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’m going to do my best to recall the walk but most of it is told by pictures and thanks to Aimée for pushing me on till the end on day two and three.
Saturday – Day 1: Meysey Hampton to Avebury
Shortly after starting the walk, I went through some woods before reaching the Fairford airfields and the early morning birdsongs were absolutely beautiful and enchanting. I’m sat in my garden now writing this and the bird songs now are lovely and echo the sounds of that morning.
It was so nice, just 2 weeks after I finished the Thames path, to re-walk some of the Thames Path walk, near Cricklade. It was especially such a striking difference, on a summer quiet day compared to when I last had approached Cricklade, late February in the midst of Storm Dudley!
My friend Richard, Judith’s husband, joined me in Cricklade for a good few miles all the way to Purton. It was great to have company. I was chatting so much that I forgot to take many pictures on that stretch.
After Purton, I had to cross another cows’ field and reached Mouldon Hill. There was a very overgrown area to cross but I made it. Then the rain started to be very strong as I stopped for my regular socks change and snack. But I still stopped, under a tree to make sure I had a good break.
At that point I was ahead of schedule. But with the weather and fatigue starting to hit me, I started slowing down.
By the time I reached the Oasis and Steam museum, I’d lost all the time that I had previously gained.
It became more difficult to progress, but walking along the canal as I left Swindon was such a pleasant experience. As I left Wichelstowe before crossing over to Wroughton, I saw a sign telling me the path I expected to be there was shut as they are literally building a road there. So I walked along the road to Wroughton and that was a pretty unpleasant part of the walk, as I kept having to jump on the side/ditch as the car zoomed past. Richard joined me again in Wroughton and we climbed to Barbury Castle together. We also met Mike Pringle on the way who joined us. It was so mice to have company. Also the weather had stayed dried since Wroughton too. Then I joined the Ridgeway, on very familiar territory now as I walked this last bit to Avebury with the Race to the Stones twice before. It’s always such a hard part for me. And this was no exception. The weather turned, the wind picked up and I was miserable. Slow, cold, tired. My hips hurt with the pressure of my bag on my lower back. But I kept going and wobbled all the way to Avebury.
I was so tired and arrived quite late; I didn’t even take time to take photos. The car par was shut and there were a lot of security guards about as they were preparing for the Summer solstice that weekend.
Sunday – Day 2: Avebury to Stonehenge (and a bit further)
On day 2, the amazing Aimee joined meat Avebury and walked all the way till the end with me! Avebury to Stonehenge was a marathon.
We were very lucky with the weather.
Richard joined up, just after Walkers’ Hill / Alton Barnes, along the canal and up to Woodborough.
It was very civilised as we stopped at a tea room and later in a pub garden for refreshments.
After Richard left, we then joined the Avon. We took a detour from my mapped route on Salisbury plains as the route was taking us woods that had no paths.
We saw some tanks crossing and then headed to Larkhill and Stonehenge. We carries a little further past Stonehenge to reach a lovely farm where Aimee’s friends live and Mark, Aimee’s husband picked up up from there.
I stayed the night at Aimee and Mark’s house in Salisbury.
Monday – Day 3: Stonehenge to the border with Hampshire
I have to admit that day 3 was a bit of a blur. In some ways so many memorable moments but also all starting to blend because of the exhaustion. Aimee is mad enough to have joined me on day 3 and I probably have had to do a fourth day of walking if it wasn’t for her being there.
By then, my hips pain from day one was really taking a toll but it was a case of ‘mind over matter’ and I kept putting one foot in front of the other, thinking of all the people who kindly donated for Prospect Hospice, and listen to Aimee’s advice and encouragement.
Two things made a major difference: 1 – we switched on music on my phone and we walked along while dancing to the music. Our pace really increased. 2 – the way past Old Sarum into Salisbury, in the sun followed by an ice cream and lunch at the Cathedral was so enjoyable!
Before I forget to mention it, because I don’t have photos, one awesome memory has been to be able to watch parents and young Peregrines on the spire of the cathedral. Outside of the west front of the cathedral, run by the local Salisbury members group of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) there was an event allowing members of the public to watch the Peregrines through the two telescopes set up to watch the birds.
The rest of the day was tough, in the heat, diverted as the OS map route doesn’t indicate part of the route was private, and simply exhausted.
I was slow and felt like a burden for Aimee but we got there: we managed to get, after three days of walking, to the border with Hampshire; I also saw some wild horses which I’d been looking forward to seeing.
It’s only a short post as I have little to talk about but I’ve just decided to resume (and hopefully complete!) my walk along the Thames Path tomorrow. The weather is looking good, and there’s been a change to usual plan with childcare, so I think I can pack a bag tonight, make a pack lunch in the morning and head to Cricklade tomorrow and hope to complete at the Source.
It’s been such a long wait though the wet winter months and spring after all the floods and busy weekends so I’m really looking forwards to completing this walk.
I’m then planning to complete, in just over two weeks from now, the ‘Walk Across Wiltshire’ I had planned to complete last June but had to postpone due to my illness and hysterectomy operation.
I will need to re-plan this including accommodation in the next week (that involves trying a single tent and see if I can carry stuff for three days!). I’m hoping to fundraise for the Prospect Hospice , in honour of Judith and for all the amazing work they do. Anyone with advice or tips regarding walking with a tent etc. for three days, do let me know!!
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.
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 ).