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.

 

Living next door to the biggest party on earth

In the summer of 2012 East London hosted what was billed to be the biggest sporting party on Earth – the Olympic and Paralympic Games. During the games, we walked along the Herford Union Canal in Hackney Wick (which adjoins the boundary of the Olympic Park) to have a look at what it must be like to have such an infamous neighbour…

Hertford Union Canal

We all hate the Olympics

Stadium roof

Imagine

No cycling

stadium

You can also read about my visit to the Paralympic cycling road racing or see all my London 2012 photos on Flickr.

Regents Canal, London

Little Venice

Ceremony on Primrose Hill

London Zoo Aviary

St Pancras Lock

Kings Cross Redevelopment

Lately I have spent so much time thinking about the Thames, other waterways, tributaries and streams have been drawn to my attention and I have had to explore: The Regents Canal hugs the northern side of central London, running from Paddington and the junction with the Grand Union Canal in the west, to Limehouse Basin in the Docklands in the east. Recently we walked along the canal from Paddington to Kings Cross, taking in Little Venice, Primrose Hill, London Zoo and bustling Camden Lock market on the way.

Given it is an illusive off road east-west route in the city, the path was buzzing with cyclists and pedestrians. There were even a number of waterbus services linking the tourist sites on the way. Part of my reason for walking along the canal was to scope out its potential as a commuting route, as Paddington is my main London terminus. But despite it being a Saturday, it was just too busy. Happily buzzing for a weekend stroll, but unimaginable as peak-time weekday cycling commute. Narrow paths, too many gates and barriers to negotiate, plus the levels of foot and two wheeled traffic. Which is a shame, as not being a regular London cyclist and some of the city traffic giving me the fear, I often find the thought of a nice off-road route very very tempting…
However, since our trip, I have seen this job advertised – it is reassuring to know that the growing number of foot and cycle commuters and the desirablity of routes like this have not gone unnoticed. It is a fantastic route, winding through a really distinct selection of Capital landscapes, plus it has the bonus of being near water, which never fails to make me happy. Hopefully there can be some joined-up thinking so the potential of the canal way can be enjoyed by all its users.

You can see all of my Regents Canal photos on Flickr

 

 

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….