Hardwick Squash and Pumpkin Festival

Welcome banner - Squash and Pumpkin FestivalAfter what felt like weeks of constant rain, the sun broke through and we made our way across the other side of the Thames Valley to feel the warmth on our faces and to visit Tolhurst Organic Produce’s annual Squash and Pumpkin Festival, set in their farm in the Victorian Walled Gardens of the Hardwick Estate.

Thames ValleyWe sat in the sun on the valley sides and drank locally brewed beer, ate locally grown foods, admired the most magnificent array of squashes and enjoyed some local bands.

Local beerThe Tiny Overlord practiced some serious toddling.

Toddling on the farmAnd we explored the farm. I often underestimate how much food is frown locally. Maybe I often mistakenly (or lazily) assume that we must rely on big supermarkets for our food. But these fields were bustling with tasty things to eat. I really want us to try to eat more seasonally, at least, and support more local growers like Tolhurst. Fresh, tasty and surely better for all of us? I am inspired.

Tolhurst Organic FarmThe festival was a real joy. I’m not too fond of commercial Halloween, but this festival felt like a proper celebration of the seasons – of truly appreciating what comes from the ground and the passing of that growing season to the winter. Do I sound like a hippy? Maybe. But good food, beer and music in a beautiful setting floats my boat far more than ‘trick or treat’.

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Journey to the source of the Thames

Extremely dedicated readers of my blogging efforts, in their various guises, will know about my long held desire to walk the entire length of the River Thames. All 184 miles of the Thames Path National Trail. I have a bit of an emotional attachment to the Thames. From my birthplace to where we currently live, it seems to be rather omnipresent. And I find it rather romantic. The Thames is a city shaper, a town builder, a tidal port and a babbling brook. And I want to see it all. However, my efforts to do this have been thwarted by various natural acts, namely, flooding and, err, pregnancy. So rather than attempting to walk it all in one go, I’ve resolved to take a slightly more piecemeal approach to conquering Thames.

Thankfully the Aussie is a man that fully understands, or at least patiently tolerates, my rambling flights of fancy. Recently he sprung upon me a surprise trip to Gloucestershire and the three of us (myself, the Aussie and the Tiny Overlord) headed off to the depths of the Cotswolds in search of start of my favourite river.

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All of a sudden our local train station has got rather glitzy. What would Brunel think?

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The only way to travel*

*This is about the second time I have travelled first class in my life. My one word verdict? Roomy.

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It never ceases to amaze me how many different landscapes a river can travel through. This rather ditchy stream is the Thames!

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The sign that marks the source. And now marks a rather special occasion in our little family’s life.

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This is the rather weird and wonderful abandoned Thames and Severn Canal. Which once, as the name suggests, linked the upper River Severn to the upper reaches of the River Thames. I assume it was abandoned after Mr Brunel’s railway, above, was opened.

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This is the entry to the 2 mile long Sapperton Tunnel, that lead the canal through the hills of the Cotswolds.

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And if you are ever in the area we heartily recommend the lovely Tunnel House Inn, close to the entry to the Sapperton Tunnel. Good food, cosy fires, fine beers. Everything you would want from a country pub.

So that was the start of the Thames. And in a rather romantic way, the start of the Thames now also marks the start of something special for us now too. As the Aussie asked me to marry him there. Of course, I said yes.

 

Thames Barrier to Waterloo Bridge

Miles: Thirteen point two

Blisters: One

The start of the Thames Path at Charlton

The start of the Thames Path, at the Thames Barrier near Charlton

Industrial Thames

Industrial Thames

Tall ships on the Thames

Tall ships near Greenwich

Tower Bridge

Tower Bridge and the Olympic rings

On the beach

Beach life on the tidal Thames

First stage of my 180 mile walk up the Thames. The journey from the east of London and the Thames Barrier towards the city isn’t the Thames at its most scenic – this was London’s port, its industrial heartland. Fundamental to the growth of the city, and possibly the Britain, we know today.

It is steeped in maritime history – especially around Greenwich. It was wonderful to walk through London while another chapter of the city’s history was being made during the Olympic games. However, the amount of people on the Thames path really hindered my walking – resulting in me having to finish this first stage at Waterloo Bridge rather than Putney Bridge, about 6 miles further up the river. It was amazing to see so many visitors from around the world, but busy paths don’t really help walking pace.

But I’m on the way to the Cotswolds – 13 miles down, just 167 to go….