Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Goring on Thames - Watlington

The Ridgeway day 4.
Distance: 31.8km (124.7km), time spent: 10:13.
Altitude (start / end / highest): 45m / 108m / 221m.
Weather: Slightly overcast, later sunny.

All back to the traditionals this morning, starting the day with a proper English breakfast. Another pleasant part of this walk is that I do not feel any need to rise up early, it is all pleasant lazyness in the mornings. No rush. The sky is dressed in a thin cloak of clouds when I leave The John Barleycorn.

Outside The John Barleycorn in Goring on Thames, off to continue on The Ridgeway.

This part of the walk is the most flat so far, following alongside the shores of the Thames. Although the walk is quite nice, I am still a little bit letdown. Before I went to England I saw some pictures from this part where I could see the trail going through a beautiful trimmed grassy lawn next to the river, but now the grass is overgrown and somewhat messy. More fascinating is now the houseboats that slowly floats up and down the river, some of them moored to the riversides. Along with the houseboats, a couple of pleasant villages are also floating past the trail, South Stoke and North Stoke.

Withymead Nature Reserve, or the Anne Carpmeal Charitable Trust.

Given the state of the trail, messy, unruly and a little bit disorderly seems to be the motto of the day. Before arriving at the shores of the Thames, I pass by the Withymead Nature Reserve. Now locked up and overgrowing, at least was the buildings inside the fence turning into estates for the ghosts. Before my detour to Wallingford, I visit a partly ruined church, St. Georges Church in Mongewell Park, with no roof over the nave. The chapel was still intact though, wonder if the sermons in the church would appear quite creepy.

The walk alongside the River Thames, with houseboats floating quietly by.

The partly ruined church of St. Georges at Mongewell Park.

Looking at the map, I believed that I would have time enough to visit the nearby town of Wallingford and still have time to reach Watlington before it gets late. In Wallingford there is the remains of an old castle, which now mostly looks like a big park where cows grazes freely in, among the few scattered remains. The castle walls and ditch are still relatively intact. I eat lunch at a restaraunt overlooking the Thames, find a cool sort of an underpass going through the castle and generally linger to long.

Remains of the Wallingford Castle.

Back on The Ridgeway, the path goes through a remarkable part of the trail. The surrounding landscape is not particularly interesting, but that matters little as The Ridgeway goes through the ancient earthworks of Grim's Ditch. The walk is wonderful. It is as if you walk in a separate world, with the outside world separated from you by the walls of the hedge you are walking inside of. On the way the ditch goes through the beautiful Oaken Copse.

Grim's Ditch. The walk through this section was like walking in a world of its own, confined inside a hedge, wonderful.

At Nuffield, I encounter trail magic at the local church. The church is empty, but inside there is a small place for travellers where they can boil some water for a cup of tea or coffee. And there are cookies and cakes here as well. A small donation to the church is requested for this, but you do not have to. Of course I give a small donation.

Oaken Copse.

The Ridgeway certainly goes through a lot of special surroundings today, the aforementioned Grim's Ditch, but I also crosses through a golf course, half expectantly having to duck to avoid flying golfballs. After a detour to Nuffield Place (former home of Lord Nuffield, William Richard Morris, the philanthropist founder of Morris Motors) that I could be without, the trail goes straight through a couple of acres. The path cuts through the acres in a straight line, which makes for an amusing walk.

The path of The Ridgeway cutting a straight line through an acre.

The walk after Wallingford has been the most rollercoaster-like so far, generally going up and down. This continues for a bit until I reach the outskirts of Watlington, where a great detour up Watlington Hill takes me to an 82m long 'obelisk' cut into the chalk, the White Mark. It does look like an exclamation mark and the views from it are nice, and even better at the top of the hill. The colour of the sky is pretty nice at this time.

The White Mark on Watlington Hill.

In Watlington I stay at The Fat Fox Inn. My room is out in the annex, accessible from the backyard of the pub, and is the finest room so far. Being tired, I still take a short walk in the small town (it is reputedly England's smallest town) as the light of dusk gathers around it, before I return for my fish and chips for dinner. When I goes to bed, I can hear the sound of rain outside, to the misgruntled voices of the guests of the pub outside.

Walking through the streets of Watlington in the evening.

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