Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Day 8: Windsor to Marlow

Windsor to Maidenhead

Today being a Saturday and therefore no commuters I caught the 7am train into London and then on to Windsor arriving before 9am.  Tourists hadn't yet arrived in their droves so was able to take a few pre crowd photos. The castle stands on a chalk outcrop making it an ideal spot for a fortress. William the conqueror began its construction in 1070, since when every monarch since has added to it and is now the world's largest continually inhabited castle.

On one side of the river is Windsor whilst on the other is Eton with its famous college. Both Prince William and Prince Harry were boarders here, although with Windsor Castle just across the river where their gran lived at weekends no doubt they managed to escape school life for some home comforts most weekends.

Eton College was founded in 1440 by Henry VI to provide a free education for 70 'poor scholars' who would then go onto King's College Cambridge. In the 18th cent the school began to take in paying scholars. It is a much larger school today than it was originally with approx 1400 students. Currently the fees are £32, 069 per year!

This is the college chapel which is more like a cathedral.

Moving away from the CollegeI rejoined the path which is on the Eton side of the river.  It now felt that I was far away from the city of London. Lots of people were already by the riverside. Families in hired boats were hugging the edge of the river; swans by the dozen were floating along. The land by the river here is owned by Eton College and is known as The Brocas.

The rail bridge taking the trains into the terminus at Windsor.

The dogs were having a great time in the river but I'm not so sure about the owner who got drenched when they came out and shook themselves dry.
A road bridge for the A308 taking traffic around Windsor, but beneath the bridge is this incredible mural.

The mill stream cuts off what appears to be an 'island' . It is on this stretch of land that you find Windsor race course. I could just make out the track between the trees on the other side of the river.

On the Thames path side the land was becoming more agricultural, with a field of wheat almost ready for harvesting.

You can just see the village of Eton Wick in the distance.

1000 of these milestones have been erected by the Royal Bank of Scotland to mark some of the many cycle routes that now exist. They are useful for walkers too as they give the distances between the towns. From here I have 5+ miles before reaching Maidenhead where I intend stopping for lunch.

This is Boveney Lock rebuilt in 1898.

The chapel of St Mary Magdelene, Boveney. The earliest parts date back as far as the 12th and 13th cent. No doubt there was once a wharf here creating the need for a church. Further along the path away from the river there are a few restored timber framed Tudor houses.

Along the path was this delightful array of wild flowers.

Then just beyond the church is the Eton rowing lakes which were used for all the rowing events in the 2012 Olympics.

Back on the path, it wasn't long before it was surrounded on both sides by these overhanging trees.

Looking across the river I can see the yachts and motor launches moored in Bray Marina.

Looking on my map this looks to be a very large hotel in a wonderful location. I wouldn't mind spending a couple of nights there.

Another milestone showing 3 miles to Maidenhead. I quite liked seeing these as it made me feel I was making some progress.
This narrow bridge crossing the river is Summerleaze Bridge and although I couldn't see it, there is a concealed conveyor belt which enabled it to carry gravel across the river.

The path now takes you along the bottom of some very large gardens which I couldn't resist having a look out.

This large bridge takes the M4 motorway across the river.

This is Bray Lock with the village of Bray a little further upstream and on the other side.

Bray village can boast that it has not one  restaurants with 3 michelin stars but two as in The Waterside Inn  and the Fat Duck.

The path here goes between the gardens and the mooring points of yet more beautiful houses.

I liked the use of the oar as a handrail.

This red-bricked railway bridge has the widest and flattest arches  in the world. It was built in 1838 and designed by Isambard Kingdom Brunel. The arch on this side of the river is known as the 'sounding arch' because of the strange echo it makes. The bridge was a real feat of engineering as he had to span not just the river but both the towpaths. It wasn't believed possible but the trains are still using the bridge today just as they did then. It was this bridge that Turner featured in his painting Rain, Steam and Speed

This beautiful bridge is Maidenhead bridge. Built of stone between 1772-7, it has 13 arches.   

Maidenhead to Marlow

Just across the Maidenhead bridge was the aptly named Bridge gardens, an ideal spot to sit down and have some lunch  whilst listening to the sounds of the river. There has been a bridge at this site since 1254 with the current one dating back to 1777. There was a toll in place until 1903 when the bridge was 'freed' and the townspeople threw the gates into the river.

Boulter's is an attractive lock and was the most fashionable spot on the Thames in the Edwardian era. The high point of the year would be Ascot Sunday when everyone would dress in their best and promenade along the lock admiring the 1000 os so small craft sailing through the lock. The tradition stopped in 1914 with the start of WW1.  

Connected to the lock via a bridge is Ray Mill Island, which is now a public garden. The hotel next to it used to be a flour mill and you can still hear the water rushing beneath it. It was also the home of Richard Dimbleby, a well known TV presenter of his time. I remember him well so that ages me!

Returning to the path I now walked by the elegant houses with their lanscaped gardens and landing stages

One garden was all set up for a wedding party but there was no-one around at all.

The next part of the river bank is Cliveden Reach. On the opposite bank are the Hanging Gardens of Cliveden so called because of the way the trees cling to the chalk cliff. Cliveden was the home of Lord Astor and was at the centre of a great scandal in the 1960s. It was here that John Profumo, Secretary of state for war, met Christine Keeler with whom he had an affair. It transpired that she was also having an affair with a Russian diplomat. Profumo resigned in 1963 and the scandal has been known eversince as the 'Profumo Affair'.

This is Seven Gable cottage, part of the Cliveden Estate.

 The path now leaves the riverbank and takes you into the village of Cookham. Walking along the path I could hear the unmistakeable sound of leather on willow and peeping through a fence I glimpse the quintissential sight of a  cricket match in the grounds of the Odney Club grounds.

Cookham was the home of the artist Stanley Spencer (1891-1951). His paintings were centred on religeous themeswithin the village setting. He could often be seen pushing a pram around the village containing his artist's materials and a sign saying 'Do not disturb'.

The path continued through the village and then alongside the 16th cent tower of the church of the Holy Trinity.

It then emerges onto public open space known as Bell Rope meadow.

The railway bridge leading to Bourne End station.

One of the tributaries of the river Thames is the river Wye.

A number of sailing dingies and other craft were on the river at this point as this is the home of the Upper Thames Sailing Club.

This is one of the most beautiful stretches of the river with Winter Hill rising across the river and Quarry Wood on this side.

This is the Marlow bypass road bridge, so nearly at the end of today's walk.

Up ahead I can see the church and Marlow Bridge so this is where I leave the path for today and make my way to the railway station for a long journey home. It has been a terrific walk today with stunning scenery. I have now walked a total of 74 miles leaving me with 110 miles to go.

1 comment:

  1. I'm loving this walk with you but wish that i was benefitting from the exercise. We are really getting into the beautiful countryside now. The age of the bridges is amazing.


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