The fourth stage of our Thames Walk started on a chilly morning with the weather not sure if it wanted to become a good day or not. So, it was a coat on, coat off, coat on day. What was really nice was that everyone had taken aboard their Health Education lessons from January and February regarding hats, skin and lip care. The first real signs of spring were also out and about with snowdrops clustered everywhere.
Some of us have come around to the way of thinking that paper maps are better than phones and so I wasn’t the only one carrying a OS map. Learning to map read is a very useful skill to have, as we walked, we studied the key features and marking on both paper and in the landscape. What came as a surprise to the gadget map readers is just how much information is actually on the paper ones. Therefore, it is easier to walk longer distances independent before checking the map again. Although, along the Thames Path Way, this is a moot point, as the route is well sign posted. As long as the people at the front of the walking party are not so engross in debating that they walk right pass the signs posts!
As it was half term, some siblings joined us. The younger ones took the opportunity to walk part of the way and hitch a ride as the support vehicles joined us. The most noticeable point on the walk was when the route meets one of the oldest toll bridges. An exorbitant charge of 5p to cross one way!
This walk’s great debate was on British Values and whether Shamima Begum should be allowed to return to the UK. Surprisingly, there was a lot to say on the matter. I had wondered if there might be some already fixed thoughts and feelings here, with the amount of publicity and social media recently. However, not everyone had made up their minds. We split in to two groups the “for” walked ahead and the “against” behind with me in the middle as fact checker. As they debated, people migrated between the two groups. Some of our clients have been forced out from school by bullies, there was some interesting thoughts on ‘why’ she would have left in the first place. Some of our clients are forced out of school, because their special educational needs are not being meet. There was some compassion towards her, in that, they were not sure she really understood what she was going in to. Those forced out from school due to their mental health felt that she would need a lot of support given her experience and what has happened in Syria. Nearly, all were concerned by the grooming she was exposed to before leaving. The debate ended with many feeling they were more informed and most had not reached a final definite decision.
The last stop of our route was at a pub just before Oxford. A pub with a garden that advertises as family friendliness. When we walked in, it was very clear we were not their normal cliental. We made straight for the pub garden and discreetly took up a couple of tables. I ordered some drinks for everyone (lemonade etc.) and we took it in turns to unobtrusively visit the bathrooms. About 10 minutes later, in came a Scout Leader with a smaller bunch of lads who had been out bird watching. Being the only ones in the garden and some are very keen to learn about the raptors we see on our walks – so we talked. Comparing notes, we both had detected a very frosty welcome and as we are both politely spoken, we concluded it was the company we were keeping! However, neither group of teenagers where loud, rude, badly behaved or poorly dressed but we were not on that occasion welcomed. After, a half an hour of none delivery of drinks, I collected a refund and we left.
We did not let this experience get to us and we finished our walk-in Oxford in good spirits. We fell into step with three elderly chaps out walking, who were interested in what we were doing and who we are. All three had taught at one or another of the Oxford colleges, but were now retired. They were very encouraging about learning independently and following what you’re interested in. What was motivating was their thoughts about home schooling and making it to university and suggested we looked in to doing a Duke of Edinburgh Awards. We came away with lots to think about!