I have written about the Thames Path before. Here and here. The Textiliste, two other friends and I have been walking its length for some while, taking a day here and a day there, aiming for the source. Over two weekends we covered the above section, about twenty miles. skirting Culham with a break in Abingdon and then on through Radley to Oxford.
The river is segmented by its locks and several cuts that were to make the journey easier for the traffic (as well as, in one case, avoiding some extortionate tolls). The villages and towns along the way are often picture postcard beautiful and the river and its surrounds teem with wildlife. Life on the river generally is gentle and benign – or it seem that way, yet only a few months ago the incessant rains had caused havoc along its banks. We saw no evidence of this destruction but the residents must fear a repeat.
I will tell this journey mostly in pictures unless I can really add to the understanding.
Lots of bridges, of course. The first is by the same architect who designed St Pancras station.
The walk to Culham was rough and lonely with the looming presence of Didcot power station a distraction. But lunch in Clifton Hampden was good and perfectly timed. The river pubs about here are excellent and the Barley Mow, which appears in Three Men in a Boat by Jerome K Jerome, is no exception. It still has the same low doors – ‘Duck or Grouse’.
Thereafter the walk becomes more built up and then Abingdon, one of the longest continuously inhabited places in England (or so the book says). That was 9 miles and time for tea and home.
Day two, and another 9 plus miles to Oxford. Another lonely stretch out of Abingdon, through woods to Sandford with the only signs of life being a cyclo-cross competition on the far bank near Nuneham House, Radley boat house that serves the school of the same name (some of their pupils worked hard on choppy water as we passed) and lots of mud!
Lunch at Sandford lock, the deepest on the Thames, was huge. The King’s Arms is splendid though and the weather, even in late October, warm enough to sit outside. After that the build up towards Oxford began, first with boats, and boat houses, then meadows and Christchurch and finally the eclectic mix of buildings, memorials (to a man who drowned saving two dons) and picturesque scenes that make up Oxford. The journey home, on the train, was easy. Dog and I slept.
So there you have it. England’s greenest and pleasantest…