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!

The Thames Path – Osney bridge to Newbridge (section 11)

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.

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 ).