Appleford – Whitchurch lock
Rise shortly after sunrise, my back is aching so much it feels like someone has kicked me in the night. Pack up and have a quick breakfast. Fellow-crew seems reluctant to stir from his place – very annoying, since he was the one who explained the importance of being up and around early in the first place. I’ve a few well-chosen words, but no-one around to hear them ….
By 6 am I’m ready to go. Still no sign of movement from next door, so I set off alone. Doubtless we’ll catch up later in the day. At Clifton lock no-one is about, but with the power on I slip through pretty easily.
It is quite wonderful to be on the river this early. The water is calm and patches of fine mist linger in places along the banks – my only company ducks and the occasional heron. It’s looking to be another hot day.
At Clifton Hampden I pull up and visit the church of St Michael and All Angels, set on the river edge. The church is closed but there are some interesting gravestones in the churchyard. Clifton Hampden is also home to the Barley Mow pub, in the past considered one of the best-known pubs on the Thames, and one of only two public houses marked on the Ordnance Survey maps by name (the other being The Trout Inn at Godstowe). However it seems to have lost that privilege – the maps now show only PH at this spot.
The Thames here is really broadening out – it’s starting to take the size that we’ll see from here on to London. Through Wallingford, which has an interesting history. It was the last remaining Royalist stronghold in Berkshire to hold out during the English Civil War – the fact that nearby Abingdon quartered a good part of the Royalist cavalry may have had a bearing.
Nowadays it’s full of Saturday-morning shoppers – I didn’t stop. But it is downstream from Walllingford that I first notice the sound that is going to become a constant accompaniment all the way to London – the calling of red kites soaring in the skies above. Quite amazing how well they’ve spread since that initial release in the Chiltern hills in the 1990s.
Past Moulsford Prep School on the right bank. It’s closed at the moment, though pretty obviously not to the Canada geese!
There are some very fine looking houses on the east bank, while the Chilterns themselves are clearly visible to the north-east. The view to the south and west is becoming more open – the river here almost seems to form a border between the foothills and the Thames plain to the south.
At Goring-on-Thames I stop to pick up supplies. Should be called Boring-on-Thames. A nice enough looking town, but the locals seem very stuck-up. Can’t think why – it’s not a patch on the far bigger and wealthier Henley-on-Thames further downstream.
Many, many people are out on the river, in everything from racing skiffs to inflatable kayaks, and on the new craze, paddle boards. The banks are busy also. It is the weekend of course, but just the same it seems that half of England is on furlough.
Time to start looking for a likely camping site. At 18.45 I find a promising spot in what looks like a little used water meadow, pull out and sit there for a while. However after half an hour I find myself under investigation from a herd of incredibly curious young heifers. I wait, expecting them to lose interest and go away. But they don’t, and since they’ve brought a fair selection of flies with them, I give up and move on.
Onwards downriver to Whitchurch-on-Thames lock.Through the lock by myself and shortly afterwards I find a spot to pitch. Few dog-walkers about, but they don’t bother me, so ….
No sign of fellow crew all day, and since my phone’s also on the blink since I slept on it I cannot contact him. Ah well, keep calm and carry on.
© Philip Hunt 2020