The Thames Path – Cricklade to the Thames Source (section 14)

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.

Animals

Flowers

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.

On the Neigh Bridge path… you couldn’t make it up…

It’s been such a contrast to my earlier cold, lonely winter walks!

Cows

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 🙂

The Thames Path – Lechlade to Cricklade (section 13)

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.

Thames Path – Newbridge to Lechlade (section 12)

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.

Spoiler alert: I made it to Lechlade!

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!

Herd of cows coming running towards me

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!

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 – Henley-on-Thames to Pangbourne (section 7)

Henley-on-Thames

I left my hotel at 07:30, at dawn, but you couldn’t see the sun rise because it was very cloudy and drizzly. Despite the weather forecast, planning for a low chance of rain and grey clouds, it was actually raining. I made my way to Henley bridge to restart my walk today, embarking on the seventh section of my Thames path walk: this would take me from Henley-on-Thames to Pangbourne.

I had crossed yesterday from the Berkshire bank to Oxfordshire when I crossed Henley bridge. Today, this path took my back to Berkshire and West Berkshire.

I passed the Rowing and River Museum, by Mill Marsh Meadows, as I left Henley. Then, just after this, I was fascinated by the long wooden curved footbridge over Marsh Lock and Weir, taking me to the middle of the Thames and back to the North bank. I then looked it up and the reason for this horseshoe footbridge across the weir stream to the lock and back, is that there used to the a mill, used for brass foundry, in the way. On the Berkshire bank there was a flour mill and that is still now known as Mill Bank.

Shortly after this, the rain and drizzle stopped and it just remained cloudy for the rest of the day.

The Thames Path crossed the Chiltern Way as I headed towards Lower Shiplake, then around Shiplake station. I crossed the railway line crossing at which point I realised the Thames Path was signed a little bit differently from where I’d come from. So I must have taken the wrong turn at one point and went through a main road past the houses rather than the footpath along the railway line.

In Shiplake, there was a lovely little corner shop and butcher’s with a couple of stalls outside, just before 9am.

I found a rail bridge which I had to duck to cross under! And I’m short… so that was a first for me; a minute later, a train went past – it was quite impressive. I then crossed a muddy field before rejoining the Thameside, walking along the marsh towards the towing path, opposite Wargrave Manor.

Further along , I went under a railway bridge at Shiplake which took me away from the riverside. The bridge weirdly looked like it was built for two ways but only has one railway side on. I found this both odd and interesting.

Today has been the most mud so far in the walk. There were some really muddy trails around Shiplake up to Shiplake college as well. They were all walkable, and as I said yesterday in the blog I’m only wearing trail running trainers and not proper hiking shoes, so it’s fine. It did make me realise that I may have to plan for switching to my winter waterproof hiking shoes on future stretches.

After crossing Sonning bridge I went over to the Coppa Club for a coffee and brunch, which was nice. It is probably above the price range I would normally have spent, but it was worth fuelling up at that point.

It was an opportunity to use the toilet and change my socks too as my feet had got a little wet in the longer grass and with the light rain earlier. 

Restarting after brunch felt quite slow and cold initially but I warmed up after a while, past Sonning Lock.

I was then walking towards Reading along the south bank. I went through Thames Valley Park nature reserve. As the Oracle building was just in sight, there were some people flying remote control aeroplanes. I’ve probably just insulted someone now, because there might be a specific name for that hobby that I’m not aware of; if so, I do apologise.

People were going about their Saturday lunchtime: I saw a lot more dog walkers, joggers and families.

In Reading, I carried on straight when I should have gone over the footpath. So if you’re doing this route: take a left following the National Cycle road 5. As you leave the bridge you’ll see a sign welcoming you to Reading.

The path took me past the back of the Tesco car park. To my right was Coal Woodlands. It made me feel sad to see some of that woodland has got a lot of litter and extremely sad to observe that it might be homeless people staying here.

The path had now very much got no mud but instead was paved throughout. 

Caversham Lock with a Ferris wheel in the background.

I reached Reading bridge in just under five hours for 11.9 miles .

I past my (unofficial ) halfway mark for the Thames Path, which was by Caversham bridge. Unfortunately I didn’t find anywhere suitable to buy a pint to celebrate.

I walked out of Reading and Caversham on the Thames promenade and saw a few people walking. 

The area after the Thames promenade was a lot more rural than what I expected looking at the map. It was quite pleasant rejoining the countryside.

Overall I was quite pleased. I was happy to have reached over halfway and also looking forward to resting my legs in the evening.

As I leave St. Mary’s island on my right, there are some allotments and gardens on the left but it was still quite rural.

I continued along the railway line (above e on the left) and signposts for the Thames Path take me over Roebuck footbridge over the train line: there were a few steps to climb. At that point, the path took me to Purley along the A329/Oxford Road, which was a really busy road.

A path was on the right after a gate which, although was not by the side of the Thames, at least it was away from the main road. To my right, through the trees I could just about see the railway line and then further down, the Thames.

I crossed over the railway on a bridge and rejoined the Thames side by Mapledurham Lock.

This all route today was nothing like I imagined from the map: I’d thought that coming out of Reading would be very much in housing areas but it’s very much been in the countryside, walking mostly through some meadows, which has been really a pleasant surprise. From the A road up to Mapledurham Lock hadn’t been necessarily pretty in itself; there were even some hills! But being back on the riverside, and hearing the water from the lock was such a nice feeling .

I walked past a small, new, footbridge over what looked like diverted water from the Thames: it was neither on my OS map nor on Google Maps.

As I approached Pangbourne, I could see the white toll bridge ahead. There was a sign for toilets towards the left. I didn’t need to use them because I was about to go check in my hotel but it may be of use for you, if you plan to walk along here.

I arrived on Whitchurch bridge in Pangbourne after a good day’s walk. I covered 18.89 miles (30.40km) in 7h38min.

Route on Strava

I had a celebratory ½ pint at the Village bar to celebrate my ½ way through the Thames Path.

Thames Path – Marlow bridge to Henley-on-Thames (section 6)

The weather was grey and a little fresh but it was dry and remained so, which was just right for a ‘shorter’ day’s walk. I planned to cover 8.5 miles for the day and walked 8.97 so that was the most accurate estimate so far in 6 days of walking.

I stopped at Burgers tea room for a morning snack and coffee. It’s a bakery. The history is that it’s been taken over by a Swiss Burger family in 1942 and produce 32 kinds of chocolate. The tea room is lovely. It was easy to get a table without booking although it seemed quite popular from the outside. The staff was lovely too and the coffee reasonably priced.

Brownie & filter coffee at Burgers. Delicious. Affordable.

Just before I started the walk by the Marlow suspension bridge where I stopped last time, I walk past Higginson Park, a beautiful park with a lovely autumn feel.

Higginson Park, Marlow

I passed Bisham church on the other bank, which had great reflections on the Thames.

Bisham church

There was also a goose perched on a tree, calling; I don’t know much about birds but I don’t often see geese perched on trees. I’ve seen them on the ground and I know that they normally nest quite low and I see them flying. However this one was on its own and calling constantly.

Perched goose
Bisham church from the North bank of the Thames

The ground got muddier as I got around Temple Mill Island, but it was still very passable. I was only wearing trail trainers rather than walking shoes and I’ve not had any issues with mud today.

Temple bridge from Temple Lock

I went across over the Temple bridge towards Hurley and then across again at the next bridge.

The muddy path didn’t last very lonng at all.

There were a lot of leaves on the ground which is beautiful at this time of the year, but you do have to watch your footing because you can’t see any lumps in the ground and tree roots,etc.

Shortly after Hurley Lock, I met a lovely couple who were walking the Thames Path downstream. They were doing it non stop. Nicely encouraging

On the other side of the lock, just before the other footbridge to cross back towards Hurley, therewas a water point which may be useful to some of you doing the Thames Path, especially if you’re doing it in a summer for example,

I saw a herd of white deer and a pheasant!

I’ve never seen white deer before so it took me a minute to work out what animals were in front of my eyes!

White deer

I then got stuck in a field full of sheep. There was a gate at the end of the field, but that has a lock on and some barbed wire behind. Obviously, even if I did try to go over the gate, I’d be in another private property. So I followed the edge of the field, all the way back, then headed towards Aston.

Being away from the Thamesside as I progressed towards Aston it feels a little bit more of a drag.

There I went past something that looks like a giant stone Jenga.

And a useless gate with no fencing attached.

The colours of the trees were totally beautiful, in the tones of yellow and orange and reds, juxtaposed with some green, and the grass and the brown branches from the leafless trees . It was beautiful.

In Aston I walked on a tarmac road towards back towards the Thames and I saw a field with a number of birds including ducks, gees, pheasants and small chickens and other birds.

I saw a lot of red kites, circling and calling each other with the very distinctive sound of red kites.

After about six miles, my shoulders were starting to ache. I may need to get a new rucksack.

I just carried on, going past Hambleden Lock and a Marina. I was impressed by the power of the water at Hembeley Lock.

I think went on to Remenham.

As I left Henley business on the North side of the Thames behind me, the path turned back South, towards Henle-on-Thames.

At that point, I started to catch my first glimpse of Henley-on-Thames, lying South, with its tower.

I arrived in Henley in just under 4h from Marlow.

I was hoping to get a sunset photo but the cloud coverage was too dense.

I ended my day with a real lovely dinner at ‘the Bistro at the Boathouse’.

Filling in the gaps: Thames Path community, toilet breaks and planning ahead

I felt like I needed a short post here to fill in the gap between my last walk and the next.

Since I’ve return from Marlow, I’ve spent some time planning the next sections. I also joined a couple of groups on Facebook and following some new Twitter accounts.

I’ve booked some annual leave, booked ttransport and accommodation, and asked favours from friends too, for the next few sections.

I’ve got a few more OS Explorer maps to add to the collection and help me plan the end of this route.

Thames Path community

I found there is a really active and lovely community of Thames Path walkers on social media. The community shares lovely pictures but also advice and timely updates on the path including fallen trees and floods.

Thames Path Walk: https://www.facebook.com/groups/991105694330798/?ref=share

Thames Path Walkers: https://www.facebook.com/groups/948466562294129/?ref=share

Thames Path National Trail: https://twitter.com/thamespathnt?s=21

Thames Path: https://twitter.com/thethamespath?s=21

@ThamesPathNT

Walk the Thames Path: https://walkthethames.co.uk/blog/2021/11/08/thames-path-news-round-up-64/?fbclid=IwAR1EajX22dtAftF3tqY0RRKHo70NT8mHWwbEhGeCXC0Y9tLFWxt_a6QZlT8


Toilet

I’ve threatened for some time to do a blog on Thames Path toilets (or lack thereof). So I thought I’d share a document I found detailing all the toilets on the way. Many of these are currently closed.

Here’s the site in comes from for up to date info.

https://www.visitthames.co.uk/about-the-river/information-on-toilets-and-water-points


Next plans

I’ve decided to return to the trail on 19th November. I’ll be walking three days from Marlow to Wallingford. I’ll stay in Henley-on-Thames then in Pangbourne, overnight.

It means packing more things in my bag and a few expenses but with the short days at the moment, it allows me to start the Saturday and Sunday sections earlier than if I took public transports each day.

Section 6: 19/11/21 – Marlow bridge to Henley-on-Thames (8.5miles /13.7km)

Section 7: 20/11/21 – Henley-on-Thames to Pangbourne (16miles /25.7km)

Section 8: 21/11/21 – Pangbourne to Wallingford (18miles /29km)

Section 9: 5/12/21 – Wallingford to Abingdon Bridge (14miles/22.5km)


Weather

It looks like the weather will be cloudy but dry on Friday and Saturday and sunny on Sunday. But it’ll be pretty cold with top temperatures around 8 degrees Celsius.

I’ve packed my bag, prepared some food and plugged my watch to charge. Now I just have to make my way to Marlow tomorrow.

Thames Path – Windsor bridge to Marlow bridge (section 5)

On Tuesday 9th November, I completed the fifth section of my Thames Path walk.

I started the walk on Windsor bridge where I had stopped the previous day, setting off on the North bank of the Thames, in Eton. It was a sunny morning, slightly warmer than the previous day.

Being back along the Thames rather than diverted away due to Private properties (on the previous day) felt lovely. The start of this section was indeed signed as being on a private property belonging to Eton College. But at least they were letting people walking there.

I’m went under the Windsor railway bridge, which I found fascinating. I really am growing to like those bridge and the engineering involved in the design and metalwork. I asked my partner if he could figure out why I’m started to be interested in bridges…I’ve never really taken an interest in these things before. He answered it was age! Well, so be it.

The woods, the colours, the path and the river were really nice. I was really enjoying and appreciating walking in the area and it quickly became my favourite part of the walk so far.

Mural under the A332

Shortly after passing under the A332 bridge, I had a lovely moment of warmth and gratitude and felt ‘well’ for a while. The Thames on my left, a meadow on my right, the sun on back and a lovely day ahead of me. It just felt right.

I was hoping to find some toilets at the Boveney Lock but there were none. There was a building without the roof and it did look like it could be a toilet but it was a disused urinal with lots of rubber rubbish left in it. No good for me. Not really pleasant either.

I think I need to write a whole new blog post about the lack of toilets on the Thames Path. Or maybe I need to hydrate less?

Just before Dorney Lake, I made a tiny detour to have a look inside the Chapel of Saint Mary Magdalene. I do like to visit churches. As a kid and teenager I rarely ever passed a religious place without entering/visiting if I could; so my curiosity took me inside the chapel.

Shortly after that I had my first nature wee of the walk! I didn’t want to but had little choice.

Further along, I carried on the walk, passing the Dorney Lake on my right and a big building which is a rowing club house for Eton, I believe.

I reached the bridge under the M4 at about one o’clock. That bridge was built in the 1960s and recently work was undertaken to the bridge as the M4 is turned in a ‘smart motorway’.

By the time I reached Bray lock, I had done 5 miles and I was started to be hungry so I stopped. I needed a break for lunch, changing my socks and checking my phone/social media. I had packed a lunch in the morning so I enjoyed that and then went back on the path.

Just past Bray lock, there was a movie set on the other side of the River, just before Monkey Island. The guidebook indicates that it’s actually originally referring to monks, rather than monkeys.

I arrived in Maidenhead, and noticed some really impressive mansions and nice boats from the far bank for the last two miles as I approached Maidenhead. On my right, I saw an interesting modern house was flying an Olympic flag.

I passed under the Maidenhead railway bridge, and at that point, Maidenhead bridge, ahead of me seemed so small compared to the railway bridge. The railway bridge was designed by civil engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel, whose work I am familiar with due to the Swindon Railway Works, the Bristol heritage but also the Brunel museum I came across on the first day on this walk in London.

So after I’ve crossed the Maidenhead bridge, I walked along the promenade, now on the South bank of the Thames. I stopped at the Riverside Gardens at the Jenner’s Café. They were about to close but they served me coffee and let me use the facilities.

I walked through Cock Marsh, just before crossing the Bourne End Railway footbridge and I saw some cows roaming the open fields. At that point, so close to sunset, I realised that I was going to finish my walk in the dark.

The sunset on Bourne End Marina was cloudier than the sunset on the previous day, and although not as spectacular, I still enjoyed the beautiful colours and views. It was starting to get a bit cold.

I saw flocks of birds as I walked past Gibraltar Island, the waxing moon was visible above, an to my right was the railway which I’ll use later on, on my way home. The next few miles felt like through a series of fields between the railway and the Thames, with a kissing gate in between the fields and the railway on one side and the Thames with trees and bushes on the other.

I entered Marlow via a lovely little landscaped park called Pergola Field. I got diverted inside Marlow away from the Thames side for a bit. Then I reached the wonderful Marlow suspension Bridge.

From there, I headed to the station. The station had no building, just the platform. I headed to Bourne End, Maidenhead and Reading. Grabbed dinner at Reading Station and got my last train home.

At that point I hadn’t planned the next part of the walk but I was getting a sense of addiction to the outdoors and to the Thames then, that made me want to start planning my next sections while onboard the train on the way home.

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 !