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Reading to Goring

Otherwise known as Path Wars: Attack of the Cyclists, this was a walk back in May continuing the walk from Reading to Goring & Streatley. Original plan was just to go to Pangbourne or Tilehurst if the weather changed or I had to abandon, but actually the weather was fine and I made good progress. I knew that after Goring it was a bit fun to work out the next exit, so that was another walk.

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First up was the Victorian drinking fountain on the Thames Promenade car park. It had seen better days, but an amazing survivor from days when public drinking water was a health issue. It was erected in the 1890’s to commemorate Frank Attwells, Mayor of Reading 1891-2, in fact he died in office – I assume put up by his wife Sarah, who died in 1905 and was also commemorated. I wish modern fountains were as grand. As usual, it had become an impromptu dumping area for rubbish 🙁

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Walking onwards past the very pitchurskew canal boats and very posh houses on the other side of the river, and the swans, ducks and geese en masse. I was struck by the view across the fields of what looks like a disused Leisure Centre, or at least a very beat up one. In it’s sorry state, it reminded me of a concentration camp, a sort of Ghetto of Fun. Those places creep me out, in fact, the enforced jollity factory nature makes me think of people or leisure being processed, like a sort of meat. It’s one of my favourites, hence why it’s the featured image at the top.

Also being late afternoon on a sunny day there were many people leisuring themselves on the river, along the river playing table tennis in their gardens or just enjoying the sunshine. Hate to think how many millions those houses are worth. I seem to be making a habit of taking pictures of canoeists and rowers recently, and this was not an exception:

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Cuteness to the max were the baby ducklings and baby swans, a contrast to the dark thoughts about factory fun palaces. But it was a nice stroll along the river, and the Promenade is quite wide and thus you don’t mind the cyclists whizzing by. This was an all too brief respite, sadly.

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The promenade narrows into a small path along fields. You’d think this would mean the cyclists would slow down, but not at all. The path is at some points barely wide enough for two people to walk side by side, at some points only big enough for one person. Definitely NOT a cycle track. I looked around for signs, but apart from a later No Motorbike sign I saw none until later…but surely cyclists had more sense than to bomb down a single track path en masse?

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You can see from the picture how being passed by cycles at speed walking on the path might be not only intimidating, but dangerous. Many cycles passed me, quite a few at speed helmed by Lycrablokes with expensive mountain bikes. This is a cycling rat run! But I mean it’s not like there is anything suggesting that you shouldn’t ride down here or anything…

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…oh.

There are quite a few gates after this, but it seems that the cyclists don’t take the hint that like commuters and towpaths, maybe bombing down small paths isn’t that pedestrian friendly, nor encouraged (otherwise why are the gates there to make cyclists dismount?). Apparently according to one I accosted, 30+ bikers use this route. It’s the Thames Path, which usually doesn’t allow bicycles, but the bloke was using the classic ‘there’s no sign telling me not to’ argument which is always the response of someone who isn’t thinking, or usually doing something they know is anti-social. I pointed out that there are many things that don’t have signs, like not killing people or not being a complete dick…doesn’t mean you’re allowed to. Sadly I think Thatcher’s Children and beyond have the idea that they are entitled to do as they please as long as the Nannystate has not explicitly and visibly forbidden it. This is why we have so many silly redundant signs for people like this, like ‘Danger! Kettle Is Hot!’ and ‘Warning! River Contains Mud and Deep Water’ – because if there isn’t a sign they bleat as they sink below the muddy water. Let these (not) grown-up children drown, I say. It’s Darwin in action.

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Happier thoughts, or trying to have them as you come along side the brick railway embankment, lots of old fading graffiti, CND signs, skulls, that sort of thing. You try and ignore the bikers bombing past within an inch of your nose – even though there are a few families with pushchairs, I hate to think what happened when they screeched around the corner and there wasn’t space for either bike or chair. It’s quite dark here, with trees, a bit cold actually even with the sunshine. But you happily stroll on until the path suddenly and inexplicably runs out. Name and shame time here: ROEBUCK FERRY COTTAGE – COME ON DOWN!

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Here is the gate. I pissed on it to show my ‘appreciation’

Yes it’s one of the destroyed ferries, I guess the path would have switched to the other side at some point, but not any more. So you have a happy traipse along a massive road for several miles ahead of you. Before heading up to the massively and impressively over-engineered bridge, you see this strange pub sign. Maybe the Cottage used to be a Hotel? Maybe you could get through there? No sign of the Hotel, and give the sign’s repair, looks like it hasn’t been running for some time?

Not shown is the ‘Welcome to Reading’ sign behind it, tempted to add sarkily ‘Enjoy our crazy cyclists’. It’s a good thing those cyclists were quite often doing some sort of sprint back up the path back where I came from, because on the bridge and beyond they weren’t that welcome. The bridge not having ramps or any concession to cyclists again suggests they weren’t in the right, either.

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Over the railway bridge and up onto the quite busy road, you after a short while come to another path, through a private wood. This makes it very clear that there are no cyclists allowed. Yippee! Problem is, the wood is far too short, and you get dumped into a very strange Surrey-like housing cul-de-sac. Not unpleasant, but a long way from the river (now the other side of a railway too) and not exactly green nor pleasant. This is the delights of Purley, and after a mile or two of it’s never-ending middle class estates, you’ll be tired of it. It’s one hell of a detour so some people can play ping pong in their garden!

There is another classic Thames Path misdirection trick here though at the junction of St Mary’s Avenue where it says ‘Thames Path to the Lock’. This skirts along the edge of the housing estate but doesn’t go near the river for quite some time like it might suggest. Ignore that and head down the avenue towards St Mary’s church if you want a much nicer walk along the river. This must be some weird way of appeasing the locals that they get their path in peace without pesky walkers? Very odd, and not the first time I’ve seen signs directing you AWAY from the actual/nicest path. I’d always prefer to walk along the river, rather than up a small road across an estate, any day.

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So if you walk past the church along Waterside Drive to Brading Way you’ll see a path off Chesnut Drive to the river. This is where you’ll find a Path Ends 100m sign back where you came from – the exciting end of that path is pictured above. The inhabitants of what seems to be 26 River Gardens, Purley are building a really ugly building, as well as blocking off the path for everyone. I suggest if they want to sell you that building tell them where to go, since not only does it look fucking awful, it follows that if they treat us mild walking types badly they probably then have no scruples in other dealings too (Hello Google! Hello Estate Agents! This is a lesson in name and shame, allow public rights of way or I’ll call you out and lower your property prices :-P)

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A much nicer sign reminds you this is Wind in the Willows land, Kenneth Grahame not only grew up in Cookham – we’ll visit there in an earlier walk – he died at Pangbourne near here. By which I mean he lived there, it wasn’t some accident or suicide tourism (Come To Pangbourne And Die! Oh You’ll Laugh!’). As a result you do see a lot of Ratty tat, but this one on a barge is really nice.

The River Gardens looks severely private, and tries to give that ‘you shouldn’t be here air’ but actually it isn’t, as you will find the gate to the a well hidden, (possibly intentionally) footpath sign. This part of the walk is beautiful, the best part, and you can see why the locals might want to keep this secret.

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COOOOWS! The river meadow walk along to Mapledurham Lock is very peaceful, and a nice respite from all that tarmac and concrete. At the lock you’ll join the path from St Mary’s Avenue, and be grateful you didn’t go that way. I promise you.

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The lock has a nice looking cafe but it was closed. ‘OPEN FOR ICES DRINKS CRISPS…ALSO PLANTS’ – yum! Plants!

Onward past the lock and again, some amazingly scenery across the river – towards Goring Heath looks like it has some landscaping – remains of gardens? But on your side there is also Much Pichtureskew. Wow. Such lovely. So photo.

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Quite a few boats along the river, the high bank makes this look like it’s actually sailing on grass, not water.

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I’d love to live on this boat – old school and an amazing setting.

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You can see what I meant about landscaped, those hills aren’t naturally like that.

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No idea what birdy this is. Grebe? Crested grebe? Big bird? Blue tit? Red Metal Headbanger Bird? IHNI. I usually get annoyed at those signs everywhere which you hope to have interesting local info, and usually all have the same canned info that this place is the place in the world you’ll find a Lesser Great Crested Booby Fartywhoopbird and a really rare Blue Buttocked Ant, or something. I’m sure someone loves those, but I’d rather not know what type of grass is so special it grows upside down, or whatever it is. Give me historical info! Walking info! A Map? Just something that isn’t just ganked from an Osborne House Nature Book?

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Proud of the timing of this picture…was already aiming and the crow just photobombed me. I have two shots, with and without. This is my favourite. Nothing else to report here, really. PICCIES!

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It was around here the insects started to get a bit much, and I saw more rowing & canoeing. There seems to be several canoeing schools here, and one especially at Pangbourne – I guess that’s the embarassingly titled ‘Adventure Dolphin’ – and Goring. And onto Pangbourne Meadow – with sadly the return of the bicyclistes. The path diverts somewhat at Pangbourne, as they haven’t finished replacing the Whitchurch-on-Thames tollbridge. Yes they still have one of those, no idea how they kept their sticky hands onto it…but it’s all a Big Hot Industrial Mess at the moment.

You can still get over the river on a footbridge though. I was 50/50 whether to stay and find a nice pub, but it was only 8pm and I could see Goring & Streatley was only a few miles away. I watched a canoeist do endless eskimo rolls from the bridge and shuddered – I once did one of those PGL/summer camp things, but never could do canoeing because I couldn’t swim, so got left alone on the shore for hours. Very boring, but I hate being underwater…truth was I was dreading doing those rolls anyway. What happens if you can’t get back up?

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St Mary The Virgin, rather than St Mary the Complete Whore, St Mary The Scarlet Hussy, St Mary Does Oral Count? and St Mary Will Shag Anyone For Chips, I guess?

This is where it gets rather odd, not sure if it was the bridge or lateness but I got a bit lost around the mill – the path to the church is well hidden. Then through the very pretty churchyard, past the Tudor houses (ooh nice pub! Boo! Now having second thoughts about that eating/drinking thing…) and onward past about 10,000 galleries. It seems Whitchurch exists for small galleries and tat shops. Well it certainly doesn’t exist for footpaths, pavements or easy rights of way, that’s for sure.

When you find Hartslock Bridleway, apart from the severe looking PRIVATE CARRIAGEWAY type signs which are slightly off-putting, it’s very much a direct mostly un-rivered (is that a verb? Is now) slog to Goring. It gets quite steep in places, and sadly I couldn’t get a good shot of the sunset. On the upside, I didn’t get a shot of the sunset. So it works out really (I know, I have to take them even though I never post them, because it’s JUST SO CHEESY).

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One of the interesting things is the sudden arrival of pillboxes. No, not the drug sort, the military sort, out of the blue. You’d not think sleepy Pangbourne or Goring as being the frontline of the Second World War, but on my next walk I spotted quite a few RAF bases, such as Abingdon and Benson – and a few that the Yanks won’t give up. So I guess they were worried about crack German Barge Commandos, slowly making their way up the river in Cammo Narrowboats, pretending to be tourists when all tourism had stopped…no, that wouldn’t work. The mind does boggle, but then again I guess small boats could make their way up river, so hence the pillboxes along it. There were many more on my next walk…this deserted one looked rather poetic in the forest. I didn’t go inside…far too late, dark and I hate those kinds of spaces!

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As it was nearing the elections, I found it funny someone had thrown blue paint on the UKIP sign in one of the fields. Really, if you were voting UKIP you should not only be ashamed, you shouldn’t really be advertising it. I ended up at Goring & Streatley station just in time for the train, was a bit of a scamper but made it, so went back to Reading. I went to get some coffee, and had an interesting conversation with the Reading University student serving me. I mentioned the cyclists and she said she was from Oxford and cycled everywhere there, but in Reading the traffic was too much, and she gave up after a week. She wondered where the cyclists were…suddenly it made sense! The cyclists were using the paths as rat runs to avoid the cars…so much for Reading the new silicon city!

As I tweeted back then, it did seem an own goal though, the problem with doing that is not only does it annoy the likes of me, it also means motorists don’t get used to cyclists. The same argument over riding pavements I had with Critical Mass people applies here – that separation/avoiding traffic doesn’t work, it means the drivers get away with bad habits and never learn, and the pedestrians get annoyed with the bikes in their space. I walk on footpaths to avoid traffic, the commuter rat-run that goes through where I live 4-7pm, the idea is to get away from people and traffic. This completely fails if then the traffic then comes zipping by at high volume?

Return of the Pointless Stats!

Food

A few M&Ms – I think I ran out
1 litre of water
1 Cappuccino

Music

Disco – loads of 70’s & 80’s Disco and No Wave such as
Disco Not Disco 1 & 2 8/10
Ben Liebrand – Grand 12 Inches 1 & 2 10/10
Sage Francis – Sick of Li(f)e mixtape especially Origin To Descent and Years Demo – 9/10
Random Bootie mashups – pretty good, 7/10

Naughty Bicycles photographed for abandoned name & shame FB group or blog called ‘2 Wheels Bad’:
5

Canoeists photographed (no shame):

21 (!)

Bourne End to Shiplake

Sorry this post was delayed! You might have noticed the site going down a week ago, well I had to reinstall everything which took days…and after that I didn’t feel like doing much at all.

This is the final walk in what I now call the Mud Trilogy – after this one I decided to stop walking until later in the year because, well, Tim and mud do NOT mix, and on all three walks I ended up in the middle of a swimming pool of mud, a completely sodden field due to a enforced ‘detour’. Yes I’m a bad walker, but avoiding drowning in mud is not fun, and because of the flooding and the especially wet winter, there is a lot of water out there!

There are plenty of walks to come though, both later in the year, and also the last coastal walk – and many years of walks before that.

This is both a continuation of the last blogged walk, Reading to Shiplake – which was supposed to get to Henley but I ran out of time, and an earlier walk from a few years ago which was meant to be Henley to Bourne End, but it also ended a few miles short at Marlow – during a fair I seem to remember with feral local youth gathering in the shadows and the police horse vans moving in en masse (!). So, I had two couple mile stretches within 10 miles of each other, and rather than hop on trains it seemed sensible to just walk it again in full to connect the two parts. So in future you will see some of these sights, but in the other direction, and from another time.

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When I came here in June 2012, typically for summer it was chucking it down (also there was a lot of Olympics-related fun along those stretches but that’s for another time). I’d just missed the train from Bourne End, having had to abort the walk due to rain and darkness (and also not being sure if I would get stranded on the opposite side of the river to the station – always a problem in this part of the world).

So Bourne End made me feel at home again by proceeding to rain as I arrived…deja vu. Sadly the pub I sheltered in two years ago by the station was no more – it was a really nice pub too. Despite the previous days of sunshine, this was suddenly an Arctic wind, and raining…it was supposed to be cloudy with sunny patches, but more cloudy with cloud patches with a touch of rain. Oh and a bit more cloud for good measure.

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So I headed to the river and thus the railway bridge, single track, iron and painted green. Apparently one Callum Dunkin had won the 2013 Rivet Challenge, I have no idea what that is…maybe he had to lick every rivet or something…or paint them institution green. At this point I got a bit confused which side I was supposed to be on, there’s a path on the other side but it’s not the Thames Path, and the station side has the Thames Path one way only, the other way blocked by the usual people wanting exclusive access to the river (which would have not been the case in toll-path days). So finally on the right track, and we’re met by the other thing that’s common in this world (apart from KEEP OUT! CCTV! Pretend legally binding signs, PRIVATE! and FIERCE DOGS!) which is the 6 foot high fence or hedge, usually with a mate on the other side only just over a body width apart. As my partner says, this is offencive (his pun, not mine! Don’t hit me!).

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Hmm, nice view!

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Insert olbigatory snark about the lack of need for ice-cream and cold drinks.

 

So past all the rowing clubs (another staple of this part of the world), intrigued at the 1947 Flood Mark on the entrance to Spade Oak Meadow, I wonder if this year was worse? Oh more mud, you shouldn’t have. Seems even the benches are fed up with it:

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Passing rowers who seem to be taking the shank’s pony route with their boat, and past a rather strange castle type building on the opposite bank, which I’m fairly sure I’d taken pictures of last time – I wonder if I got this far then turned back to Marlow? It looked familiar, then again strange castle like buildings are common around here. As with the last river walk, many signs of flooding and flotsam along the banks, mud and even damage to a jetty which probably broke free or tried to float when underwater. All quiet until Marlow, and the path suddenly stops in a new development, rather unceremoniously. The park is nice (looked on the map, it doesn’t seem to have a name but it’s by Gossmore Recreation Park, or part of it), and lovely cherry blossom which has probably been tricked by the unusually nice weather…it might be regretting that now.

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Path…DENIED!

So round we go, along far too many roads, small windy medieval ones with of course the requisite rich wankers in a chrome-plated 4x4s – it seems along with large Audis and BMWs small roads collect these people like flies. Marlow looked better in the sunshine though, very busy and I found a nice cafe and had a chilli chicken and cucumber wrap which actually was quite nice despite the really odd concept, and a hot chocolate. Back via the Church which I had checked out last time, and again found the path near the bridge, although there was the usual conflicting signs (‘No access to river’ vs ‘Thames Path this way!’ – hmm, I wish signs were more clearly flagged visually as to whether they are for pedestrians or motorists…I tend to ignore signs as a result I have to say).

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A better class of Keep Out sign in Marlow, you know, Probably an edict from the Marlow Society. Keep Out Thy Prole!

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Sundial near the Church, Marlow

So leaving the Hyacinth Bucket World of Marlow, onto to Temple and Hurley lock…took some nice pictures at Temple Lock and Hurley Lock, where they do kayaking, they have a weir just for it, apparently! There was a group out there doing what ever kayak people do, usually getting wet and splashing about in loud clothes. You can see pictures of that on the Picasa album.

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Detour! How I hate the word ‘detour’. Along Blackboy Lane (I’m not saying anything) there apparently was subsidence, so the path was re-routed inland, along the barking dogs from hell, of the sort that threaten to jump the fence and go for your throat (and it was a small fence) and over a swimming pool in field form. I was not happy…

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I wonder if there really IS subsidence, the locals around here can be odd about the path…it’s certainly somewhere I passed two years ago, gnomes and bird sculptures, mock Tudor, miniature clocktowers, Swiss chalets and duck houses, fluttering Union Jacks and Pirate flags for the wags, tupperware boats and pseudo-thatched cottages that bedevil the work of Martin Parr. Little England en rivière. I took many photographs of this last time, so wasn’t repeating it now – that’s for a future post.

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What isn’t Little is the Deer Park at Culham Court, which the path takes you through (the featured image). Very grand, and the deer were out in force, as is the CCTV cameras disguised as bird houses…I noticed those last time. I decide to take the inland route, I’d done the outer route last time, via Aston Church but turning along the road to Remenham rather than the Thames Path. It was sunset and just coming into Henley…I rushed this because I had to meet John later than night, but I really didn’t want to come back. I knew there were trains every 20 minutes from Shiplake, which is very good – and was aiming for the earlier one, so the last few miles got rather rushed.

It wouldn’t be a walk near Henley though without a shot of Temple Island…this grand structure is actually the posh form of one of those little green tents, it’s a fishing lodge designed by James Wyatt.

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So past Henley and along to Shiplake via Marsh Lock and weir. It’s unusual because the walkway heads out into the Thames and back around the lock, it’s rather grand especially with the amount of debris – including small boats and trees – that had been swept into it and trapped there, and the high water leading to dramatic, crashing noisy waves.

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Onto Shiplake itself over some more muddy meadows (oh joy). Eventually via a rather mud-locked bridge and onto a small track, and suddenly come out to see a gigantic train set:

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This according to John is Robert McAlpine’s house, he of the building firm. Looks like they are doing up his garden, guarded by a classic hut with security guard and CCTV warily in place (I think I got an ‘Oi!’, but headphones were on, it’s public path/road and didn’t feel like having to defend my legitimate right to take pictures so I kept going). Italian sunken gardens and a miniature gauge train, with a St Moritz station…this is where your building fees go! He’s neighbours of Bolney Court, which I mentioned in the last blog post in the 18th century blocked the tow path from continuing, and looks like the later arrivals have continued this tradition…I walk along the road with ‘BEWARE FIERCE DOGS!’ signs and wonder if this person is taking the piss with their housename:

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Riverbank? RIVERBANK? Yes I’d love to see the riverbank but your frigging house is in the way, and all the rest of yr mates…Then at the end of the lane the path veers of, and just like the start of the walk corralled into high hedges and big fences…and onto the Shiplake station. I’d misjudged it by about 20 minutes, but there was another train, and I knew I’d still get back to London in time, if a little later than I wanted. In fact, turns out I could have just made an interchange at Twyford that was late, but lack of information meant I just missed it. Still arrived quicker than what the Network Rail app said, though….

You can find the full set of photos on the map below or at the Bourne End to Shiplake Picasa album.

Pointless Stats

Music

Doctor Who – Whispering Forest 5th doctor serial off Radio 4
Anandar Shankar – pretty sure I was listening to this too
Jarvis Cocker’s Sunday Service on Iggy Pop – Jarvis’s last 6Music show before Iggy Pop took over

Water
1 litre of water