Storm Ali (yes, the Brits name storms, too) wreaked havoc in the northern UK … primarily Ireland and Scotland. Further south, we only experienced wind gusts and some rain. I’d put it in the ‘blustery’ category with gusts of 30-40 mph, but only 15-20 sustained. It was, however, enough to get our attention since it was ‘on the beam’ and tended to blow us off our stride when the gusts came along across the river.
Reading to Goring – 11 miles
We stayed in a Premier Inn for the night … a UK budget chain that was close to the path. As is typical now, we start looking for a tea shoppe around the 3-4 mile mark and found Tea on the Thames at the Mapledurham Lock which fit the bill. Though the temperature was cool and the breeze was blowing, sitting in the sun and nursing a cup of tea is restful and pleasant.
Today was Half Way Day … when we crossed the bridge in Pangborne, we were at the half way mark on the path. The Pangborne Bridge was and still is a toll bridge. Pedestrians, horses, pigs can all pass free nowadays, but cars still pay 60p.
In Pangborne Meadow, we stumbled upon a forest of totem poles (84 totem poles make a forest, right?) decorated and displayed by local artists and students depicting the change of seasons and celebrating the autumnal equinox.
The path led us through the graveyard of St. Mary’s Church and we couldn’t resist exploring. St. Mary’s was founded by the Christian Saxons sometime in the 9th century, enlarged in the 11th century and served the parish of Whitchurch throughout the Middle Ages. Henry VIII seized the church ‘from the Pope’ after the Pope refused to annul his marriage to Catherine of Aragon. St. Mary’s then became the Church of England and remains an Anglican parish.
We met some walkers in the graveyard also exploring St. Mary’s. They were about our age, walking the path from Source to Sea instead of vice versa like us. They were traveling light … just little daypacks on their backs ... and had been on the path for two weeks already. They had used a service to book all their hotels and to transport their packs each morning to the next night’s hotel. We’d thought about this, but in retrospect, we’re satisfied that this was the best option for us.
The evening was spent at The Bull, a traditional 15th century English coaching inn in the heart of Streatley village. Our room was surprisingly spacious, comfortable and pleasantly quirky with a modern en suite bathroom. The pub was friendly and had the English pub character that American wanna-be pubs just can’t seem to replicate. Ian, the barkeep, was informative and inquisitive. John, a retired teacher, sat and chatted with us while sipping his stout. The meals were great; the ambiance was lovely; and the company was outstanding.
FYI … George Michael and his partner lived in a 16th century house here in Goring for 17 years.
Miles walked today: 11.5 miles
Goring to Dorchester – 12 miles
Leaving town in the morning, the path led us past yet another St. Mary’s church … St. Mary’s of Streatley. Though we were just getting started on our day’s journey, we couldn’t resist a quick look-see in the church and the graveyard. This parish, too, traces its history back to Anglo-Saxon times. The current church which was rebuilt in the mid-19th century stands on the site of the original which dates back to the 11th century. The tower dates from the 15th century.
As we neared Dorchester, we crossed the confluence of the Thames and the Thame Rivers … water on both side of us. Here, the Thames is sometimes referred to as the Isis, according to Wiki, ‘derived from the Britonic-Celtic name for the river, Tamesas (from *tamēssa), recorded in Latin as Tamesis’
.Dorchester is a lovely town dominated by the Dorchester Abbey, conveniently located across the road from our inn, The George, which by the way, used to be the brew house for the Abbey, was quite the lovely place. Built in c.1495, it’s got quite a bit of character. The staff was friendly and the food was awesome and elegantly presented. The George was one of 10 inns in the 18th century that served London-Oxford coaches.
We wandered across the road to the Abbey just before dark. I’m entranced with the architecture of these old churches, usually a mix of styles as additions and renovations are made. A seminar was scheduled for the evening we visited, but the affable host invited us to explore the abbey (and even stay for the seminar if we wished). The highlights for us were the tombs that were located there within the church. There was nothing in the abbey guide about the first tomb, but the second, referred to as the ‘cross legged knight’ is considered one of the finest examples of 13th century funerary sculptures and is presumed to be the tomb of William de Valence the Younger who died in a skirmish in 1282.
We managed a look around the outside of the Abbey before daylight died. The graveyard is old and extensive. The Abbey itself huge and expansive. The gargoyles and grotesques are amusing and captivating and we wondered why they adorn churches and religious buildings. To ward off evil maybe? I plan to do a bit of research on this; it’s an interesting subject.
Miles walked today: 12.5
Miles left to walk on the Thames Path: 71