The Walking Englishman Walks The Thames Path

A personal record of my walk of the Thames Path National Trail with a written journal and with photographs. Tracklogs for GPS units and for use with Google Earth are available for download for each stage.

Journal, Photographs and Download Files

Stage 2: Cricklade to Radcot Bridge
Google Maps Open Source Maps

Statistics and Files
Start: Cricklade Finish: Radcot Bridge Distance: 17.0 miles (27.4 km)
Time: 6-8 hours Climbing: 10 metres Rating: Moderate
GPX Route File Google Earth File About Cricklade
Start: Cricklade Finish: Radcot Bridge
Distance: 17.0 miles (27.4 km) Time: 6-8 hours
Climbing: N/A Rating: Moderate
GPX Route File Google Earth File
Ordnance Survey Explorer Map (1:25,000)

The Walk:

St Mary's Catholic Church, CrickladeSt Mary's Catholic Church, Cricklade
Footbridge near Eysey ManorFootbridge near Eysey Manor

After a good evening chatting with the locals in the Old Bear Inn in Cricklade I was up bright and early. With no time wasted freshening up and then after buying a walking breakfast at the local convenience store I was soon on my way. Just the way I like it on a long distance walk; if my accommodation has too late a starters breakfast I politely decline - I do like to be up and off. Marching down the main street at 6.30am from my accommodation at the Old Bear Inn led me to the Thames Path near to St Mary's Catholic Church and from there following Abingdon Court Lane led me to the river. It was an overcast and muggy morning, typical of late August and in the conditions I made good early progress, reaching the brutal concrete footbridge near Eysey Manor in just over fifteen minutes of walking. Reaching the bridge determined one mile of the seventeen today already done.

Lovers making home on the ThamesLovers making home on the Thames
Castle Eaton ChurchCastle Eaton Church

The next three miles of walking took me on a continuous course beside the River Thames towards the village of Castle Eaton. A mix of field sides and lanes in which I kept the company of early morning birds rising for the worms and Swans courting on the riverside led me to the village, the three miles covered in a little over an hour. I reached the pretty village of Castle Eaton with the prettiest village church at just after eight o'clock in the morning. I was pleased as punch with my work so far and with that in mind I took five minutes out to sit on a bench viewing the church while having a bite of breakfast to fuel up for the next stage of the walk. The sun came out which made the moment perfectly lovely. Afterwards I ambled through the village which was enjoying a Scarecrow Festival. I enjoyed viewing the exhibits.

Blackford LaneBlackford Lane
Pleasure boaters and Cantankerous SwansPleasure boaters and Cantankerous Swans

From Castle Eaton I followed Blackford Lane into peaceful countryside. Which was shattered on the stretch between Blackford Farm and Bridge Farm by a squadron of fighter jets taking off from RAF Fairford. The noise was thunderous but once they were up and away the peaceful idyll returned. With serene quiet once more I continued on at a good pace towards the town of Lechlade. On the way I came across the first groups of people enjoying leisure time in the Thames itself. Groups in rowing boats. Also on the scene were a family of Swans who took offence to me walking past them on the same riverbank. I was not invited to dwell, parents hissing me away from the cygnets which were big enough to look after themselves.

St John the Baptist Church, IngleshamSt John the Baptist Church, Inglesham
Round House on the Thames and Severn CanalRound House on the Thames and Severn Canal

I detoured slightly from the Thames Path to visit the site of the medieval village of Inglesham with the very old church of St John the Baptist being a place of great interest to history enthusiasts and those of faith. I enjoyed looking around the current church built over 800 years ago, admiring the workmanship. All the while knowing the church stands on the site of an even older Anglo-Saxon church, probably of timber construction. I imagined what that would have looked like. From the old church it was a short walk for me back to the Thames Path. And then I enjoyed another short walk to a significant point on the course of the River Thames where it joined with the River Coln and with the Thames and Severn Canal. The point of merging waters is easy to find. Just look for the distinctive Round House. They are a feature of the canal, their being five of them along a stretch of the canal, all former lengthsmen's cottages. At the Round House I noticed the Thames had suddenly become a proper river. From Thames Head to Ashton Keynes it had been a series of puddles. From Ashton Keynes to Cricklade and beyond to here more like a beck. But now, in the meeting of waters I felt a proper river was finally with me. The narrowboat moored beside the Round House painted the picture perfectly.

River Thames at LechladeRiver Thames at Lechlade
Halfpenny Bridge, LechladeHalfpenny Bridge, Lechlade

It seemed appropriate that the first habitation I came to first on what was now the navigable River Thames was Little London. In reality a small suburb of the town of Lechlade but bearing the name of England's capital city all the same. I walked along towards Halfpenny Bridge with the Riverside pub on the opposite bank. Suddenly a hive of activity filled the scene. Lots of people on the water, some canoeing or in rowing boats. Others in pedalos. Shaped as Swans. The white ones were not so bad. The one I saw in pink was distinctly garish. I was quick to move on from the hustle and bustle, past Halfpenny Bridge and back into the peace and quiet I had enjoyed in the day and a bit on the walk so far. I knew hustle and bustle would slowly filter in as I approached the towns and cities and particularly in London. I expected that, it had been in my train of thought when planning the walk, but before then I could enjoy this alternative of serenity in the countryside of the young Thames land.

On the navigable ThamesOn the navigable Thames
Footbridge across the Thames near KelmscottFootbridge across the Thames near Kelmscott

Peaceful it was, immediately on continuing on along the Thames from Lechlade to St John's Lock, the first of forty-five locks I would pass on this walk. St John's Lock is furthest upstream. Fittingly a narrowboat was filtering through the lock as I walked past. With two more narrowboats queuing. Also near the highest lock on the river there was a statue of Father Thames which had originally been displayed in the Crystal Palace and moved to the lock in 1974. Near the lock the River Leach flowed into the Thames, further supplementing its now burgeoning waters. A shapely arched wooden footbridge invited me to walk upon and look down on the beautiful river. I took the invite, temporarily stepping on to the north bank before returning to the path.

Defensive pillbox beside the ThamesDefensive pillbox beside the Thames
Eaton Footbridge near Grafton LockEaton Footbridge near Grafton Lock

Just before arriving at St John's Lock I had passed a concrete pillbox by the riverside. Just after passing St John's Lock I passed a second one. They were pillboxes on the GHQ stop line, a 300 mile long defence line created across southern England as a second line of defence in case of invasion in World War II. Here, the River Thames has been incorporated as a natural barrier. (Source: Historic England). I was to see quite a few more of these never to be used structures in the coming days. The next structure of interest was another wooden footbridge, this one a more shapely and robust one than the one I crossed earlier. This was at the third lock encountered on my course, Grafton Lock. In between I had passed Buscot Lock, the second most upstream on the river.

Keeper's House at Grafton LockKeeper's House at Grafton Lock
Leisure craft at Radcot BridgeLeisure craft at Radcot Bridge

At Grafton Lock there was also a lovely lock keeper's house. Idyllic location. Hard job. Though not so much these days though as the boaters do all the work themselves. I know, I have done quite a lot of turning the screw when narrowboating on northern canals myself. From Grafton Lock it was a mile and a bit walk to the finish of my second day at Radcot Bridge which is the oldest surviving bridge on the Thames. The sun was beaming down now, a lovely warm and bright afternoon. Suffice to say I was not as speedy at the start of the day. What had taken me fifteen minutes to cover on the outset took me thirty minutes to finish. Seventeen miles of joyful walking had been covered in the stage and in doing so I had really found the proper River Thames. This was real good and the smile I had on my face as I sat and relaxed beside Radcot Bridge was as broad as that of the Cheshire cat.

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