my socks even though it was quite early in the day (little did I know what was to come later in the walk). I barely noticed crossing under the M3 and quickly was by Laleham Camping Club. It was a pleasant landscape I was admiring on the South bank, with pretty houses and boats.

There was a diversion on Ferry Lane unfortunately sending the cars onto the narrow Thames Side, where I was walking in absence of a walking path.

Shortly after this the path re-started. This part was the most enjoyable in today’s walk, overall very quiet, peaceful and allowing for a lot of thinking and reflection. Penton Hook Lock area was especially pleasant.

Penton Hook Lock to Staines

My feet had dried by the time I got to Staines. The sun was out by then too which made my walk more enjoyable. I had set off yesterday with the sun in my face and today it was very much behind me (when it was out).

At times on the walk feels like nothing happens but actually, little things happen and those human interactions can really make my day.

I failed to mention in yesterday’s blog that I had a fun crossing of the Thames on the ferry at Shepperton with a family which I assume were mum, dad, little child and grandparents. I believe the child was named Curtis, and he was really lively and wanted to get on fast boat. He made me smile. He rang the bell to call the ferry. I am guessing they were on a day out.

Earlier today, in Staines I talked for a while to a lady had a Schnauzer; it was really nice.

And then a man was walking past with a dog carrying a big stick. I stupidly commented on how a massive stick that was, while looking just below his waist, at his dog carrying the stick. Oh the embarrassment!

At Staines I’ve crossed over to the South Bank with the Thames on my right and buildings which seem to be offices on the left, before moving to a more industrial area. I saw more squirrels on this side of Staines.

After crossing a small bridge I crossed a wooded area. The sound of cars started to get louder and louder. Then I crossed under the M25.

I had a coffee (which may seem overpriced at nearly £5 for a black americano… and it wasn’t even *that* nice…) at The Runnymede on Thames Hotel. It’s a really nice, modern and clean building and the toilets were very clean.
I had my protein shake and took about 30 minutes break.

My advice, if you want a coffee and the use of toilets, is to carry on a little to the Runnymede Pleasure Ground. There’s a café and toilets there as well. So I would recommend to go there instead of the hotel if you can/ if it’s open.

Runnymede and Magna Carta

Walking along the National Trust – Runnymede and Ankerwycke area, I was looking at the map as I was looking for a sculpture called the Jurors. But unfortunately, I couldn’t see it from this side of the Old Windsor Road. The installation is by Hew Locke and tell the story of Justice from across the world.

The site of Runnymede is were the Magna Carta was sealed over 800 years ago: it is often considered the birthplace of modern democracy.

Further, I felt Ham Island to my right and carried along the Thames’ New Cut, as it’s called. I realised there’s sewage work over there so I’m glad I didn’t have to go around that part.

I made my way to Datchet. It’s not the nicest part of the walk, actually. It is very affluent and has a lot of magnificent houses but since I moved back to the North bank, there were no paths to walk on; you have to follow the road on tiny pavements, because everything’s privately owned by the Thames. There was a small public garden by the Thames as respite from all the mansions ‘blocking’ the Thames side. After a gap in the trees I managed to join the Thames path again, after crossing the road (there’s no pedestrian crossing there so you need to be cautious).

Drama in Windsor

As I crossed the Victoria Bridge, things got worse: the Thames path disappears…everything’s blocked off because of Windsor palace. There was a big playing field that would take me towards the Thames side so I started going across but walked both feet in sinking mud!

I walked further on, under a railway bridge. I had to cross through the boatyard towards an hexagonal brick tower and follow the road for a couple of minutes until I got back to the riverside. At that point, there was a railway to my left and to my right, still water from the lock.

The end of the road

The sign from the Thames Path was back, taking me on Romney walk, with Romney Island to the right, and Windsor Castle on the other side.

I finished today’s walk after 22 kilometres in 5h36. After a walk around, I found some public toilets in a car park and then made my way towards the Central station. I decided not to eat in Windsor as all seems too expensive. My train ticket was valid until 3pm as it was off-peak so I heading home 1h20min earlier than planned.

Tomorrow I’m back in Windsor for the fifth section of my walk. Until then, I’m off to rest up !

Ystradfellte: the four waterfalls walk

Walked with: Rod, James and Missy.

How I got there: car.


This was a trial hike in a few different ways. My first hike in a while, the first one I decided to document and the first one I tried to take photos on the DSLR camera (Nikon) rather than my phone.

We set off a couple of hours later than planned and arrived at Ystradfellte at about 12:00. I’d hoped to park at the pub The New Inn so we could eat there on the way back but the pub has clear signs not to park there, and it was closed. We’d passed a car park but that had a sign indicating it was full so we drove further and ended parking in a farmer’s field (they charged us £5 for the day) near the official parking called Cwm Porth. ///testy.different.chestnuts

There a cool cave, worth a look at before you start the walk. It’s called Porth yr Ogof and it’s just below the car park in the woods: ///rope.neon.mealtime

We then set off on the walk.
At this point, it’s past 12:00 and we haven’t had lunch. I didn’t mind too much because I’d been unwell in the morning so wasn’t too hungry. I’d had a slice of toast around 09:30 while walking the dog, at home, before we got in the car.
I’d brought some cereal bars so I gave one each to Rod and James , and I ate my yummy Trek oat bar.

As you’ll see on the map above, we made a few detours but it was a good walk and we’ll worth it for the beautiful sights.

At one point on the path, I fell on my backside and landed badly, hurting my shoulder – the bicep pain was horrible. It lasted for days after the fall, actually. As I write this, it still hurts when I use my right arm. With the lack of food, I became extremely tired. Then I lost Rod and James (they had my bag and mobile phone in my bag) so I got a little upset with exhaustion and pain.

But we carried on. We stopped a few times and I got my second Trek bar out; we shared it, just before the last stretch back to the car park.

We had good weather all along, which was quite lucky.

I’ll go back and do this walk again, starting earlier, taking food with me and maybe do it in the other direction.
I consider this one as a rehearsal 🙂