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Life Line

Downstream — Trip 5

On the previous trip I walked from Reading to Bourne End on the Thames Path, and on this trip I will progress to Staines. Getting to Bourne End wasn't as easy as getting to Reading, and a fair bit slower with a train to Maidenhead and then the branch line towards Marlow.

Day 7 — Bourne End to Staines

Downstream — Day 7

I set off from Bourne End (without going to the lovely craft beer place) fairly early in the morning, on a bright and sunny day. It was clearly regatta season as became apparent when I made my way to Cookham, where their yearly races were on. Not only were they preparing for the watery fun, there was also a good display of vintage cars being set-up. I think I was too early to see it in full flow. Unfortunately, it did mean diverting from the river for a while, first because of the regatta, and then because there are private things in the way.

When I got back to the river after about a mile, I could just about make out the outlines and hill of Cliveden House across the river. I had visited this National Trust property with family.

Just before reaching Maidenhead I came upon Boulter's Lock. An industrial looking lock that replaced earlier 16th and 18th century locks on the same place. It was quite busy around the lock, with apparently one or two tour buses having stopped to let their passengers having a look at it. I spend some time wandering around and relaxing, before continuing my walk.

Not far from Maidenhead lays Bray, famous for their large number of Michelin starred restaurants. There is the one star Hind's Head where I had eaten before, the three star Fat Duck, and the three start Waterside Inn, where I attended a wedding once. You can't see much of it from the other side of the Thames though, so just had to do with my memories of the tasty food.

Not far from Bray is the Dorney Lake, which was used in the 2012 Olympics as a rowing venue under the name "Eton Dorney". You can't see much of it from the North side, but once you've walked along it to the bottom end you can actually go up and have a look.

Immediately after rounding a bend in the river Thames, you see Windsor Castle, the Queen's "country home", towering over Windsor and the river. My plan was to have lunch in Windsor, but just after getting into Eton I noticed a nice looking pub, the Waterman's Arms. Their menu looked good, and they have a few nice draughts on so I decided to have lunch there instead. As a bonus, I also noticed the pub's ceiling had a painting of the whole length of the Thames on it!

After lunch, and perhaps half a pint too much, I continued my walk. On the bridge that connects Eton to Windsor, a guitar player was playing joyful tunes, to which I listened when taking some photos and video.

After walking for a while in between a railway and the river, there were plenty of signs saying that "no drones" could be flown in and near The Home Park. I bet the Queen doesn't like people snoop on her activities much. Beyond lovely Datchet, I was directed through a field with nettles to be "closer to the river", but I don't think that was specifically worth it. The 200 meter stretch along the road would probably be easier walking. The only real scenery were planes leaving Heathrow Airport anyway. The noise of planes overhead continued for the rest of the walk into Staines, or as it now is called "Staines-upon-Thames". Please note that Staines does not rhyme with Thames.

Just before Staines is Runnymede. Runnymede is an important site in British history, as this is the location where the Magna Carta was signed, all the way back in 1215. The Magna Carta is a charter of rights that is the first one to prevent from the King being above the law. Modifications were made in the following decades, and not many of its provisions are currently left, but it was very important on a journey to a constitutional monarchy.

The site itself is an open expanse of grassland, with a piece of art — "The Jurors", by Hew Locke. There is also a memorial created by the American Bar Association. Unfortunately I only found out about this after I had come home, and hence did not visit it.

Just beyond Runnymede the Thames Path passes under the M25, which means I have walked all the way from the source into Greater London. From there it was not much further to the end of my walk at St. Peter's Church in Staines.

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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