About 20+ years ago, sometime in the mid-1990s, I read an article in a travel magazine about walking the Thames Path from its headwaters in the tiny village of Kemble, England in the Cotswolds along its circuitous 215 mile course to its outlet to the sea at the Thames Barrier in London. It sounded like an interesting adventure … and really, only 184 miles of it is actually walked. I clipped the article and put it in a file for later reference. I referred to it a few times, then we bought Nine of Cups and sailed around the world and somewhere in the last two decades, the article was lost or misplaced … but not the notion of walking it. It’s been on my bucket list.
Since we sold Nine of Cups, we’ve been doing lots of planning and taking interesting road trips … all in the USA and all involving travel in Blue, our in-the-process-of-converting Ford Transit van. The Thames Path only involves foot power … no boat, no van and not in the USA. The thought of walking the path has lingered in my mind for years, fermenting ... just waiting for the right time.
The Thames, referred to by some as ‘liquid history’, is the longest river in England. Smithsonian did an article on the Thames back in 2012 which provided some good insight. ‘Julius Caesar crossed the river he called the “Tamesis”—from a Celtic root word meaning “dark”—in 54 B.C. On June 15, 1215, twenty-five barons forced King John to sign the Magna Carta at Runnymede, beside the Thames. Oxford University came into being on the river’s north bank. Conspirators gathered at Henley-on-Thames (now the site of the famous regatta) to plot the Glorious Revolution of 1688 that overthrew Catholic King James II and brought Protestant William and Mary to the throne. Dozens of kings and queens were born, lived and died along the river, at the castles of Hampton Court, Placentia and Windsor.’ With 134 bridges, 44 locks, 20 major tributaries and countless untold stories, this river is a saga unto itself … an historical pageant worth experiencing for ourselves.
So I read and I researched and collected information. There is no dearth of reading material on the subject of the Thames … both historical and current. I started with history and general information ... Peter Akroyd’s Thames the Biography, which I thoroughly enjoyed was the best.
Since the walk is considered a national trail, there’s a fine website dedicated to all things Thames Path … providing the official beer of the Thames Path, current events and, yes, even information about walking it. Not to mention, a downloadable certificate ‘suitable for framing’ if we complete the walk. (It’s on the honor system, but we need to complete a survey. A sneaky spot quiz, maybe?)
I found a multitude of blogs describing all or parts of the walking route, but the best is the Rambling Man, which really doesn't sound British, but it is. He provides lots of insight, photos and first hand knowledge of the path that intrigued me. It appears the path itself is ‘easy’, but the trail is considered ‘moderate’ primarily due to its length … 184 miles takes more than a long weekend … at least for us. One major plus of walking the path is that, for the most part, there’s a place to stop for the night every 10 or so miles … a pub, a B&B, a hotel, a hostel.
David just celebrated his 70th birthday in July and what better gift to give him than something on my bucket list? So after much deliberation and with a willing partner, I began making arrangements for our trip to England … .and we leave day after tomorrow!
Since we’ll be traveling for the next couple of days, getting our feet wet (hopefully not) and acquainted with the trail, the next few blogs will reflect our pre-planning activities in preparation for the trip. We plan to post blogs as we go with Gentry’s help. So come along with us … we guarantee you’ll enjoy the walk AND you won’t wear out your walking shoes.