Saturday, August 31, 2013

Clifton Hampden to Oxford

Section 2

Abingdon to Oxford

Leaving Abingdon I walked down the steps to the footpath with one last look at the bridge.

I wonder if the flooding during the winter left this boat high and dry

Up ahead is Abingdon lock and weir. Over the centuries the water channels carrying traffic have changed. The Swift Ditch which is now south of the main channel appears to have been the former course of the Thames but is now just a back water.

Here I crossed the river by going over the lock gates and then the weir.

Crossing over the Abbey stream the path now takes you through an attractive wooded area which is

full of wildlife. I could stay for hours watching the numerous butterflies and listening to the birdsong. But I estimate another 7 miles to go before I reach Oxford.

It is all part of Barton fields nature park. It is mainly volunteers who maintain our nature trails and areas, cutting back the unwanted weeds that try to take over the pathways. I would like to add how much my legs appreciated the lack of brambles and nettles growing across the path so thank you to volunteers everywhere.

Nuneham railway bridge


Once past the bridge the Nuneham woods rise up on the opposite bank continuing for the next couple of miles. 

It seems strange walking so close to someone's house. I find it impossible to walk on without being nosy and peering into their garden and home!

The houses on the opposite bank herald the approach of Sandford on Thames. Once home to a Victorian Mill this has now been replaced with housing.

Sandford Lock is the deepest lock on the non-tidal Thames with a drop of 2.68m. Built in 1630 it is one of the first 3 pound locks to be built. Pound locks are ones with gates at either end which allow the water to enter to raise the depth of the lock from the upstream to basically allow the boat to go uphill. The reverse happens when the boats are travelling downstream.

This is just part of the tremendous weir at Sandford.  The weir pool known as the 'Lasher' has a very strong undercurrent.  Although impressive it is also treacherous claiming the lives of several people.

This looks like a new hotel with a passengerboat moored outside which is possibly used as a floating restaurant.

First few drops of rain since I walked by Tower Bridge many, many miles away. It didn't last long and in fact it was much too warm to wear a rain jacket.
Running alongside the river is weir stream with the metal footbrige taking you across.

A welcome sign as I am more than ready for a sit down and rest. What I didn't realise at this point was that although Oxford was only 2 miles away, my hotel was a further 2 miles which was almost the straw that broke the camel's back making the day's mileage 16 instead of the 14 miles I had anticipated. I also had forgotten that my rucsac is much heavier than the usual day sac as I am carrying clothes etc for my 4 overnight stays.

The first wreckage I have seen on the river. Looking like the result of a fire, I am surprised it has not been removed as this is such a busy waterway.

Up ahead is the Kennington Railway bridge.

The river now runs under the Isis road bridge .

Iffley lock, the very first of the pound locks on the Thames built in the 1630s. Prior to pound locks, flash weirs were used. These weirs dammed the water to power the mills and provide navigation through shallow water. By removing a section of the weir the boats could 'flash' through with the current or be winched up  against it.It was a dangerous


 Leaving Iffley lock and weir this decorative bridge takes you back across to join the footpath again
Between Iffley lock and Oxford there are many college boathouses which store the racing rowing boats. It is along this stretch of the river that the rowing eight races take place in May.

Going under the Donnington Road bridge I am now on the approach to Oxford. The path is busy with cyclists and dog walkers. A sure sign I am near a town or in this case a city.


 Just before Folly bridge is Salters Steamers, founded in 1858. Probably the most famous of the passenger boat companies that travel up and down the Thames. A welcome sight, telling me I have reached Oxford.
 I left the river at Folly Bridge. This building is No 5 Folly Bridge. It is an interesting building with its iron balconies and niches filled with statues of the fallen women who supposedly worked here when it was a brothel.

This is Christ Church, founded in 1525 by Cardinal Wolsey, Henry VIII's Lord Chancellor. Almost 500 years later it is still here home to 550 undergraduate and postgraduate students studying a range of subjects.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Day13 Clifton Hampden to Oxford

Section 1
Clifton Hampden to Abingdon

I was a bit late getting started on my walk today as there were no trains back to Culham at the time I wanted so I had to get a train from Paddington to Didcot Parkway. From there it was a bus ride but being in the country now, the buses are few and far between. Being a city girl, of course, I am used to 4 or 5 buses an hour. It was a long wait as I had just missed one. By the time I reached Clifton Hampden it was almost 12, half the day gone. But from today I was not going to return home and had booked accomodation in Oxford for tonight. That did mean that my pack was a little heavier than usual but at least I didn't have to worry about getting a train home I just had a 15 mile walk ahead of me!

I took the opportunity of having a closer look at the village with its picturesque thatched houses and the churh perched on the top of the small cliff.

St Michael and All Angels Church

This is a 12th cent carving of a boar which was found during the restoration of the church in the 19th cent.

A view of the river from the churchyard.

The other side of the church looks over the village.

Back on the path again I walked beneath this lovely bridge. At 150 years old it is nowhere near as old as many of the Thames bridges but I like the shape of the arches.

I was beginning to notice a lot of reeds growing along the river banks often shielding the river from view.
A short distance from the village is the picturesque Clifton Lock.

This wooden bridge allows farmers access to the island formed by the loop in the river. Fortunately no herds of cattle were being moved over it as I walked past.

However a little further on I spotted the farmer's herd have a little paddle.

Can just see the spire of Appleford Church with Didcot Power Station in the distance.

Lots of work going on here to reinforce the Appleford railway bridge. They had forgotten it was a right of way so I needed to scramble over the planks of wood.
As I walked under the bridge there were a few bags of rubbish etc which looked as though someone had been sleeping rough here.
On the other side of the bridge there was a safety boat just in case any of the workers fell in the river.
The bright red poppies brighten up any footpath.
The path is overgrown on both sides with little view of the river.

Sutton Courtney Bridge which takes you to the village but I'm going to continue with the walk otherwise I'll never get to Oxford today.

No boats waiting to go into Culham lock at the moment

Culham Bridge was built of stone between 1416 and 1422 to replace an ancient ford called Culham Hythe. During the English Civil war the bridge was of great strategic importance. The Parlimentarians had control of the bridge in 1644 and were able to prevent royalist food convoys on the way to Oxford. The Royalists tried to recapture the bridge and this skirmish was known as the battle of Culham Bridge.

The bridge was superceded by a modern road bridge in 1928 and is now classed as an ancient monument.
This was the best view I could get of the bridge. The trees and bushes were so overgrown it was impossible to get closer.

The Jubilee junction opened in 2006 and is the new entrance to the Wiltshire and Berkshire canal into the Thames.
Abingdon marina.

The beautiful spire of St Helen's church makes quite an impression as you walk towards Abingdon bridge.
The original bridge, with its 14 arches was built around the same time as Old Culham bridge in 1416, but this one was rebuilt in 1928-9. However it still has a medieval look about it.

Built on the bridge is The Nag's Head pub.

Here is the Abbey mill stream leading to the mill house which is now used as offices of the Friends of Abingdon.

Just across the bridge is the old gaol built in 1811 possibly by Napoleonic prisoners of war. It was a much better design than previous prisons as all cells had a window allowing prisoners access to light and ventilation. The building has now been converted to living accommodation and an arts centre.

Abingdon County Hall, built in 1678-82 by Kempster who was a student of Sir Christopher Wren. Abingdon used to be the county town of Berkshire but that is now Reading. In fact Abingdon is no longer part of Berkshire but is now part of Oxfordshire since 1974. The building is now a museum with a very pleasant cafe in the basement.
St Nicholas' Church which dates back to the12th cent.

That beautiful plaque above the door states that John Foysse opened a school here in 1563.

The Abbey gardens are a well laid out park with flowers, trees and a lake creating some picturesque walks. The land was the site of a medieval Abbey and during Victorian times a wealthy wine merchant bought the land and built a house and gardens here.

The remains of a folly he built here. A folly is usually a very expensive building with no purpose other than to impress.

Time to sadly leave Abingdon and continue with my journey but it is another place to which I will return one day when I have more time to explore.