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The Fifth Stage of Walking the River Thames

Our ardent weather watchers advised us that we might want to bring forward our walk this week due to the weather. We set off from Surrey, in driving rain, and wondered if they were right. As we crested the hill on the border of Oxfordshire we were treated to a splendid view of the dark grey clouds changing to, grey, to light grey, to white with patches of blue sky upon the horizon. When we reached Oxford, we apologised for doubting them over the landscape and we apologised again on the way home. As they had found us a window of dry weather in days of turbulent conditions, as the rain started up again.

We all had noticed the change of soil and walking conditions along the path in to Oxford and for a long part of this walk we were on good walking ground where we could pick up the pace to keep warm against the cold. It may have said 8 degrees but in the wind and shade it was substantially lower. Although having said that, we were once again appropriately dressed in hats, scarves and gloves, despite it officially being spring.

This stretch of the river, combined with the paper map clearly showed that we were in the middle section of a rivers course with the meandering river wiggling all over the OS map and the realisation that we could walk, between the starting point and finishing point, so much quicker as the crow flew - than the fish swam. It is also a great section to look at different layouts of locks and weirs. There is also evidence of river erosion along the banks, making this a really good section of the River Thames to walk with our British Waterways Project, in mind. As many of the key geography elements, both natural and man-made are easily identified and could be seen from the banks, at the locks and bridges.

We all became somewhat excited when we passed the sign for Salters Steamers on the side of the building and then spotted the boat. The company who printed the book some hundred plus years ago which we are using for our history and walking guide, is still in business after 161 years. When we reached Abingdon Lock, there was a public notice board showing the history of that section of river with photographs from the 1950’s with the Salters Steamer arriving at the town.

As we reached the end of our walk we were welcomed in to the town by the church bells and at the bridge flags showing the Salters office. Well, you don’t need to be a rocket scientist to know what the very next question was - do you? So, given that we will be cycling the tow paths along the River Thames and the dates when the boat service is running: it looks like we will be steaming instead of walking along the river from Windsor to Staines in June. Places will be offered first to those who have walked and then if any places are left over, they will be offered to those who would like to join us.

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