Walking The Thames Path

April 14-May 1, 2011



Jonathan Paul




March 14, 2011



Gayle and I are planning to walk the Thames Path in England.  We are well underway in our preparations.  The path runs the full length of the Thames River, 182 miles, from its ‘Source’ to the so-called Thames Barrier, a flood control infrastructure protecting London from high tides in the North Sea.  The inspiration for this walk came from my sister Anne who, with her husband Peter, made this walk in 1998 at age 68.  I am the same age this year but probably not in anywhere as good condition.


We will be gone for 22 days, departing on April 12 and returning May 3rd.  Thus we have 18 walking days in which to complete the 182 miles or slightly over 10 mile a day.  In theory, this project involves a 5-mile walk in the morning and a 5-mile walk in the afternoon after lunch at a midway Pub.  Quite doable if we don’t suffer an injury or experience really bad weather.


Unlike Anne and Peter who made the trip with few advance arrangements, I have meticulously planned each day of the trip and made reservations for each night along the way.  It is my impression that in the 13 years since Anne made the trip, the Thames Patch has become more popular and a sold-out country B&B is now a real possibility.  It eliminates some spontaneity and flexibility, but at least ensures us of lodging throughout the trip.


Another difference is that we have decided to walk the Path in the opposite direction, that is, from the Ocean to the Source rather than the other way around.  This was necessitated by the Royal Wedding of Prince William planned for the weekend beginning Friday April 29th.  This event would make finding accommodations in London difficult and expensive if we were passing through London at that time.  By starting out in London, we are well clear of the city by the time the festivities are in full swing.


Here is a map of the first eight days of our walk:




Here is a map of the final 10 days of our walk:



The trip will be a challenge.  Both Gayle and I are “in training” between now and our departure date, four weeks from tomorrow.  I have planned a gradually increasing walking schedule with daily walks increasing from 3 miles  to eleven miles prior to our departure.  As of today, I am at the 6 miles per day level.  Gayle started later than I with this training program because she was feeling badly after out return from South East Asia.  But she is catching up.


For the first week, we have rented a flat in London near Putney Bridge and will be taking public transportation (Underground and National Railway) to and from out daily walking route.  In the first six days of walking we will cover the distance from the Barrier to Windsor Castle, about 57 miles.  While staying at the flat, we will not carry backpacks.   From day 7 onwards, we will be walking from one hotel to the next carrying everything we need.  However, out intention is to travel exceedingly light for these12 days with no more than 10-12 pounds each, limited to a change of clothing and very limited personnel items.  Most of our clothing will be of the lightweight wash and wear variety with hats, sweaters, jackets, gloves, and rain gear to protect us from the elements (may they be benign).


The weather promised to be cool during April with the average high of 60F degrees and an average daily low of 42F. So we will bring sufficient clothing to be warm knowing that we may have to de-layer if it is a warm day and we are walking fast.  April is the month with the 2nd least monthly rainfall (March is the least).  Hopefully the winter will have below average rainfall and the path will not be muddy or flooded.  As of March 1st, the Thames river flow is below average with rainfall during most of the winter below normal levels.


March 29, 2011



There are now two weeks before our departure on the 12th.  We have been busy



I had been quite worried about the actual physical process of walking the Thames Path.  After we returned from our Asia trip I set up a program of gradually increasing daily walks in order to build up to the rigors of walking 10-13 miles per day for 18 days straight.  The first week, we walked 3 miles per day.  Each week, I have added 1.5 miles to the daily walk.  This is the 9-mile per day week.  The final week, next week, will be 10.5 miles per day.  I have been fairly consistent about doing the daily walks.  Gayle has been less consistent with her walks, but I know she will make up with determination any lack of conditioning.


I must say, some of the early 3-mile walks left me quite tuckered which was worrisome.  But the more I have walked, the easier it has become.  I have discovered a rather slow pace that seems to be quite sustainable.  After a few miles I get into a sort of a “zone” where I just plod along.  There is no sense of increasing fatigue and no aches and pains.  I think this walk is quite feasible.  We have walked about 100 miles so far with another 100+ miles planned before we leave.



Another concern for me was an increasing (over the last 2 years) pain in one of my knees (the left one).  It felt like I had strained something and if I stepped funny, ran, or walked up stairs hard, it hurt.  It was sufficiently bad that I went to an orthopedic surgeon in January where I had an MRI.  They could see nothing wrong, but said they would give me a steroid shot and suggested to bring lots of ibuprofin along.  A few weeks ago the NY Times had an article about joint pain.  The article said that shots and rest did not help.  What was needed was moderate exercise of the joint.  Well, would you believe it?  The more I have walked, the less my knee has been bothering me.  I hardly notice any pain any more.  Maybe it’s related, but at Anne’s insistence, I have been taking glucoseamin, a natural joint-help supplement that she swears by.



Here is a hot financial tip.  Buy REI (Recreational Equipment Incorporated) common stock.  Gayle has been out almost every day buying some new walking apparel to keep us warm or dry.  We are planning on traveling light.  The first week of the trip we are staying in a flat in London and will be doing “day hikes” to which we will commute by public transportation.  After the first six days of walking through the city of London and suburbs, we will be walking each day from B&B to B&B carrying everything on our backs.  One suitcase of extras will be left behind in storage. We intend to have our payload as little as possible.  The target is 10 pounds each which basically means a change of clothes.  All of our gear will be light weight, quick drying and we intend to wash the stuff every few days.  On the other hand, we expect the weather to be crisp (45-60F degrees) so we also need to be warm, though most of the really warn stuff will probably be shed as we get moving and warmed up.  We both have rain ponchos that, last week during some consistent rain, we have found have worked quite well.  We have rejected carrying umbrellas or walking sticks, both of which require the use of the arms and, it seems, extra energy.



During the London phase, I will carry a day pack to hold our rain gear, water, snacks, guidebook and any clothing that we shed while walking.  I assume the daypack will weigh only a few pounds.  After the first week, the weight of our backpacks is a major concern.  I have been wearing a light backpack for my last few practice walks.  I need to keep upping the weight so it approximates what I will be carrying on the trip.  Gayle needs to do the same.



We have firm booking for accommodations for each day of the trip.  Below is a list of the picturesque names of our accommodations along the way.  That table also shows our estimated walking distance each day.  The total is 183,5 miles.




Barrier to Tower Bridge




Putney Flat


Putney Bridge


Putney Flat




Putney Flat


Hampton Court


Putney Flat




Putney Flat




Putney Flat


Bourne End


Holland's Farm B&B




The Walled Garden B&B




Ivy Cottage B&B




Perch and Pike Pub




Shillingford Bridge Hotel




Crown and Thistle Hotel




Victoria Oxford Hotel


Bablock Hythe


Ferryman Inn


Tadpole Bridge


Trout Inn




Cambrai Lodge B&B




Vale Hotel


Kemble (Source)


Thames Head Inn




Heathrow Hilton




There is some question as to how we will spend our time each day.  On average, we will be walking only about three to four hours a day to cover our 8-12 miles (which seems like very little).  So what will we be doing the other 12 waking hours?  Obviously we will be eating three times a day, breakfast in the hotel or flat, lunch along the path, and dinner in a nearby restaurant or pub.  That will burn up 2 to 3 hours.  We have decided that reading e-books on our iPhones will be a regular activity.  We can actually have real books while at the flat in London.  If feasible, we will try to see the sights along the way, for example, the Cutty Sark in Greenwich, Oxford colleges, a London play, if we have the energy.  But mostly we will be leisurely and soaking in the English countryside (or city-side as appropriate).



Sunday April 3, 2011




The training walks have continued and have become longer and easier each day.  Today is the first day of the last week before we depart.  That means that the daily walk is now up to 10.5 miles per day. I have walked 177 miles since March 2 and will be walking another 70-80 miles before we depart. Gayle has joined me for most walks and seems to have an easier time adjusting to the distances than I do (younger body ?).  Generally, we have been breaking up the later walk into two parts, one in the morning and one in the afternoon/evening simulating the before-lunch and after-lunch walks we will take on the Path.



It has become obvious to us from out local walks that the outside temperature has a huge impact on the ease of the walking.  Although we were at first concerned by the possibility that England in April would be quite cool, it appear that that will be a real asset to the walk.  We have walked most days in 50-60F degree weather.  But the few days where it has reached 70F, the effort and discomfort has doubled.  Fortunately, the daily high in London in April is around 60F so we may be in luck.


I have decided to do all my walking in shorts.  That will provide for more cooling and less friction. I will take only one pair of trousers for the evenings and this will lighten my backpack load slightly.  I also want to carry with me short sleeve shirt(s) to which I can strip down if the going gets hot.


More on Back Packs

Anne recommended that we get used to wearing our back packs before we leave. That was great advice.   Last week, I wore my back pack during each walk.  The first day, lightly loaded (about 6-7 pounds) was torture and I was considering taking it back to REI as obviously ill-fitting.  With some more experience, I learned that the key to comfort was balancing the tension between the shoulder straps and the hip belt and loading the contents so that they  fit into the small of the back.  The second day was more comfortable and it has improved each day since.  Yesterday, I filled the bag with old magazines.  It weighed 17 pounds and was tolerably comfortable on the flats, although I believe that is 5 pounds more than it will weigh during the trip.


For the first week, I will carry a light day pack with our rain gear and removed outerwear.  This will hardly be noticed.  For the remaining two weeks, we will both be carrying well-constructed (and expensive) back packs filled with the minimum inventory of clothing and personal stuff required for the balance of our trip.  My initial budget is 10 pounds each (not including what we are wearing) but that may be hard to achieve.  At the risk of boring the reader here is what I will be taking.




Long sleeved shirt



Walking shoes


Fleece or Sweater

Baseball cap

Wallet (credit card, ATM card, Oyster card)

Wrist GPS





Back pack (2.5 pounds)

Rain poncho* (8 Oz)

Trousers (1)

Shorts (1)

Long sleeved shirt (1)

Short sleeved shirt (1)

Underwear (3)

Socks (2 pair)

Light-weight shoes (9 Oz)

Travel documents*


Guide book and trip planning docs* (1 pound)

Water bottle*, 1 pint (1 pound)


Sun glasses and case*

Toiletries (minimum)

Medications and Ibuprofen* in plastic bag

iPhone charger + extension cord

UK electric adapter

Camera charger

GPS Charger

Medical kit*


Gayle will be carrying similar stuff without the water, guidebook, medical kit, electronics and travel docs.


Arrangement Changes

I was double checking the overnight arrangements yesterday and discovered that we had a reservation in a B&B that was not actually located within the town that I thought it was.  The Appletree Inn was four miles east of Abingdon rather than in town.  This accommodation would have been only 6 miles from the previous nights stay in Shillingford and would have left us with a 14 mile walk to Oxford the following day.  I found an alternative accommodation in the center of Abingdon called the Crown and Thistle (don’t you love these charming English names).  This change will even out the length of the walks the two days between Shillingford and Oxford.



Unfortunately it is turning out that the dollar is currently in free-fall and England was quite expensive to begin with.  Thus this trip will be quite expensive, at least when compared with our recent stays in Southeast Asia or Egypt.  Our average nightly stay is about 80 pounds sterling or about $130 dollars and meals in moderate restaurants begin at about $40 dollars each.  Even transportation is expensive.  The London Underground is going to cost $5.00 for a typical ride.  I expect the trip to run about $6,000 dollars not including airfare which is provided by frequent flyer miles.



I have just learned that the ship Cutty Sark moored along our path in Greenwich was seriously damaged in a fire a few years ago.  It is no longer open to the public.  That is a disappointment.


The guide books make mention of the London Eye.  Only today I learned that the Eye is that huge Ferris wheel built in 2000 across the Thames from the Parliament Building.  We may visit that on Day 2 of our walk.  Should be fun.



April 4, 2011



Hitting The Wall

I learned a valuable lesson last evening while walking the 2nd leg of our first 10.5-mile practice walk.  I simply ran out of energy at about 2.5 miles.  Fortunately, I had (much to my relief) an energy bar in my backpack and it revived me.  But I was all shaky and really pooped.  Gayle and I sat down for a few minutes till my blood sugar rose, and we continued our walk (which was truncated to about 8.5 miles for the day).  Good lesson.  Always keep something on hand to eat and have a nourishing lunch.


My goal of 10.5 miles was not met on Sunday and, because of other obligations, I have not walked today (Monday).  We will resume “training” tomorrow.



I am making such a big deal about this walk, what if we fail to make it in England?  How embarrassing.   It will be a challenge but should be possible, so if we fail, how will we feel?


My Face

To avoid having to bring shaving stuff along, I am growing a beard.  Last weekend, Tory took one look at me and said “You look like Uncle Peter”.


Sunday April 10, 2011



Well, we have less than 48 hours before we depart for London.  All is in readiness.  Nearly all items have been purchased with the exception of a short sleeve shirt for me (afternoon trip to REI planned).  We have tested our back packs filled with the expected load and they each weighed out at about 10-11 pounds.  Yesterday afternoon we did a 5.6 mile practice walk with fully loaded packs and all seemed comfortable.  The main task remaining is to actually pack up everything into the one suitcase we are bringing.



As of yesterday, I have walked 206 miles in training (Gayle somewhat less).  I expect to walk another 15-20 miles between today and tomorrow.  It has gone well except for an awareness of my tender left knee when I am wearing a fully loaded backpack and going downhill.  I trust that will not be a problem.


Weather Outlook.

The weather on our first day of walking, next Thursday, is forecasted to be rainy.  Too bad!  Maybe it will not be heavy rain.  That day, we will be walking from the Thames barrier to the Tower Bridge, about 10 miles, mostly urban landscape.


In general, the weather in the London area has been dry in March and April and the level of the Thames is slightly below average.  That bodes well for dry paths and little chance of flooding.  However, anything can happen during the rest of April.


YouTube Videos

We have discovered that YouTube, the internet video sharing site, had about 20 amateur videos taken by people walking the Thames Patch.  They run from as little as a minute up to 16 minutes in length and cover many different sections of the path.  Very interesting.  If you wish to view some, search on “Thames Path” at youtube.com.


Walking Sticks

We are bringing walking sticks but have not decided if they will actually be carried for our backpacking phase, days 7-18.  We will test them out during the first few days of walking without backpacks.



I have been challenged on my “negative” attitude about this trip by Tory and others.  Although I am concerned about the physical rigors of the venture,  I will not be the drill sergeant.  I fully realize that we are taking this trip to “smell the flowers”, take in the local charm, enjoy the local scenery and ourselves.  We hope to walk leisurely, take many photos, and visit along the way.  Should we somewhere chose not to walk part of the path (weather, fatigue, injury), it will not be a failure.



Wednesday, April 13



Over Ireland

We are now less than an hour out of London after a fast trip from San Francisco due to strong tail winds.  The trip has been comfortable.  Gayle snoozed most of the way.  United's totally indifferent food service continues with a "breakfast snack packet".  Nonetheless, we marvel at the magic carpet that has whisked us half way around the world in but a few hours.


On landing we will take the Underground to Putney and walk a reported 7 minutes to the flat.   Our luggage consists of our two backpacks and one small roll-on suitcase, all taken on board as carry-on.


The horizon is illuminated to the east as dawn rapidly envelopes us.  In a few moments we will begin our descent.


Putney Flat

We have arrived at our London flat (apartment) near Putney Bridge.  Actually it is the town of Fulham across the river from Putney. Unfortunately, we are here an hour before the appointed time and no one was at the flat to let us in.  So we have retired to a "tea shop" where we are having a bacon and egg sandwich for breakfast.  The Fulham neighborhood is typically English, lots of 2-3 story brick houses and some semi-fashionable stores and pubs.  As we emerged from the underground (which was above ground) we saw signs to the nearby Thames Path which gave us a bit of a thrill. 


Don't know how we will spend our day but we have no plans to start walking before tomorrow morning. 


Our underground trip from Heathrow progressed without incident.  It was rush hour so the train was packed.  We changed once at Earl's Court.  Our Oyster cards (smart cards) got us in and out without delay or further payment.  The trip seemed to be long and the thought occurred to me that we have to retrace the route, this time on foot since Windsor, one of our daily starting points, is not far from Heathrow.  By the time we get to back Windsor, we will have walked 60 miles with double that distance ahead of us.  Windsor is also significant since that is where we begin backpacking and leave our Putney flat behind.  I think it also is the beginning of the English countryside and the end of urban London.


The Flat

Our digs for the next week are quite satisfactory, small but charming, on the 2nd floor, nice living room, well-equipped kitchen, and a comfortable bedroom.


Gayle sacked out for four hours. I had a shorter nap of a couple of hours.  Then we went for an exploratory walk.  We crossed the Thames River on Putney Bridge and located the Putney train station (different from the Putney underground station) which is about a mile from the flat.  We will be using the train station every day but one. So that will add 2 miles to our daily walk.  We also found two food stores, both Tesco stores that remind us of our residence in Prague where Tesco was ubiquitous.  There we bought provisions for dinner and breakfast.  We saw numerous interesting restaurants for possible future dinners.


The living room of the Putney Flat



We have no urgency to begin the trek tomorrow morning.  We have all day.  It will take at least an hour to get from the flat to the barrier and then a 4 hour walk with a break for lunch to get to the Tower Bridge,  we will see how goes.  We are excited.




Thursday, April 14

Thames Barrier to Tower Bridge


Our first day of walking the Thames Path is now history.  It went well with no problems or injuries.  This segment was from the Thames Barrier (a flood control infrastructure) to the famous Tower Bridge.  In the guide books it is shown as 10.0 miles.  In actual fact, it was 10.7 miles because of several detours around construction projects. This was measured quite accurately by my GPS bracelet.  Added to this was a 1.0 mile walk from the flat to the Putney rail station and another 1.0 mile from the Charlton rail station to the start of the walk.  Finally, adding .3 miles from the Underground station to the flat upon our return, the total mileage today was 13.0 miles.  This is more than Gayle had ever walked in a single day and exceeds any single day of "training" over the last month for us both.


We left the flat at about 8:30 am and took the railway to Carlton.  This was earlier than we think we will normally start but we were awake early today.  It was rush hour and the train was packed.  Today's walk was completely urban consisting of both industrial and residential sections.  About a third of the route did not have a view of the river as the path was diverted from the river onto local streets by some existing development that had preempted the river.  But overall, one can appreciate the tremendous effort that has been made to allow the walker to be in touch with the river throughout most of today's walk.


The Thames Barrier. 


We walked from the Barrier to Greenwich on the South bank.  Then we changed banks using an eerie pedestrian tunnel to the North bank.  From Greenwich until Richmond (day 3) we have a choice since the path exists on both sides of the river.  After Richmond we use whichever side the path follows.


The pedestrian tunnel from Greenwich to the North Bank.


About 11:30 we were getting hungry but at that point the North bank was residential and devoid of restaurants.  At about 12:30 with only 3 miles to go, we happened upon an Indian restaurant and had a huge spicy lunch, which, in retrospect, was a mistake on both accounts.  We then walked the balance of our route and were greatly pleased when the Tower Bridge came into view.  We mingled with the tourists, now in great profusion, at Starbucks where were rewarded with twenty minutes of sitting down.


Nearing the end of day one.  The Tower Bridge in background



So how do we feel?  Both of us were profoundly tired and fell into a deep sleep upon our return to the flat.  That might have as much to do with the jet lag as with the walking.  Speaking for myself, after a two hour nap I felt much refreshed, except my feet felt tired and are somewhat swollen.  Can we do this for the next 17 days?  I think so.  We had a very interesting day.  In spite of the effort, or because of it, it was a lot of fun.



Friday, April 15

Tower Bridge to Putney Bridge


I forgot to mention a couple of things about yesterday's walk.


First, as an illustration of the authorities' determination to respect the Path, at one point the Path crossed a large bare area that was obviously being used as a gravel storage site.  Ahead was a large crane on one side of the path loading gravel onto a barge moored on the other side of the path.  As we approached, the crane operator gave us a friendly wave forward and halted his loading until we had passed under his machine.  It was obvious that the Path had priority.  Fortunately for the crane, the traffic on a Thursday morning was very light.


The start of the path is at the operations center for the Barrier works.  There is a big sign proclaiming "the beginning of the Path that extends 180 miles to the Source, etc etc."  The sign sits above a gate with the path beyond.  The gate was locked!!!  We had to make a big detour around the operations complex to actually regain the way.  It was an unsettling beginning to the walk.


The beginning of the Thames Path.  The gate was locked.  An unsettling beginning.


Finally, as we approached the end of yesterday's walk, we were surprised at the number of "joggers" on the Path.  My, we thought, these English are very fitness conscience.  After awhile we also noticed signs announcing street closings for next Sunday for the London Marathon.  Oh, of course, these are not casual fitness buffs, but rather marathoners in training.  But we did notice that, in general, Londoners are slimmer than their American counterparts.


Today's Walk

It is now 4:30pm.  We have returned from the Day 2 walk, picking up where we left off yesterday at the Tower Bridge and walking to Putney, a distance of 10.0 miles according to the guide book.  We both felt it was easier than yesterday but it was, of course, shorter by 3 miles.  Today was very different experience from Day 1 in several ways.  Much of the walking was on wide riverside promenades with relatively few diversions to local streets.  We passed many of the tourist sites (Parliament, St. Paul’s, and The London Eye) where the hoards of tourists contrasted with the solitude of day 1. 


Big Ben


The London Eye


Finally, we had several stops along the way, first for lunch and later for tea (and delicious lime pie).  Today, the big attraction was the bridges, twenty in all between the Tower Bridge and Putney Bridge.  I felt obligated to take a photograph of each one.  In general, we took an easy pace and arrived at Putney with some energy to spare. 


As before, we stopped off at the market and will eat in the apartment tonight.


Tomorrow the walk to Richmond is only 8.2 miles which is one if the shortest daily distances planned. 



Saturday, April 16

Putney Bridge to Richmond


Today we walked from Putney Bridge (which is where our flat is) to Richmond.  On the path it is a distance of 8.2 miles, one of our shorter days.  Adding to that the distance we have to travel at both ends to get to/from the path, we walked 10.5 miles.  It was an easy day, hopefully a measure of our getting used to walking every day.

Pleasure barges moored in a shady spot.


The walk was also the loveliest so far.  We walked on the South Bank of the Thames and were never away from the river's edge, that is, there were no diversions around power plants or high rise developments.  In fact, it seemed that we have entirely left the urban environment.  The path followed the old tow path (used to tow barges).  It was a flat easy mostly dirt surface, shaded by trees with the river on our right.   Being it was a Saturday, the path was heavily used by walkers, runners, bikers, and even families pushing perambulators.


 Gayle on the tow path in front of  Hammersmith Bridge


Midway into the day we stopped at a pub in Mortlake and had a wonderful light lunch of soup and bread, a right-sized lunch for walking.  Near the end of our walk, we stopped for tea and split a delicious toffee pudding that reminded me of my mother's Christmas plum pudding.  She came from powerful English roots of which she was very proud.


The Weather

I haven't mentioned the weather so far in my travelogues.  It is, in England, the height of Spring. The trees, depending on species, are either fully leafed or covered with tender green leaflets that almost grow as you watch.  Everywhere you look, one sees apple, peach, plum, and cherry trees in riotous blossom.  Gayle is particularly drawn to the wisteria bushes/vines that adorn many of the older buildings.  One can smell them a block away.


Blooming wisteria was everywhere


We have been here 5 days.  The weather had been sunny or partly sunny every day and the 5-day forecast is for more of the same.  We cannot expect totally rain-free weather, but for at least the first half of the trip, we have had the weather gods on our side.  We find the cool English weather (60-65F) to be perfect for walking.  In some ways, the weather is making a joke of our triple layers of clothing, complete with gloves and ear muffs.  Many of the English girls are wearing tank tops.  Today I wore shorts for the first time and expect to continue for the rest if the trip.


My niece Hilary keeps asking about "the wedding" or if we have seen "the betrothed" in our travels.  The short answer is that all the tabloid papers (that we see on the underground) are splashed with William and Kate pictures, but we have not been invited to Buckingham Palace to meet the couple, much to our disappointment.  The fact is, our entire itinerary was structured to be as far away from London on the wedding day as possible.  We chose to travel from the Barrier to the Source, rather than the other way around (which is the normal direction), entirely so that we would not be in London on the weekend of the wedding.  As it turns out, our choice of direction has many advantages the main one being the delight of moving from the urban to the rural.  We think we will have appreciated our two days of passing through the city more at the beginning than if they followed the English countryside.


Walking Sticks

My niece Jenny strongly recommended bringing walking sticks.  We intended to bring ours but they did not fit in our suitcase (by a wide margin) and we could only imagine the difficulty of bringing the on board as carry on luggage. So far we have not missed them.


Tonight we are going out to dinner at a local Italian restaurant, giving Gayle a night off from cooking.


We are well and having a great time.  Stay tuned.



Sunday, April 17

Richmond to Hampton Court


Today we walked the 8 miles from Richmond to Hampton Court.  Including walking distance to/ from the train stations, it was a total of 10.3 miles.


The walk was, like yesterday, lovely, entirely on broad paths right next to the river.  Being it was Sunday, there were significant numbers of people out for a stroll: families, lovers, runners, pensioners, bicyclists, and on the river itself, rowers and even sailboats. 


Sail Boats (a relative rarity on the Thames)



The weather was perfect, mostly sunny, relatively hot (65F +) real T-shirt weather.


We encountered our first lock and weir in Richmond and had further examples in Teddington and Hampton.


 Richmond Lock,  the first of forty one locks  on the river


Gayle took particular photographic interest in the swans.


 A white swan, the symbol of the Thames River and the property of the Queen


Gayle had predicted that day 3 (yesterday) would be hard.   It turned out yesterday was a breeze.  Today was hard.  Even though the walking distance was among our shortest of daily walks, we both suffered aches and pains and a general lack of energy. 


A contributing problem was the interruption of rail service to Richmond due to maintenance requiring us to instead take the bus.  It took some time before we found the 337 bus and then it was very slow.  We got a late start and stopped for lunch at a Teddington pub after walking only 2 miles.  Thus the afternoon walk was long and tiring.


 Hampton Court Palace, the residence of King Henry VIII


Tomorrow, we have one of our longest walks, 12 miles from Hampton Court to Staines (14 miles including the walks to and from the rail station).  We plan to get, for us, an early start leaving the flat by 8:30 to catch the 8:59 train to Hampton Court.  We should be on the path by 10, and 6 miles finished by lunch in Shepperton.



Monday, April 18

Hampton Court to Staines


Today we completed the longest daily walk of our trip, 12.5 miles on the path, Hampton Court to Staines, plus 2 extra miles getting to/from the Putney train station for a total of 14.5 miles. After yesterday's travails on an 8.2 mile walk, we had some apprehension about today's walk because of the distance. For whatever reason, today's walk was much easier except for a blister.

 It was a misty Monday morning when we departed Hampton Court for Staines



The weather continues beautiful.  The UK 10-day forecast has one day next week with a 30% chance of rain.  Aside from that one day, it will be sunny or mostly sunny.


The plan was to get an "early" start (nothing we have been doing could be considered early). We were out of the flat at 8:30 to catch the 8:59 train to resume our walk from Hampton Court.  We were on the path by 9:50 with the intention of walking half the distance (6+ miles) before lunch at Shepperton Lock.  In spite of Gayle's fascination with swans, all went according to plan, and at around 12:30 we rang the bell to summon the ferry to take us across the river at Shepperton.  It was a relief when the small skiff appeared since if the ferry operator was indisposed, it was 3 miles back to the last bridge crossing.  A short walk took us to The Thames Court pub where we had a sensible lunch of soup and cucumber sandwiches.


The Shepperton ferry answered our summons



Gayle also announced that she had a bluster brewing.  We did what we could but the situation deteriorated as our walk continued.


Aside from the blister, this was a very nice walk.  The path was fairly deserted by yesterday's standards (weekend).  We actually stopped and talked to several people including one gentleman on a bike that pointed out the house where Tom Jones lives.  We both were in the zone where the miles just happen.  The banks of the river had interesting houses and a wide variety of house boats and live-in barges.  A lot of rowers were out including a geriatric (over 70) 8 plus cox and numerous all-woman crews.  The Path was punctuated by passages through expansive commons with no specific track.  At other times, we had a single rut to follow between the river and the trees.  It was all very green.  The willow trees were the most amazing thing (aside from the mating ducks).


Wedding Report:  nothing happened today.


Finally, we can report the British are dog crazy.  We have never seen so many dogs out walking their masters.



Tuesday, April 19

Staines to Windsor


First the late-breaking wedding news from London:


1) Heighten security in London along marriage procession route. Bobbies searching under manhole covers.

2) Prince William concerned about Kate's handling of limelight.  Pundits predict she's up to it.

3) A dozen 20,000 pound sterling mattresses arrive at marriage hotel to ensure "sleep of a lifetime" for marriage party.


Onto the Thames Walk:

Today we walked the final section of the Thames Path that we will do while staying in our London flat:  this was from Staines to Windsor, a distance of 9.2 miles.  In addition we had to walk the usual 2 miles to and from the Putney rail station.  Also, due to a slight navigational error leaving Stains we were forced us to backtrack a total of half a mile.  Thus the on-foot distance today was 11.7 miles.


In six days of walking we have covered 70.9 miles with approximately 120 miles to go.  We are one third through the 18 days of walking and probably slightly more than one third of the distance.  After tomorrow we will not have to use public transport to get to our daily walk.  We are out the door after breakfast and on our way.  The down side (if one wanted to be negative) is that we will henceforth be carrying our backpacks.  This might not be so difficult for me since I have been carrying a light pack all week, but maybe for Gayle it will be an adjustment.


Today's walk was really nice.  Not too long, no foot blisters, no aches and pains.  The weather was beautiful, temperature about 70F.  The path was green and alternated between shady lanes between English cottages and the river, open common areas, and some town streets.  The Thames is getting narrower and (on a Tuesday at least) is less busy than down river.  At the end of the walk, we were rewarded with glimpse of Windsor Castle, a cathedral, and expanses of royal park land.



We did not hasten our morning departure and with the long train ride to our starting point in Staines, it was nearing 10:30am before we set foot to path.  The first discovery was that our guide book was back at the flat.  As a result, we started out from Staines on the wrong side of the river.  Within a short time (1/4+ mile) the "path" ended in a locked gate and we had to back track to the last bridge crossing.  At about 11:15 we stopped for tea at a very upscale Thames-side hotel in Runnymede of Magna Carta fame.  The serving was complete with china tea pot, milk and sugar and a biscuit on the side. Such events will make anyone civilized.


At about 5 miles from Staines we stopped for lunch at a pub that, notwithstanding its charming exterior, was a Howard Johnson or Denny's in disguise.


For the last 6 days, we have been able to gauge our location with reference to the aircraft taking off or landing at Heathrow.  At times, e.g. Greenwich or Hampton Court, the aircraft were distant.  Windsor is right on the flight path for aircraft landing to the east which they were doing today.  As we walked north from Staines, the aircraft got closer and louder.  By the time we reached Windsor, the 747's were passing directly overhead at 2,000 feet.  I am sure the Queen, if she were present, was not happy.


The Landing pattern for Heathrow Airport passes right over Windsor



We are very pleased with ourselves at the completion of the London-based part of our walk.  Tonight we will organize our back packs and prepare the overflow for storage at Heathrow airport.  Tomorrow will be a long day with some complicated logistics involving vacating the flat and stopping off at Heathrow on our way to Windsor.  Also the first backpack day is not one of our shortest at 10.8 miles.  We are hoping to be at our B&B, Holland's Farm in Bourne End by 6pm.


Wednesday, April 20

Windsor to Bourne End


Today we gave up our flat in Putney.  Last night we organized our belongings in our two back packs and whatever was left over went into the suitcase. We had a nice time while in the flat we were a bit sad to leave behind the comfort of our "home" and the luxury of not having to carry backpacks.  This morning we took the underground to Heathrow Airport and left our suitcase at the airport Hilton which is where we are staying on our last day in the UK.  We then took a public bus to Windsor to resume our walk. 


Each backpack weighed in at around 10 to 12 pounds.  We were pretty ruthless in our weight reductions.  For example, the precious guidebook was divided into parts so we now only have the Windsor-Kemble sections with us.


We noted that there are really no eating facilities on the path until Maidenhead, 7 miles from our starting point.  Therefore we decided to first eat lunch in Windsor then start out on the 11 mile walk to our first B&B in Bourne End.  We stopped at an Italian restaurant and ordered a vegetarian pizza.  The pizza was huge and we only ate half, the remains being saved in Jon's backpack (relevance to later events).


Windsor Castle



We departed Windsor at around 1pm.  Gayle was soon in agony with her load.  She had not done any training walks with a fully loaded backpack and was now paying the price.  We fiddled with the straps and belts and the fit got better and was not so onerous for Gayle.  But in retrospect it was by far the hardest day for Gayle.  The weather did not help either.  It was hot!!  Probably close to 80F.  And walking in the heat is much harder than when it is cool. The sun beat down forcing us for the first time to apply sun block.


Taking a rest at the Church of St. James near Dorney Court


In any case, we departed Windsor via Eton across the river and headed west.  It will sound repetitious with earlier reports, but the path is really beautiful. Near Eton there are broad fields and commons.  Further along, the path became a shady tunnel.  Just west of Eton we passed the new rowing pond being constructed for the 2012 summer Olympics.  It is miles in length. We meandered on with Gayle stopping to take numerous pictures. 


The river is quite undeveloped in places



Our pace was pretty slow and it was late afternoon when we crossed over the river into Maidenhead, the first town since Eton.  There was a riverside hotel/pub just across the bridge with a garden.  We stopped for refreshments and an extended session of shoe removal. Gayle nursed her blister.  I can report that on a hot day a pint of beer does not impair one's ability or motivation to return to the walking path.


A needed rest stop in Maidenhead


It was well after 5pm when we returned to the path, with over 4 miles remaining before we reached our B&B, a place called Holland's Farm.  We arrived just before 7pm.  Because it was so late, I called ahead.  The woman who answered seemed somewhat surprised but thanked me for the call.  I do believe they might have misplaced our reservation.  We trudged the last few miles and arrived at the B&B met by the husband, a youngish organic farmer.  The accommodations are pleasant, but we are a mile from the nearest eatery.  Gayle announced that she was walking no further this day.  So, we made a nice dinner of cold pizza and tea and cookies.  Gayle is now napping while she awaits her nightly foot massage.


Wedding  News:


1) Jihad against the Crusades, a fringe UK terrorist group has vowed to make the wedding a living hell.


2) The wedding will be streamed live on YouTube (5 hours worth)


3). Some hotel rooms in London have doubled in price for the wedding weekend.  Yet the papers say "bargains" are to be had.



Thursday, April 21

Bourne End to Henley-on-Thames


Today we walked from Bourne End (east of Marlowe) to Henley-on-Thames (of rowing regatta fame).  It was a 13.5 mile walk and a total mileage so far of 105 miles.


Henley is the most famous rowing spot on the Thames



Let me deal with the difficulty factor issues first.  I had no problem with the walk.  Gayle began to hurt after 10 miles, mostly because of her pack.  The good news, however, is that the prior day she hurt from the first mile so we see a definite improvement here.  Today I also graciously carried 2.5 pounds of Gayle's luxury items in my pack in order to lighten her load. Do I get any respect? :-)


All in all, we had a great day.  We started with a good English breakfast prepared by our farmer host at Holland's farm.  We learned at bit of his history.  The house was built in 1905 by his grandfather.  He farms organic grains, mostly for feed.  The farm has 300 acres.  We met the family, attractive wife, two good looking teenage kids.  The daughter plays the French horn.  The son is a computer whiz.


Our first B&B,  Holland's Farm


We started our walk at about 9:30.  After 4 something miles we came to Marlowe where we stopped in the city center for tea and a sweet.  We then continued to a tiny hamlet called Hurley where we stopped for lunch at the Olde Bell Tavern.  We ordered soup and salad that was exceptional.  The place is a jewel with an extraordinary menu and chef. 

We stopped outside of Bourn End to adjust our packs


Every thing here is so English!


After our extended lunch, we continued on our way with 7 miles to go.  The countryside is subtly different, more open fields and pastures. Livestock.  Fewer shaded paths (but still some). The surrounding terrain is more hilly. 


As we approach Henley, the path climbed into higher woods


The Thames is less traveled by boats, getting smaller, but the birds abound, ducks, geese, and a diving bird whose identity we need to explore.  Gayle is especially captivated by the birds.  The white swans, the symbol of the Thames (if there is one) seem limited to the cities and towns.  A brief Internet article said they are endangered by loss of habitat.


We arrived in Henley and checked in at our B&B which is really unique.  It's a sprawling one-story architect-designed residence in the city center enclosed by a wall with a huge garden that is almost part of the house.  The owners, a South African native wife and her English husband, are 60ish and very charming.  We have a bedroom suite overlooking the garden.  Very posh.


The view from our room at the Walled Garden B&B


Wedding News: 

We did not see any English papers today but the NY Times had an in-depth article about Kate and William.  The gist of which was that Kate is both very discrete and controlling and that William may have a drinking problem.


Tomorrow, on to Purley (west of Redding) tomorrow, 12 miles and another small B&B where the owner will be cooking dinner as well as providing breakfast.


Oh, by the way, this is Easter weekend and we have seen evidence of the Easter Bunny.


Friday, April 22

Henley-on-Thames to Purley-on-Thames


Tonight we are staying at "The Ivy Cottage" in Purely-on-Thames.  More about this B&B later, but first today's walk:


We walked from Henley-on-Thames to Purley-on-Thames.  This was according to my meticulous planning 12.0 miles.  As I reviewed the plan for the day I realized that I had omitted the mileage for one of the day's segments and the mileage was closer to 14 miles (it turned out to be 14.6 miles).  With some chagrin, I told Gayle of my miscalculation and we departed.  This became our longest day of walking so far (and with full packs).


Today is Good Friday, a national holiday in England.  As a consequence the path, and especially the parks and commons along the way were full of families, lovers, dogs and barbecues. 


The first segment of our walk was Henley to Shiplake (2.6) miles.  This was the forgotten segment.  After Henley it became very rural with a number of cow pastures, one with a huge and generally aggressive bull.  Mostly, it seemed he was more interested in some delectable heifers so we were spared his attention.


The Long foot bridge over the Mill Bank Weir outside of Henley



It was clear that Gayle was struggling with her backpack, even though it was a few pounds lighter than the day before.  At our first rest stop, I removed about 5 pounds of stuff from Gayle's pack and added it to mine.  This will probably become the configuration for the rest of the trip.  Gayle is carrying about 7 pounds and my pack is about 17 pounds.  I seem to be able to handle the increased load pretty well.  Gayle says the new load is much much easier than the original (estimated at 12 pounds).  I suspect that her back pack, which she bought in Prague, is a pile of phooey.


 The old bridge at Sonning


The next segment was Shiplake to Sonning where the map showed a pub symbol.   So we planned to have lunch there.  Passing through a church yard we arrived at the Bull Inn where we had an excellent delicious lunch and a pint.


 The stereotype that English cuisine is uninteresting is completely outdated


After Sonning it was another few miles to Reading.  Reading is a big industrial city but very much at arms length from the Thames where large common areas and parks pretty much separate the drab city from the river.  The parks, however, were chock full of people off of work for the holiday.  The river itself was pretty busy with leisure boats.   Industrial Reading peeked over the trees.


As we passed through Reading, hints of the big city beyond  peeked over the trees


We took a rest under a huge tree with our back packs as pillow.  We then stopped at Calversham Bridge for a cup of tea.  Later, Gayle partook of the ice cream vendor.


After Reading and the next segment was to Tilehurst.  This was a long slog since were getting tired.  It was pretty along the river and cooler as the path paralleled the rail line where the elevated grade provided shade from the late afternoon sun.  On returning from the Source, we took the train which passed this point.


 The long slog to Tilehurst in the shade next to the railway grade.


At Tilehurst the path left the river and climbed into higher terrain in the village of Purley which was fairly difficult since we were accustomed to level ground.  We arrived at about 5:30 at our B&B.


Rosalind and Gregor are the maximum hosts.  This is the night that the accommodations were to include dinner.  The Ivy Cottage is charming, the dinner was magnificent, we were able to do our laundry, and tomorrow, it seems, Gregor will carry our backpacks to the next stop.  Also, internet is available, which was missing at our last stop.


The Ivy Cottage and our hosts, Rosalind and Gregor





Today is a milestone of sorts.  We are halfway through our trip.  Nine days have been completed and nine days remain.  As of tonight, we have walked 120 miles (not all of it on the Path) with about 90 miles to go.


Tomorrow, South Stoke, 9 miles, a short day.



Saturday, April 23

Purley-on-Thames to Southstoke


Today has been like being on vacation.  Not only was today's walk one of the shortest (9.7 miles) but our accommodating host from last night, Gregor Young, delivered our backpacks to our current accommodations, the Perch and Pike Inn in a very out of the way town called Southstoke.  Thus we had a nice leisurely walk without packs.   It was pure luxury. 


Fields of  “mustard" plant which turned out to be grape oil seed, used for bio fuel


It was really convenient to be without packs because the trail was quite different from previous days.  For much of its route it veered away from the river and climbed up into the rising terrain in the North side of the river.  Thus there were some steep pitches that we had to negotiate.  It would have been harder with packs on.  Away from the river, we passed through pastures and fields quite different from those bordering the water.  And for much of the way we were in woods high above the river that could occasionally be seen well below through the trees.


After Pangborne, the trail climbed up into the hills on the

North Bank.  The river was occasionally in view below.


On the way, we went through a large public park in Pangborn.  It was a surprise to see the amount of rubbish left behind by the Good Friday holiday outings of yesterday.  Very un-British, we thought.


We stopped for lunch in Goring, a lovely Thames-side village after about 7.5 miles and less than 2 miles from our final destination.  The river-side hotel was chock full of holiday people.  We had a nice lunch and terrible service from the overworked staff.


After Goring, we made a slight deviation from the Thames Path in order to reach our accommodations which are on the opposite side of the river.  There is a similar national trail on the opposite bank called the Ridgeway trail.  We will continue on this trail tomorrow morning a few miles to Wallingford when we will cross over the river and rejoin the Thames Path.


The Perch and Pike is a funny little place, a typical English pub/inn, very old, Tudor style architecture, small rooms.  It has the major advantage of also having a restaurant where we shall eat at 8pm this evening.  The lady behind the desk who showed us to our room said she is also the chef, so we shall see how things go.


Outside the Perch and Pike PUB and B&B


Because of the short walk, we arrived here earlier than usual which has given us some time for reflection on topics that merit sharing.


The Weather - Ever since we arrived, the weather has been near perfect, sunny and warm.  The locals comment on it.  There has been no rain and the 10-day forecast when I last looked yesterday showed only one day with a significant chance of rain showers (60 percent) and that is on our last day of walking.  The minor down side is that it has been hot, today a high of 28C (82F) and it seems hotter in the direct sunlight.  But the ground is firm and all evidence of past muddy conditions are now baked solid and look like the Mojave desert. We are indeed fortunate with the weather.  We are hearing the same words that Anne and Peter heard 13 years ago: "Driest April in 70 years".  Well, the month isn't over yet.


Crested Grebe - We (especially Gayle) have taken a keen interest in the Thames water fowl.  These consist primarily of white swans, ducks, geese, coots, and crested grebes.  This latter is the least common and the most interesting,  Unlike the other species that seem to float lightly on the water, the grebes are 90 percent submerged with only their distinctively decorated head above water.  Then they disappear for a few minutes and reappear 100 yards away.  Apparently they "fly" under water and catch small fish.  We observed a nesting grebe hen in a nest of sticks among the reeds near Henley five feet off the very public walking path.


A nesting crested grebe just feet from the foot path


Porking up - much to our amazement we are putting on weight.  We expected to return much thinner.  It must be those English breakfasts.


Stiles- My sister Anne did the Thames Path in 1998.  One of her oft repeated laments concerned the number of stiles that had to surmounted.  We are now more than halfway along the Path and have yet to encounter a single stile.  Do they all come later or have they been replaced?


England on holiday.  This is a time of much time off for the British.  We are now in the middle of a four-day Easter holiday.  Then next Friday is a national holiday because of "the wedding".  The following Monday is a national holiday, May 1st, International Labor Day.  Many people are taking a three-day bridge vacation next week between the official holidays.  It's a wonder that essential services are getting done.


Border Collie - This morning we saw a charming scene, a farmer and his border collie were moving a sizable herd of cows from one pasture to another.


Jonathan's backside - Each evening we have been reviewing the many photos taken during the day.  Since Gayle is the principle photographer who stops often to record the scene, the pictures have a sameness: Jonathan from the rear,  Jonathan at 10 feet, Jonathan at 50 feet, Jonathan at 100 yards, Jonathan at 200 yards.  One would wonder if we ever walked together.  Occasionally.


Fritillaria - with reference to my sister's query, I am still waiting for an Internet link to find out what fritillaria is.  But if it is a small but vividly bright yellow flower that is apparently cultivated in entire fields, then we saw it today just south of Goring.


Tomorrow, Easter Sunday, on to Shillingford.  8.0 miles, the shortest walking segment of our trip. 



Sunday, April 24

Southstoke to Shillingford


Today is Easter Sunday.  We are "back in the saddle again", that is, carrying our backpacks.  But today's walk is the shortest of the trip, a mere 8 miles.


But first, a review of dinner at the Perch and Pike.  When we arrived we learned we were the only overnight guests and the place was nearly empty.  We wondered how dinner would be, just us and the owners.  We went down for dinner at 8pm and the place was packed, both in the bar and in the dining room.  We had a drink at the bar with conversations with the locals who were interested in our walk.  It was very friendly.  Then we had our dinner which was excellent.  Jonathan has a particularly delicious and unhealthy dinner of "pork belly" with crackling. 


Our excellent dinner at the Perch and Pike


By the way, our room was decorated with a nearly full sized reclining nude in the style of Modigliani over the bed.


Our bedroom at the Perch and Pike


This morning we had breakfast with the owner, eggs and bacon, plus the other things.  He is an ex-Marine with years of experience in Southern Africa.  While we ate he read a pile of newspapers and complained about the tabloids.  Interesting and nice stopover.


We departed Southstoke at about 9:30.  The morning was chilly, unlike the last week.  It had rained overnight and obviously a cold front had passed through.  There was a cold fog and a brisk breeze in our faces.  Gayle bundled up like an Eskimo, but I started out in my shirtsleeves which was a mistake.  Within 200 yards I was digging into the backpack for my fleece.


The Ridgeway Trail is apparently not as well-traveled as the Thames Path as the surface was somewhat rougher requiring some care in placing your next step.


After about three miles, we came to a highway with a bridge across the river to Wallingford.  We crossed over and rejoined the Thames Path.  At 11am The town seemed basically deserted.  We inquired at a pub where we wanted to stop for tea, but they did not open till noon.


At this point Gayle announced that she was having a major blister attack.  We stopped to inspect and to apply some Vaseline, but not much could be done.  She soldered on.


We continue to Bentson, the next town, which also has a lock and weir.  It was only a few miles further and by the time we arrived the holiday crowd was out in force. Just beyond the lock was a river-side marina with a busy outside restaurant.  We ordered tea and a sweet and relaxed for half an hour.  At this point we were only a mile from Shillingford and our hotel for the night.  We pressed on and arrived around 1pm


Easter Sunday tea stop at Benson Lock


We noticed on this leg of the trip numerous communities with manufactured homes,  obviously less expensive properties suggesting that people who are not wealthy or landed gentry can also own a piece of the Thames.


The Shillingford Hotel is large and sprawling and seems to be of another age. One can imagine Edwardian couples having tea in the terrace.  It was very busy with families having Easter dinner.  We went to our room, overlooking the river by negotiating long narrow winding corridors and steep steps.  The place would be a challenge in a fire.


Lunch was an exercise in patience as the staff was short-handed, poorly trained, and very busy.


After lunch, we retired to our room to read and relax.  I should note that "reading" is by way of our iPhones onto which we have uploaded several books.  This has worked very well and adds no weight other than the minuscule weight of the phones which we needed anyway.


I had considered in my planning the need for mobile phones on this trip to call ahead to our accommodations, to call each other should we be separated, or to receive emergency calls from home.  The cost of renting phones was not cheap and since our iPhones work with the European GSM networks, we decided just to pay the astronomic roaming charges ($1.50 per minute) in the rare cases where we needed to phone.  As it turns out we have only made a couple of calls.  However the incoming 2am call from Wells Fargo Bank was not appreciated.


After our afternoon of leisure, reading and napping, we went down for dinner which was very good but the service was nearly as bad as for lunch.


Tomorrow we have a long 12 mile walk to Abingdon.  We pray for only minor blister problems.  The weather looks, as always, to be perfect.



Monday, April 25

Shillingford to Abingdon


We had a great day today.  11.9 miles from Shillingford to Abingdon with backpacks.  The weather was exceptional, not a cloud in the sky and cool enough to be comfortable while walking in only a shirt.  We are very proud of our accomplishment today.  Gayle had only two blisters.


We are now two thirds finished with our walk, 12 days since the Barrier, 6 days more to the Source.  We have walked 149.7 miles with about 60 left to do.  All in all, it could not have gone better than it has.


The route today followed the river except for a section leaving Shillingford where we were on streets and a local highway. The signage was poor and we made several mistakes and had to backtrack or take alternate paths, but once established on the towpath, we had no further problems.  Most of today's walking was in open fields along the river.  This seems to be the norm now that we are really in the country.  If truth be told, I preferred the tree shaded trails that were common closer to London, say between Putney and Windsor.  Nonetheless, today was lovely, very rural, very solitary.


We were often alone with boats and cows


We stopped after six miles for lunch at a pub in Clifton where we had an exceptional lunch, minestrone soup and chicken pate.   


The Clifton Hamdon Bridge where we stopped for lunch


Then we headed out for our tea break at a pub in Culham, a mere two miles from Abington where we expected to stop at a pub for tea.  Well, the pub was no more. Closed down, perhaps years ago. So we were resting in the grass in the commons (sacked out would be more accurate) and a couple came by and jokingly asked if we were waiting for the pub to open.  This led to a discussion of the decline of small English villages.  The gentleman noted that 40 years before, the place where we sat was the center of the village, church over there, pub there, butcher over there, bakery there.  And a cricket pitch in the middle.  Now, nothing.  He noted that in England, three pubs a week close down.  All the young people and jobs have moved to the big cities.


Resting in  the village common in Culham


The footing is not as easy as in earlier days.  The path is less traveled, full of "pot holes", and narrow.  It is often overgrown with weeds and the ubiquitous nettle.  I have come to dislike nettles since I am wearing shorts and frequently come into contact with this annoying plant.  I am sure nettles have their place in nature, but I rate it only one step above poison oak.


The church steeple in Abingdon was visible for miles


We arrived at our hotel, a very ancient city center establishment, named the Crown and Thistle (a close cousin to the nettle).  Our room has a four poster bed with a canopy and a bath tub three feet deep (such a luxury after a 12-mile walk).  We are ignoring the generally threadbare furnishings and Elizabethan architecture.  We went out for dinner and had one of the best of our trip and excellent service to boot at the Broadface Restaurant.


The court yard of the Crown and Thistle Hotel


An amazing observation I have made is the ability of the body to adapt to stress and physical demands.  From my own point of view, I am doing physical things that were unthinkable two months ago.  12 miles has been no big deal.  I hardly notice my 15 pound backpack.  Gayle, too, had risen to the challenge.


On that line, there was some discussion before we left suggesting that I was making this experience into a forced march rather than an enjoyable vacation.  The fact is, we have both worked hard to get this far. We set a difficult goal for ourselves that requires some physical discomfort.   I suppose that is part of the "enjoyment" of what were are doing.  If we had wanted only fun and frolic, we would have rented a power boat and started drinking chardonnay at 10:40 am.  I am sure that when Jenny and Alan climbed Chillicothe Pass, it wasn't just because they wanted to see some pretty mountain scenery.  They wanted a challenge.  Walking the Thames at age sixty something is that same sort of challenge.



Tuesday, April 26

Abingdon to Oxford


We had a fairly easy walk today from Abingdon to Oxford. The distance was only 8.7 miles.  We had our usual big English breakfast and were underway by 9:40am.  It was downright cold with a stiff north wind straight in our face on the open stretches (today's route was basically north).  It was, in fact, the first and only day so far that could be classified as cold. The path was very rural with some heavily wooded sections.  Other stretches were open pasture.  Throughout, the path was what we are calling "pot holed" or rutted which required care with each step and a lot of looking down at one's feet. 


 The Abingdon-Oxford segment was the most woodsy of the entire walk.


So, we have completed thirteen days of walking with five more to go.  I have logged 158.4 miles on the GPS (including walking to and from the path) with an estimated 54 miles remaining.  We are in good health and seem to be getting stronger each day. We are eating well and sleeping like logs.


To continue, we stopped for tea and shared a "pudding", a generic term for desert, at the lock at Sandford-on-Thames.  This was almost 6 miles from our start and less than an hour out of Oxford.  It was noon but we were not ready for lunch.  This may have been a mistake because by the time we arrived at our hotel in Oxford it was around 2pm.  The hotel is a modest 15 room affair that did not have a restaurant.  After walking the 15 minutes into the town center, all the restaurants and most of the pubs had stopped serving lunch.  We finally found an Irish theme pub and had steak pies that were authentic but rather ordinary.  Now it was 4pm.  Neither of us wanted to do much more walking around (wonder why) so we returned to the hotel, thoughtfully un-heated, and basically crawled into bed.


We saw only a little of Oxford, very medieval and filled with young people and loads of bicycles.


The cathedral in Oxford



This hotel has Wi Fi so I will be able to send this out.  Internet has been spotty since we left London.  In some places they have wanted to charge 10 pounds for access (no thanks) and in other places they claimed they had it but it didn't work.  This hotel was one of the latter but the owner is letting me use his private signal so I am OK for today.  On a related topic, one of the heaviest items in my back pack (a bit over a pound) is what I call my technology kit.  It consists of chargers for our two iPhones, the camera, and my wrist watch GPS.  It also has a 6-foot extension cord and a UK adapter plug.  So we can both be in bed reading our iBooks while charging the phones, the camera and the GPS. I think it is very clever.  Gayle rolls her eyes.


A technology detail:  if any of you have wondered why none of our daily reports have included pictures, it is because I have not figured out a way to send any.  All of our photos are taken by our digital camera which has no connection to the iPhone (on which I am writing these reports).  I can also take pictures with the iPhone, but I can only send e-mail using Comcast web mail in the browser.  There is no way to attach photos in the iPhone photos library to messages composed in the browser.  If there are any techies among the recipients of these reports who knows how I can send the odd photo, illuminate me.


The weather forecast for the remainder of our walking shows light rain on Friday with a chance of some showers late Thursday and early Saturday.  Obviously a weather system is passing through England timed perfectly to coincide with the royal wedding on Friday.  That is a shame for the couple and for England.  On the other hand, we have been incredibly fortunate to have perfect weather so far with, at worst, a one day of (forecasted) rain out of our 18 days of walking.  And who knows, the rain could fall in the night or miss us entirely.  We are equipped for rain should it happen.  We each have a large poncho that covers the backpack and a baseball cap to keep the rain out of our faces and eye glasses.  Friday is, unfortunately, one of our longer day of walking, 11.7 miles, Tadpole Bridge to Lechlaid.



1. Peter Law reminded me that the city of Staines is spelled with the final 'e' which I had consistently omitted.


2. Howard Straus corrected my spelling of "stile" (rhymes with turnstile) which I had been spelling "style".


Finally, the issue of Fritillaria, we have obviously not yet seen any.  We are on the lookout.  As Stephanie has surmised, the expanse of yellow fields that I had cited must be mustard flower, a common enough plant in California, and dramatic anywhere.



Wednesday, April 27

Oxford to Bablock Hythe


We have just completed our 14th day of walking.  We have   4 more days before we reach the Source.  It was a long day, 13.6 miles, more than we had expected, but more about that later.  We have walked 162 miles so far.


It has been one of best days of the entire walk, if not the best.  We walked through mostly open fields.  We passed 5 locks and weirs.  The weather was perfect.  We both were feeling comfortable with our feet and packs.  And we saw some wonderful things.


Our conditioning seems to improve with every day.  The fact that we did more than 13 miles without major complaint contrasts with day one where we did 11 miles and were very sore.


Actually, the day did not start out well.  We had a bad night at the Victoria Oxford Hotel mostly because of the cold.  Yesterday was quite cold and the hotel had turned off the heat.  Our room was frigid and the single coverlet did not provide adequate warmth.

Half the night we were shivering until we had the sense to get up and put some more clothes on.  Since I don't have a lot of choice in clothes, I slept in my jacket.  I don't remember what Gayle did to keep warm.  Anyway, we were somewhat sleep deprived in the morning.


We departed at our usual 9:30 and the weather was clear, windy and cool, but it warmed up as the morning progressed to shirt sleeve conditions and calm winds.  Absolutely perfect walking weather.


We departed the large city of Oxford passing under a number of interesting bridges.  Throughout the city, the Path was in a park-like setting even though we could tell that behind the hedges were businesses, manufacturing and apartments.  At one bridge crossing, we lost the path and headed in the wrong direction until the path petered out in a private cricket club.  We retraced our steps, perhaps a half mile and found our path.


 An interesting detail of an old cast iron footbridge

across the river as we departed Oxford


We were soon passing through open fields and a section where the river that was very wide. Gayle lagged as she photographed every swan, duck, and goose that crossed her oath.  We had planned to stop and have tea at about the 3-mile mark at an inn/pub that turned out to be very charming and posh, but alas, it was only 11:00am and they were not open yet.


 North of Oxford, the river was surprisingly wide


We pressed on to our intended lunch stop called the Trout Inn, not to be confused with the other four establishments on the Thames with the same name, including our planned destination for the following night.  Here we had one of those sublime moments, seated at the waterside in the warm sun, eating delicious and interesting food, watching the ducks and geese cavort for our particular amusement.  One beautiful male duck, with feathers of the most vivid purple came and joined us for lunch, politely.  His mate, not so politely, leapt onto the table looking for a hand out.  I had my usual English ale.  Gayle ordered a Pimms Cup having no idea what it was.  Both were enjoyed.


Our lunch mate at the Trout Inn


We resumed our walk and presently encountered a pair of bicyclists both with heavy packs.  One was almost entirely deaf.  His friend explained that they were biking the entire Path in the opposite direction from us.  We compared notes and wished each other well and they sped off.


We continued our walk.  At about 9 miles, we departed the path (about 4/10 of a mile) for Tea at the Talbot Inn at Swinford Bridge.  There we ran into two ladies (probably a couple) from San Francisco with back packs.  They were walking parts of the Path.  The mentioned that they were having some trouble finding accommodations ad hoc.  Hearing that, I was relieved that we had confirmed reservations for each upcoming night.


The Swinford Bridge is a one lane bridge and is probably 300 years old.  There was a large backup of traffic because of a toll booth.  The charge for an auto was five pence, a throwback to some earlier age.  It hardly seemed worth the cost of a toll taker to collect five pence even if the pound sterling is very strong.


The Swinford bridge had a toll of  5 pence.

Swinford Bridge


The best part of a magical day, came in the last few miles.  We passed through several large fields filled with ewes, obviously all pregnant or recently so.  Many had already given birth, some quite recently.  Lambs were running around, nursing, exploring.  The new ones (often pairs) were damp, lying exhausted, next to their mothers who also looked exhausted and somewhat bewildered.


New born lambs


The last few miles of our trip involved navigating through huge open pastures and lanes away from the river.  The guide book was essential for following the path at this point, but obviously not completely effective.  After one especially long slog down a road, it was obviously that we were lost.  And we were especially foot sore at this point.  Fortunately, we passed a man walking his a dog who informed us that that  at the Thames Path sign a mile back (the one we had ignored it because it was obviously wrong) we should have made a left turn and followed the field boundaries for about a half mile to our destination.  He offered to drive us to our Inn.  Gayle started to decline, but after a stern look from me, we accepted.  10 minutes later were at the Ferryman Inn, having walked perhaps an extra mile in exactly the wrong direction.


The Ferryman Inn at Bablock Hythe is a pub/hotel right on the river.  Our room had a perfect view of the water.  We were greeted warmly by the owner, a blustery man running for district council as a Conservative and with eyes on an eventual parliament seat.  He was not impressed with President Obama so we knew we did not have much political common ground and avoided further discussion along that line.  Our room was very comfortable with an outstanding view of the river.


The outlook for the rest of trip (four days) is for two days of possible rain or rain showers with fairly long legs planned.  We have about 43 more Path miles to go. Tomorrow's walk is only about nine miles long and ends at perhaps our only "luxury" destination, the Trout Inn at 175 pound sterling per night.




Thursday, April 28

Bablock Hythe to Tadpole Bridge


Today we walked from Bablock  Hythe to Tadpole Bridge (not near anything).  The distance was 9.2 miles, the weather was perfect. The scenery was as beautiful as the night before.  We expected a nice walk arriving at our destination, the Trout Inn, in time for lunch.  As it turned out, this was the one day that we had a real problem. The best way to describe it is that Gayle "hit the wall".


We got off to a late start, just before 10am.  Our plan was to stop off in Newbridge for mid-morning tea and arrive at the Trout Inn before the 2pm end of lunch service.  Thus we had 4 hours to go 9+ miles, not too ambitious a pace.  But it was the first time we walked with any deadline at all and I think that is what the problem turned out to be.  Gayle, as usual, had many pictures to take and our initial pace was slow.  We reached Newbridge (3+ miles) by 11:15 and had a leisurely cup if tea (how else can you drink tea?). So it was almost noon when we started out with about 5 miles to go in 2 hours.  And, as it turns out, it was closer to 6 miles because I estimated the distances from the map and maybe did not take all the twists and turns of the river into account.  It was soon clear that we had to pick up the pace.  I am sure Gayle felt the unaccustomed pressure.  She already was feeling pain in her back, blisters on her feet, and was generally tired from our long hike of the prior day.

So we walked along the beautiful scenery.  More than any other day, we felt alone since there were very few walkers, few boats on the river, and not that many critters, either wild or domesticated.  And the Thames itself had shrunk to a fraction of its former self.  The width was generally 75 to 100 feet across, barely wide enough, it seemed, for two boats to pass.


The river was getting narrow as we approached Tadpole Bridge


So we trudged along.  As usual, I was out in front and the distance between us got bigger and bigger.  I would wait for Gayle to catch up and she would say with clenched teeth that she was "fine" her code word for the opposite. She finally admitted that her back was killing her and that her right foot hurt from what felt like a blister on her heel.  At one point we stopped and applied additional Vaseline to her troublesome right foot.  Time was getting away from us.  We were going to miss lunch and have to go hungry until dinner time (with Gayle a fate worse than death).  At our pace it looked like we would be a few minutes late.  I decided to call the Trout Inn and ask them to give us a little slack on lunch since we, at best, would arrive at 2pm sharp.  I ordered soup and salad.  They were nice about it and agreed that we would be served.   But we have come to know that the pubs and restaurants in the UK are very strict about their opening/closing times and do not take kindly to changing them.


So I decided that I, at least had better arrive as soon as possible and that Gayle could come along at her own pace.  So I took off. I had gone about a mile or so and realized that this was really a stupid plan.  To hell with lunch.  I had  the water, Gayle had none.  If she suffered any real breakdown, there was nobody to help her.  So I turned around and back tracked maybe a half mile and finally met Gayle trudging along in some real pain.  I removed her backpack and slung it over my shoulder and we trudged along together for the half hour it took to get to the Inn.  It was 2:20 and our lunch was waiting for us along with words of sympathy from the thoughtful staff.


The Trout Inn, our upscale accommodations


The Trout Inn is clearly a cut above our other accommodations.  Our room has a king-sized bed, a working radiator (yea), bath robes, and dozens of amenities.  The staff is not English gruff but rather quite gracious.  It is expensive, but, at this point in our trip, appreciated.  Our 3-course dinner was good (not the best of the trip however) and dinner was marred by an American couple discussing global politics at a decibel level that could be heard in London.  Gayle actually went over to them to politely ask if they could speak in a quieter voice.  They did.



Friday, April 29

Tadpole Bridge to Lechlade


Mindful of yesterday's walking difficulties, today we were able to have our packs transported to Lechlade and we took a purposefully leisurely pace in our walk.  The result was a perfectly delightful walk and a memorable day.


Today was wedding day for Prince William and Kate Middleton. It was a national holiday and one where most Britons spent the morning glued to the telly.


Our task was the 11.3 miles between Tadpole Bridge (Trout Inn) and the village of Lechlaid (Cambrai Lodge).  The day was gloomy with a low overcast with the threat of rain showers.  These never materialized for us nor for the Prince.  It was cool but not cold with gentle winds from the north east, i.e. behind us.  In short, good weather for walking.


Without packs we had to figure out a way to carry the basic necessities we needed to have on our person.  These included our water bottle and our rain gear.  Further, as we stripped off outerwear, that had to be carried somehow conveniently. Once again, Gayle's oft criticized spare shoelace collection came in handy as a necklace connected to the zipper of each rain gear packet. The rain gear weighed almost nothing and we both wore our rain gear around our neck.  The water bottle was similarly attached to my belt by another shoelace.  As we removed outerwear, we just tied it around our waist.  Let the record show that cold blooded Gayle never removed anything except her wool gloves.


“Wedding Day” started out cold and cloudy


Our pace was slow and deliberate.  We walked at perhaps a 2.5 MPH pace.  At 3 miles we expected to stop for tea at the Swan Inn at Radcot Bridge.  Predictably, at 11:20, the place was closed and an annoyed bar wench came to the door to tell me so.  We took a ten minute sit down rest and continued on our way with the goal to have lunch at the Plowman Pub at Kelmscott at mile 7.  We hoped the pub would not be shuttered, either permanently or because of the public holiday.  We needn't have worried.   A full-scale party was in progress.  Somehow, a table was cleared for us right in front of the TV and our soup and salad magically appeared.  We had missed the wedding, but it was time for the royal appearance on the balcony of Buckingham Palace.  This we saw along with reruns of the wedding and procession back to the palace from Westminster Abbey.  Gayle was snapping away at the screen and we now have lots of photos of the wedding as if we were there with front row seats.  It was very very festive and a great privilege to share it with a pub full of jubilant English people.


We had a front row seat to the festivities


While we were on the path, we had a bit if excitement crossing a pasture full of cattle, mostly cows and heifers and one huge bull.  It would appear that these cows had become accustomed to humans or were unusually curious.  Thus when we came through the gate, it was like a slow motion stampede in our direction.  We were surrounded and in close quarters with a dozen cows, several of whom were doing a sort of bucking display.  Gayle was alarmed.  I discovered an arm waving shoo-shoo routine had some effect in clearing a path through the bovine masses.  We gave the bull a wide birth and departed the pasture.


Ever since Reading, we have seen pill boxes constructed every mile or so (sometimes more frequently, sometimes less).  These ominous structures, perhaps 20 feet square with gun slits were built in 1939-40 when the invasion of Britain was imminent.  It was intended, we suppose, to deny the use of the Thames River for transport by the invading Germans.


WW II pill boxes intended to thwart the German invasion in 1940


The walk today was entirely next to the dwindling Thames.  Mostly we were walking through open pasture land and quite a few cultivated fields.  One of the most striking sights was as we approached Lechlaid.  The church steeple towered over the plain from several miles away. 


Just before Lechlade we passed the final lock on the Thames, Saint John's lock.  At this lock there is a statue of Father Thames, a reclining Poseidon-like character.  The statue used to be at the Source but was moved some years ago to St. John's lock where he is admired by more people.


 Father Thames, relocated to St. James Lock, the last lock on the river.


The last three or four locks are very small with manual gate operation consisting of a huge wooden beam, perhaps twenty foot long, on each gate.  To open or close the gate, the operator pushes on the beam. It’s a real throwback to an earlier technology.  By the way, the locks are often unattended and the boat captains have to operate the locks themselves, a task that is actually rather complicated.


One of the charming aspects of the locks is that each one has a house for the lock keeper.  They all seem to be tidy stone cottages.  Very cute.  Also the grounds are well kept and often have flower beds.  At one lock yesterday we noticed the lock keeper working in his garden.  It's a job sort of like a being a lighthouse keeper.


Only two more day of walking, about 22 miles, until we reach the Source.  183 miles and 16 days completed.


Not one stile seen, much less crossed.


We have yet to see any fritillary but we are looking.


Our digs for the evening are the Cambrai Lodge, a 4-room B&B near the edge of town.  It is very comfortable with many amenities (minus Internet).  We walked a few blocks and had an outstanding Indian meal knocked back by a bottle of Australian Chardonnay.  Perhaps one of the best meal of our vacation with apologies to the Perch and Pike in Southstoke.



Saturday, April 30

Lechlade to Cricklade


Today we walked the 11.7 miles from Lechlade to Cricklade. As of this evening we have walked 195 miles in 17 days, a 11.5 mile average per day.  The weather was sunny and warm but with a very strong and blustery north east wind, a tail wind pushing us along.


We were able to arrange carriage of our backpacks with the B&B proprietor.  But it was expensive. Gayle said it was worth every penny.  Somehow the masochistic side of my personality thinks it is cheating.  I seem to be able to handle the pack, but it is clearly more of a problem for Gayle.


Of all the days of this trip so far, this was the least pleasing from the point of the route of the path.  The first half of the day, six plus miles, was away from river. A one mile stretch was along a busy highway that was unpleasant at best and possibly dangerous as the cars and trucks passed inches from us as we balanced on a narrow foot path. The second half of the day was much nicer.  The path ran along the usual tow path route next to the river, but the overall impression of this day was not that favorable.


We passed many large fields of "mustard" flower.  They are about neck high with a vivid yellow flower.  These plants are clearly cultivated since they end at the boundary of the fields.  We learned later that these are not mustard plant at all.  They are oil seed grape.  The plant is converted into bio fuel by pressing the oil out of the seeds.  Bio fuel is big in Europe.


The grape seed oil plants were neck high


When we rejoined the river it was greatly reduced in size and hardly navigable.  It was typically 25 feet in width and full of reeds but still moving swiftly. At one point we saw two kayakers battling the fierce headwind going down stream.


 A greatly diminished river Thames after Lechlade


We have not yet seen a single stile on the Thames Path.  Coming onto Lechlade there was a stone stile giving access to the town square but one could easily walk around it.  It seemed to be an historical artifact. 


We had lunch in a pub in Castle Eaton.  There was a busy Saturday crowd with your typical grumpy barmaid


We are tired.  Contrary to my recent assertions that we are getting stronger as the trip progresses, it seems there is a cumulative fatigue setting in.  It is good that the packs were transported for us.  With no packs, Gayle does well.  It is good that we are nearing the end.  I am surprised to be thinking that.  In the beginning, I was hoping it would never end since it was so magical.  It is no less magical, but it is also tiring.


Cricklade is an old English town, very charming.  The church steeple is visible for last half mile before the town.


 Cricklade street scene from outside our hotel


Our hotel is funky.  It has an ancient exterior with the pub on the street level.  Several uncompleted renovation projects are underway.  Our room is accessed by a rear court yard through a creaky wooden floor that says fire exit.  The room which is in the attic space has huge wooden rafters held together by huge iron spikes. The bath has ultra-modern Italian fixtures that seem out of place.  The housekeeping is careless, dust over everything, no coffee, tea, soap or toilet paper. The owner seems nice enough, very quick to provide the missing items.  Ominously, they do not serve breakfast.  I can't plug in any of my electronics for recharge.


Our funky room at the Vale Hotel in Cricklade


The owner says he can arrange for the transport of our packs tomorrow by taxi.  That is a relief since it tomorrow is a long day


We had dinner at the White Stag pub across the street.  It was an average to below average meal where, for example my steak dinner arrived as a piece of gammon (pork).


I am just about finished with my first iBook, Band of Brothers by Steven Ambrose.  It was a memorable TV mini-series but an average book.  Gayle has knocked off two iBooks since we started.


We have been witness to the life cycle of the dandelion.  When we started over two weeks ago, we saw many fields totally yellow with their flower.  Lately, the fields are white with their mature seed fluff.  Today, we passed fields with empty stalks. It would seem that all dandelions in England are in synchrony.



Sunday, May 1

Cricklade to The Source (Kemble)


This was our final day of our walk.  So as to avoid any suspense, we successfully made it to the Source.  We felt a great sense of satisfaction and accomplishment.  But this day, surely was our most difficult.


I can confirm that our hotel in Cricklade, the Vale Hotel, was our least favorite, surpassing in that category the Victoria Oxford Hotel.  Foremost among our gripes was that they did not serve breakfast.  It turns out that nowhere else in Cricklade at 9am on a Sunday morning can one get breakfast.  Fortunately, there was a Tesco Express a few blocks away, so we were able to obtain two ready made sandwiches and some fruit which we took back to the room and ate while huddled under the blankets.  Did I mention that there was no heat?  The electrical outlets did not work, so I was unable to charge any of our gadgets, in particular the GPS.  (By scouting around the back yard of the hotel, I found a live outlet so the GPS got a short dose of charging in the morning).  There was no hot water in the sink.  No coffee or tea next to the coffee pot.  No soap or shampoo.  And not enough TP for normal use.  This hotel situation put us in a generally negative mood to start our day.


However, one good thing, we were able to arrange transport of our back packs by taxi to our final accommodations for a reasonable price, 19 pounds.  Thus we departed charming (really) Cricklade at about 10am with our goal, the Source Monument, 12.6 miles away.


We had significant problems today with navigation.  Three times we got "lost" or a better term is misdirected by missing Thames Path markers.  We thought that this was quite careless and it significantly affected our progress.


A National Trails Marker


The first misdirection, and the most serious, was shortly after leaving Cricklade.  We missed a marker (if it ever existed) to cross over the Thames on a foot bridge and found ourselves with no trail on the wrong side if the river.  I removed my shoes and socks and waded across the river, which at this point was perhaps 20 feet across and a foot deep.  I confirmed that the trail was on the other side.  Gayle had her feet all bandaged up and refused to wade across. She wanted to return to the village a mile back and start over.    I offered to carry her on my back across the river, a proposal she at first refused, but I insisted.  "If you drop me, I'm calling a taxi" said Gayle.  Mind you, we are out in the middle of farming country.  So, Gayle, who is no longer the 120 pound sweetie I met 35 years ago, climbed onto my back.  I am no longer the muscular hunk I was 35 years ago.  The result was a major collapse at the water's edge.  Gayle tumbled to the ground.  I stumbled into the rocky bottom of the river and seriously "bruised" the heel of my left foot.  This led to some heated language and tears among the participants both suffering from wounded pride and physical indignity.  Gayle got up and dusted herself off, while I quickly put on my shoes and socks.  Fortunately, at this point, a local man walking his dog happened by and gave us directions on how to rejoin the Thames Path with only a slight deviation.  So we resumed our trek.  My foot hurt but I assumed it would soon work itself out and I limped along in front if the glowering Gayle.


The path was actually quite lovely and generally kept somewhat near the diminished Thames which we caught sight of or crossed every do often.  We passed through woods and open fields. For quite a number of miles the trail bordered a series of lakes, large ponds really, that were originally gravel pits, now pretty recreational areas.    The Thames itself snaked between these man-made lakes as a thin ditch with sluggishly moving water.


The river snaked between large ponds formed from abandoned gravel pits.


At about 6 miles into the morning walk we came to the village of Ashton Keynes where we planned to have lunch at the village pub.  When we arrived at the only pub in town, we were told that they were "fully booked" and that we could not be served.  Gayle, who was getting quite hungry, had a controlled fit.  The result was that the owner patted her on her back and said, "I'll take care of you" and led us to a quiet section of the bar and took our order for a bowl of soup.  This pub "reserved" business perplexed us since the dining room was nearly empty and remained so until the time we left.  It would seem that the profit motive is not fully developed in the English pub business.


As we were getting ready to leave, I discovered that the sock if my left foot was completely soaked in blood.  It didn't hurt very much. I had no choice but to put my shoe back on and depart for the next seven miles of the afternoon hike. 


Both of us were feeling rather tired.


We continued on for a few more miles at which point, we had our second misdirection and ended up in the middle of a town, Summerford Keynes, about a mile off the Path.  We took this opportunity to stop at a pub for afternoon tea and get directions back to the path.  In some ways, this was a needed break, but it probably added half a mile or more to our mileage.  I was surprised, when Gayle suggested that surely after 18 days we had achieved most of our goal and why didn't we call a taxi.  I said I was continuing, even if I had to walk on my stumps.  We departed through a lovely Norman style church yard and rejoined our lost path.


The Norman church yard in Somerford Keynes

 which we visited due to a navigation error



Passing through the village of Ewen on a shady tunnel of thick trees, we believe we found the first and only sample of Fritillaria we have seen.  It has multiple bell shaped flowers on a stem and is of a bright purple color.  This is different from the Guinea Hen Fritillaria described by Hilary. I have harvested a sample now pressed in the nether pages of the guide book for later verification.


At this point we were approaching Kemble, closest village to the Source and the village from which we will catch the train back to London tomorrow.  The Thames was little more than a ditch with some occasional damp spots.  More perplexing, the trail markers seemed to diverge from that described in the guide book.  We followed the markers that led us into an expanse of open pasture. After about a half mile, we came to a well-marked "road" going in the direction we had been walking.  We proceed up this road, not learning until later that we should have instead turned left into another open field and followed a faint trail through the grass.  There was no marker at all to show the correct way.  Following the road, we eventually came to a large facility (possibly a slaughter house) where helpful workers gave us directions. 


We retraced our steps, another extra half mile, then passed through a huge pasture filled with reclining cows, and with some excitement approached the location where the Source should be.  Neither of us knew exactly what we would find to mark the spot.  I saw something angular ahead at the edge of the pasture.  I said to Gayle, "It's either a monument or a large trash basket".  It turned out to be a large stone monument faintly engraved with the following:



A completed Journey


Off to the left was one of the ubiquitous sign posts of the type we had seen every day for the last 18 days.  It pointed East the way from which we had come:


Thames Path Public Footpath

Thames Barrier London 184 miles 294 km



A reminder of from whence we came



We took the obligatory photos and lingered a few minutes.  We then departed via another public footpath to our accommodations for the night, The Thames Head Inn.  We wondered as we approached the Inn, what we would find for our final night on the path.  Let is suffice to say, that the Inn was the antithesis to the Vale Hotel.  We had a hot bath, a wonderful dinner, and the expectations of breakfast the next day.  Also, Internet, soap, coffee, heat, and toilet paper. Gayle ranked it as number two after the Ivy Cottage in Purley.  It may have been the most appreciated of all our accommodations.


Alas, my foot was a mess.  It was a great feat or pure stupidity that I had walked for 13 miles with blood squishing in my boot.  Gayle inspected the damage and said that were three lacerations including the biggest on the heel two inches in length.  The wounds were still bleeding.  With only limited bandages, she cleverly applied a set of mini-pads to the foot to successfully stem the flow.  We will see what the morrow brings so far as the need for further medical attention.


Tomorrow we return to London and our return flight home the following day.  We have walked 209.1 miles in 18 days.


It is worth commenting that we had 18 consecutive days of beautiful  weather.  Never once did we need our rain gear.  The weather was mostly warm, shirt sleeve weather.  The locals comment how unusual this us.  Today the London Times reported that this had been the warmest April in 350 years of record keeping and the 10th driest in that same period.  Further, April 23rd (the day before Easter) was the hottest day (82F) in April since 1949.


And so ended our quest to walk the Thames Path.