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Yes, unbelievably it’s Day 17 of my walking adventure and Day 8 of my jaunt along Hadrian’s Wall, so I thought I’d pop in and give a quick update.

I had hoped to update you on a daily basis as mentioned before, but oh my gosh, the most I could manage was to eat (not even every night), shower, repack Pepe, and then bed. And repeat.

As per the title, I’m now starting Day 17 of my adventure, and Day 8 of my walk across country from North Shields; Segedunum Fort to Bowness-On-Solway, along Hadrian’s Wall. What an experience it has been. I’ve taken hundreds of photos and will share some of them in due course when I get the time, and energy to write ✍ 😁😁….so….here I am

Relaxing in bed in Brampton, watching a stunning sunrise and thinking back over the last 16 days.. it’s been a truly epic journey.

When I first planned on adding the Northumberland Coast Path to my Hadrian’s Wall adventure, I never for one minute doubted I’d be able to do it. But I also had no idea of what lay ahead. If I had, I might not have been quite so confident. But now that I’m near the end, and with the easy stretches ahead, I’m astounded I managed to get this far, and certainly amazed I’m still standing…well at the moment I’m lying down 😁😁😁

But, geez, I never imagined I would do quite as much walking as what I have. It’s been epic. Every day has brought its own joy, and pain, and laughter, and lots of “OMG that’s amazing” moments; reaching the border with Scotland, the dolphins off Farne Islands, seeing that bridge in Berwick Upon Tweed, traversing the bloody Blythe River estuary 🤪🤪, visiting St Mary’s Lighthouse, the wonderful beaches of Northumberland, the many castles – all different and unique in their own way, reaching Tynemouth, the bridges of Newcastle, visiting Arbeia Roman Fort, discovering the first section of the Wall at Heddon on the Wall, seeing the ascent and then descent as I climbed the first ridge on Hadrian’s Wall (I truly do not know how I did all those), seeing the tree at Sycamore Gap from the top of the ridge and suddenly realising what it was 😄😄, exploring the forts and carrying my backpack for 32kms on what was the hottest day of my whole journey…unreal.

I just wish I hadn’t been so tired at the end of each day, I’d have liked to write down the daily experiences…but it was all I could do just to upload some photos before crashing. I’m looking forward to calculating my distances. But one of the best aspects of this journey has been the many, many lovely people I have met along the way, especially on Hadrian’s Way…truly epic.

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Day 1 done and dusted 😁😁 I had a completely uneventful journey, ever so quick from King’s Cross to Berwick…and boy are those trains fast!!

Arrived in Berwick to the most glorious weather and scooted quickly over to the castle ruins. I didn’t go right into the keep coz it closes at 4pm and I got there at just on 3.54…but I had a good look around and then headed back up the million steps I’d just walked down 🤪🤪 Google maps doesn’t show how steep some places are!!

The River Tweed
Tweed Castle
The Royal Bridge

The Airbnb is lovely and the host is amazing…there’s a gorgeous ginger cat and a beautiful golden labrador, so I have had lots of kisses and cuddles.

My bed for the next 3 nights

As soon as I had dropped off my backpack, I grabbed my day pack and headed north yo the Scottish border. OMG what a path!! The views were spectacular but the path was hell!! For the most part it ran right along the very edge of the cliffs with just a tuft of grass between the walker and the vertiginous cliffs that fall 100s of feet down to the sea. The North Sea in case you wondered.

Spectacular. The weather turned soon after and the clouds came in
Part of #notthecoastpath 🤣🤣

A local suggested I walk along the above ‘path’ because the real path “is a bit rough, and this is a lovely wee walk” – well he wasn’t wrong about the path, but this was no better and I crossed the edge of a potato field to the path as soon as I could. I’m thinking he’s never walked to the border before…

Now this was more like it…leading away from the Scottish border, it was a joy to see this…if only the whole route had been the same

However, despite the awful path and the daunting propect of a twisted ankle on a very narrow and uneven path, and the fading light, I’m so glad I made the effort to walk up to the border and back

Welcome to Scotland 😁😁
English border
It was so cool to cross through the gate into Scotland

The views are absolutely spectacular.

I’m standing on the path!!! A twisted ankle or a trip and you’d be in for a swim
Literally right on the edge

Once I got back to town I had a quick whizz around and walked a small section of the town ramparts, which are just amazing with awesome views of the river and estuary.

Town walls
Walking the ramparts
Fantastic views
Guarding the town

I got back to the b&b at just on 9pm and having missed the fish and chip shop, I had 2 cup a soup and a cup of tea.

In all a terrific start to my Northumberland Coast adventure. Just on 17kms covered.

My walk

I’ve added some of the history of Berwick in case you’re interested 😉

Berwick is just four miles south of the Scottish Border, but during the last 300 years, control of the town swapped 13 times between England and Scotland. Berwick’s Elizabethan town walls are the most intact in England, and were Elizabeth I’s biggest and most expensive project during her reign to keep firm control of this key town.

https://www.visitnorthumberland.com/explore/destinations/towns-villages/berwick-upon-tweed

Situated at the mouth of the River Tweed near the border of two kingdoms, the town of Berwick suffered centuries of conflict, as control of the town passed back and forward between England and Scotland until the late 17th century. Each crisis brought repairs and improvements to the fortifications, culminating in the great artillery ramparts begun in 1558. These survive largely intact and make Berwick one of the most important fortified towns of Europe.

Berwick’s town walls are its most famous piece of architecture and still stand strong today, hundreds of years after they were built. Berwick actually has two sets of walls, the first set (of which only fragments now remain), commenced by Edward I, was two miles long. The later Elizabethan Walls (which are still complete) are a mile and a-quarter in length. The ramparts completely surround the town, with four gates through which entry to the town is enabled.

Berwick’s Elizabethan Walls are the only example of bastioned town walls in Britain and one of the best preserved examples in Europe. When built in 1558 – designed to keep out the marauding Scots who regularly laid claim to the town – it was the most expensive undertaking of England’s Golden Age.

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Well, without further ado, the time to set off is just hours away….it’s incredible how quickly the months have flown by.

I’ve spent a lot of time working on this plan and sincerely hope it all works out. I think I have everything covered and haven’t missed out on any sections of either the Northumberland Coast Path or Hadrian’s Wall.

I was looking at the guidebook map last night and I noticed that the route out of Newcastle on Hadrian’s Wall is somewhat different to what I’ve planned. So that might need some adjustment. But I’ve got a week to decide and while travelling between home and Berwick Upon Tweed, I’ll read through the guidebook and try to determine why it’s different.

But, that aside…here’s a brief summary of The Plan 😉

Day 1 – travel to Berwick Upon Tweed, visit the castle, walk to the Scottish border and back, then walk the castle ramparts, cross the bridges, have supper and back to the B&B

Day 2 – visit Lindisfarne Island; the castle, priory, the parish church, and a few other places. Then back to the mainland and walk back to Berwick from Beal along the coast; basically the first stage of the official trail…

Day 3 – visit Bamburgh Castle, bus to Seahouses to explore, have supper and then walk to Fenwick where I’ll get the bus back to Berwick since I’ll have walked that section the day before.

Day 4 – bus back to Belford to drop off my backpack at the Guesthouse. Then bus to Seahouses and a visit to the Farne Islands then a meal in Seahouses before walking back to Belford.

Day 5 – bus to Seahouses, then walk south to Craster visiting Dunstanburgh Castle on the way. Bus to Alnmouth for overnight.

Day 6 – bus back to Craster, then walk south to Warkworth and visit Warkworth Castle, then bus to Newbiggin. Overnight

Day 7 – Bus back to Warkworth and walk south via Cresswell to Newbiggin and overnight. The official Northumberland Coast Path ends at Cresswell and the border between Northumberland and Tyne & Wear is near Hartley. From here I’ll be adding kms, but finished with the NCP

Day 8 – walk south from Newbiggin to Whitley Bay visiting St Mary’s Island and Nature Reserve. This is quite a long day in terms of kms, but I have the whole day, so just going to relax and take a slow walk

Day 9 – walk south to Tynemouth on the River Tyne and start Hadrian’s Wall walk with a visit to Segedunum Fort, official start of this national trail. Overnight Newcastle

Day 10 – metro to South Shields, visit Arbeia Roman Fort and visit South Shields lighthouse, then ferry to North Shields and walk back to Wallsend and walk to Newcastle. Overnight.

Day 11 – visit Newcastle Castle and Newcastle Cathedral; most northerly catheral in England. Then off to Heddon on the Wall visiting Benwell Roman Temple and various turrets along the way. Overnight Heddon.

Day 12 – walk Heddon on the Wall to Corbridge, visiting Vindobala Fort enroute. Supper in Corbridge, an authentic Roman Town, then taxi to Acomb for overnight. Not my favourite place for overnight but accommodation was scarce or very expensive.

Day 13 – Acomb bus to Chesters Roman Fort, visit and then following the Wall visiting Black Carts Turret, Temple of Mithras, a few milecastles, Sewing Shields Crags, a visit to Housesteads Fort depending on the time, then Sycamore Gap and finish at Steel Rigg Car Park where my host will collect me for overnight on a farm quite a way off the route. Again accommodation was a factor.

Day 14 – visit Vindolanda and possibly Housesteads if not visited day before and overnight again at Haltwhistle. Hoping the skies are clear because this is a designated ‘Dark Skies’ area and I’d LOVE to see the Milky Way and a few shooting stars.

Day 15 – back to Steel Rigg Car Park, then follow Hadrian’s Wall again passing Cawfield Quarry and visiting Great Chesters Fort and the Vindolanda Roman Army Museum, Thirlwall Castle and onto Gilsland for overnight

Day 16 – walking Gilsland to Brampton and visiting Birdoswald Fort and Pike Hill Signal Tower and Banks East Turret before heading off the trail again to Brampton for overnight.

Day 17 – visit Lanercost Priory and then picking up the path again from Hare Hill and passing Newtown enroute for Carlisle where I’ll be staying for the next 5 nights.

Day 18 – walk Carlisle to Burgh by Sands and bus back to Carlisle, visit Carlisle Castle and cathedral.

Day 19 – being a Sunday the transport is sketchy, so I’m going to rest and relax for the day. Maybe explore Carlisle City.

Day 20 – bus back to Burgh by Sands, then walk to Bowness on Solway and the end of the Hadrian’s Wall national trail, where I get my final passport stamp at the Promenade 👏👏👏👏 then bus back to Carlisle.

Day 21 – train to Gretna Green and Lockerbie. Two separate journeys, but both a must do. Final night in Carlisle.

Day 22 – relaxing morning in Carlisle and then train home.

So there it is. It’s not by any stretch of the imagination going to be a walk in the park, and some days are longer than I desire, but accommodation was very tricky and I had to completely change my schedule for a few days due to lack of, or expensive accommodation. One thing is for sure, this is not Spain where you can get reasonable accommodation for reasonable prices. Some of the places I looked at are extravagant with the relative exorbitant prices.

Will I complete both trails? Who knows. I’ve tried to plan reasonable days with fairly reasonable distances, but until you actually walk the trail, you simply have no idea.

I’m going to make sensible decisions if necessary and I’m not hung up on the semantics…if there’s any section/stage I can’t do for any reason, then like I did with the Pilgrim’s Way, I’ll go back at some stage and complete it. Of course the logistics will be somewhat different due to distance, but I have 6 other trails I am planning on walking over the next few years, so one way or another…I’ll complete the walks.

So from me, it’s goodnight. I’ll do my best to blog as I go, but if you don’t hear from me, it’ll be because I had a tough day and I’m sleeping 😴🤪🤣🤣

Meanwhile, wish me luck 🍀 and 🤞 it all goes well. Frankly, I think I must be absolutely bloody insane to even contemplate this, never mind actually do it…😁 but it’s there, it needs to be walked.

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Living in the south east of England, except for a brief visit to Durham a few years ago, the northeast feels quite remote, and although I wanted to visit Berwick Upon Tweed after connecting via twitter with someone who lived there, it may as well have been the moon for all the probability that I might visit.

However a number of factors arose over the years; my walking escapades with plans to walk Hadrian’s Wall and the two Saints Ways: St Cuthbert & St Oswald, and more lately the entire English Coast, suddenly it no longer seems quite so remote. Its 413 miles in fact from Ramsgate to Berwick Upon Tweed, so not as far as the moon after all.

As soon as I had decided to walk the Northumbrian coast instead of the saints ways, I started doing some research on the county. I had read a little bit about the history in a book by Neil Oliver that I read last year, and the history is amazing and intriguing.

So here goes, some facts and figures about Northumberland:

Northumberland has come out on top as being the quietest place in England! The county has a low population density with only 64 people per square kilometre, ranking as the 16th emptiest place in the whole of the UK.

Northumberland is a ceremonial county and historic county in North East England. It is bordered by the Scottish Borders to the north, Cumbria to the west, and both County Durham and Tyne and Wear to the south.

There are 7 castles in Northumberland, I will be visiting 5 during my walk

Northumberland is designated an AONB: area of natural beauty and has designated Dark Skies areas as well as which in some places you can, if you’re lucky, see the aroura borealis (fingers crossed) Northumberland is the best place to stargaze in the UK with 572 square miles of the county having been awarded Gold Tier status.

There are 70 castle sites in Northumberland, with 7 along the coast path, of which I will visit 5:

Berwick Castle – commissioned by the Scottish King David I in the 1120s

Lindisfarne – a 16th-century castle located on Holy Island, much altered by Sir Edwin Lutyens in 1901

Bamburgh – originally the location of a Celtic Brittonic fort destroyed by Vikings in 993. The Normans later built a new castle on the site, which forms the core of the present one, now owned by the Armstrong family

Dunstanburgh – a 14th-century fortification on the coast built by Earl Thomas of Lancaster between 1313 and 1322

Warkworth – a ruined medieval castle, traditionally its construction has been ascribed to Prince Henry of Scotland, Earl of Northumbria, in the mid-12th C, but it may have been built by King Henry II of England when he took control of England’s northern counties

Islands: 3 of which I plan to visit 2

1. Holy Island of Lindisfarne – This place of worship, tranquillity and breath-taking beauty was the home of St Cuthbert, who allegedly held the power of spiritual healing.

2. Farne Islands – St Cuthbert lived on the island in a cell during his time on the island. The Inner Farne is the largest of the Farne islands group and is home to many of the breeding birds during the season, Puffins,Shags, Guillemots, Cormorants and Razor Bills : read more https://farneislandstours.co.uk/the-farne-islands/ I’ve booked my ticket for this.

Coquet Island – Every spring, Coquet Island becomes bustling with birdlife as some 35,000 seabirds cram onto this tiny island to breed. Most famously, puffins whose cute and clumsy mannerisms have earned them the nickname of the ‘clowns of the sea’, visit in their thousands. You can only visit by boat, so if I have time on that day, I’ll try take a trip

Northumberland borders east Cumbria, north County Durham and north Tyne and Wear.

Northumberland’s unique breed of cattle are rarer than giant pandas. This unique herd of wild cattle are believed to be the sole descendants of herds that once roamed the forests of ancient Britain. It is thought they have been living at Chillingham for more than 700 years.

Historical sites –

Newcastle Castle is a medieval fortification in Newcastle upon TyneEngland, built on the site of the fortress that gave the City of Newcastle its name.

A number of Battlefields, priories and iron age sites dot the Northumberland landscape. I’m not sure how many I’ll get to see on my way south, but I’ll be sure to look out for them! Other than that:

Hadrian’s Wall – I’ll be walking the wall from 11th – 21st Hadrian’s Wall starts in what is now Tyne & Wear, follows through Northumberland and ends in Cumbria.

Vindolanda Roman Fort : a Roman auxiliary fort just south of Hadrian’s Wall which it originally pre-dated. Archaeological excavations of the site show it was under Roman occupation from roughly 85 AD to 370 AD. Ref Wikipedia

Chester’s Roman Fort : The cavalry fort, known to the Romans as Cilurnum, was built in about AD 124. It housed some 500 cavalrymen and was occupied until the Romans left Britain in the 5th century. Ref English Heritage

Temple of Mithras : The temple was probably built by soldiers at the fort at Carrawburgh around AD 200 and destroyed about AD 350. Three altars found here (replicas stand in the temple) were dedicated by commanding officers of the unit stationed here, the First Cohort of Batavians from the Rhineland. ref English Heritage

Housesteads Roman Fort :  built in stone around AD 124, soon after the construction of the wall began in AD 122

Corbridge Roman Fort : Corbridge was once a bustling town and supply base where Romans and civilians would pick up food and provisions. It remained a vibrant community right up until the end of Roman Britain in the early years of the 5th century. Ref English Heritage

UNESCO World Heritage Sites:

Hadrian’s Wall is a UNESCO World Heritage site, starts in Newcastle, Tyne & Wear, runs through Northumberland and ends in Cumbria.

The historic county town is Alnwick. And the biggest town is Blyth.

Earl Grey tea originated in Northumberland.

Northumberland was once the largest kingdom in the British Isles

Over a thousand years before Northumberland was affectionately known as ‘the last hidden kingdom’, it was known as the Kingdom of Northumbria.

Lancelot Capability Brown was born in the hamlet of Kirkharle.

Northumbrian (Old English: Norþanhymbrisċ) was a dialect of Old English spoken in the Anglian Kingdom of Northumbria. Together with Mercian, Kentish and West Saxon, it forms one of the sub-categories of Old English devised and employed by modern scholars.

At nearly 580sq miles, the dark sky zone, known as Northumberland International Dark Sky Park, is the largest Gold Tier Dark Sky Park area of protected night sky in Europe.

The famous detective programme ‘Vera’ featuring Brenda Blethyn, is filmed in various places in Northumberland and Newcastle Upon Tyne.

During my ‘research’ I’ve found so many interesting places, many of which are too far off the wall route for me to visit, but I guess I can always visit again someday.

And that’s it for now. There’s much else of course, but….

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So my lovelies, the time is almost nigh!! At 10:07 on 1st September; 3 weeks from today (whoop whoop), I’ll be on the train heading North. Destination Berwick Upon Tweed.

I start walking the Northumberland coast path that same night, albeit staying in Berwick for 3 nights…I’ll explain later.

Then in exactly 1 month from today, I start my official walk along Hadrian’s Wall. 4 years to the day from when I started my Portuguese Camino 😊😊

So bloody excited. I can’t tell you 💃💃💃 = my happy dance.

So wow, suddenly it’s only 3 weeks to go and I’m on my way.

The dates have been identified, there and back travel tickets booked, all accommodation is booked, Airbnb hosts contacted and confirmed, the routes identified, daily kilometres from here to there measured (repeatedly 🤪🤪), what to see noted, where to go planned, what to do listed, ferry trip booked, where to get my passports stamped noted.

Pepe is packed, Gemini and I have been practicing like mad – getting fit, which shoes to wear decided on, budgets calculated and as much planning as I can possibly do, done!!!

And just because, after weeks of planning and noting the route each day on the Northumberland Coast Path with the relevant distances, yesterday I only decided to rejig days 4-7 and fiddled about with the distances. But now it is a lot smoother, with one day shorter and another longer.

I confirmed yesterday that I can use my senior bus pass on all the bus routes that I need to use between end of day’s destination and return the next day. I’m going to be doing quite a bit of bouncing back and forth due to accommodation on the NCP.

I’m copying everything into an old-fashioned method of keeping records – a notebook 😁😁

Northumberland Coast Path here’s looking at you, and finally 🤞🤞 after a whole year of waiting Hadrian’s Wall…I see you!!

Now it’s a waiting game; 21 days and counting.

As for you Covid-19 with all your variants…..you know what you can do…😂😂😂

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Stage 7 – Windsor to Maidenhead 12.06.2021 – 17.41 kms – 6 hours 05 minutes – 34,510 steps – elevation 40 meters

This stage was actually split into 2 really because I stayed for Trooping the Colour to see the Queen’s troops march past and of course my favourite the King’s Troops Royal Artillery…and I wasn’t disappointed. The whole affair was muted in comparison to previous years due to Covid-19 and we didn’t get to see The Queen or any of the Royal Family ride by in their carriages because the whole affair was held behind closed walls.

And so after a goodnight’s sleep I meandered down to the Long Walk and stopped to watch the procession of Troops. First The Queen’s Household Cavalry who looked absolutely splendid as always, then the Blues and Royals Cavalry who also looked absolutely splendid. The Footguards had already passed by the time I got there, and the Royal Artillery likewise. But I got to see them afterwards which is always a treat.

Trooping the Colour 2021
The Queen’s Household Cavalry
Trooping the Colour 2021
Blues and Royals Cavalry
Trooping the Colour 2021
King’s Troop Royal Artillery

We were also treated to a Red Arrows flypast which was well exciting, and I’m so glad I stayed for that…even though it was probably going to make me late for my evening train home!

Red Arrows flypast
Red Arrows flypast

Once the Red Arrows had gone I set off to find somewhere to recharge my phone coz the battery had pretty much depleted itself with all the photos and videos.

I ended up at the Three Store and before I knew what had happened I had upgraded to a new contract and obtained a new phone, a tablet and a speaker with alexa installed – how did that happen? It also took well over 2 hours to transfer all my media and phone information, so by the time I left Windsor, it was already 15:13….wayyy behind schedule now! And my backpack was a lot heavier than when I started the day due to having to stuff in all the equipment! I felt it.

So my km’s in Windsor amounted to 2.95km with 10,314 steps, and the actual walk itself was 14.46kms over 3hours 53 minutes and 24,196 steps (just to be specific). An easily manageable distance between bridges.

Setting off I made my way to the river and yes, I bought an ice-cream LOL It was already quite hot and I figured I may as well start the day off on a good footing – food wise. Anyway the ice-cream I had bought the day before was delicious, so I figured a repeat wouldn’t be a bad idea…the chocolate at least would give me energy.

From there I meandered upstream a short way and relaxed on a bench while enjoying my treat….it’s not like I wasn’t already well behind schedule… The swans gathered for a sample, but we agreed it wouldn’t suit their digestive systems, so I declined to give them any LOL

Gimme, gimme, gimme….no!

Windsor Bridge is at least an 800-year old crossing point, although the present bridge was only built in 1822, and the first arched bridge over the river. In 1736 is was possible to walk over alive for 2d, while being being carried in a coffin cost 6s 8d. Weird!!

Windsor Bridge

I eventually got myself moving, although I can tell you for sure, that I was not in the mood for walking…but needs must, so off I went – crossing Windsor bridge to Eton

Eton

I soon found the path and crossed a lovely wide open green space. Dozens of sun-worshippers dotted the grass, all very sensibly socially-distanced (technically we were still in lockdown, although you would never have guessed).

Socially-distanced – Windsor Castle in the background

The path soon reached a lovely shady stretch which was a relief since it was extremely hot that day.

Ahhhh shade!!

Just before I entered beneath the trees I stopped for one last glimpse of Windsor Castle. Windsor is derived from the Anglo-Saxon ‘Wyndesore’ meaning ‘winding shore’, which probably refers to the Thames’ twisting course. The castle began as a fortress by William the Conqueror, is The Queen’s main home and the resting place of many monarchs, including Henry VI.

I wound my way along the path, walking beneath shady trees, crossing small bridges over little inlets and creeks, passing under bridges and stopping to photograph the graffiti

Bridges
Graffiti on the underpass

and meandering alongside fields ripe with crops. The sky was a gorgeous blue with white fluffy clouds lazily puffing by and a gentle breeze worked hard to keep me cool.

Through fields of green
This little river was ever so tempting, how much I would have loved a swim

I was on the lookout for a specific spot, a riverside seat known as ‘Athens’. Athens was an Eton College bathing spot where rules required that ‘boys who are undressed must either get at once into the water or get behind screens when boats containing ladies come in sight’. Mentioned in the guide book I was keen to see this notorious spot, but if it hadn’t been for the fact that I saw a gentleman leaning over looking at it, I would have marched right past! I stopped for a wee chat and hoorah! I finally met someone who was also walking the Thames Path, albeit from a different direction. I am sure though that there were likely others, but I just hadn’t met them. After a brief swapping of notes he went on his way, I captured an image of the rather obscure looking bench and went on mine…onwards, upstream.

Athens

Before long I reached Boveney Lock, ever so pretty and stopped to read the information board. Boveney Lock is set within the ancient landscape of Dorney Common. A dispute ove an unpaid toll in 1375 is thought to be the first mention of a lock at this location. In 1780 there are suggestions of a pound lock, and in 1820 various plans for a replacement lock proposed cuts to the mouth of Clewer Mill Stream because of difficult navigation of the tight bends downstream. The present location was chosen with a timber lock built in 1838. There is an avenue of chestnut trees, planted in the 1800’s that lead to the lock known as ‘Conker Alley’. Mentioned in the Domesday Book, the Manor of Boveney was given to the nuns of Burnham Abbey in 1266.

Boveney Lock
Information boards enroute are so enjoyable to read

A short walk later and I reached the beautiful little 13th century church of St Mary Magdalene set back from the river in a field of green grasses. Built from chalk rubble, with a wood clad bell tower housing three bells, its only lighting; a candle (and sunlight). Its origins and history are something of a mystery, and in 1859 the churchyard was thick with gravestones, of which there is now no sign.

St Mary Magdalene

I stepped into the cool shady interior and stepped into another world. A calm air of simplicity enveloped me as I stepped through the door and honestly, I could have just sat there for hours…it was so beautiful and so peaceful.

I spotted the remnants of a medieval wall painting, the colours still quite rich.

Medieval Wall painting

It’s such a shame the purists managed to get their whitewash out, and literally destroyed thousands of these stunning wall paintings in hundreds of churches around the country. Fortunately modern technology has allowed for the recovery of some, but it’s costly and painstaking and not really affordable on the whole. I’ve visited quite a number of churches over the years where they have managed to recover/restore some of these works of art…a legacy we should be proud of.

Looking back

From Boveney Lock, the church is a very short walk upstream. The river was so calm and blue I was tempted to jump in for a swim LOL ….the cool green shady trees would have to suffice

Tranquility

A bit further upstream I spied a lovely building across the river but couldn’t discover what it was. Intriguing and annoying LOL A closer look at google maps tells me it might be Summer River House, but I can’t be sure.

I also spotted Oakley Court through the trees; (a riverside retreat with a golf course – tells you it’s most likely very expensive!!)…wow, it’s stunning. I shall have to go there some time by car. It’s very gothic looking with towers and gingerbread icing trimming and all. Uh yeah…I just had a look…£275 per night hahaha. In my dreams. The description on the website reads: Oakley Court is a Victorian Gothic Mansion House recently renovated and set in 35 acres overlooking the River Thames at Water Oakley in the county of Berkshire which features 118 bedrooms, 118 bedrooms just downstream from Windsor & Eton. Hah! Apparently Oakley Court was built in 1859 as a residence for an Englishman who hoped the Gothic Style would make his homesick French wife happy. General de Gaulle visited, and the building was used in the films: St Trinian’s, Half a Sixpence and The Rocky Horror Picture Show (my 2nd favourite film after Mary Poppins).

Oakley Court

The river wound it’s way lazily downstream and I wound my way sort of speedily upstream, although the river was likely a little bit faster I’m sure, passing through shady glades, alongside fields and islands, passing stunning houses and wondering just who can afford those mansions!!

I’m on the right path

The gravel paths are so much kinder on the feet than the metalled roads.

Without realising it I had walked right by Dorney Lake which featured in the 2012 Olympics and more recently the 2021 Oxford Cambridge Boat Race.

I passed a cycle route marker that told me I had 3 miles to Maidenhead – this was at 17:30 and I knew for sure that I was not going to make my ‘planned’ train at 18:30…oh well

Maidenhead 3kms

Looking across to Monkey Island I spotted a little gazebo through the trees and felt quite envious really…it looked so idyllic, and is apparently on the grounds of a rather grand B&B; Monkey Island Estate Luxury Hotel, and at £203p.n. not that much cheaper than the Gothic pile further downstream….but hey, it’s on an island. Monkey Island possibly means ‘monk’s island’ as it once belonged to Merton Priory on the River Wandle. In 1738 the Duke of Marlborough decorated the fishing lodge ceiling with monkeys!! A hotel since 1840, Edward VII and Queen Alexandra had tea on the lawn with 3 future sovereigns – George V, Edward VIII and George VI.

Looking across to Monkey Island

Passing through a private estate, once again I was overawed by the sumptious houses and the size of their gardens, mostly an array of resplendent colours; rose arbours, and creepers and flowers galore. Nice if you can afford it.

I could hear the hum and then roar of traffic ahead and looking at my map I realised I was soon to pass beneath the M4. Lockdown is essentially over really….we’re back to the business of polluting the air.

The next lock on the route, Bray Lock, soon hove into view and whizzed on by. I think they’re all so pretty and interesting.

Bray Lock – although it looks quiet and restful, the lock-keeper’s job is not – they are busy throughout the day.

Looking back I could see how the river split around the lock island and tumbled over the weir on the far side.

Looking back to Bray Lock

I was nearing Maidenhead now and I am definitely going to have to return to explore the opposite banks of the river…

The Thames Path

The Waterside Inn at Bray-on-Thames looked intriguing and their website tells me it’s: A unique riverside haven in a dreamy village setting, a revered restaurant with elegant quarters, just screams £££ – also very posh!! and a tad more expensive than the other two at £420 per night. Holy moley

The Waterside Inn

I could hear the traffic in the distance and all too soon I was walking beneath this beautiful red-brick railway bridge. Maidenhead Railway Bridge, completed by Brunel in 1839 carries the Paddington-Bristol railway line and appears in Turner’s 1844 painting Rain, Steam and Speed on the GWR

The Sounding Arch – Maidenhead Railway Bridge

A short walk later, passing some stunning houses

stunning houses and amazing gardens
how gorgeous is this house!!

and finally, quite exhausted from the heat and feeling the 2 days distance, I was crossing the river via Maidenhead Bridge.

Looking back across the river from whence I came
Looking downstream from Maidenhead Bridge towards the railway bridge

Hoorah! I had reached my destination for Stage 7…it was now 18:38, and with another 2 km to reach the station, I had definitely missed my 18:35 train, as well as the next 2 trains as it transpired… I was so exhausted by the time I reached Maidenhead that I simply could not walk any faster, and so I had to wait for the 19:35 train and got home at 22:45….

Enroute to the station I passed one of the 2012 Olympic Gold Post Boxes; painted to celebrate the Paralympic success of equestrian Sophie Christiansen….awesome that they still paint them gold.

Gold painted post box

This section of the river; Staines to Maidenhead is seriously gorgeous and I so enjoyed my two days of walking. Both days were super hot and I must admit I found it hard going at times, but the serenity of the shady copses, the extraordinary history and the sheer joy of just walking more than made up for it. Rural mixed with urban, land lubbers and canal boat dwellers, bridges and locks, historical sites and a castle made for a most interesting jaunt along the Thames. I am so looking forward to walking Stage 8 Maidenhead to Marlow & Stage 9 Marlow to Henley. Both easy distances, so I may jig them a wee bit and see if I can squeeze more kms out of the day and squeeze 3 into two and get as far as Reading.

Although Stage 7 wasn’t as laden with history as with the previous stages, particularly through London and Stage 6 to Windsor, it was still so interesting, and from what I have gleaned from the guide book, most of the history lies on the opposite bank from where the official path runs. It’s a bit like a switchback, the River Thames; an optical illusion where you think something is one side, but as you get closer you find it’s not.

Talking of the guidebook, all writing in italics is either from the guide book or google.

And that brings to a close the 7th stage of my Thames Path walk. I’m hoping to do another 2 stages before year end, but it’s looking tricky time wise…I’m still following the Saxon Shore Way and walking the English Coast Path from Dover to Rye in October, with my jaunt along the Northumbrian Coast and Hadrian’s Wall in September… so we shall see.

If you missed Stage 6; Staines to Windsor, click on the link to read more about it.

And if you really have the time and want to start at the beginning (a very fine place to start ) Stage 1a: Erith to the Thames Barrier

Wish you a fine day and happy walking….thanks for dropping by to read my lengthy jottings (definitely not on an envelope!) LOL

If you’d like to join me on instagram, you can find me @overthehillstilltravelling

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Although it was a dream of mine to sail into Venice on a cruise ship after watching them sail into Venice from the sidelines, I’m really glad they’re taking this action. The damage caused is shocking and we really must take more care of the heritage of this fabulous place.

As from 1 August cruise ships will be banned from the city.

What are your thoughts on this action? Have you sailed into Venice on a cruise ship? Should cities like Venice be taking similar action to prevent further damage caused?

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From the Kent Battle of Britain page on Facebook:

Eighty-one years ago today the Battle of Britain officially started, 10th July 1940.

Please spare a thought for all those who participated, from all Nations. Many would be killed during the Battle, some would die months later from wounds and burns sustained during those critical months, some would be killed later in the war. Others would carry their mental and physical scars for the rest of their lives.

We believe that only one Allied Battle of Britain airmen is alive today, Paddy Hemingway. Paddy celebrates his 102nd Birthday next week. We are not aware of any Luftwaffe airmen that survive from the Battle.

2938 Allied Airmen were entitled to wear the ‘clasp’ as a Battle of Britain airmen. 544 were killed or died from wounds sustained in the Battle. 795 further airmen would be killed by the end of the war.

All they ask is to be remembered….

Please ‘like’ and ‘share’ this, and the Kent Battle of Britain Museum page, and help us commemorate our Heroes ‘The Few’. Thank you

One of my absolute favourite memorials in London is the Battle of Britain memorial on Embankment in Westminster, opposite the London Eye.

Battle of Britain Memorial in London

Perched above the White Cliffs of Dover you will find the memorial to The Few at Capel-le-Ferne.

‘Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few’. Winston Churchill. 20 August 1940.

Referring to the ongoing efforts of the Royal Air Force and Polish fighter crews No. 303 Squadron RAF who were at the time fighting the Battle of Britain, the pivotal air battle with the German Luftwaffe, with Britain expecting an invasion. Pilots who fought in the battle have been known as The Few ever since; at times being specially commemorated on 15 September, “Battle of Britain Day”.

The Sculpture
His view across The English Channel to France 🇫🇷

Still one of my favourite places to have visited in my travels around England.

I remember seeing a film, in my late teens, back in South Africa called The Battle of Britain. It had a profound effect on me and I sobbed for days after, and never imagined that one day, not only would I be living in Britain, but that I would fall in love with London and see all these amazing places. I certainly NEVER imagined for even 1 second that I would one day become a British citizen.

Here’s to The Few, from all corners of the world, long may they be remembered…

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I love history and I love the English language, and this little piece combines both. I’m constantly fascinated by the origin of everyday expressions and sayings and traditions…we learn them growing up and repeat them accordingly without knowing or understanding their origin.

Over the years, on various tours at ancient castles etc the guides have frequently imparted little gems of information…like the saying: getting a square meal. My daughter sent me these last night so I thought I’d share them. Love this language so much…

So without further ado…

They used to use urine to tan animal skins, so families used to all pee in a pot & then once a day it was taken & Sold to the tannery…….if you had to do this to survive you were “Piss Poor”

But worse than that were the really poor folk who couldn’t even afford to buy a pot……they “didn’t have a pot to piss in” & were the lowest of the low

The next time you are washing your hands and complain because the water temperature isn’t just how you like it, think about how things used to be. Here are some facts about the 1500s:

Most people got married in June because they took their yearly bath in May, and they still smelled pretty good by June.. However, since they were starting to smell . …… . Brides carried a bouquet of flowers to hide the body odor. Hence the custom today of carrying a bouquet when getting Married.

Baths consisted of a big tub filled with hot water. The man of the house had the privilege of the nice clean water, then all the other sons and men, then the women and finally the children. Last of all the babies. By then the water was so dirty you could actually lose someone in it.. Hence the saying, “Don’t throw the baby out with the Bath water!”

Houses had thatched roofs-thick straw-piled high, with no wood underneath. It was the only place for animals to get warm, so all the cats and other small animals (mice, bugs) lived in the roof. When it rained it became slippery and sometimes the animals would slip and fall off the roof… Hence the saying “It’s raining cats and dogs.”

There was nothing to stop things from falling into the house. This posed a real problem in the bedroom where bugs and other droppings could mess up your nice clean bed. Hence, a bed with big posts and a sheet hung over the top afforded some protection. That’s how canopy beds came into existence.

The floor was dirt. Only the wealthy had something other than dirt. Hence the saying, “Dirt poor.” The wealthy had slate floors that would get slippery in the winter when wet, so they spread thresh (straw) on floor to help keep their footing. As the winter wore on, they added more thresh until, when you opened the door, it would all start slipping outside. A piece of wood was placed in the entrance-way. Hence: a thresh hold.

In those old days, they cooked in the kitchen with a big kettle that always hung over the fire… Every day they lit the fire and added things to the pot. They ate mostly vegetables and did not get much meat. They would eat the stew for dinner, leaving leftovers in the pot to get cold overnight and then start over the next day. Sometimes stew had food in it that had been there for quite a while. Hence the rhyme: Peas porridge hot, peas porridge cold, peas porridge in the pot nine days old. Sometimes they could obtain pork, which made them feel quite special. When visitors came over, they would hang up their bacon to show off. It was a sign of wealth that a man could, “bring home the bacon.” They would cut off a little to share with guests and would all sit around and chew the fat.

Those with money had plates made of pewter. Food with high acid content caused some of the lead to leach onto the food, causing lead poisoning death. This happened most often with tomatoes, so for the next 400 years or so, tomatoes were considered poisonous.

Bread was divided according to status. Workers got the burnt bottom of the loaf, the family got the middle, and guests got the top, or the upper crust.

Lead cups were used to drink ale or whisky. The combination would Sometimes knock the imbibers out for a couple of days. Someone walking along the road would take them for dead and prepare them for burial.. They were laid out on the kitchen table for a couple of days and the family would gather around and eat and drink and wait and see if they would wake up. Hence the custom of holding a wake.

The country is old and small and the local folks started running out of places to bury people. So they would dig up coffins and would take the bones to a bone-house, and reuse the grave. When reopening these coffins, 1 out of 25 coffins were found to have scratch marks on the inside and they realized they had been burying people alive… So they would tie a string on the wrist of the corpse, lead it through the coffin and up through the ground and tie it to a bell. Someone would have to sit out in the graveyard all night (the graveyard shift.) to listen for the bell; thus, someone could be, saved by the bell or was considered a dead ringer.

And that’s the truth….Now, whoever said History was boring? 😁😁😁😁

One of the best aspects of the English language is how its a conglomeration of different languages like French and Latin with a smattering of others in the mix.

There are hundreds of these little gems. I really must, one day when I’m no longer jaunting around the country, compile a list.

Do you know of any other sayings or expressions we use daily (or infrequently)? I’d love for you to share. 😃😃

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Stage 5 : Hampton Court to Staines-Upon-Thames 24.04.2021 – 25.16 kms – 6 hours 47 min – 40,560 steps – elevation 43 meters

Hot on the heels of Stage 4 between Richmond and Hampton Court, from here on I was breaking new ground. Except for brief forays along the banks of the Thames at Windsor, Oxford, Henley-on-Thames and Reading when visiting those places or working there, I have never walked along the banks of the river beyond Hampton Court. A whole new adventure awaited; places to go and things to see!

As mentioned in Stage 4, it was now taking longer and longer to get to my starting point and the train tickets were getting to the point where it would cost more or less the same to stay in an AirBnb overnight as pay for a daily ticket. So after this stage I will continue my journey in 2 day increments or more…probably a 4 day stint would be good at some stage.

I arrived at Hampton Court Station just after 10:40 having discovered via a very helpful station assistant in Ramsgate, that if I bought a same day return, I could in fact leave before 09:35, and also…today was Saturday, so I could leave much earlier than usual; which I duly did.

Walking the Thames Path
Good morning Hampton Court Bridge

Because it was still relatively early I decided to have a short excursion onto the little promontory for a quick sandwich and some tea; Cigarette Island Park, juts out into the Thames and offers superb views of the river and the palace. Not sure I like the name of the park…but still, it’s pretty and cool and green.

Walking the Thames Path
Fab view of the palace and river for breakfast

Now in East Molesey on the south bank of the Thames, after my tea and yum yums, I set off into the wild blue yonder…what will I find? First off some photos of the area, and a brief history…Hampton Court Bridge was opened in 1866 at the expense of a local man who lived in the area, Thomas Newland Allen (his coat of arms adorns the bridge). Originally a toll bridge, allowing Mr Allen to recoup his outlay, it was bought by the Metropolitan Board of Works in 1876, and the toll was lifted…I believe the locals were pleased – the National Anthem was played by the band of the 3rd Surrey Militia and there was a firework display!! I can’t imagine them doing that today!!

Walking the Thames Path
East Molesey – I just love this little house/store
Walking the Thames Path
Coat of Arms – Thomas Newland Allen. Love this design

Looking across the bridge to the Mitre Hotel (I had tea and scones with jam and cream there one day), I was reminded of the history of the hotel : the all new Mitre Hotel where quirky British sensibility meets elegant authentic luxury on the banks of the Thames…as it says on their website 🙂 Origins date back to the reign of Henry VIII. The building has been reconstructed since 1665 and is Grade II Listed as a mid-18th century edifice by Historic England. It is widely reported that The Mitre was built in 1665 at the direction of Charles II as a ‘hostel for visitors to the Palace’. The Mitre is on the site of The Toy, which originally stood on the opposite side of the road, near the Trophy Gates of the Palace… and is mentioned in 1653 in the Parliamentary survey of Hampton Court as a Victualling House. This house was famous for the convivial meetings held there by the “Toy Club”, of which William IV, then Duke of Clarence, was President. ref wikipedia

Walking the Thames Path
Mitre Hotel

Moving on, within a few paces I encountered my first lock of the day; East Molesey.

Walking the Thames Path
Molesey Lock

A stone’s throw from Hampton Court Palace is Molesey Lock, built relatively recently in 1815 by the Corporation of London. Before this lock was built, Hurst Park (on the south bank by the lock) was known as Moulsey Hurst. During droughts, the Thames was liable to become too shallow for river craft to pass through. The heavily laden barges were held up, sometimes for weeks at a time while the bargemen waited for the weather to turn. When it did, the higher water levels allowed the barges to float through. The lock’s 1905 rebuild was carried out to accommodate the long 200ft naval craft built at Platt’s Eyot, just upstream of the lock. Between the 1800s and early 1900s, Molesey was probably the most popular lock on the Thames – on summer Sundays. ref their site

Walking the Thames Path
Molesey Lock

I was ever so lucky to have another fine spring, almost summer’s day with blue skies, puffy white clouds and a soft breeze that kept me cool for most of the day.

Walking the Thames Path
Lovely open pathway makes for easy walking

Heading towards Walton-on-Thames, the path is wide and very rural. I don’t often have ‘house envy’ having already owned a couple of houses back in South Africa and all the accompanying headaches, but oh my word….look at those houseboats! whoa. It looks heavenly, although I’m sure it’s probably quite noisy living on the river.

Walking the Thames Path
Fab.U.lous houseboats

Again I was enchanted by the fabulous cherry blossoms and the many bluebells along the route. They really are gorgeous, just a shame they don’t last long.

Walking the Thames Path
Cherry Blossom 🌸
lots of wonderful bluebells have flowered along the path…

I passed alongside Hurst Park and stopped briefly to look at what to expect ahead

Walking the Thames Path
Hurst Park – you are here! 😃 – heading upstream, river to my right

A little further on and I was amused by the antics of a little browney beige dog. He was splashing around in the river, then bounding out, running ahead of his entourage, hiding behind overgrowth on the river banks and when his ‘servants’ neared, he would bound into the river, splash about and jumping out run ahead and do the same all over again. It was ever so cute and went on for quite a while. He had so much fun! Lucky dog, I wished I could just jump in and splash about….approaching midday, it was getting quite hot.

Walking the Thames Path
Cute dog 🐕😍 had so much fun

At the next Thames Path direction marker, I could see Garrick’s Temple to Shakespeare across the river. I worked in Hampton once some years ago, so had the pleasure of visiting that little park on one of my many walks. Nearby is Garrick’s Villa where he lived : David Garrick became the lessee in 1754 and then bought the property in October that year, making it his country retreat and a place of recreation where he and his wife frequently entertained their friends. He embarked on extensive alterations inside the house and, either now or at a later stage, employed Robert Adam to re-design the facade in the classical style then in vogue. The house has a fascinating history if you’d like to learn more.

Walking the Thames Path
Garrick’s Temple to Shakespeare

The path runs alongside the river here without too much urbanisation, but with terrific views across the waters to Hampton. Garrick’s Ait on my right, I could see St Mary’s Parish Church across the river.

Walking the Thames Path
St. Mary’s Church, Hampton

Not much further along and I discovered the remarkable Memorial Sundial in Buckingham Gardens in West Molesey. I spent some time here reading as many of the plaques as I could see. The sun was right overhead and almost blinding, but it looks absolutely fascinating. Did you know that the Vikings sailed this far up the river!?? Apparently to raid Chertsey Abbey! Wow. Seriously, after all the stuff I’ve read about the Thames and London etc, I never knew that they travelled so far inland. I have not been able to find much information beyond this website about this amazing memorial, but there are some super images on the web.

Walking the Thames Path
Memorial Sundial West Molesey

Hurst Park has a fantastic variety of wild life; fish and birds in particular. The river upstream of London is so much healthier for them.

The path too is super, wide and open albeit without much shade, which is always appreciated on a hot day. I got sunburned despite lashings of sunscreen.

Walking the Thames Path
So easy to follow…

A little further on and across the river from me was Platt’s Eyot, which sadly just 10 days later suffered a terrible fire that destroyed the warehouses and boat yard. Sadly one of the boats destroyed was one of the last remaining Dunkirk evacuation vessels.

Walking the Thames Path
Platt’s Eyot – no idea at the time it would burn to the ground in just a few short days

I loved all the canal boats tied up alongside the banks of the river…it must be such a different lifestyle living on a boat on the river. I think I’d like to try it out for a few months at some stage – perhaps when my grandson is older, then he can come visit and stay too ☺💙

Walking the Thames Path
Loved the canalboats…so quirky
Walking the Thames Path
Lots of trees…no proper shade

Although you can’t really see it from the Thames Path, to my left are a lot of bodies of water…the Molesey Reservoirs Nature Reserve, Queen Elizabeth II Storage Reservoir, Bessborough Reservoir, Walton Advanced Water Treatment Works and Island Barn Reservoir, and across the river Sunnyside Reservoir and the Thames Water Hampton Water Treatment Works…..I was ignorant of all until I started looking at my photos on google maps LOL.

There are a lot of islands along this stretch of the river…and locks, and weirs. The path is well marked and you will see frequent direction markers.

Walking the Thames Path
Ya can’t get lost!!
Walking the Thames Path
Secretive islands. That water looks incredibly tempting!

Next up was Sunbury Lock and weir. First built in 1812 Sunbury Lock is a lock complex of the River Thames near Walton-on-Thames, the 3rd lowest of 44 on the non-tidal reaches.

Walking the Thames Path
Sunbury Lock

I do love the lock masters houses! They are so pretty and so quaint. I spent a few minutes at each lock and for sure it’s a busy job being a Lockmaster! One of the qualities you would truly need is patience!! Did you know that they’re on duty from 9am to 6pm each day with an hour for lunch between 1pm to 2pm!.

Walking the Thames Path
Sunbury Lock..such a quaint house

I didn’t stop much along this stretch and I didn’t take many photos…mostly because the scenery was much the same; a long open path, few trees, and the river. A rare spot of shade and a bench…time for break

walking the thames path
the guardians of the path – I really enjoyed the Thames Path along this section…wide and easy walking
Walking the Thames Path
A bench is always a good place for a rest..

There are a lot of really fancy houses along this stretch, on both sides of the river, some with gardens that stretch right down to the waterside. Oh and a pub! I was tempted to stop for a coke, but since I had refreshments I carried on till I found a bench under a shady tree and stopped there.

Walking the Thames Path
The Weir Pub – tempted to stop for a coke
Walking the Thames Path
The Weir

Nearing Walton-Upon-Thames I noticed a lot of swans on the river. They seem to be more prolific the closer you get to Windsor. Did you know that Queen Elizabeth II owns all the swans in England. According to the official Royal Family website, the Crown has held the right to claim ownership of all unmarked mute swans swimming in open waters across the country since the 12th Century. Some of the swans are owned by the Vintners and Dyers, but are marked by those companies.

Walking the Thames Path
All the Queen’s swans? Swans galore

I continued beneath the lovely Walton Bridge and along the Desborough Cut. Manmade and formed alongside the Thames in order to ‘cut’ out a lengthy double bend in the river…I felt a little bit cheated really. LOL I will probably go back one day and walk that section..🚶‍♀️🚶‍♀️

Walking the Thames Path
Walton Bridge

As I neared the ferry I noticed a stunningly beautiful, albeit dilapidated house (a 13-bedroom mansion actually), on a small island….this was D’Oyly Carte Island I had read about in the guide book. I chatted to someone about the house and apparently it’s recently been bought and will be restored to it’s former glory. Quite right too, it’s beautiful. If I were a rich (wo)man, I’d buy it…. The house has links to Gilbert & Sullivan : Richard D’Oyly Carte, born in 1844, was a London theatre impresario who brought together dramatist WS Gilbert and composer Arthur Sullivan. A key theatreland figure in the latter part of the Victorian era, he built the Savoy Theatre in London and founded the D’Oyly Carte Opera Company.

walking the thames path
D’Oyly Carte Island – my dream house

After oohing and ahhing and just dying to cross the footbridge that leads to the island, I continued on my ‘wey’ LOL (get it…wey 😉) and soon reached the juncture where the River Wey joins the Thames and at this point took the ferry across to the north bank and Shepperton.

If you look at the river on google maps at this point it’s like spagetti junction with the two rivers joining forces and weaving around islands and locks.

Walking the Thames Path
Spagetti Junction.. Walking the Thames Path

It was good fun…I love crossing the river by ferry and take every opportunity to do so. I arrived at the ferry point at the same time as a family with two children. They read the notice that said you had to ring the bell to summons the ferry from the opposite bank, but they were a bit timid and didn’t ring it very loudly…so I humoured them and rang it vigorously 😁😁 they nearly had hysterics! But, it worked…the ferry crossed over and picked us up. Hoorah!

walking the thames path
the ferry to Shepperton at spagetti junction
don’t pay the ferry man till he gets you to the other side…
safely across the Thames, now in Shepperton

Safely across the river I headed upstream on what was now the north bank…my ultimate destination: Staines-Upon-Thames.

I passed Shepperton Lock on the left and felt sad that due to covid the tearoom was still closed, I would have stopped for tea for sure. I remember having tea there once many years ago…the view of the river is superb.

Shepperton Lock
Story of the river – when sorting through my images and reading these boards more closely, I was amused to note that they also called this section ‘spagetti junction’

I passed Pharaoh’s Island, so named after it was purchased by the Treasury to give to Admiral Nelson after the Battle of the Nile (1798). It’s fantastic how some of these islands got their names. It used to be called Dog Island, but Pharaoh sounds much more interesting.

love, love love this houseboat..moored alongside Pharaoh’s Island
the river is now on my left hand side till Staines Upon Thames

Reaching Ryepeck Meadow Moorings I saw some fantastic boathouses…oh my gosh. Stunning. Lots of beautiful flowers lined the banks

another fantastic houseboat. I wonder what draws people to this type of lifestyle? It’s compact..
a glorious splash of colour…so glad April is spring in the northern hemisphere
Walking the Thames Path
Fantastic houseboat – I’d live here 😀

The river curves and winds it’s way along, the path so close you could sit and dangle your hot, tired feet, in the cool, refreshing water…if only!! Maybe next time…although in reality, the water was quite a way down and I would have had to have long legs, which I don’t 🙄🙄

Ahead was a lovely green open space; Dumsey Meadow, but sadly few trees for respite from the baking sun. Mad dogs and Englishmen and all that springs to mind!

Dumsey Meadow – I was hoping for a shady break…

Hoorah! Chertsey Bridge…offered a brief respite from the sun! They need to put a couple of benches here..I’m sure they’d be well used.

Chertsey Bridge offered a brief respite – a couple of benches would be lovely

Follow the acorn!! Back to suburbia and a busy road – although I managed to get most of the way past before any traffic.

walking the thames path
back to suburbia

And ahead Chertsey Lock and weir.

Chertsey Lock and weir

I soon passed under the M3

M3 I believe…although very noisy, at least it offered a brief respite from the sun

Ahead of me Laleham Park where I stopped for a short while to rest my poor feet, get some relief from the sun and have something to eat and drink. As I was walking towards the park a few horse and carts came clopping past.

absolutely beautiful animals…

I was a bit slow on the uptake and only managed to capture a very short snippet of film as they went past

but I did see the horses further up in Laleham Park cooling down in the river.

having a well-deserved swim at Laleham Park

Back to urban living and the often metalled surfaces that are so hard on the feet! Gosh, there are some gorgeous houses here. There are loads of direction markers too, so you can’t get lost.

another direction marker, another metalled surface, on the outskirts of Staines
Walking the Thames Path
Large houses…Laleham!

Hoorah! Staines 1.3/4 miles (2.8 kms) my feet rejoiced 🤭🤭

Walking the Thames Path
Staines!! Not too far to go

Penton Hook Lock soon hove into view (who makes up these names?) – I asked for a top-up of my water, but no-one had any taps available. There’s a huge marina here on the opposite side of the river… water water everywhere and nary a drop to drink! Bah humbug to covid. Penton Hook Lock, at 266 ft (81m) is the 3rd longest lock on the river, the 6th lowest lock of 44 on the non-tidal reaches of the River Thames. It faces an island which was, until its construction, a pronounced meander (a hook) and located on the site of its seasonal cutoff. It is against the left bank, marking the church parish medieval border of Laleham and Staines upon Thames in Surrey, for many centuries. Until 1965 their county was Middlesex.

Walking the Thames Path
Penton Hook Lock

Although the next few kilometres were quite residential, the houses were mostly set in large gardens and didn’t intrude on the path, which was lovely and wide and easy to walk on. I much prefer gravel to metalled surfaces.

Walking the Thames Path
Lovely wide gravel path

I passed a lovely old church; St Peter’s that I simply had to photograph…love these buildings.

walking the thames path
St Peter’s Church, Staines-Upon-Thames

I was now on the outskirts of Staines, and nearing my destination….time 16:56 and I had been walking pretty much non-stop for 5 hours, except for brief stops as mentioned, which are seldom more than 10 minutes at a time.

2 minutes after passing St Peter’s Church I had my first view of the Staines-Upon-Thames railway bridge! Hoorah – soon I’d be crossing that bridge on my way home!

walking the thames path staines railway bridge
Staines Railway Bridge!! I could just see the Staines Bridge in the distance…whoop whoop

Back on urban territory I was soon in the thick of things, traffic, metalled surface etc etc….albeit a very pretty environment I must say. Enroute along the riverside path I passed by the Mercure Thames Lodge where I was meant to have stayed before the reality of the lockdown restrictions still in place hit home, and I had to cancel all my bookings 😦 It’s a gorgeous location, but ever so pricey over the period after lockdown.

walking the thames path
where I was meant to stay if my plans had worked out…ahhh but lockdown rules! urgh

I walked by some absolutely gorgeous houses that reminded me of Bermuda…love those balconies and the flowers – just stunning. And finally…Memorial Gardens and so very near the end of today’s journey; Stage 5 of Walking the Thames Path!

walking the thames path
I was well excited by now…soooo close to journey’s end

In the memorial gardens I saw a fabulous statue; The Swanmaster – he who counts the swans for The Queen during Swan Upping, a totally bizarre word for a really tricky job. Swan Upping still takes place once a year on the River Thames.  The Swan Uppers weigh and measure the cygnets and check them for any signs of injury, commonly caused by fishing hooks and line.  The young cygnets are ringed with individual identification numbers that denote their ownership if they belong to the Vintners or the Dyers livery companies; the cygnets’ ownership is determined by their parentage. However, all Crown birds are left unmarked.  The Queen retains the right to claim ownership of any unmarked mute swan swimming in open waters, but this right is mainly exercised on certain stretches of the River Thames. ref their website. If you’d like to know more about swan upping, have a look at their website. It’s really interesting. I’ve been to both the the Worshipful Company of Vintners’ and the Worshipful Company of Dyers’ Halls during Open House in September. If you ever get a chance to go, do, it’s well worth the trip. The Vintners’ Hall in particular is absolutely stunning.

walking the thames path
The Swan Master 1983 Staines-Upon-Thames by Diana Thomson FRBS

The Dancing Fountains – this must look gorgeous when the waterfountain is on

walking the thames path, staines upon thames
Dancing Fountain

Abstract sculpture of a swan – trying to save on battery by now, I didn’t stop to look at who the artist is, I figured I’d find it on the www…but no, not yet! Do you know who the artist is?

walking the thames path
Interesting sculpture…I think it’s mean to depict a swan

The London Stone!! I had waited a long time to see this!

walking the thames path
The London Stone – ever since I first got the guide book, I’ve looked forward to reach this point

Andddd Staines Bridge – knock knock at 17:09. whoo hoo. I’m here!

walking the thames path, staines upon thames
and I’m here – knock, knock!! 🙂 Staines Bridge

What an amazing day! I had it all; history, fabulous view of the river, an amazing sundial, stunning houseboats, mysterious islands, quirky canal boats, locks and weirs, a ferry ride, passed through some terrific parks, saw interesting sculptures and the London Stone! a mostly amazing path – easy to navigate, blue skies, sunshine, a soft breeze from time to time, 172 photos, and boo hoo no ice-cream LOL I literally didn’t see any ice-cream vendors the whole way from East Molesey to SuT.

It was lovely to see so many people out and about enjoying the sunshine. The Thames Path is very much a shared path and along this section there were a number of places where families could have picnics, kiddies could run about and play, and enjoy the fresh air and our fabulous river. Watersports on the upper reaches of the Thames are hugely popular and you will often see kyakers, canoeists, rowers and of course all the fancy speedboats. You can take a ride along the river on a commercial ‘steam’ boat at a number of places along the river pretty much from Richmond. And you will frequently see canal boats chugging by…I’m often tempted to call out and ask for a ride LOL Of course with spring in the air, there was much flitting about and trilling songs from the birdlife and since the river is so much less polluted here, you will spot many a heron in the shallows, amongst much else…swans in particular are plentiful. It’s just wonderful.

I’m ever so pleased with my progress and sooo grateful for the fabulous weather! Long may it last!

I managed to get the 17:38 train and home by 9pm. hoorah. So Stage 6 and 7….when shall I do those I wonder?

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