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When I bought the Kruger National Park challenge in March I had it in mind to honour the memory of my brother Arnold, who should have been 66 years old today; 08/08/21. He died in his mid-20s nearly 40 years ago under very sad circumstances.

Kruger National Park virtual challenge
Kruger National Park virtual challenge – starter bib

So I figured I would hold it till 1 August before starting the challenge and try to walk 66 kms by his birthday. As well as which, I was born in South Africa and one of my most enduring childhood memories was a visit to the Kruger National Park when we were teenagers…probably about 13 or 14 at the time. My Dad, his 2nd wife, me (the eldest) my brother (6 months younger than me – adopted by my Dad when he remarried), my sister 3.5 years younger than me and my much younger brother who was a baby at the time.

As we drove along the very long narrow dusty road heading towards the gates of the camp, after a long day of driving, my little brother threw up all over my older brother…I was wearing a very fancy patterned two piece pant-suit; a mini-skirt length top and bell-bottoms at the time, blue with coloured squares (I think I wrote about this some time back under a different context)…anyway, my brother had on a bright orange shirt and khaki trousers, which now had vomit all over them. A quick stop at the side of the road and we progressed with everyone affected cleaned up and my brother wearing the pants of my suit and looking both sheepish and colourful.

I can’t recall the name of the camp, but I do remember that we had a fantastic view of a massive waterhole from the dining room. We had a fantastic time and managed to see a lot of game on our drives, as well as in the compound when the animals from outside the fence decided to join the animals inside the fence!!! But of all the exciting things we saw, that episode with the clothes and the eggs we had for breakfast are my best memories.

And so I kicked off on 1 August and got my first postcard

Once again, the amount of information they provide with each postcard is amazing, and so fascinating. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I have

On the southeast coast of South Africa and bordered by Lesotho, Eswatini and Mozambique is the province of Kwazulu-Natal.  Known for its beaches, mountainous region and large savannahs with big game, this province is also home to the Zulu nation.  Kwazulu-Natal is made up of two separate provinces, KwaZulu and Natal, that merged in 1994.  KwaZulu was a semi-independent area intended as a homeland for the Zulu people whose ancestors were part of the Zulu Kingdom.

The Zulu Kingdom was a monarchy from 1816-1897 which grew to prominence under the leadership of Shaka Zulu, the illegitimate son of Senzangakhona, the Chief of the Zulu clan.  Senzangakhona had 14 sons, 4 of them ruled as kings.  Although Shaka was the oldest, due to his illegitimacy he did not have any claim as successor to his father.  When Senzangakhona died in 1816, his legitimate heir Sigujana took over but his rule was short-lived as Shaka had him assassinated and became king.  He in turn was killed 12 years later by another brother, Dingane who 12 years later was overthrown by his brother Mpande, who ruled for the next 32 years.  Mpande’s son, Cetshwayo, succeeded him in 1873 for the next five years.  

Cetshwayo was the leader during the Anglo-Zulu War of 1879.  Fought over several bloody battles between the British Empire and the Zulu Kingdom, the war lasted less than six months.  The first significant battle was at Isandlwana in January 1879 where 20,000 Zulu warriors attacked the British forces of less than 2,000 soldiers.  Defeating the British, a contingent of Zulu warriors broke off from the main force and proceeded towards Rorke’s Drift, which would become the second main battle on the same day.  Having been pre-warned of the Zulu advances, the British were prepared for the assault.  Vastly outnumbered with guns blazing, the British held their position.  After 12 hours of fighting, the Zulu warriors retreated.  Several more battles were fought over the coming months until the British moved into the royal village where they inflicted the final defeat.  By August, Cetshwayo was captured, deposed and exiled.  He was the last king of an independent Zulu nation.  Today Cetshwayo’s descendant Goodwill Zwelithini is the 8th reigning monarch of the Zulu nation.

My journey begins in the town of Hluhluwe.  Located in the north of Kwazulu-Natal between iSimangaliso Wetland Park and Hluhluwe–iMfolozi Park, this small town is known for its big game, national parks and production of 95% of South Africa’s pineapples.  It has a population of less than 4,000 residents, yet it is considered a travel hub for Kwazulu-Natal. 

Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Park is a major attraction for the big 5 game: elephant, rhino, buffalo, lion and leopard.  Located southwest of Hluhluwe, the park is the oldest nature reserve in Africa consisting of 96,000 hectares.  Established in 1895 as a park, the area was originally a royal hunting ground for the Zulu Kingdom.  The reserve was setup to protect the endangered white rhinoceroses and now has the largest population in the world (approx. 1000).  The park is also the only one in Kwazulu-Natal where all five big game animals can be found.

Located northeast to Hluhluwe is the 1,270sq mi (3,280km2) iSimangaliso Wetland Park.  The park is rich in fauna and flora due to the “different ecosystems within the park, ranging from coral reefs and sandy beaches to subtropical dune forests, savannahs, and wetlands”.  A wonderful array of animals co-habitate here both on land and in the ocean such as: elephant, leopard, rhino, buffalo, hippos, whales, dolphins, leatherback and loggerhead turtles and crocodiles. The park was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1999.

The park also contains the 140sq mi (350km2) estuarine Lake St Lucia.  It was named in 1575 on the day of the feast of Saint Lucy.  Nearly 2,200 plant species have been identified in the lake’s system such as the Sausage-tree, bearing sausage-like fruits 1-2ft long (30-60cm) and purplish-green flowers. It is also an ideal environment for mangrove trees, six different species have been recorded.  Other delightful flora are the Prickly Tree Hibiscus with its yellow flowers, Maputaland Cycad with its red flowers, Impala-lily with its delicate pink flowers and the Cape honeysuckle.

And so, over a period of 7 days I managed to achieve my goal of walking 66kms; 1 for each year that he would have been…had he lived.

I miss my brother, and although we were not blood relatives I adored him and he me. We got up to a lot of mischief as children and one of the few photos I have of him is when there were just the 5 of us; my cousin Yvonne, me, my cousin Brian, my brother Arnold and my sister Susanne. My family expanded a lot after this photo was taken, what with remarriages and another 4 sisters and 1 brother.

family and relationships
me, my brother, my sister, and cousins

The rest of the challenge will be completed during my jaunt along the Northumberland Coast Path and Hadrian’s Wall, both of which are long enough to ‘possibly’ allow me to complete this challenge before I return home. Although I have to say that the temptation to buy a 2nd Hadrian’s Wall challenge and complete the virtual walk whilst walking the actual wall is VERY strong!! LOL… I’ll decide by the 09th of September before I start my actual walk…it will all depend on how many km’s I manage to complete before then since the Kruger challenge has to be finished by 30/09/21 because the organisers changed the medal and made the route shorter. But I want the original medal, so…onwards into the breech dear friends, onwards!

Meanwhile, if you’re looking for me, I’m kicking up dust in the Kruger National Park… 🙂

Here are some of the scenes from my 7 walks

walking the kruger national park
Day 1 Sunday 01.08.2021
walking the kruger national park
Day 2 Monday 02.08.21
walking the kruger national park
Day 3 Wednesday 04.08.21
walking the kruger national park
Day 4 Thursday 05.08.21
walking the kruger national park
Day 5 Friday 06.08.21
walking the kruger national park
Day 6 Saturday 07.08.21
walking the kruger national park
Day 7 Sunday 08.08.21

Day 3 I ended up hip deep in a ditch sky-high with brambles…still not sure how I got out, there’s a long story behind the cows on day 4 and there’s one particular scene that I just love and photograph it every day when I walk that route. The houses in this area are stunning…and I get house envy when I see some of them, and I love that quote from Day 1.

The above scenes are round and about the farmlands of Faversham. They recently harvested one of the fields nearby, hence the tractor and the harvester.

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How could I resist? And before you go rolling your eyes at me and shaking your head 😁😁😁…. to be fair I resisted the allure of the Cote d’Azur and left Athens to the Olympians, but this one I had to have…it’s stunning, and only 66kms, I could do that in 3 days…but probably won’t, more likely 5 days or so…

However, I am going to do it asap….because I want that medal!!!

Flower Route Virtual Challenge

The sails actually move and there’s a dial at the back which changes the scene…one if their best imo.

Tulips, hyacinths, narcissi, or daffodils — from Haarlem all the way to the Naaldwijk; 66km (41 miles) through scenic landscapes, blooming flower fields along rivers, villages, and iconic windmills of the Netherlands. How could I resist??

Now all I have to do is decide which area I want to walk in in order to complete the challenge….I’d like it to be something related to spring, with lots of tulips! Why not “tulips in Amsterdam?” 🌷🌷🌷 I hear you asking, and truly…I’d love to hop on a plane or train (probably train) and go to the Netherlands and walk amongst the tulips for a few days while doing the challenge…but you know….covid and brexit. ugh.

Of course we have wonderful gardens in the UK with tulips galore…I saw these in London in April while walking Stage 2 of the Thames Path

🌷🌷🌷🌷 the Flower Route; Conqueror Virtual Challenge

I shall have to see how things are in spring…if EU is out of the question, then perhaps I shall have to do some research and see where I can enjoy some flowery scenes while walking in the UK. These are some options I have found meanwhile, so I’ll have to keep an eye out for their open days in 2022 and try squeeze in one or two….awesome!!!! https://ngs.org.uk/plan-a-visit/tulip-gardens/

Not that it would be cheaper to travel to these places in the UK than flying to the Netherlands…but hey, I can’t be bothered with having to get visas etc. Although of course, I may well change my mind closer to the time. Seeing the tulip fields in the Netherlands has long been a dream of mine. My daughter and I did in fact travel over one year last decade to see the tulip fields, but went about 2 weeks too early….so we missed them and I’ve just never managed to get back…

Maybe, just maybe….

So wish me luck!! Both for travelling to the EU and walking the challenge. I have a few options in mind…

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Four years ago I read in the news about this young lad, Alex Ellis-Roswell from Canterbury What an extraordinary venture; a 9,500 mile, 3-year walk around the UK coast, including N.Ireland, from Minnis Bay to Minnis Bay, raising funds for and visiting more than 200 RNLI stations along the way, and raising more than £65,000 for the life-saving charity. Astounding. I had not heard of anyone walking the entire UK coast, and didn’t realise it was even a thing.

At the time I was not long back from walking the Camino Portuguese from Porto to Santiago, 174 miles, and my efforts felt quite piddling in comparison. I was totally awed at his efforts.

I’ve always loved walking, and walked a lot in my early 20s when I lived in Hillbrow, Johannesburg, but from when I had my baby and acquired a car and a husband in 1980, I didn’t do much by way of walking at all. Life went by, I had a car, and although we travelled a lot around South Africa walking was just part of a day or an outing and not the focus of the outing.

In 2001 I had the absolute joy and good fortune to spend 6 months in the Rep. of Ireland with my younger sister and her hubby. While there, my love of walking was rekindled and played a part in my decision to return to the UK full time…which I duly did in April 2002, albeit to Ireland first for 4 months till September. During my time in Ireland; 2001 and 2002, we walked everywhere, weekend jaunts across country, along the east coast in mid-winter (mostly because there wasn’t anything else to do LOL) and wonderful walks in historic Glendalough National Park in County Wicklow, and my midnight returns to home after an evening in Dublin.

When I relocated to the UK in September 2002, before starting work, I did a 6 week housesit; a penthouse in Hampstead Village with a rooftop view of London, lots of walking opportunities with Hampstead Heath nearby and the historic village of Hampstead.

When we, my daughter and I, eventually settled in Richmond in 2010 I started walking the Thames Path in various directions as well as many many walks in the City of London (eventually covering 95% of all the roads, lanes and alleyways) and City of Westminster, with occasional sojourns to other areas. I even started up a business (now defunct): 3 Days in London which involved guided tours (only a few because I really did not enjoy guiding people around the city LOL).

In 2011 I had the bright idea of following Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales route from Southwark Cathedral to Canterbury Cathedral and in 2014 we moved to Broadstairs, where my coastal path jaunts began. Along the many ‘ways’ during the years from when I first arrived in the UK, the Camino de Santiago seeped into my consciousness from varying angles; my Dad and a couple of siblings cycled the French route (at different times), I met a lady who had walked the French route and loved it (she gave me my 1st scallop shell), I saw the film with Martin Sheen and books on the Camino started to make themselves known. And so my ‘dream’ of walking the Camino germinated. Initially I thought I’d walk it in 2016, having decided on the Portuguese coastal route as my preferred ‘way’, and to that end I started practising by taking lengthy walks along the coast to Margate or Ramsgate and further afield to Sandwich. Finally in 2017 I felt ready and walked the Portuguese Coastal Route to Santiago in September of that year.

Since then I’ve completed a number of long distance walks and my reading matter has turned to books about people who have done amazing walks. Shortly after reading ‘The Salt Path’ by Raynor Winn, I was inspired to set myself the challenge of walking the entire English Coast Path; coincidentally whilst I was walking between Sandwich and Walmer one day last year. And so the idea was born, and now that I have a specific target, I’ve started walking sections with purpose (I will write up about those stages in due course).

During the preceding years I’ve been inspired by epic adventures embarked upon by people like Steven Fabes who cycled 6 continents and covered 80,000 km on his bike. And Ben Fogle’s many adventures with ‘New Lives in the Wild’ TV shows, Steve Backsall’s many epic adventures (not that I envy any of his adventures thank you!!), Michael Palin’s many wonderful travels around the world, Michael Portillo’s ‘Great British Railway Journeys’, and Julia Bradbury’s many amazing walking adventures in the UK.

Way back in my South African past, a boyfriend at the time gave me the book ‘Full Tilt: From Dublin to Delhi’ by Dervla Murphy, which I devoured at the time, never imagining that I would one day actually live in Dublin! I loved her story and I think it probably ignited a small flame that was later nourished to become a passion; travel.

During lockdown in 2020, for 7 weeks between March and April, I was lucky enough to be working and living in a tiny village in Somerset; Nether Stowey, where I was able to indulge my walking escapades despite lockdown because there was hardly anyone around and I seldom encountered a soul during my 2 hourly breaks from working.

My daughter introduced me to the ‘addictive’ Conqueror Challenges in April of 2020 and working towards those goals has kept me motivated.

that’s me! The Conqueror – conquering the world, walk by walk LOL

I also started looking to find more people who were walking the UK coast and somewhere along the line, via Facebook I found and started following Chris Walks the UK. At the time he was safely ensconced on a remote and unoccupied Scottish island where he stayed for much of lockdown. Following his journey both then and now, I’m totally inspired by his fortitude and strength. Having started the journey in the midst of depression 5 years ago (apparently Sunday was his 5th anniversary, so I’ve added the link to reflect that), a former Veteran of the Armed Forces, he was then and still is raising funds for SSAFA and has met the 2 loves of his life along the way; 1st Jet, a beautiful greyhound, and then Kate a beautiful young woman who popped over one day to say hello and never left. I love their daily posts and am in so much admiration for how they cope with obstacles.

Slowly, during my travels, I stumbled across other walks; the Two Saints Way, St Cuthbert’s Way and St Oswald’s Way, Great Glen Way, The West Highland Way, Hadrian’s Wall, and as I came to learn about more and more walks, I started buying the Cicerone Guide Books. Now, with a whole long list of walks I now want to do, I joined the UK Long Distance Hiking page on facebook, to get ideas and advice, occasionally discover new routes to walk (oh my lord! Like I need any more!), and while scrolling through the posts a couple of days ago I stumbled across Tracey Elizabeth Hannam, an amazing woman with an interesting story who is currently walking the UK coast. I saw one of her posts; a poem that she wrote and it resonated so strongly that I asked her if I could share it here…..and she has agreed.

Here is the link to her facebook page and the poem that caught at my soul

.. Thoughts..a poem

What am I thinking is my life shrinking I need to get out,
Where am I going am I happy knowing as I start to shout,
I’m feeling quite trapped being part of the rat race as they call it..
I’m trying to fit in but I can’t begin as I simply deplore it,
As I try to escape, suffocated in this place I know I must go,
To the sand and the sea I feel it beckoning me and now that I know,
I must be out in the wild like a inquisitive child seeing new things each day,,
Sleep on the earth in a tent, many happy days spent loving the way,
How my new life has changed simply been rearranged by thoughts in my head,
Of times I couldn’t breathe, there was a hidden need to be out here instead,
My eyes now open to see this new happy me away from the grind,
Of a regimented past life, sometimes trouble and strife but now cleared from my mind,
Medicine not in a pill but walking up a hill is healing my soul,
Prescribed by Dr. me as I began to see I needed a new goal,
And I’ll never look back to that old beaten track that stopped me from growing,
I’ll look right ahead never to dread this new me I’m knowing,
Leading the way not afraid to say to others too,
Don’t settle for less cause you are the best ..refresh and renew…💜

Copyright: Tracey Hannam .. 31/7/21

Tracey Hannam – Long Distance Hiker, so inspiring

During my research into other long distance UK coastal walkers I came across this fantastic website https://www.britishwalks.org/walks/Named/CoastWalk/Links.php an amazing resource listing the many people who have already walked the coast or are currently walking.

There is something quite extraordinary about a person who decides, for such a variety of reasons, to up sticks and walk for thousands of kms/miles, sometimes for years on end. Carrying the bare minimum, yet loaded with a lot of stuff to carry, they put one foot in front of the other, enduring pain and discomfort, all the weather types you can imagine, blisters, scrapes and falls, a lack of home comforts, facing some of the hardest days anyone could imagine – and yet, they just keep on going, loving that life despite the hardships, and rejoicing in the beauty of new places.

I find it so inspiring and totally awesome.

For me it’s the sheer freedom of the path, of the unknown, of starting at one place and ending at another that leads me on….

English Coast Path

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Now that the plans have been laid, and the bookings made, the excitement begins!! On waking up this morning my first thought was Oh My Gosh!!! it’s exactly 1 month to the day till I leave on my September ‘walking holiday’!! 31 days…

Although why it’s called a holiday is anyone’s guess since it’s hard work and not a relaxing pastime…well, it is relaxing some times, most times it’s just bloody hard work LOL and a holiday it is not! I usually come back from my long-distance walks exhausted and in need of a….you guessed it…. a ‘holiday’!!

But….whoaaaa 1 month! when I say it like that, it induces a sense of both terror and excitement. But I can barely wait for the time to pass so I can go already!!

Time to get excited

As you may well know from a previous post, I’ve done loads of research on the Northumberland Coast Path more recently and last year on Hadrian’s Wall (postponed to 2021 due to covid lockdown 2 days prior to my setting off) and I’ve scoured google maps to work out exactly how far it is from place to place so that I could plan my days accordingly.

Most days will be straightforward: get up, dress, eat, walk from here to there, eat, shower, hopefully blog, sleep and repeat the next day. But due to my accommodation issues, I’ve had to plan a couple of days where I will end at one point, take the bus to my overnight stop, then take the bus back to the previous days end point and walk to where I started…..sounds confusing eh! Yeah, it was and so I had to really focus on my day to day planning to ensure that a) I walked the whole route b) that I didn’t have days that were too long, c) that there were in fact buses from point a to b and back again.

And so it has all come together, along with a fair amount of stress, but I do believe I have done it.

Fortunately all the Hadrian’s Wall planning happened last year, so except for the 2 nights of AirBnb accommodation I cancelled outright due to the hosts not having the manners to reply to my messages, and that the route from all accounts is fairly straightforward, the plans for that walk needed very little adjustment.

So the gist of it is: 1st September 2021 I shall board the 10:07 bound for St Pancras, take a short walk to Kings Cross and board the train to Berwick Upon Tweed. I have planned 3 nights in BWK so that when I arrive I can explore the town, walk the town walls, visit the castle and walk to the border with Scotland at Marshall Meadows. I have also planned a day to visit Lindisfarne (Holy Island) but as a tourist, not a pilgrim (I’ll save that for when I walk St Cuthbert’s Way), then walk back to BWK from Beal thus covering the first part of the route, and a 2nd day for a visit to Bamburgh Castle and a part way walk to Seahouses, again to cover that part of the route.

Day 4 will be when I set off for real and cover those parts of the route I have not yet walked to reach my overnight accommodation.

By Day 7 I will have reached Cresswell, the end/start of the official Northumberland Coast Path, but I’m planning on walking right to the county border at Tynemouth on the River Tyne over the following 2 days which will add on another roughly 45 kms to my walk and cover the first half of Tyne & Wear which is a geographic and ceremonial county without administrative authority, and still part of the historic county of Northumberland, but neatly dissects that particular section of the English Coastal path from Northumberland to Durham.

From Tynemouth I will head inland along the River Tyne to reach Wallsend which is the official start of Hadrian’s Wall, and thence to Newcastle where I will be staying for 2 nights. I plan to visit the Newcastle castle, both the Roman forts; Segedunum in North Shields and Arbeia, a large Roman fort in South Shields, which belongs to the historic county of Durham, where I would pick up again when I continue walking the coastal path (sometime in the future).

Segedunum was a Roman fort at modern-day Wallsend, Tyne and Wear, England, UK. The fort lay at the eastern end of Hadrian’s Wall near the banks of the River Tyne, forming the easternmost portion of the wall. It was in use as a garrison for approximately 300 years, from around 122 AD, almost up to 400AD. Segedunum is the most thoroughly excavated fort along Hadrian’s Wall, and is operated as Segedunum Roman Fort, Baths and Museum. ref wikipedia

Arbeia was a large Roman fort in South Shields, Tyne & Wear, England, now ruined, and which has been partially reconstructed. Founded in about AD 160, the Roman Fort guarded the main sea route to Hadrian’s Wall. It later became the maritime supply fort for Hadrian’s Wall, and contains the only permanent stone-built granaries yet found in Britain. It was occupied until the Romans left Britain in the 5th century. “Arbeia” means the “fort of the Arab troops” referring to the fact that part of its garrison at one time was a squadron of Mesopotamian boatmen from the Tigris, following Emperor Septimius Severus after he secured the city of Singara in 197. ref wikipedia

There is much else to see and do in Newcastle, so if I don’t get to see everything, I shall plan for when I return at a future date to continue my walk south along the Durham coastline, which also happens to be the shortest English county coastline. (p.s. did you know that Devon is the only county with two coastlines? – it straddles the Cornish peninsula, which happens to be the county with the longest coastline at 1,086 kms which would take me 54 days at 20kms per day to walk 🙂 ) love that kind of trivia!!

And on the 11th September, exactly 4 years to the day from when I set off on my Portuguese Coastal Camino, I will be walking from Newcastle to Heddon-on-the-Wall and my first overnight stop along Hadrian’s Wall.

I will be walking a total of 22 days including 7 days of exploring …..the longest walking ‘holiday’ by far that I’ve ever done….the Pilgrim’s Way the longest, albeit split into 2 different sections and walked in different years, which puts the Camino in the running for the longest continuous excursion.

Still not anywhere near the kind of distances that other people have walked….but, I’m getting there.

In the meantime I’m compiling a list of ‘things to see and do’ on both these walks and hope to get to do them all.

I’m keen to calculate my various days of walking over September to see just exactly how many kms I cover over the period. I’m going to allocate all the kms walked in August and September to the Kruger National Park Conqueror Challenge which is 412kms and aim to complete by the end of September so I can get the original medal that I signed up for. They changed the distance and medal subsequent to my signing up because people were complaining that the ‘street’ view was boring LOL I mean hellloooo It’s the Kruger Park….the street view is in a national game reserve and the animals don’t come out to play just because google is there. But we have until 30 September to complete the original challenge, so I’m going to do my best.

Kruger National Park virtual challenge
Kruger National Park virtual challenge

Countdown has well and truly begun…

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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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Well that didn’t take long…I guess I can now be classed as a seasoned backpack packer! Hoorah!

Packing for hiking

I remember when I packed for the Camino in 2017, I weighed every single item, no matter how small and carefully calculated exactly what I desperately needed and thought I should have in my backpack…some of it ‘just in case’. Much of it unused. I packed, unpacked, and repacked countless times rearranging everything over and over to get the optimum balance …but now have a place for everything, and everything in its place 🙌😁😁

Fortunately I have since learned just how much I can manage without, and I’ve scaled it down drastically. Carrying the backpack in Spain and then again on the first half of the Pilgrim’s Way, gave me a fair idea of just how heavy it gets after 4 or 5 hours, never mind 8!! When I packed for the Camino, the weight came in just over 11 kgs, which in reality was more than the recommended 10% of body weight by a few kgs, and lugging Pepe across England on the Pilgrim’s Way in the heat of summer in 2018 has taught me more than I care to know.

So with that in mind I unpacked EVERYTHING I had and I laid it out on the bed. I then went through the less obvious items and removed at least 1kg, but this is an extra cull after the one I did subsequent to the 2nd half of the Pilgrim’s Way in 2020. So now, I have the bare minimum (I think) and at least 5 items on the list will be on my body each day instead of in the bag. I’ve even cut down on the shampoo and conditioner because I’m going to have my hair cropped as short as I can before I leave in September, and I’m sure the AirBnb hosts and the hotels will have what I need. You know how those ‘few’ 100 gram items add up!!

Keeping in mind that not only is there an average of 8 days of rain in September in Northumberland and it will, knowing my fate, rain on at least some of the days I’m walking….(but I might be lucky…who knows), I’ve added the waterproof over trousers and gaiters. And then of course there is Hadrian’s Wall and I know for sure from the many images I have seen of other walkers that it rains quite a lot and quite heavily along the wall…

So without further ado….here is my list:

Emergency Items: Waterproof Backpack Cover with reflective chevrons. Orange emergency survival bag (plastic) with a copy of my passport folded up inside and a list of I.C.E. numbers. Silver foil emergency sheet. 1 LED emergency flashlight. A reflective safety vest. A flashing reflector light for my fanny-pack. These are items I take on every walk.

Rain gear: 1 bright yellow waterproof (I hope 🌧🌧) poncho. Waterproof breathable over-trousers. a pair of gaiters.

Cold weather clothes: ultra light Puffer jacket with hood. Pair of gloves. 1 long-sleeved jumper. 1 long-sleeved lightweight vest.

Outer gear: 2 pairs lightweight, quick-drying hiking trousers. 3 lightweight, quick-drying breathable hiking t-shirts. I should probably get myself a hat??

Underwear: 5 pairs double thick hiking socks (love these socks). 4 pairs inner wick-away socks. 2 pairs night-time underwear. 4 pairs netting pants for day wear. 2 bras. (No night-time gear – I will wear the next day’s t-shirt to sleep in).

Toiletries: SPF 50+ sunscreen (in case I remember to use it 🤪). Aloe Vera facewash. Bamboo toothbrush. Small tube toothpaste. incognito anti-mosquito (100% natural ingredients and no poisons). Tiny bottle incognito citronella oil. Hotel acquired tubes of shampoo & conditioner. Small bottle shower gel. small comb. Emery board to keep toe nails under control. Aloe Vera Heat Lotion for tired feet pre and after walking (works a treat). Lip-Ice. Hand sanitiser. Eye mask (my eyes are light sensitive and I sleep better in the dark). Sound blockers for nighttime. Prescribed Medications.

Health: a pack of paracetamol pre and after walk pain killers (my feet appreciate the thought!) Various small items for cuts, grazes and as yet no blisters. Covid Masks, surgical gloves, small plastic waste bags, plasters, vitamins (I boost my body daily when hiking to repair any damage done), gel toe guards, braces/velcro loops for hanging wet items off the backpack to dry while walking.

2 litre Hydration pack. 1.5 litre water-bottle.

To be added prior to departure: Phone charger. Emergency charger. Guide book & passport. Small travel double adapter.

Fanny pack with my Camino shell attached. Purse with passport, drivers licence, cash in case my bank card doesn’t work, driver’s license. Small note book with route places noted, AirBnb addresses and a list of ‘things to see’. My train ticket (collected yesterday hoorah!). And of course my reading and long-distance glasses…can’t leave those behind.

My Conqueror Medal for Hadrian’s Wall. I figured that since I’ve walked it virtually and will now be walking it for real, and after seeing someone on the Conqueror community group do the same, I’m going to wear mine as I walk 🙂

And that’s it! Anything I’ve forgotten? Seeing it listed, it still seems quite a lot…

Even though the reflective backpack cover is meant to be waterproof, I usually pack all my clothes into resealable plastic bags in case of a downpour since Pepe is not waterproof and rain tends to creep in anywhere it can find a gap.

I’ve removed my night t-shirt and leggings, a torch that’s quite heavy albeit small, towel and face cloth, various duplicated toiletries and relevant toiletry bag.

37 days and counting…..

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Stage 6 – Staines-Upon-Thames to Windsor 11.06.2021 – 20.46 kms – 6 hours 57 minutes – 39,770 steps – elevation 73 meters

After a really hectic week of walking and taking my grandson on outings, plus a 19 km jaunt along the Saxon Shore Way and a brief visit to Sheppey Island, on Thursday 10th June I impulsively decided to walk another 2 stages of the Thames Path! I had planned on going up to London on Saturday 12th for Trooping the Colour, but fortunately I thought to check their website, only to discover that due to the continued lockdown, they had decided to hold the ceremony in Windsor again this year. And at that moment I decided to do the next 2 stages of the Thames Path; Staines-Upon-Thames to Windsor on the 11th and Windsor to Maidenhead on the 12th. Change of plans…

Walking the Saxon Shore Way
Walking the Saxon Shore Way

I quickly rejigged my calendar and rearranged my weekend plans, then a mad scramble to book accommodation ensued and at literally just on 9pm Thursday night I secured an Airbnb booking close to The Long Walk. I hastily packed my backpack with the absolute minimum requirements and prepared some food for the next day. Hoorah! I was off on the next 2 stages of my adventure. As mentioned in Stage 5, it was taking longer and longer to reach my starting point (the end point of my previous stage) and made more sense to stay overnight on day 1 and pick up again on day 2. The idea this time was to walk Stage 6: Staines to Windsor, stay overnight, watch as much of Trooping the Colour as I could see

after which I set off at approximately 1pm for Maidenhead, planning/hoping to arrive there relatively early for the long trip home. However, due to faffing around at the Three Store in Windsor for 2 hours, I missed the earlier train! LOL

The plans of mice and (wo)men….do not always work to plan! But that’s what I love about my life…I can change my plans any time I like 🙂

I left home early to get the 09:25 train as advised previously by the station attendant, and travelled to Staines via Vauxhall. Here things went a little awry…trains were either late, cancelled altogether or didn’t stop at the station. Total chaos reigned. Eventually sometime after 12noon, I finally boarded a train bound for Weybridge, stopping at Staines and arrived at just after 1pm. I made haste towards the river, reaching the railway bridge at 13:11 (now 34 minutes behind schedule!)

Staines Railway Bridge

Staines was the end of the tidal Thames until 1812 when the downstream locks were built. Staines Railway Bridge was built in 1856 and painted with yellow stripes in 1995 to stop swans from flying into it. ref Cicerone guide book.

Following the same route as when I first reached Staines on the 24th April at the end of Stage 5, I stopped to photograph the houses by the riverside that I passed at that time

So pretty, and there’s Staines Bridge in the distance
Reminds me of Bermuda, so gorgeous and a fab view

Then a quick photoshoot (of course 😁😁) of all the interesting sculptures and the London Stone

The London Stone

The London Stone marks the end of the City of London’s river jurisdiction (1197-1857) and although it has been moved a few times in the area, it has stood in Staines-Upon-Thames since 1285. The Lord Mayor of London made an annual visit to touch the stone with a sword. (the London Stone at Staines, built in 1285 marked the customs limit of the Thames and the City of London’s jurisdiction – the Corporation acquired these rights from the Crown in 1197 in the reign of King Richard I and held them until 1857 when the Thames Conservancy was formed).

After saying hello to the bridge, I meandered along the north bank and found a shady spot opposite Church Island to have my lunch.

Perfect view, Church Island to my right and the opposite bank where I’ll soon be walking

It was so relaxing just sitting watching the river and the world go by, that I could have stayed all day.

Top pic behind me. Bottom pic looking towards Church Island

I didn’t tarry too long, time was passing and so I set off back to the bridge

Thames Path Over Bridge – sounds like the title of a book 😄

Following the instructions in the guide book I crossed over to the opposite bank and went in search of a City of London coal tax post, which the author said was opposite the London stone…it wasn’t…I used up 2.92 kms and 30 minutes searching for it before giving up and continuing my walk – but not before photographing a couple of items that could possibly have been it, but weren’t….

#notthecoaltaxpost

I did eventually come across what I suspect is what he was talking about….but it wasn’t opposite the London Stone!! it was in fact, a way further upstream of the bridge on the south bank, whereas the London Stone is downstream of the bridge on the north bank. Hmmm

I was really excited to be walking along this section and looking forward to visiting the Magna Carta memorial…which I thought was on an island but wasn’t. It was actually very easy to visit once I knew how!! LOL As with all things you read in the guide books, the reality is very different to what you imagine it would be like. But that was still to come…also a lot further along than I imagined.

I would also be passing from Surrey into Berkshire on this stage, the 4th county since I started my journey at 1. Erith in Kent 2. Greater London 3. Surrey and 4. Berkshire. Of course there are a greater number of boroughs that I passed through.

Even though Staines is quite far from London, especially if you follow the course of the river, there is still a tremendous amount of history alongside the banks, and as I had discovered at Walton-Upon-Thames, the Vikings travelled the distance to plunder the abbeys. In 871 Vikings, from the word vikingr meaning raider or explorer, attacked Reading before making their way along the Thames to London at the end of the year. Setting off from Staines across the fields they sacked Chertsey Abbey, setting fire to the buildings and stealing valuables. It is said that Abbot Beocca, Presbyter Ethor and 90 monks were murdered, however, it is unclear whether the deaths all occurred in the 871 raid, or whether the number is a total from three attacks on the abbey. ref Chertsey Museum

The brick path from the bridge to the river’s edge is lovely and quite decorative. The path from here onwards is also very rural with lots of beautiful green trees and rich undergrowth and I passed through many shady copses and open fields, as well as alongside cultivated gardens that ran right down to the riverside.

The paved pathway leading to the river and the Thames Path
Onwards….Windsor, I’m on my way!!

Crossing a lovely arched bridge over a little inlet

You can now see Church Island on the right from a different angle – LOVE that house!

a minute later I plunged into a world of leafy green foliage and shade.

Blissful walking environment

This continued for a few minutes and lo and behold….the City of London Coal Tax post…at least I think it was! I did a bit of research and found this on wikipedia Coaltax posts are boundary marker posts found in southern England. They were erected in the 1860s and form an irregular loop between 12 and 18 miles from London to mark the points where taxes on coal were due to the Corporation of London. There were originally around 280 posts of which around 210 remain. So yes, I do believe this was (possibly) the coal tax post…

Coal Tax post me thinks!

The path continued with the river in close proximity through leafy green glades, past islands, across bridges, past creeks and canal boats. Tall trees abounded and provided the most glorious shade as the gravel path wound it’s way; turning this way and that way (reminded me of the nursery rhyme that my grandson loves)

the bridge before the bridge…the hum of traffic from the M25 was already quite loud

I soon reached and passed beneath Runneymede Bridge and the M25….the traffic noise was astounding and jarred on the senses. I did though enjoy the image presented by the architecture of the underpass.

I saw an information board that told me about a Bronze Age Settlement that has been discovered in 1975 during development of the M25 motorway. Fragments of pottery dating to 750BC were spotted by local archaeologists. Before the Runnymede Bridge excavations, little was known about late prehistoric South East England prior to the Iron Age. From the artefacts discovered, it is clear that the river played a fundamental role in the lives of our Bronze Age ancestors. Excavation has shown that the site includes a large number of post holes and a wattle and daub spread including a double row of in-situ pile driven timber uprights forming a river frontage. The finds recovered include part of a spearhead and socketed axe fragment, pins, ‘buttons’, rings, possible pommel, two pairs of tweezers, amber beads, spindle whorls, a loom weight and worked bone objects. This bronze assemblage was dated to the 9th-8th century BC.

now just a field of wild flowers…but haunted by the spirits of our ancestors

Absolutely fascinating! It gave me goosebumps to look out over the field of wild grasses and flowers and try to imagine the people who lived there so many centuries before. Magic

A short few paces on and I passed the first of the locks on this section; Bell Weir Lock – a pretty little island. The lock is named after its very first lock keeper, Charles Bell, who was employed by the Thames Navigation Commissioners in 1917. He earned a good wage of £4 per month, but for this he had to provide his own residence. He already owned a house close by, so he had no problems. Charles fought in the first World War but sadly, he didn’t return. His wife was believed to have taken over the job. Several years ago a rare bald eagle was sighted here. At the same time an Irish landowner had lost one and discovered it was the same bird! He travelled to Bell Weir, caught the bird and took it home to Ireland.

Bell Weir Lock

Imagine my delight when I spotted the fantastic Magna Carta mural on the wall of the Lockmaster’s house – brought back many wonderful memories of being a part of the Magna Carta flotilla from Datchet via Windsor to Runneymede meadows back in 2015! Again thanks to my very special friend Joe Lane who invited me along to join them on the Trinity Tide. A magical day and a great honour to be part of the celebrations. I was in a daze of delight the whole day!

Magna Carta

Prominent in my thoughts the whole day was how I was going to reach the Magna Carta Memorial – I could be forgiven for being confused when looking at the picture board!! It caused just a little bit (a lot) of stress…in fact I thought I had bypassed it altogether! but no….if I had but studied the board a little closer, I would have seen that the memorial was still to come and very accessible.

Across the river I spotted a really beautiful building, looked like a hotel really, and what appeared to be a weir with probably a pump house….but no matter how much searching I’ve done on google maps and the web, I am quite unable to find out what it is….intriguing and more than a little frustrating to not know what it is!.

what is this place?

As with the Stage 5, there are some stunning houses on very large properties along this section of the river. I saw one in particular that I just loved!

oh my word…how much I love this house

Near the Runnymede Boatyard I saw a number of quirky canal boats moored alongside the banks…absolutely gorgeous. Clearly they are more permanent residents if the gardens are anything to go by. They provided a stunning array of colours and designs. Apparently there is a mile of these boats along this stretch. Woww.

It looks so quaint and quirky, each boat completely different to the next
how different a lifestyle this must be…away from the noise of civilization, but close to your neighbour!

Here the path changes again and runs alongside the river across from ‘The Island’ which according to google maps is not a complete island….there were however some gorgeous houses that fronted the river…wow. That side of the river is Wraysbury. It looks really lovely.

I soon reached the Runnymede Pleasure Grounds and rather than taking a shortcut across the field to the statue of Queen Elizabeth II, I followed the path as it rounded a rather large bend in the river. One thing for sure that I’m learning about this river; The Thames, is that it is anything but straight!!

Runnymead Pleasure Grounds

It is an incredibly beautiful stretch (kind of a horse-shoe shape) and by and by I reached the QEII statue. I loved the history timelines engraved on the flagstones and endeavoured to photograph them all…hah!

Looks more like Princess Anne than Queen Elizabeth II
the dates freak me out LOL
Magna Carta – meaning: Great Charter. I love how French sounds so exotic, but translated into English…so simple (boring LOL)

I’m not entirely sure that the essence of the Magna Carta is upheld today…

leaving Runnymead Pleasure Grounds behind me

Runnymede – I was getting closer to the memorial, but still for the life of me I could not see it. I didn’t dare use my google maps function on my phone coz it chews battery life, and even though I had a spare charger, I have a fear of losing battery power….so I just carried on and hope for the best. I needn’t have worried.

If you haven’t yet been to the Magna Carta Memorial and you happen to be walking the Thames Path, and wondering where the memorial is and how to get there…it is a lot easier than I thought.

I got really excited when I saw this sign!!

When the barons gathered here in 1215 to meet King John on Runnymede, they had to ford the river at Staines – the first bridge was built 7 years later. ref Cicerone guidebook.

Across the river I could see a small section of the Ankerwycke Abbey. But sadly not the Yew Tree…I’ll have to go back and approach from the other side of the river some other time.

the ruins of Ankerwyke Abbey

Meanwhile….I was getting closer to achieving my dream of visiting the Magna Carta Memorial….6 years is a long wait!

And finally, there it was. And so easy to get to LOL after all my stress of missing it.

Simply cross the road at the traffic lights by the National Trust buildings and a short walk across the fields and there it was

cross here 🙂
follow this path

It was ever so worth the extra 2.5 km walk there and back. I met a delightful couple who were visiting the site, and we ended up chatting for well over 30 minutes while they asked questions, and I regaled them with snippets from my many journeys around the UK on the Camino. The lady of the couple said she was really keen to take up with long distance walking but didn’t want to go on her own….and I’m like “OMG that’s my ideal scenario!” She was already a member of Ramblers, but wanted to try something a little less crowded. She happened to say that one of the things with walking in a big group, is that you have to keep to their schedule…and that is exactly why I walk on my own. If I want to go off on a tangent to explore or spend an hour in a particular spot…then I am answerable to no-one.

Back to the memorial….it was everything I imagined and more. I got very emotional standing there and thought of my friend Joe (he has no idea just how very grateful I am that he invited me along, it was certainly one of the highlights of my life in the UK).

The Magna Carta Memorial – Symbol of Freedom Under Law

I took my time to read the information boards at the gate, walked around the memorial in a clockwise direction and mounted the steps to read the engravings. Absolutely thrilling.

enroute to the Magna Carta memorial is this amazing oak tree planted in 1987 with soil from Jamestown, Virginia

From there, and on the way back to the road I first stopped to admire the sculpture in the field; the 12 chairs depicting the barons at their meeting with King John…they are terrific

a lovely ensemble of decorative chairs representing the barons

And then I visited the J F Kennedy Memorial which is beautiful and worth the fairly steep climb.

a tiny piece of America in England

On my way back to the gates I noticed a lot of yellow ribbons tied to the branches of some trees, fluttering in the wind. Intrigued I walked over for a closer look, and as with the memorial on the Albert Embankment on Stage 2 through London, my heart contracted and I was close to tears. Each ribbon depicts someone who has died from Covid-19. Oh my gosh, so so sad…and really heart-wrenching to see the hundreds of ribbons each with a name and a date. I saw a ribbon lying on the ground all spattered with mud, so picked it up and dusted it off as best I could, then tied it back onto the branch. These memorials really bring home the reality of the staggering number of people who have died since March 2020.

incredibly poignant, and a real whack to the heart

Feeling pensive, and grateful for my health, I meandered over to the National Trust tearoom, only to find them locking the door!! LOL my luck., I should have stopped there first…but then I will have missed that lovely couple I chatted to earlier. Cést la vie. I used the facilities instead and hope I could find some water somewhere…it was another hot day and I had already used up all my supplies.

Back at the river, at the boatyard, as I walked past two gentlemen sat on the riverside, I asked if they knew where I could top up my water…what a gentleman….he gave me a bottle of water 🙂 I could have kissed him…but then he might have turned into a frog! I was delighted to spot a wee bunny in a field to my left…I had to backtrack to get a photo to show my grandson, and amazed that the bunny actually stayed put and allowed me to snap away… I thought for sure it would bound off into the undergrowth at my approach. But the fence…

Boom! Suddenly I was in Old Windsor. whoo hoo!! time 16:47 and I had been walking and exploring for nearly 4 hours. I had wanted to visit the old church mentioned in the guide book, but frankly I was quite tired by then, so decided to leave it for another time.

Old Windsor

The first Windsor, what we now know as old Windsor, grew up just to the south west of this lock. It was a fortified, national centre for the Saxons. Edward the Confessor had his palace only 3oo meters from here. After the Norman Conquest, King William continued to use Kingsbury, its church and surrounding buildings as a council place and hunting centre. The name Windsor may derive from ‘windles ora’ meaning a bank with a windlass.

The path ran right alongside the river here and there were some splendid boats moored up on the opposite bank of the river.

Dark gloomy clouds hung heavy on the horizon and I hoped that I wasn’t going to be subjected to a shower (not yet anyway).

I’ve said this before….and it’s worth repeating, the Thames Path is varied!!

Check this cute little canalboat…in the background on the opposite bank is a capsized boat. Poor old thing. I saw quite a few dilapidated and abandoned boats alongside the river bank. I often wonder why they have just been left there to rot.

Up and down, around and switchback, the path is a bit like a rollercoaster, and took me through some beautiful green areas.

Suddenly I reached Old Windsor Lock…getting closer to ‘new’ Windsor!!

Walking the Thames Path
Old Windsor Lock – look at the diagram of the river LOL twisting and winding

Continuing on my way I passed what I mistakenly thought was the Albert Bridge – it was in fact Ham Lane leading to Ham Island, which on closer inspection via google maps appears to have been created by another cut-through to avoid a large bend in the river… another section to try and walk at some stage then! Apparently I was walking in an area called Saint George’s Farm – okayyy, cool!

I walked over to the middle of the bridge to capture the scene upstream and downstream – looks the same either way.

This section of the path wound it’s way through shoulder height grasses and wild flowers – a home for the bees and butterflies. Magical.

I was just about to sit down at this bench when a little black and white spaniel came bounding out of the underbrush trailing all manner of greenery and nearly gave me heart-failure LOL It bounded off along the path and joined an elderly gentleman I had seen walking ahead of me – one of very few people I encountered on the path.

I spent a few minutes at the bench relaxing, enjoying some welcome tea and sandwich and soaking up the tranquillity…birdsong the only sounds.

Albert Bridge. Here I had to cross over to the north bank once again because her Maj owns the next section all the way into town…so there! Prince Albert’s Walk m’dear!

I stopped at the top of the bridge to photograph the river, it’s so beautiful and looks so tranquil. Just around that bend, and another larger loop in the river, but not too far upstream is Windsor Castle and my bed for the night. Hoorah!

Around that bend…and the next 😉

Down and around and under the bridge I was now on the north side of the river. The bridge design is really pretty.

Albert Bridge

After crossing beneath the bridge the path meandered along past overgrown edges, a veritable plethora of plants. Over the fence a farmers field edged with a corridor of wild flowers for birds, bees and butterflies and all our wonderful wildlife that need this kind of habitat to thrive. Poppies waved their bright red heads, a stunning palette against the multi-colours of green.

In the distance I could see the red tiled roof of the farmhouse of Southlea Farm (Slough) … I’m nearing Datchet now.

On my left a thick line of shrubs covered in spider webs…a bit like a dusty cloak. I’ve always been intrigued by these webs so did a bit of research…as it turns out, it’s caterpillars that build these webs. Who knew 🤔🤔

Soon the path turned away from the river, although along this short section I couldn’t really see the river anyway the undergrowth and overgrowth was so thick…but I knew it was there. Just before the B3021, the path took a sharp left (do not go through the gate said the guidebook, but turn left) and so I walked into Datchet.

It was horrible, lots of traffic, a very narrow pathway, overgrown hedges almost pushing you to step onto the roadway.

I ended up skirting a very very narrow verge since I hadn’t been able to cross the road. The guidebook didn’t say anything about crossing over so I carried on assuming the sidewalk would continue….it didn’t. Fortunately no big trucks came past and I managed to reach safety without mishap.

looking back – not fun to walk on what turned out to be the wrong side of the road…but I got through

A brief excursion onto The Green, which was not on the official Thames Path, but it looked pretty and offered brief respite from the traffic.

From there I did cross over the road, only to have to cross back over again not much further on. The guidebook could be updated here with more information. As it is, I just navigated by my nose until I spotted a direction marker pointing me in the right direction.

check out that traffic….I had to squeeze my way across

Along a short path, across a wee bridge alongside the Dachet Golf Club and once again I was plunged into a world of green, the traffic now barely a whisper.

Across the river, now visible again, I could see her Maj’s secret hideaway LOL

Do you think Her Majesty hides away here sometimes?

Anddd another flight of stairs..this time onto Victoria Bridge, and once again I returned to the south bank of the Thames. Looking back downstream from the top of the bridge the difference in vegetation between the two sides of the river is quite remarkable. On the left: an overgrown jungle of trees, shrubbery, flowers and grasses, and to my right her Maj’s perfectly manicured lawns, the trees marching in an orderly row evenly paced as they disappear around the bend. Someone needs to tell herself that we need wildlife corridors for the birds and the bees!

Her Majesty’s Lawns vs Nature

Hoorah!!! My first glimpse of Windsor Castle! From Victoria Bridge

I followed the directions in the guide book, although it wasn’t really necessary…but

Then things took a turn for the worse…actually not really, it just felt like that at the time. By this time I was tired and footsore, desperate for a cup of tea and in no mood to be redirected around construction sites. How inconsiderate of them to go and put up fencing and stuff.. LOL grumpy granny was out her box!!

Home Park….and here I had to force my way through a jungle of overgrowth my panga swiping left and right to forge a way through….LOL sorry my mind went off on a tangent there. As you may well imagine, my vocabulary once again took a turn for the worse…if I were a witch, workmen would be dropping around me like flies! Turns out they’re repairing Black Potts Ait bridge.. or something like that.

Diversion is the spice (chilli 🌶) of life

Once past the fencing I made my way diagonally across Home Park to the river and met up with the Thames Path once again. Very pretty along this section…so much green and so tranquil.

I walked beneath the railway line just as a train rumbled past. So glad I don’t have to rush to catch a train home tonight!

still going in the right direction!

I passed Romney Lock, but from the state of it I’d say it’s not in much use anymore.

Romney Lock

A metalled road soon took over from the lovely gravel pathway and hey ho, back in the urban jungle once again.

And there just ahead of me!!!! Wheyyy heyy heyyy my next sighting of Windsor Castle!! Hoorah.

Relax Lizzie, I’m almost there, put the kettle on sweetie 🙂 So exciting to finally see the towers of the castle. But first I had to traverse this metalled road and pass some ugly industrial sites/sights!!

The path suddenly veered away to the right and thankfully I was once again surrounded by green with a small canal to my right. After looking at google maps I can see that it’s a small cut-away from the main river that splits around Romney Lock.

Walking alongside the Thames (Thameside) I could see Windsor Bridge in the distance…not long to go now!

Windsor Bridge in the distance
Stopping to look back from whence I had come…the railway bridge in the distance

Lookie lookie!!!! What can I see? Without further ado, I was there…in Windsor. Glimpses of the castle as I walked towards the bridge

Knock knock! I’m here…..journey’s end! Hoorah. Windsor Bridge: designed by Charles Hollis and opened in 1824. Freed from tolls by the action of Joseph Taylor in 1898. Closed to vehicles in 1970. How sensible.

Windsor Bridge

Just across the bridge is Eton where our bonnie Princes William and Harry attended college. I mean why not? Granny’s pad was just up the road…makes sense really.

Looking towards Eton

I passed this really gorgeous old building on my way in…

Bell and The Dragon – serving food since the 11th century

And still light enough to have a bit of an explore and and ice-cream – come on! you knew there would be an ice-cream at the end of this! Actually, I asked a chap walking by if he would please take a photo of me with my ice-cream, in front of the castle… as you know, my selfies are not that good. But I’m not quite sure he got the idea of a good photo…and much of the pavement, my feet and legs are in the pic, but not much of the top of the castle. Oh well. I did a selfie anyway…rubbish as always. I might concede defeat and get one of those gadgets that allows you to take selfies when you have short arms. Oh wait! I have one. My daughter bought it for me. I hate it! LOL

if I look like I’m grimacing, it’s because I was – come on already, just take the photo!!

Windsor Castle. As castles go, this one is superb! Talk about intimidating! But it’s also beautiful and I love it! A quick few pics and then it was time to find my Airbnb.

Windsor Castle : Windsor Castle is the oldest and largest occupied castle in the world. Founded by William the Conqueror in the 11th century, it has since been the home of 39 monarchs. Today The Queen spends most of her private weekends at the Castle. In fact she was home this weekend for her Official Birthday Parade and to meet President Joe Biden and Dr Jill Biden.

I had messaged my host ahead to say that I would be there about 7pm, as it turns out I got there just on 8pm! Usually when I get to a ‘new’ place I always check in and then go out and explore…but not tonight! My fabulous host made me a much appreciated cup of tea and I had my cup-a-soup and a slice of bread. Then sat in her garden for 30 minutes or so just to unwind, after which I bade them goodnight, had a shower and fell into bed….absolutely knackered!

Another fantastic day! Gosh I do love walking. Even though my feet ache and I feel like I’ve been run over by a truck by day’s end, I love to discover new places, sights and scenes. Once again I had it all; fantastic weather, wonderful scenery – albeit very different to stage 5, pretty bridges, a few locks, and a historic and world-famous castle at the end of the day…and an ice-cream. I am just a bit put-out though…Lizzie forgot I was coming and made other arrangements. So rude!

What a wonderful day!!

May I add as a caveat to what I said about walking on my own…the only exceptions I’m prepared to make are walking with two of my younger sisters who are both seasoned long-distance walkers/cyclists/hikers and understand the dynamics.

My favourite travel quote

If you missed the beginning of my journey, I started Stage 1 from Erith

I continued my journey with Stage 7 on 12th June…post hopefully to follow soon 😉🚶‍♀️🚶‍♀️

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I was quite amused by this article shared on a walking page on facebook.

https://www.cicerone.co.uk/a-question-of-stiles-rural-ingenuity-or-hazardous-obstacle

It totally reminded me of my walk along The Pilgrim’s Way back in 2018 and 2020…I cannot tell you how many, many stiles, of all shapes, sizes, state of decay or disrepair, and levels of navigable ability I encountered over the week of my final stages. At one point at the end of a very long day, near Detling, I literally sat down on the step of what was thankfully the last stile of the day for 30 minutes and just refused to climb it…my mind was bent!! I just couldn’t face having to hoik myself and my backpack, which by then felt like it weighed in at 5 tons, over the damn stile!! I seriously considered just parking myself in the surrounding field and staying there for the night….except…creepy crawlies and things that go bump in the night.

Walking the Pilgrim's Way
Another mile, another stile – near Detling alongside the motorway, not a very comfortable seat

In the space of 25 minutes, early evening, after walking for 10 hours, I encountered 1 kissing gate and 4 stiles, two of which were no more than 2 minutes apart! I kid you not!! So not funny! LOL I had just 3 hours earlier squeezed myself through another kissing gate…most times, as the article suggests, you have to just take the backpack off, throw it over (or lower it carefully depending on how fed-up you are) and squeeze through.

and then, just to really make my day….I had to climb this flight of stairs straight after, only to discover that I would be walking right next to a very busy motorway. What I said on seeing these stairs…. I’ll leave to your imagination

Oh! and may I just say…I did this walk between lockdowns in 2020! At a time when we were allowed to travel, albeit not hugely encouraged…I hardly saw a soul most days, and only encountered my airbnb hosts in a controlled environment. Just saying….as they say. I got some seriously nasty flack from someone I don’t even know on facebook…which is why my profile is private…

Other than that…what has been your experience with stiles? I’m truly grateful that so far there are none on the Thames Path and I’ve encountered only kissing gates so far on The Saxon Shore Way. The English Coast Path is also mostly free of stiles…probably coz you can’t farm on the beach. Or can you?

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Stage 4 : Richmond to Hampton Court 23.04.2021 – 18.14 kms – 4 hours 47 min – 28,390 steps – elevation 40 meters

As with Stage 3 I was on what felt like home ground today…

When I planned my day trips I saved this section especially for today; from Richmond to Hampton Court…my 2 most favourite places. When we lived in St Margaret’s, a stone’s throw from Richmond, I used to practically live at Hampton Court Palace. I was a member of the Historic Royal Palaces, and Hampton Court was an easy bus ride away….

This was also the shortest distance I’d planned. Initially I had planned to meet up with my daughter and family and spend the day in Hampton Court, but of course lockdown changed all that, besides which the rail tickets were exorbitant (🤣🤣🤣my autocorrect said: extortionate!! – too right!).

I was well excited for this section – I’ve walked this section so many times and it was all so very familiar to me…which made it more special – pretty much both sides of the river actually.

I’ve also had the joy and privilege of having travelled along the river on one of the boats in the 2014 Tudor Pull flotilla and on one of the boats following the 2012 Olympic Torch from Hampton Court to Kew (where the boat I was on returned upriver). Incredibly exciting.

Three cheers for the Gloriana – Tudor Pull 2014 the copyright for this video belongs to myself

Setting off really early from Ramsgate I arrived at Richmond station at just after 12noon. I set MapMyWalk and headed back towards Richmond Green. I planned on walking through the palace grounds enroute to the river.

walking the thames path
The Green, Richmond – in summer you can watch a game of cricket or many other events that take place

The palace has such an extraordinary history and much I like did when we lived in the area, I walked through the grounds as often as possible. Although the current buildings are but a shadow of their former glory, it is still a thrill to walk through the same gate as did kings and queens of England.

walking the thames path
Richmond Palace

The buildings are now privately owned, but hark back to more regal times; Palace Gate House, The King’s Wardrobe, the Trumpeter’s House & Lodge, Trumpeter’s Inn, the road I was on: Old Palace Yard. Just thrilling 🙂

Walking the Thames Path, Richmond Palace
Walking the Thames Path, Richmond Palace
walking the thames path
Richmond Palace, home to kings and queens of yore

Following Old Palace Lane I passed the ever so popular row of cottages dating back to the first half of the 19th century. They’re all painted white and on the whole have a splendid display of wisteria adorning the walls. It’s almost an attraction in itself.

walking the thames path
Beautiful houses in Richmond; hung with wisteria – an attraction in itself

Back on the Thames Path

walking the thames path
Goodbye Kew, hello Richmond, see you soon Ham House

Reaching the river, I set off upstream along Cholmondeley Walk towards the bridge.

walking the thames path
Cholmondeley Walk, Richmond – heading upstream

As I reached the riverside an ice-cream van beckoned …so of course, since it was already midday, I bought myself a soft-serve with a flake…after all, why not? I stopped a couple of young ladies and asked them to please take a photo… Richmond, my favourite place outside of the City of London (well one of my ‘many’ favourite places LOL).

walking the thames path
start the day with an ice-cream? why not, it’s my birthday
Walking the Thames Path
St George’s Day – happy birthday from the days when I still had my 3 Days in London business 🙂

Knock knock… I always tap each bridge at the end of my walk to say hello…I’ve arrived at my destination.

walking the thames path
Looking back at Richmond Bridge – upstream side

Of course I stopped to take some photos and the I was off….from this point onwards the path becomes very rural and you pass fields of cows, grassy parks, lots of leafy green trees and a long swathe of woodland.

walking the thames path
islands in the stream – passing Petersham meadows on the left, heading upstream
walking the thames path
riverside walking – the path gets very rural along this stretch

Not too far along and you will reach the magnificent Ham House.

walking the thames path
Old Father Thames lounging about in front of Ham House; a fabulous 16th century mansion – a must visit

Ham House, a 17th-century house set in formal gardens on the banks of the River Thames was completed by 1610 by Thomas Vavasour, an Elizabethan courtier and Knight Marshal to James I. It came to prominence during the 1670s as the home of Elizabeth (Murray) Maitland, the Duchess of Lauderdale and Countess of Dysart and her 2nd husband John Maitland, the Duke of Lauderdale. Managed by the National Trust, it is claimed to be “unique in Europe as the most complete survival of 17th century fashion and power” – the house retains many of it’s original Jacobean features and furniture. I have visited on a couple of occasions in the past, and can highly recommend a visit if you are in the area. It is magnificent, as are the gardens. Ham House has featured in quite a few films, namely; The Young Victoria (2009), An Englishman in New York (2009), Anna Karenina (2012) and Downton Abbey (2019) to name but a few. A statue of Father Thames, designed by the sculptor John Bacon in 1775, resides on the lawns at the front of the house leading up to the front door.

The view from the main gates stretches along a narrow road towards the river, and as I headed back to the Thames path I was lucky enough to mythical beast being led past.

walking the thames path
mythical beasts haunt the byways – what a beauty

Across the river, and almost opposite Ham House is Marble Hill House. Another magnificent historical house.  A Grade I listed Palladian villa, located in Twickenham it was built between 1724 and 1729 as the home of Henrietta Howard, Countess of Suffolk, mistress of King George II when he was Prince of Wales, who lived there until her death in July 1767. Marble Hill House is a museum and managed by English Heritage. Also so well worth a visit. You can reach that side of the river via the Hammerton’s Ferry – a fun ride across the river….

Although I couldn’t see it from the Ham side of the river, you will also find Orleans House Gallery – Orleans House was a Palladian villa built by the architect John James in 1710 near the Thames at Twickenham for the politician and diplomat James Johnston. It was subsequently named after the Duc d’Orléans who stayed there in the early 19th century. And if you have the time and venture further inland (so to speak) you will find the extraordinary Strawberry Hill House (booking essential, oh my gosh….it’s exquisite). Strawberry Hill House’s story begins in 1747, when Horace Walpole discovered and purchased ‘Chopp’d Straw Hall’, one of the last remaining sites available on the banks of the Thames in fashionable Twickenham. He set about transforming what was then a couple of cottages into his vision of a ‘little Gothic castle’ with pinnacles, battlements and a round tower. Thus Strawberry Hill House was born – the House became a tourist attraction in Walpole’s lifetime and beyond. Independently owned, this house is a must visit if you’re in the area and have the time.

walking the thames path
an overview of where I was and what there is to see – Richmond

And now that I’ve given you a virtual tour of these most magnificent houses, back the the Thames Path and some more lovely houses and a superb pub across the river

walking the thames path
looking across the river to Twickenham – The White Swan Pub is a super place for outdoor dining

On my right hand side (on the day, looking upstream) and fronting Twickenham old town is Eel Pie Island, a dual purpose island with a small nature reserve and boat yards, a number of houses, an eclectic mix of people amongst whom are a number of artists and was once famous for being the site of the Eel Pie Island Hotel, originally a genteel 19th-century three-storey building that later hosted ballroom dancing during the 1920s and 1930s, various jazz bands and then, in the 1960s, rock and R&B groups; including The Rolling Stones, The Who, Pink Floyd and Black Sabbath and Genesis, amongst many others. If you’re interested there’s loads of info on wikipedia.

walking the thames path
Eel Pie Island on the left looking downstream towards Richmond

I once lived in a gypsy caravan on the banks of the river on Eel Pie Island…only for about 4 months, but it was ever so amazing, and noisy LOL – besides the people at the pubs, the geese and ducks in the morning…woww! The island can be accessed via footbridge from the Twickenham side of the river and every year the artists open their studios for visitors.

Onwards…the path along this section is so beautiful and peaceful, with greenery everywhere you look. I was lucky to have the most amazing weather and the river ran cool and blue to my right as I marched along…..at peace with the world. At 13:40 I found a shady spot to relax and enjoy some tea and a sandwich.

To my left and stretching from Richmond as far as Teddington Lock and ending just before Kingston are the Ham Lands Nature Reserve; this beautiful 72-hectare nature reserve lies in the bend of the River Thames between Richmond and Kingston. The site is a mix of habitats, mainly woodland, scrub, grassland and wetlands that contain a diversity of plants and animals, including numerous rare species that are hard to find in London. There are meadow wildflowers that attract bees and butterflies and the reserve is teaming with bird life.

walking the thames path
huge swathes of land are left wild and natural for nature to enjoy

Heading towards Teddington Lock I passed a small branch of the Thames where I spotted some youngsters enjoying an outings on canoes; one of the Forest Schools – Little Squirrels at Thames Young Mariners. I’d love for my grandson to go to a Forest School.

walking the thames path
Forest Schools and water activities

On the right hand side I spotted the Teddington Obelisk and suddenly there it was; Teddington Lock.

How did I get there so quickly? LOL From Richmond Green to Teddington Lock (dating to 1857) took just 1.5 hours! Much quicker than I expected. Unfortunately access to the lock was closed so instead I climbed up to the bridge and viewed the lock from both the lock and the weir sides of the river. If I had crossed right over I would have found The Anglers Pub, a mid-18th century pub where I have enjoyed a good meal in the past. But not today….time was marching on, and so should I.

Back on the path I noticed one of the Port of London Authority motor boats go by. The River Thames is managed by the PLA from source right up to Teddington Lock; the river is considered to be the tidal right up to this lock; ergo part of the North Sea. Below Teddington Lock (about 55 miles or 89 kilometres upstream of the Thames Estuary), the river is subject to tidal activity from the North Sea. Before the lock was installed, the river was tidal as far as Staines, about 16 miles (26 km) upstream. Brooks, canals and rivers, within an area of 3,842 square miles (9,951 km2), combine to form 38 main tributaries feeding the Thames between its source and Teddington Lock. ref wikipedia

walking the thames path
Port of London authority taking care of the lock

The PLA’s responsibility extends from a point marked by an obelisk just downstream of Teddington Lock (the upstream limit of the tidal river) to the end of the Kent/Essex strait of the North Sea (between Margate to the south and Gunfleet Lighthouse, near Frinton-on-Sea, to the north,) a total of about 95 miles (150 km) ref wikipedia.

All the way long the Thames Path from Richmond (and in fact pretty much from Putney the previous day) I found trees abloom with spring blossoms and flowers. The bluebells in particular seems to be wantonly prolific this year.

walking the thames path
besides the gorgeous weather, the fields were abloom with colour and blossoms

This whole area is just stunning and with the glorious weather I felt on top of the world.

walking the thames path
like the Camino, you learn to spot even the smallest sign that you’re going in the right direction

I spotted a direction marker on high : Kingston 1/4 mile and Hampton Court 3 miles. Bring it on!

walking the thames path
nearing Kingston

I passed a beautiful old building on my left with the British Coat of Arms adoring the wall, but I didn’t think to stop and look at the building properly to find out more. (if you happen to know what this is or was, please leave a comment 🙂 )

walking the thames path
wish I knew what this building is

Suddenly and without further ado, the greenery ended and I was back in concrete and suburbia. I had reached the outskirts of Kingston. Just past the building above I noticed a mama and papa duck guiding their babies 🙂 sweet

walking the thames path
Mummy and Daddy herding the kids… what a ruckus they made 🙂

I stopped off for a quick 10 minute rest in the Canbury Community Gardens. I’ve visited these lovely gardens previously when at a booking in Surbiton. It was now just on 14:50 and seriously I was amazed at how quickly I had reached Kingston.

A fantastic town to visit, Kingston was built at the first crossing point of the Thames upstream from London Bridge and a bridge still exists at the same site. It was this ‘great bridge’ that gave it its early importance in the 13th century. Kingston was occupied by the Romans, and later it was either a royal residence or a royal demesne. There is a record of a council held there in 838, at which Egbert of Wessex, King of Wessex, and his son Ethelwulf of Wessex were present. In the Domesday Book it was held by William the Conqueror. Kingston was called Cyninges tun in 838 AD, Chingestune in 1086, Kingeston in 1164, Kyngeston super Tamisiam in 1321 and Kingestowne upon Thames in 1589. The name means ‘the king’s manor or estate’ from the Old English words cyning and tun. It belonged to the king in Saxon times and was the earliest royal borough. According to the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, two tenth-century kings were consecrated in Kingston: Æthelstan (925), and Æthelred the Unready (978). There are certain other kings who are said to have been crowned there. The town of Kingston was granted a charter by King John in 1200, but the oldest one to survive is from 1208. The ancient market is still held daily in the Market Place, including today such produce as fish, jewellery, exotic foods, local foods and flowers. ref wikipedia We’ll be hearing more about bad King John later on in the journey; Stage 6 when I reach Magna Carta Island (which isn’t actually an island) enroute to Windsor.

walking the thames path
an alternative throne! Canvey Gardens, Kingston

I love Kingston, it’s history is absolutely fascinating. There is so much to see here if you are a history fanatic, as well as some wonderful modern features. Continuing on my way I passed a beautiful memorial to a young girl; Rosie Mitchell, just 15 years old.

walking the thames path
in memorium 😦

I passed some hoardings and stopped to photograph the stunning artworks that adorned the walls. How talented some people are!

walking the thames path
fabulous street art, Kingston

Within the town, but not too far from the river, you will find Out of Order by David Mach, a sculpture in the form of twelve disused red telephone boxes that have been tipped up to lean against one another in an arrangement resembling dominoes.

Passing John Lewis building and just before the bridge is small plaza where on your left you can see a fabulous mural of Kingston and just before the bridge in the basement of John Lewis, a preserved 14th century undercroft (cellar) – a beautiful chequer board pattern of chalk blocks and flints, with half of its roof still surviving.

It’s at this point that you want to be crossing the river to the north side….back into Richmond-Upon-Thames. The reason for that is because if you stay on the south bank of the Thames Path you will once again encounter a lot of diversions….namely the Thames Sailing Club and Hart’s Boatyard and a minor reservoir and you’d have to walk along the very busy Portsmouth Road, as well past as a long row of houses.

So since I did not wish to walk along that road I crossed over via Kingston Bridge; aka Horse Fair Bridge and then left onto Barge Walk, which would take me along a lovely rural and shady route right up until Hampton Court Palace. Until Putney Bridge was opened in 1729, Kingston Bridge was the only crossing of the river between London Bridge and Staines Bridge. According to 16th-century antiquarian John Leland, the bridge existed in the centuries when Anglo-Saxon England existed (after Roman Britain and before 1066 Norman invasion). Kingston is known to have had a bridge as early as 1193; a flimsy wooden structure replaced by the current bridge in 1828.

The Barge Walk, a lovely wide riverside path, runs for 5 kms and follows a curve in the river offering lovely views of the river and the opposite bank, taking you from Kingston Bridge all the way to Hampton Court Bridge, enroute passing Raven’s Ait Island on the left (many a wedding reception is held on the island), and Hampton Court Home Park on the right. This historic towpath has been part of the Hampton Court estate for 500 years!

walking the thames path, hampton court palace
‘You are here’ – bottom left hand side – where I was near Kingston Bridge…

There was a quicker way to reach the palace…diagonally across from Kington Bridge is Hampton Court palace 🙂

It was wonderful to be able to stretch my legs and just walk. Although the Barge Walk is a shared path, there is plenty of space for everyone.

walking the thames path, hampton court palace
Barge Walk – alongside Home Park; Hampton Court Palace
walking the thames path, hampton court palace
ring for the ferry – Surbiton on the opposite side of the river

Lined with trees and natural habitat, Barge Walk takes you right into the bosom of nature with birdsong from every tree, butterflies and bees flitting here and there, cherry trees heavy with pink spring time blossoms.

walking the thames path, hampton court palace
looking across the river to Surbiton and the reason you want to walk on the Hampton Court side of the Thames Path
walking the thames path, hampton court palace
You are here (on the right near the island) – Home Park map, Hampton Court Palace

About midway there is a small gateway above a short flight of steps that will take you into the Home Park. I recall a most embarrassing incident that occurred here one fine day on one of my many walks along this section of the river… involving my bottom and stinging nettles – the operative word being ‘stinging’!! I’ll leave it to your imagination to figure out what happened!! LOL

walking the thames path, hampton court palace
Home Park, looking a little bereft of greenery

Soon I reached the perimeter of the palace proper….a lovely red brick wall that led to the magnificent Tijou Screen, designed by French master blacksmith, Jean Tijou in 1690.

walking the thames path, hampton court palace
beautiful trees provide shady respite on a hot day, the Barge Walk at Hampton Court – nearing the palace now
walking the thames path, hampton court palace
approaching the Tijou Gates at Hampton Court Palace – in the distance Hampton Court Bridge

Finally, what I had looked forward to the whole day; first view of the beautiful Baroque palace and gardens.

walking the thames path, hampton court palace
The Baroque Palace at Hampton Court

walking the thames path, hampton court palace
The stunning Tijou Gates at Hampton Court Palace

Hampton Court Palace is a Grade I listed royal palace in the London Borough of Richmond upon Thames. Building of the (old) palace began in 1514 for Cardinal Thomas Wolsey, the chief minister of King Henry VIII. Although it seemed like such a very long way it is only 12 miles (19.3 kilometres) upstream of central London. Along with St James’ Palace, it is one of only two surviving palaces out of the many the king owned. Managed by the Historic Royal Palaces charity, the palace is currently in the possession of Queen Elizabeth II and the Crown.  King William III’s massive rebuilding and expansion work, which was intended to rival the Palace of Versailles, destroyed much of the Tudor palace. His work ceased in 1694, leaving the palace in two distinct contrasting architectural styles, domestic Tudor and Baroque. King George II was the last monarch to reside in the palace.

So near now to my journey’s end, it was just on 16:50 when I rounded the final corner to behold the extraordinary Tudor Palace; the wonderful Tudor Great Gatehouse. In the forecourt of the palace is where the Tudor Pull begins it’s historic journey downstream to the Tower of London. As I mentioned earlier, I had the great good fortune, via my dear friend Joe, Captain of the Trinity Tide, to participate in the flotilla one year. It was amazing. I must try to find some of the photos…they are all uploaded to an external hard-drive somewhere in my storage.

walking the thames path, hampton court palace
Hampton Court Palace – the extraordinary Tudor Palace

The history of the palace is longer than my arm, so I won’t go into too much detail, suffice to say, it is magnificent and next to the Tower of London and Dover Castle, it is my absolute favourite palace in England and I practically lived here I visited so often. Do have a look on wikipedia if you want to find out more, it’s absolutely fascinating.

walking the thames path, hampton court palace
Hampton Court Bridge 🙂 hoorah

Heading up onto Hampton Court Bridge I stopped off at the ice-cream cart to buy my 2nd soft-serve and flake of the day! Only 2 you might say…..well I didn’t really have time for more LOL – it took me exactly 4 hours from bridge to bridge.

I quickly checked the train times and since I had a bit of time available I stopped on the bridge to admire the view…and then it was homeward bound. I was ever so keen to make the most of the glorious weather and just keep walking, but then I would only have gotten home on the last train….tomorrow would have to suffice.

walking the thames path, hampton court palace
stunning poppies in the forecourt of Hampton Court Station

Did I ever say how much I love walking?

walking the thames path
He who feared he would not succeed sat still

There is no fear that I will ever sit still…..unless I’m watching a movie of course, or reading a book….although I don’t have much time for those atm. LOL

Stage 5; Hampton Court to Staines to follow shortly. What I was now finding is that it was taking me half the day just to reach my start point, so after Stage 5 I’m going to plan two-day stages and sleep over wherever suits best on the 1st day. I’m hoping to do Staines to Windsor on one day and Windsor to Maidenhead on another. Dates to be determined.

In case you missed the start of my journey as I walk the Thames Path from sea to source….

Prelude to walking the Thames Path

Stage 1a – walking the Thames Path : Erith to the Thames Barrier

Stage 1b – walking the Thames Path : Thames Barrier to Greenwich

Stage 2 – walking the Thames Path : Greenwich to Battersea Park

Stage 3 – walking the Thames Path : Battersea Park to Richmond

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LOL I couldn’t resist the title. Inspired by my walk the night before, last night (Monday) I decided to make the most of the glorious summer evening weather we’re having at the moment and walk to Dumpton Gap and back.

The harbour looked absolutely stunning, the water like a mill pond with the boats reflected in the still water.

sunset in thanet
Ramsgate Royal Harbour
sunset in thanet
like a mill pond

There were few people on the beach which was surprising considering the weather, but hey…I’m not complaining. I love it when the sea is so still. When it’s like this I’m almost tempted to go out swimming…but looks are deceiving.

sunset in thanet
the endless sea

We are located on what is known as the Isle of Thanet. Harking back to a time approximately 500 years ago when we were in fact still an island, separated from the mainland by the River Wantsum.

The Isle is formed almost wholly of chalk, a soft pure white limestone of Cretaceous age, specifically the Margate Chalk Member (Santonian to Campanian) traditionally referred to simply as the ‘Margate Chalk’, and sometimes as the ‘Margate Member’.  The Isle of Thanet first came into being when sea levels rose after the last glacial period, around 5000 BC. The North Sea encroached on the land which is now the estuary of the River Thames, and southwards to reach the higher land of the North Downs, leaving behind an island composed of chalk in its wake. Eventually the sea broke through river valleys in the North Downs to the south (Middle Chalk) and finally today’s English Channel was opened up. Archaeological evidence shows that the area now known as the Isle of Thanet was one of the major areas of Stone Age settlement. A large hoard of Bronze Age implements has been found at Minster-in-Thanet; and several Iron Age settlements have also come to light.

Right along our coastline, whole swathes of the island face the North Sea, and like Dover we have our own white cliffs. Every time I walk past these cliffs between here and Margate, I marvel at how they were made…..millions and millions of marine life over aeons of time have built up into what we can see today. Most of the fossil debris in chalk consists of the microscopic plates, which are called coccoliths, of microscopic green algae known as coccolithophores. In addition to the coccoliths, the fossil debris includes a variable, but minor, percentage of the fragments of foraminifera, ostracods and mollusks. The coccolithophores lived in the upper part of the water column. When they died, the microscopic calcium carbonate plates, which formed their shells settled downward through the ocean water and accumulated on the ocean bottom to form a thick layer of calcareous ooze, which eventually became the Chalk Group. I mean seriously…isn’t that just awesome!!! For more about this marvellous stuff we call chalk…. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chalk_Group

sunset in thanet
chalk cliffs on the Isle of Thanet

The tide was on the way in as I left, but still a fair way out. It wasn’t on the way back LOL I was trying to walk as far along the beach as possible before the waves came right up the beach, but the tide caught me out. I thought I would be clever (?) and walk along the edge of the promenade…not bright, it was a slippery as all hell, and when I got to the end, it was the end…and besides that the water was already well in, the ‘path’ didn’t continue, ssssssso I had to turn around and navigate my way back across the slippery seaweed. I eventually made it back onto the beach.

sunset in thanet
deciding to be brave or stupid?
sunset in thanet
caught out by the tide

By the time I got back at 9pm the sun had set and the sky was ablaze.

sunset in thanet
Harbour entrance
sunset in thanet
Ramsgate Harbour
sunset in thanet
Ramsgate Harbour

Sadly I often see these lovely fish along the shore when I’m walking. It saddens me to think about how they met their fate and wonder if they’re not discarded by the many fishermen we see along these shores…

sunset in thanet
a dead dog fish

I managed a good 7.4 kms and thoroughly enjoyed being out walking again. I may just have found the ‘m’ in my mojo 😉 On the back of this I have decided to get my feet facing in the right direction and take up on the Saxon Shore Way where I left off in May. If I continue to dither and dilly dally, I will never get it finished and I still have a long way to go.

I’m also toying with the idea of picking up another 2 stages along the Thames Path this weekend.

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