The Thames Path
|The Thames from Oxford to the source. May 1998|
Mist rising from the Thames on a frosty morning
I took the train to Oxford, found my way out of the station and then to the river. As far as the Thames Path was concerned I had got to this point by walking in day sized sections the previous year. The fact that public transport becomes rarer and more inconvenient beyond Oxford led me to plan to finish off with a four day backpacking trip. The first stage was as far as Northmoor Lock. The charge made here for camping in a field was £3 which seemed a bit steep since all I got was a tap! That night the sky was clear, and by morning the temperature was into the crafty way to line up
negative. This led to a bit of a delay in getting up. Who wants to leave a nice warm sleeping bag on a frosty morning? When day two's walking eventually started it became very pleasant. Lunch was eaten sitting against a signpost and the rather better value camping place by the Inn at Radcot came after much pleasant meandering through the countryside; passing by the Rose Revived and the Maybush inns at Newbridge, as it was too early. But, little further on, I did have a pint at the Trout at Tadpole Bridge, as it was mid afternoon.
The choices here are upstream, downstream or somewhere else altogether
Paddles from the weir at Rushey Lock
|This overgrown stream will become,|
in about150 miles, the mighty
Thames of London
The punctuation marks in this walk were bridges and locks rather than the summits and cols of mountain walking. They are of course all different being built long before the days of mass produced anything, let alone motorway bridges. Rushey Lock has one of the last weirs to retain the old paddle and rymer construction. Before pound locks were built all the weirs on the Thames were made this way. To allow boats through some of the paddles would be withdrawn and after the surge of water had receded the boats would go through.
Where the river is made navigable by the locks the level remains fairly constant but up beyond the limit of navigation at Lechlade the river begins to dwindle in times of drought. At times it disappears altogether, but its course is usually easy to follow. However following it closely becomes rather harder as the towpath that makes up the bulk of the Thames Path stops were navigation stops. Often the Path leaves the river for trips over farmland and down little used country lanes. The third night was spent at Castle Eaton.
The glorious North Meadow at Cricklade
Some very curious heifers coming to see what I'm up to walking across their field
Sky scraping trees by a quiet country lane
From Cricklade where the famous old North Meadow remains a haven for rare wild flowers as it has been for centuries. The river and path twist and turn through a few more towns before passing just to the North of Kemble. Here it is crossed by the Roman Road which ran from Devon to Lincoln once known to the Saxons as the Fosse Way, and now known here as the A433, before the final stretch.
The last part of the way crosses a few fields and here the river is usually hidden underground, only in wet weather will the Thames actually flow in its uppermost reaches, but there is a helpful stone to mark the official source. From here the only way is back downstream and that is the way I went; if only as far as the railway station at Kemble to make my way back to London by train.
Sitting at my journey's end by the stone marking the source