Walking the length of Wiltshire (18th-20th June)

It’s now been four weeks since I embarked on this insane but beautiful 79-miles walk across Wiltshire and Swindon. #WAWS

Life got in the way of blogging about it (I was planning to blog in the week after the hike) but it does deserve a post here. It’s my biggest physical and mental endeavour, yet.

I’m very proud to say we managed to raise over £1,000.00 for Prospect Hospice, in memory of Judith. I’m amazed and grateful for your generosity. Thank you so much to all who supported me.

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.

https://www.strava.com/activities/7330739127

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.

https://www.strava.com/activities/7336107501

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.

https://www.strava.com/activities/7340495457

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.

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!

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.

Thames Path – Abingdon bridge to Osney bridge in Oxford (section 10)

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.

Abingdon to Oxford- 13 February 2022

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.

Under the bridge, there was a painting of Ironman if you zoom in on picture you’ll be able to see it – this should please Marvel fans among us.

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.

Bibury and Coln-St-Aldwyns : a winter’s walk

What a lovely sunny winter’s day for a walk!

I was lucky enough to be invited by my friend Andrea to join her for a walk, today. Joanna, another friend, joined her too so we went along, the three of us, on a circular walk from Bibury to Coln-St-Aldwyns and back to Bibury.

Our route today (from Strava)

The route was following this All Trails app route:
https://www.alltrails.com/trail/england/gloucestershire/coln-saint-aldwyns-and-bibury-circular

Apart from being very muddy, we were blessed with a beautiful sunny morning. The temperature was around 8 degrees Celsius but feeling nice and actually warm when in the sun.

After weeks of staying in a lot (I realise I haven’t posted on here for over a month), it’s been so good to walk and talk (my two favourite things).

I took a few photos on the way. I loved that we were by the river so much. Some of the climbs were a bit challenging but I’d done part of this route (clockwise) in the summer so I knew what to expect. I love that we saw a couple of red kites and also a few snow drops. It almost felt like spring for a while.

When we got to the river crossing at the bottom of hill in Coln St Aldwyns, we missed a turn and went too far for about 100 metres. We quickly realised that we seemed to be in someone’s driveway and turned round. There, a lovely lady opened her window and offered us some chocolates as she explained they were trying to give up chocolate. She gave us the box! How slightly random but amazingly kind is that?!? It turned out they were my favourite kind too. As we walked around the church in Coln, we did offer some of the chocolate to other walkers, sharing on.

We stopped at the Coln Café, at the community stores and managed to order some hot drinks just before the café closed. It’s such a lovely and friendly place. A lot of cyclists stop there too. We sat in the garden there for a few minutes, drinking our coffee and teas. I used the café’s toilet (the public toilet in Bibury were all out of order: all four of them!) and we when back down the hill and back along the river to Bibury.

We planned to go on another walk very soon as we all really enjoyed!

Great day well spent, with great company!

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.