Matt and Damien’s First Long Distance Walking Holiday – The Thames Path West
By Matt Speak
This is my first Fam Trip since joining Mickledore, and the first long distance walking holiday for both myself and also my partner Damien who joined me on the walk. The Thames Path is one of the routes that I book as part of my role in the Operations Team here at Mickledore. With a variety of itineraries across the trail Kemble to Oxford (TPW6) seemed to be the perfect opportunity to get to walk the opening section of the trail and get to meet some of the accommodation providers that I work with on this section of the Thames Path holiday. We were also excited as it isn’t an area of the country either of us has ever properly explored. It’s safe to say it didn’t disappoint.
Day 1: Kemble to Cricklade
After a hearty breakfast we set off through the meadows from the accommodation to the official start point of the Thames Path trail. You’re soon winding your way through the fields and hedge lined pathways away from Kemble and into the calm of the countryside, passing through the picturesque Cotswold villages as the Thames slowly starts to develop from a trickle into a stream.
We reached Ashton Keynes which was one of my favorite places on the trail and a great pit stop for refreshments from the local shop. During the latter part of the day we enjoyed the shade of the tree laden paths as we passed the water parks and enjoyed watching water-skiers. We soon found ourselves on the outskirts of the market town of Cricklade, our base for the night.
Day 2: Cricklade to Lechlade
After another excellent breakfast, and stocked up on water and supplies we left the centre of Cricklade behind and found our way back on to the trail. The trail started off differently to the day before as we ambled our way by the side of the river through farmland before the trail took us away from the ever developing but still softly flowing Thames. We again walked through quiet country villages with only low flying military aircraft from one of the local bases for company from time to time. Then as you rejoin the river the Thames starts to burst into life as you approach Lechlade.
The walk through the park brought the first boats of the trip, moored along the banks of the river as you work your way into the slightly larger market town of Lechlade. After another hot days walking it was lovely to enjoy a beverage and a cool down on the banks watching swans and paddle boarders pass by in the early evening sunshine.
Day 3: Lechlade to Tadpole Bridge
The walk to Tadpole Bridge brought a change to the walk again, still rarely did we see anyone else on the trail apart from the local wild swimming groups enjoying the morning sunshine as we left Lechlade.
Today’s first of the trail was St John’s Lock and Weir, the first lock on the river. This again wasn’t what I was expecting. When we arrived at the Lock we were impressed at how well cared for and well presented it was. This continued along the length of the trail we walked.
We soon found ourselves back in the calm of the countryside. You don’t stray far from the river today and the silence was only broken by the calls of a Cuckoo, Curlew or a passing Red Kite. On the last section we found ourselves walking along a quiet country road to the accommodation we were staying at tonight at Tadpole Bridge.
Day 4: Tadpole Bridge to Newbridge
This is the shortest day on the TPW6 Itinerary, and quite conveniently, breakfast is served later in this accommodation. So following a very comfortable sleep, and after a very leisurely breakfast, we were soon ready to go and get back on the trail. The trail again began along the side of the river and back to one of the quietest and remotest stretches of the trail with the paths meandering with the flow of the river banks. You reach Chimney Meadows National Nature Reserve which is home to a variety of wildlife and protected habitat and a very welcome bird hide which we used to have a brief escape from the morning heat. Unfortunately on this occasion we didn’t spot anything.
Back on the trail, the landscape starts to open up again with natural meadows and farmland. At one point you feel like you’re on the edge of an urbanised area but it never materialises and you just continue along the calm of the river.
Before too long Newbridge is in sight. Newbridge is made up of two riverside establishments, one being our home for the night. Again the area was a hive of gentle activity on the river with paddle boarders, swimmers and patrons of the two pub/restaurants.
We soon showered and changed and enjoyed what the accommodation had to offer, then prepared for the final and longest day of the itinerary on our walk to Oxford.
Day 5: Newbridge to Oxford
So we awoke to rain, which apart from our very first night, we’d managed to avoided on this trip. Thankfully it had stopped before we’d set off walking and by the time we came to leave it had brought a touch of cool to the air, which we hadn’t experienced over the last few days of walking.
So on a grey Saturday morning we set off for Oxford. We made our way through farmland and open fields enjoying the breeze and the slightly cooler temperature the weather had brought. It did feel a different day, we spent the day close to the river admiring the large properties that sit on the banks of the river. We reached Bablock Hythe where we then moved away from the river and very much out into the countryside with lovely open views before finding ourselves back by the river, where we had a brief pitstop at Pink Hill Lock. Whilst you are aware that you are now closer to civilisation than the last few days, you do again find yourself transported back out into the calm, even with the steady beat of local festival taking place on the other side of the river gradually getting louder before steadily getting back into the calm.
We soon found ourselves passing Godstow Abbey on the edge of Oxford and the path opened up and boat traffic increased. The river then seemed to change and to me became a bit more like an estuary for a brief time. We passed lots of families and a wedding with guests being boated in from further down the river. We also watched the horses and cows cooling down in the river.
You soon find yourself in the centre of Oxford, which after the last few days in the relative quiet of the countryside, was a big change. Oxford isn’t a place I’ve ever visited and we did decide that we should have definitely booked an extra day to explore this beautiful city. After a very welcome drink to celebrate our achievement of the last few days, and the end of our first long distance walk, we had a quick whistle stop tour of the sights as we made our way to our accommodation. I’d definitely recommend spending more than one night in Oxford if you haven’t been before.
Overall we had an excellent week. We were very lucky with the weather and the sunshine showed this trail off at its finest. At times we didn’t feel we were even in the UK. We would definitely recommend this itinerary to anyone. We had our guide book and map, but found for the most part signage for the trail was excellent. It has sparked an interest in walking more of the trail. It’s a fascinating trail and was interesting to see the Thames develop and loved how quiet it was.
If Matt and Damien have inspired you to walk on the Thames Path then please do get in touch, Matt and our friendly Sales Team will be delighted to help … email us [email protected] or call 017687 72335.