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Life Line

Downstream โ€” Trip 1

As you might have picked up on, I am walking the whole length of the Thames Path currently. All 184 miles from the source to the Thames Barrier.

I started making videos about each day of walking, which I will be posting here, but the videos don't tell the whole story so I have decided to write about it as well. This is the story of my first trip, which I did over 3 days at the end of June. I had taken the Monday off so that I could to the first 3 stages in one go. That's mostly necessary because there is no, or really crappy, public transport along this first third of the Thames Path. But both the source, and Oxford, are reasonably easy to do by train.

Day 1 โ€” Source to Cricklade

Downstream โ€” Day 1

The first day started by getting the train to Kemble, which is about a mile away from the source in the Cotswolds. After being delayed in Paddington for an hour, the change at Swindon wasn't great either, as the smaller train into Kemble was very full as the previous London to Swindon train had been cancelled. Getting from Kemble station to the source was a little bit tricky, as it wasn't overly well sign posted. And once you get in the fields near the source, you basically have to have a compass to follow it, as there is no hint of the river yet at all.

When I made it to the source, I rested for a bit before starting my walk along "the river" towards Cricklade. The first bit was really just walking in a field, to a little past where I got onto the path from Kemble, where there was suddenly a little stream, with really clear water. From there on, the river gradually became wider and wider. Most of this first day was easy to walk, with mostly paths, and even though I thought I'd see a lot of mud, there was basically none. It having been so warm in the last few weeks really helped.

I was also quite excited when I spotted the first wild life. At first I thought it was a snake, but it turned out to be a fake-snake, a Slow-worm. We have them in the Netherlands too. Not much after that, I also spotted a single pheasant.

Walking through the Cotswolds Water Park with its many lakes was quite variable. Some were quiet and had waterbirds, others were loud with people attempting to waterski.

Just before Cricklade I walked through the North Meadow, with its abundance of wild plants. Apparently it's one of the very few real meadows left in the UK.

Once I made it to Cricklade, I checked in into the White Hart Hotel, had a shower, and promptly mapped the whole town on OpenStreetMap. Then it was time for a pint, and dinner. While checking in my pint on Untappd I noticed that there was a nearby venue, The Red Lion, which also features its own brews. I spend most of the rest of the evening there trying out their brews in the nicely cool garden reading a book (and twitter!). It was a good end of the day after a 22km walk.

Day 2 โ€” Cricklade to Newbridge

Downstream โ€” Day 2

I got up really early (7:30am!!) to have breakfast and to head out as early as I could. I had to cover a lot of ground today to make it to Newbridge where I had booked a night to stay in an inn. I knew it was a long way, and unfortunately I had developed a blister on my heel. Luckily I had packed blister plasters so this didn't end up too big of a deal. Sunday morning in Cricklade was really quiet, with only a few people walking their dogs. It is not a big town, and soon I found myself in the country side.

Just before Lechlade, my Thames Path in the Country guide said that there was an annoying section along the A361, quite a bit away from the river. But since the guide was written, the Thames Path had been redirected through a path much closer to the river after having secured access. This new section had lots of brand new gates, and would surely have been a big improvement if there weren't a few fields of stinging nettles to get through. Walking in shorts was not a clever plan there.

I came upon the first swans, boats, and of course, the first lock (St. John's Lock). I spend a little time here, as locks always fascinated me. But as I had a long walk today, I didn't linger too long.

I had lunch at Ye Olde Swan. I thought their web site had said they brewed their own beer, but that appeared to be not really true. I still had lunch with a lovely pint on their outdoor Thames-overlooking terrace.

After lunch many of the "paths" turned into fields of plants that I had to battle through for a while, and many had nettles. Where the path was a bit easier, there were lots of butterflies and dragonflies. I probably brought a little bit too little water, but found out that most locks will have a water point. That was particularly useful on this hot section later in the day.

At about 19:00, I made it to the end of the section at Newbridge. I would be staying at The Rose Revived.

Day 3 โ€” Newbridge to Oxford

Downstream โ€” Day 3

After a good night's rest I left rather early again. Not quite because I had a long way to go (only 22km!), but mostly so that I could take it very slowly. The previous day's walk had definitely taken its toll.

The Thames Path went straight through the pub's garden, so I didn't have very far to the path. Once I got out of the garden, there were very many rabbits hopping around, only to be disturbed by me, one fellow hiker, and a very adventurous farmer which found it necessary to mow the hay at 08:30 in the morning, on a Sunday.

After having to go around a caravan park bordering the river, and through fields of sheep, I made good progress. With the river a bit wider, there was quite a lot more boat traffic on the Thames, and even some people swimming in it. I guess the Thames is quite a bit cleaner before cities like Oxford, Reading, and London dump their waste in it.

After about half way, I ran into a sign saying that one of the bridges over one of the tributaries was closed and that I should take a detour instead. That detour was very poorly signed, but with some help of the well mapped paths on OpenStreetMap, I found myself a new route. About a third through the detour, on the top of a hill, I ran into another hiker which informed me that the bridge wasn't actually closed. Which stinks, as this meant that I didn't actually walk the whole Thames Path, even though it was about the same distance.

After passing the Godstow Abbey Ruins, near Oxford, the river side became busy with people (and geese!) that were enjoying the river on this hot day. I was happy to be done with the walking around 15:00, and refresh myself with a pint and lunch before heading home by train to London.

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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