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

Reading to Shiplake

Last year I got as far as Henley on Thames on the Thames Riverwalk – this was the furthest ‘out’ on the western end of the Thames, although not complete. I’d walked to Bourne End and walked the other way from Henley aiming to connect to Bourne End, but it had gotten very cold and no escape route (buses around there) as it was a Sunday so as it got dark ended up with the ‘delights’ of Marlow, which was in full Fair mode with chavvy kids and whole trucks of Police getting ready. So that meant a few loose ends, and sadly this walk was also too far, so that left two small gaps – Bourne End to Marlow and Shiplake to Henley, both of which were covered in the next walk.

Talking of the delights of Marlow, Reading was it’s usual lovely self:

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I know? Makes you want to jump on the train and go visit! The odd thing is, Reading wasn’t bombed into the dust like Coventry or Dresden, Reading is an old historic town. They chose to make it look like this. *mindboggles*

I’d sadly ‘enjoyed’ the delights on a few occasions DJing, one of which was on a barge outside the Reading Festival which ended messily, so let’s just say the Ghosts of Reading Chav rest heavy on this walk. Certainly I recognised a few of the locations as where we’d parked the barge. So I hot-footed it away from the 1970’s horror of the station and eventually found the Thames Path, it’s over the massive road you can see above and then to the left, but well hidden.

So as I walked down the street of probably scarily expensive houses (yes, it’s closeness to London means people actually pay high prices to live in Reading, eyenorite?) I was wondering what evil deed river had done to make the city hate it so. Certainly like many towns and cities it’s back was most definitely turned to the river, in this case a concrete back covered with tags, but shunned it seemed to be. Amazes me that only fairly recently in cities and urban spaces have they learned to ‘use’ the river, with a few exceptions like Kingston and Henley (but even there quite a few massive shopping blocks with bricks walls and no windows by the water).

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Under the bridge, and no Reading Hot Chavvy Peppers (see what I did there?) but there is a nice collage of abandoned signs, an odd floating steering wheel (driving lesson gone very wrong) and the requisite graffiti which failed to make the bridge any more cheerier. There is an interesting walkway into the Thames here though. Onwards along the path with the usual of barges, begging swans, anglers and couples with the addition of some massive families and you get some rather odd features. A floating polystyrene boat with ‘The Ice Age Is Melting’ written on it, anyone?

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And this is unusually creative for Reading, like the David used as a fender and skeleton additions, I assume some anarchists or green campaigners live here and the ‘iceberg’ was theirs…Anyway I like their style.
I kept my camera out for this walk, always a trade-off whether it’s worth missing a shot of a boat speeding by – like the canoeists at the top – for the risk of getting your camera snatched. I have been mugged for my camera, in the rather more posher environs of Naples, and the awareness/waryness of others never goes, you lose that innocence. So I walked very fast, which turned out to be fortuitous later.

So over a small bridge over the River Kennet, there seemed to be a lot of people in visi-vests doing community cleanup, not very effectively. Volunteers rather than prisoners (back to Oscar Wilde again?) I think. On the bridge was this sign. Good luck with that around here:

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As the joke goes (well a different one) ‘well don’t set the alarm, sunshine’

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Not sure about the Jesus Christ tag, but this is a sign on the other side.

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Swan says: ‘nothing to do with me mate. Do you want to buy a shopping trolley?’

Yes the requisite shopping trolleys sur-mer and the funny sight of a gaggle of younger swans doing the swan version of sliding a bannister with the strong Kennet current…And on the opposite bank is the other side of Reading, which is just as garish and bling as the Elizabeth Duke wearing mothers, the romantically called ‘M4 Corridor’, one of the claimants to the UK’s Silicon Valley, vying with the stupidly titled Silicon Fen around Cambridge, the Silicon Glen and the Silicon Roundabout…which at this point we stop and shake our head at their unimaginative and childish names born of idiots spending far too much time in Business School and not down the pub like normal people.

Anyway all you need to know is there are loads of tech companies here clustered around Heathrow and the M4, and for some reason Oracle needs what look like 4 or 5 or more massive buildings. I mean they do databases? Not build cars? Why do they need all that space, the bits and bytes are quite small?

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A very appropriately named barge.

But after much furious walking you leave Reading behind, and onto the delights of Sonning Lock and St Andrews, the church at Sonning. Some real money has been spent here, on the amazing gates – nice idea to make the gates in memory of someone – and in past history. It’s right by the Blue Coat school so I don’t know if it or the chapel (St Olaf?) have anything to do with them and their 1950’s modernist glass block, but it wasn’t open so I couldn’t find out. It’s nice to see a church that isn’t just Victorian pomp, that has some genuinely old bits on it. << Pevsner eat yr heart out! Check my descriptive abilities, Mr EE!

I think shortly after this a sausage roll strangely stopped existing in the vicinity of my mouth. Alas poor roll, I knew it well.

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Over the bridge and across the road and over a small pedestrian only bridge and onto the other side of the river. It’s obvious the Thames is still running high, and very fast from the floods earlier in the year, and remains of the flooding which took out boats and houses alike are everywhere, as well as the tide mark of mud on the path.

Which sadly wasn’t all dried out as we will find…

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I think you’ll find your ‘status’ is at the bottom of the Thames, LOL.

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After a few more barges just before the Lynch, we come to one of the victims of the flood. After seeing the pictures of various locks and places I’d walked neck-high in water and with various plastic Rich Men’s Toys making sastifying glugging noises, I’d thought I’d see more carnage on these walks, which wasn’t the case. But this barge shows you what happens if no-one loosens the ropes during a flood. It was probably abandoned or the owner was away…if not I hope they got out quickly.

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So past the fields with electric fences, over the massive ponds of water and mud *sigh* and onto Shiplake itself, where the path got rather interesting, and a classic case of the local landowners and newly arrived arrivistes conspiring to try and delete existing rights of way. At Shiplake lock the path veers inland, and according to the signs, goes across the fields away from the Thames. This makes no sense, and also according to my OpenSourceMap and Ordnance Survey  there are paths along the river…in fact there used to be one from Mill Lane, looks like the new homeowners there have blocked it off for ‘private use’ – I found the other side ending as a gate under the rail bridge. Who approved this, or another landgrab? Looks like the Ramblers had to go to court to enforce right of way in 2010-12, and the landowner is trying to make it as difficult as possible.

And plenty of homemade signs trying to redirect you back to the lock, and we have CCTV *smileyface*. Right. Always the first sign of a landowner trying to dissuade people from a public right of way when the DIY signs start appearing, like some Terry Prachett skit. At least they didn’t use!!!! loads!!!! of exclamation marks!!!!??

Talking of which, there is a path marked on both OSM and Ordnance Survey going around from there, from the Shiplake rail bridge around the river to Lashbrooke Ferry. You’d not know this from the ‘helpful’ signs, (there’s also a path across the field too as part of the Wokingham Way, and also might have difficulty getting there as the landowner has left a downed tree blocking it. I almost tore my trousers on barbed wire trying to get around it. I’m starting to really wonder if this is intentional…

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That looks really beautiful, I’m glad I don’t have to walk over that field….oh.

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It’s not dead, it’s sleeping…probably bored with all the battles over paths.

Then you get to Lashbrook Ferry, and a sign helpfully details the history of what occured in the past might have bearing on the present. I tweeted recently about Harvey Milk and that one victory is a victory forever – but the other side is if you allow one small defeat, then the powers of darkness pile in. One such defeat was Bolney Court, who stopped the tow path in the 18th century from going past their land, with much outrage and the need for the ferry which closed in the 1950’s leaving the path stranded. And then like the little minded folk of Mill Lane it seems their friends joined in (apparently one fellow neighbour is Robert McAlpine, yes THAT McAlpine. I’ll show you pictures of his miniature trainset in the next river blog!)

There is a path across the fields, I think the one they went to court over – different to the Wokingham Way before – across all that mud. Oh. Joy.

Well at least I don’t have to walk all the way back, I guess?

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I have to walk through this? NOOOOOOOOOOOOO! Curse you Mud! Curse you Bolney Court and yr rich yet tasteless friends!

I walked across the fields to be greeted by this – yes this definitely confirms the local landowner HATES this path, and is trying to make everything difficult for walkers. They must be stopped. Otherwise the likes of Bolney Court will win, and this will become another Windsor Great Park, or many of the other detours 100-200m from the river that I’ve had to endure on these walks – usually with the nice bonus of a 6 foot fence or hedge both sides.

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Blog Now With Extra Photies!

I’ve now decided that Picasa is the best place for my photo galleries, as much as I distrust Google and pay for Flickr the latter seems oddly inflexible for a paid site with geotagging and feeds/API (they won’t even work with any of the WordPress maps I found, or have a limited 20 or 50 photo in a geoRSS feed? Also no idea how to create a compatible KML or geoRSS with all the images in a set – shame because I prefer Flickr). Picasa has a nice map, and more importantly a KML/Google Earth file that works with the map below! So either look at the pictures along the walk (you might want to click the expand icon for fullscreen) or see them on the Picasa site. You’ll see that there are quite a few older walks already geotagged on Picasa, and I’ve been punting the best ones over to Panoramio too. All my Thames River pictures are tagged ‘riverwalks’ (don’t click on the tag, it oddly takes you to some shite G+ page – search for it within my photos) or ‘coastalwalks’ and will be so for future uploads.

You will now see the geotagged photo albums on the Map of Walks too (I did try and add them individually but like with the map below strangely Picasa doesn’t show every picture in it’s KML files, even for small amounts. Oddness)

Pointless Stats

Music

Boccaccio Belgian New Beat – good for getting away from chavs 8/10
Sabina – Toujours  – very good album, a bit slow for walking 7/10
Frank Eddie – Let’s Be Frank – free and great sampleage from one half of Lemonjelly, Fred Deakin 9/10
Infinite Radio & The Shadow People – good heavy psychedelic post rock for ranting at landowners and their wicked path destroying ways 8/10

Food & Drink

Not much, some M&Ms and I think the other poncey Sausage Roll from a previous walk, and maybe the remains of some Prawn Cocktail crisps.
1 litre water

Welcome to Walking the Wrong Way

Walking the wrong way: down the path less travelled and getting lost on the way. Walking into the wind or sun. Walking without a map, without water, without sun cream or warm clothes and missing the last bus. Walking only on sunny days and not in rain. Walking across military ranges ignoring the keep out signs, past nuclear power plants, walking late at night along cliffs.

I’ve done all of these, survived to tell the tale and did them intentionally and unintentionally. And I’ve learned quite a lot along the way – a random squiggly line that is still err, unsquiggling?

Here are photos and reports from those journeys, past and future, an artistic exercise and Loneliness of the Late Disorganised Walker in one mad man’s idea of walking around Britain and up the Thames in tiny stages only on nice days (rain? Ugh!) and to where there is a pub or a chip shop (usually just closed, because, well, they hate tourists).

My River Walks I’ve already walked from Henley to Swanscombe Marshes along the Thames, since 1999 (back to when I used a film camera – scanning those might be harder), and a few years back I started my Coastal walk around Britain. Last count I’m over 50 miles from Chichester to Teynsham in Kent. OK I’m not exactly in a hurry, but I suspect the 6am-starting cagouled Kendal Mint Cake types forget it’s not about getting there, it’s the journey along the way.

And anyway they drive cars, those cheating, planet-destroying, recycling yobs (hey there’s nothing more ironic than a National Trust Car Park!) – and I have to rely on public transport. And as you will see, that’s sometimes harder to plan than the walk itself.

And check out the fancy map! Not much to see yet apart from my test posts, but yes, every walking post and even posts and pics along the way will be geolocated, and most likely have a GPS GPX track (either in fancypants plugin form or just an image) and details. And a lot of rambling probably…(no not that sort, well yes that sort, both really).