Planning the Walk Across Wiltshire and Swindon

The press coverage has started – eeek! I have my first ever live radio interview tomorrow morning so I’m a little nervous but also very excited to be able to get people to know of the amazing job Prospect Hospice do.
https://swindonlink.com/charity/hiking-for-prospect/

https://theswindonian.co.uk/news/swindon-mum-to-hike-78-miles-across-wiltshire-swindon-for-prospect-hospice-over-three-days


I’ve got a cold and I’m tired (I really hope I recover quickly so that I’m in form for the walk!), but I’ve spent some time this evening planning my routes for each a day a little bit better.

There are elements that will vary a little and certainly the third day I’ll follow Aimee’s guidance rather than the map!

It all add up to a little under 78 miles but no doubt I’ll get lost a few times or take detours and do a lot more! I estimated the total length might take me about 40 hours of walking. Let’s see!

Here’s a preview of what I’m planning.

Day 1

Lift from my boyfriend to Maysey Hampton.
29 mi which should be about 06:00 to 20:30. A long day.

Lift back home from Avebury.

Day 2

Lift from my boyfriend to Avebury.

26 mi which should be about 06:30 to 19:00.

Lift from Stonehenge to Salisbury from Aimee’s husband.

Day 3

Lift back to Stonehenge by Aimee’s husband.

22.8 mi which should be about 06:30 to 18:00.

My maddest challenge yet

As I just completed the Thames Path walk last Friday, I’ve been asked what my next challenge is.
I had this planned for some time and even blocked the time in my diary but I’ve just started to actually organise details in the last few days; and I can honestly say it’s the most bonkers challenge I’ve undertaken to date…and it’s approaching fast!

I will attempt a 78-mile Walk Across Wiltshire and Swindon over three days, in memory of our friend, Judith Hall, who passed away in December 2020, from a rare form of leukaemia. I talked about Judith in a couple of previous blog posts, such as when I was remembering Judith during a walk on Barbury Castle in December 2021.
The walk is a chance for me to honour Judith’s memory and fundraise and raise awareness for the great professional care the Prospect Hospice provides to support patients like Judith with home care and also at the Wroughton hospice.

Judith loved hiking and is an inspiration to me. It makes sense to me to undertake a walking challenge in her honour, as she inspired me to take on more challenging hiking trips such as walking the Thames Path on my own, in the last year.
Judith hiked in numerous locations all over the World and used to lead groups of Duke of Edinburgh award students in many local sights including the Ridgeway and Wiltshire.

I decided to walk across Swindon & Wiltshire during the pandemic, to keep the walk fairly local, due to the limitations of various lockdowns and then I started planning the route. I found it a great opportunity to demonstrate how naturally, historically and culturally rich Wiltshire and Swindon are. Unfortunately, due to an operation and ill-health in 2021, I had to postpone the three-day hike, until now.

The route covers just over three marathons in length, from the estimated Northernmost point in Wiltshire near Meysey Hampton to the Southernmost point in Wiltshire, near Nomansland. It isn’t a traditional walking path, but I planned it especially for this challenge…. (what can go wrong ?!).

It passes numerous notable landmarks: the RAF Fairford, Mouldon Hill Country Park, STEAM Museum, the Oasis Leisure Centre dome, the National Collection Centre (Science Museum), the Hackpen Hill White Horse, Avebury Stone Circle, The Sanctuary (West Kennett), the Alton Barnes White Horse, along the River Avon, Stonehenge, Old Sarum and Salisbury Cathedral.

I will be joined for a large part of the walk by my friend Aimée. We love to talk and to walk so we are sure to keep each other motivated and entertained along the way. Also, Aimée knows all the paths between Stonehenge and Salisbury so she’ll be my guide!

I am due to set off early morning on Saturday the 18th June 2022 and aim to complete the walk with Aimée on Monday 20th June, at the border between Wiltshire and Hampshire, near the interestingly named ‘Nomansland‘.

The Plan

  • Saturday 18th – Meysey Hampton to Avebury (28mi)
  • Sunday 19th – Avebury to Stenehenge (and a bit beyond) (27mi)
  • Monday 20th – Stonehenge to Nomansland (ish) (23mi)

Please support the work of the Prospect Hospice by donating to this page today.

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Prospect Hospice

Prospect Hospice offers dedicated end-of-life care services for people with any life-limiting illness across a community of around 300,000 in Swindon, Marlborough and north Wiltshire. They deliver care within people’s own homes, at the hospice in Wroughton and in residential and care homes throughout our community. 

Please support the work of the Prospect Hospice by donating to this page today.

Back on the Path again!

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.

weather forecast (sunny) for tomorrow


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.

Where I stopped, in the midst of Storm Dudley, in Cricklade.

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.

My estimated route across Wiltshire.

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!!

Just a pause, not the end…

I should be walking on the Thames path today… from Newbridge to Lechlade. But I’m home, working, writing this blog on my lunch break from work.
5 days ago there were announcements of very high Covid cases in the UK and a new variant.

So I decided to cancel the last 5 days of my Thames Path walk, for now. With cases on the rise, having to take public transport to the start, two nights in hotels and Christmas approaching, it felt like an unnecessary risk for our family and the families of those who wanted to join me for part of the way. It’s so frustrating. I was so close to finishing the trail but I can’t take the risk.

If it’d been local not requiring public transports, hotels and eating out, I’d have gone.

It’s all a bit sad but it’s the cost of keeping safe I guess. When this is all over I can hopefully enjoy finishing the walk. The Thames Path will be there long after this pandemic!

So no more Thames Path updates here for a while. I can’t even fix a date to re-schedule it as I have no idea what other measures and for how long this is likely to last.

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.

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.

Planning the next stage of the Thames path – 07 November 2021

It’s the morning of the third section of my walk along the Thames from Kingston-upon-Thames onwards.

Rucksack on the floor
My rucksack & 2 water bottles ready to go

What I’ve done so far and what adjustments I made

I’ll be taking it slower in these couple of next sections than I did for the first two sections. I’m planning fewer miles a day to make it easier on my feet and also to allow for long transport time on day one and limited day light at this time of the year. The sun will set in Chertsey at 16:26 on Sunday.

The aim is to go to Chertsey by the end of the first day (Sunday) then to Windsor the next day (Monday) and to Marlow the following day (Tuesday), so that’s three days walk along the Thames.

After the first two sections of the walklast month, I had to rest my feet (well, my right foot) for a few weeks and skip a couple of weekends of walking as I was in a lot of pain when walking. I even had an x ray. But all was good thankfully.

I’ve also bought myself some new trail shoes, because I realised that I had walked over 500 miles in the previous ones, which might explain the pain.

So I would encourage people to want to do this walk to get some good comfy shoes for the first couple of days when you spend so long on pavements or even break the first two sections up in three sections/days, which is advised in some of the guides.

Updates

I’ll be updating each day as much as possible on my walks on the blog and posting photos.

For the first two days at least of this trip, I’ve reverted to bring only my phone camera (iPhone) rather than the DSLR camera. I will consider whether to use the camera again on Tuesday – after I’ve gone back home overnight. As it’s only a day trip or not an overnight stay, I will have less to carry do might be able to ‘afford’ the camera weight. As Sunday to Monday involves an overnight stay in Chertsey, I carry additional items along with me for the two days such as a wash bag and my PJs.

OS maps used for these sections (Kingston to Marlow)

Explorer 161 and Explorer 160

Chertsey to Windsor on OS explorer 160

What I look forward to the most

  • Getting outdoors.
  • Seeing new sights.
  • Fresh air.
Thames Barrier picture by Tom Wheatley

Take a walk on the Thames side

Planning the Thames Path walk.

As I mentioned in my previous post, I’ve done long walks before and parts of National Trails but never a whole Trail.

I’ve decided to walk the Thames Path. But I can’t take many days off work for it so I’ll be walking it over some weekends between now and the summer, over about 12 to 15 days.
I’ve read up about various options and I decided to walk it in sections, and upstream.

Timing and planning

As I work remotely but my job (office) is based in London, I will use the opportunity to be in London for work in October, to start my walk from the Thames Barrier (tomorrow!). I’ll walk for the weekend then I’ll go to work on Monday and Tuesday.

The official National Trail website recommends the walk downstream so I find this book best to organise my walk, with the narrative around the upstream. I like the book as I’m reading about what I’ll see in my walks in advance, so I can hopefully remember some facts etc. as I go along my day.

Note, if you use this link to purchase this book, I will get a small commission from Amazon.

I have got three OS Explorer maps numbers 161, 162, and 173.

OS Explorer maps for day 1&2 of the walk

Note, if you use this link to purchase any of these items, I will get a small commission from Amazon.

The plan is to walk from Thames Barrier to Putney Bridge on day 1 and Putney to Kingston Bridge on day 2. I have no idea whether I can do this, what pace I’ll keep and whether I’ll cover this distance in two days, but I’ll have a go!
It’s 32km (20miles) on day 1 and 22km (14miles) on day 2.

Accommodation and transport

After initially choosing to use the coach to London, I decided to opt for a train trip on the Friday night, four night in a cheap (for London) but clean hotel and train back home on Tuesday evening.
I’ll be take the Tube and but to the start of the path at the Thames Barrier visitor centre tomorrow morning and coming back to my hotel on the Tube at night, then back to where I stopped on the Tube and back to the hotel again on the train and Tube on Sunday evening.

I’ll update you on how that worked out.


Photography

I’m not a naturally gifted photographer but I’ve decided to give a DSLR camera a go. That’s the model I have (borrowed from my boyfriend): Nikon D3200. I’ll also probably take a few pictures on my iPhone.

Packing

I’m packing today for the weekend and two days at work so I need to bring everything as well as keeping it light. I’m going to compile a list of kit I’m using for this walk and post it under the ‘Gear‘ category of this blog in the next week or so.

Tracking

I’m also looking into how I can get tracking of my route to share live from my Garmin but I’ve not worked this out yet. Watch this space 🙂

If you have tips or suggestions regarding the route, comment and let me know please.
I’m off to London today and will update on my walk this weekend.