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Life Line

Downstream β€” Trip 3

On the previous trip I walked from Oxford to Shillingford on the Thames Path, and on this trip I was planning to walk to Pangbourne. Getting to Shillingford requires a bit of planning as the buses aren't terribly frequent, so I got up early (07:00 on a Saturday!) for a 08:50 bus from Reading to Shillingford to continue downstream on my adventure.

Day 5 β€” Shillingford to Reading

Downstream β€” Day 5

Setting off from Shillingford I quickly came upon the river Thames again, where I was sharing the path with a (very slow) running groupβ€”I was keeping up while walking! The first activity on the river itself came at Benson Marina where early birds where getting their canoes in the water, avoiding a range of other motorised pleasure craft.

Wallingford wasn't very far away, and it is a quite picturesque old market town. The Thames Path doesn't go through the town itself, but I did catch some of it on the bus on the way to the start of this walk, and when returning from Shillingford on my previous walk.

Five kilometres beyond Wallingford the Thames Path dives under the Moulsford Railway Bridge before the path diverges from the river around a school. It was an unpleasant section up a hill, and then along a busy and narrow road before the path moves back towards the river, where it joins the tow path by going through a pub's garden. I hope that in the future this diversion would not be needed.

This walk featured six locks, from Benson Lock near the start, to Caversham Lock near Reading. I noticed that although the locks themselves are not getting much larger, the accompanying weirs most definitely do. I spent a little time at Goring Lock just before lunch.

I walked into the small village of Goring-on-Thames to have lunch in a "locals" pub where I had my first first-hand "Brexit Experience". I think I'll leave that story for a separate post though.

After lunch I walked back to the river, and noticed that the landscape was very different from most of the other landscapes along the Thames so far. Instead of it being flat, and wide open, near Goring, the landscape suddenly turned very hilly around me. I did some googling and found that this specific feature is called the Goring Gap. Apparently, about a hundred thousand years ago the Thames didn't flow through Oxford and London but instead went through St. Albans and Ipswitch. During the last ice age the route got diverted because there was a glacier in the way. The Goring Gap is the new route that the Thames cut out through the hills.

The feature became even more apparent when the Thames Path diverted slightly from the river and had me going right up a hill. Near the top I spoke with some other hikers which assured me this was the only location where the Thames Path would do that.

My original plan was to finish at Pangbourne, but it was still early and the weather was nice, so I decided to continue to Reading, with its much easier rail connections.

At Purley the path left the Thames for a while, as due to "access rights" the path can't follow the river closely. Annoyingly that meant up another bit of uphill. Although it wasn't particularly a long stretch, it was quite steep. When I got back to the river, a rain (drizzle) shower started, which kept showing its head all the way back to my finish in Reading.

The last three kilometres go past the normally quiet fields of Little John's farm, but with the Reading Festival only a week away, it was a busy business of setting up for the festival.

Just before Reading I crossed under the Caversham bridge, the last bridge on this part of the walk. Before boarding my train in Reading, I had a well deserved pint at The Three Guineas right in front of the station. Another 34km done!

Photos from my Adventure on the Thames Path are available on Flickr, and all videos on Vimeo. You can also see all the photos on a map.


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