We started this the 8thstage the half way mark of our walk along the River Thames in glorious Bank Holiday Monday sunshine, with a moment of silence for the people of Sri Lanka. We as a group, really struggle to understand why others behaviour like this. Why places like mosque, churches and synagogues are not universal understood as safe places.
When I say ‘our walk’, I really mean to say - they started ‘their walk’, I am still being chauffeur driven. Given the lovely weather, sun cream and hats were suggested and offered but not universally agreed upon – ops! By the end of the day some were slightly pink around the edges with the temperatures reaching at least 25 degrees.
Being that it was a Bank Holiday there was more people on the walk as whole families came. It also meant there were considerably more dog walkers and dogs in particular. One, within our group, is not very comfortable with unfamiliar loose dogs. So, his friends kept him in the middle of the group. This meant there was somebody between him and the dog at all times.
When the walking party reached Reading Bridge and Thameside Promenade it was a great place to stop and have lunch and ice-creams (no Hot Chocolate today). It was lovely picnicing in the shade. While we were taking our break, a launch pulled up and it was suggested that those in buggies, pushchairs, wheel chair and on crutches should spend some time entertaining ourselves with a ride, whilst the others walked. In the end, we all plied on and enjoyed the river from this view point.
Just after Sonning Bridge they lost their way. Now we have spoken about this before, the people at the head of the group are responsible for keeping an eye open for the Thames Path markers. The people in the middle of the group should be checking the markers as well just in case the front lot are talking too much. On occasions, it appears they had been deep in conversation and walked past the marker. They walked across the road and joined the path immediately opposite.
In fairness, it did say footpath and logically it does look like the path would continue naturally that way. The crossing at Sonning Bridge does need to be timed with the changing of the traffic lights and the road was busy today with lots of people enjoying the river on such a lovely day.
However, just as in the last seven stages we have crossed and re-crossed the river so many times, I have lost count, and a bridge is where we need to look out for the signs. The sign is at the point where the path meets the bridge and quite frankly you cannot miss it.
Having crossed the road they carry on walking following a very nice footpath not that dissimilar to the one they had just left. It was not until the foot path fizzled out upon meeting a lane did the need to look for the markers arise.
The parent with them reports that instead of panicking, out came a paper map, they laid it out and discussed where the route might be – to his great surprise he thought the phone would be the first thing and “then they were reading it, like it was so easy, they worked out fairly quickly the river was on the left-hand side of them and it should now be on the right!”
It was then they spotted that they were some considerable way along the route and it would take some time to go back and along to reach the next point of contact. As everyone including the dad had missed the marker nobody was willing to point the finger of blame.
It was only then they got their phones out. Having located where they were, they then guided the support vehicle right to them in Borough Marsh. As they had almost but not quite reached the same point on the river as the pickup point in Shiplake, on the other side of the river. We picked them up and went home. As they had not panicked and let anxiety run away with them (which would have been the normal response) – I sprung for the Frappuccinos. An excellent lesson learnt.
I overheard the best put down to the teasing about getting lost ever said by a daughter– “The difference is when you get LOST, Dad, you don’t know where you’re going or where you are and you won’t ask for help. We knew where we were going, we knew where we were and we had each other to ask for help. We weren’t LOST, we were just temporally misplaced on the map!” Out of the mouths of babes . . .