Saturday, 20 July 2013

THAMES 3: THIS TIME BY BICYCLE


THREE MEN LINK UP IN GODSTOW: It is nearly two months since Ratty, Mole and Badger met on the riverbank. It is a grey July day and this time we were on our bicycles to get as far as we could, the target being Goring some thirty miles along the Thames, downstream.
Three miles later, peddling along the towpath we were in the centre of Oxford and stopped for a moment Osney Bridge. Osney Bridge has the lowest headroom of any across the navigable Thames and is known (as we discovered talking to a lock keeper way up stream) as the ‘wanker filter’ as it is impossible for really large big boats, often poorly skippered, to pass this point and go upstream.

Osney Bridge!

A different river and in different weather: Once past Oxford the river is much broader than hitherto. The weather turned to rain and we became soaked and ready for lunch
Morning coffee Sandford Lock
Time to cheer ourselves up: Lunch at the Nags Head right by the bridge at Abingdon. The pub was recommended by the lock keeper, lock keepers were a continued good source for which pubs were good. All three of us had fish and chips.
Wallingford for afternoon tea; Yummy and much needed before the final push to Goring.
Broad bends.  Most of the day is spent bumping along the towpath with gates and styles designed to discourage cyclists from anywhere near these stretches of the river.
By the end of the day our discomfort with having to lift bikes shoulder height is palpable. I am fantasizing about the next leg of our journey; might it be a voyage from Goring to Reading? Might it be on a pleasure steamer if they run such a service? Dave is not keen though; fearful of whom else might be on board (where’s is his sense of adventure?)
Wittenham Clumps
We pass Wittenham Clumps. This is a hill fort and place of mystery about half way between Wallingford and Goring I guess. A place I have always wanted to see. A green enigmatic view captured by the British Artist Paul Nash in his painting from Little Wittenham. 
 We press on.
Glorious Goring: And so we ‘pull over’ and leave the river’s towpath here. This pretty town is in the Goring Gap, the geography that separates the Berkshire Downs and the Chiltern Hills. We are about 8 miles northwest of Reading.
There are grey skies still and the feel of evening.
Three tired men peddle up the High Street and find the railway station and a train takes us back to Oxford. Our fatigue is offset with the thought that when we resume our quest, later in the summer, we can catch a train back up here. No more cars are needed for the rest of this excursion down the River Thames trip.
Didcot Power Station; a field of Borage in the foreground