This stretch of the Thames Path is often called the ‘Lonely Thames’ for its remoteness. There are no villages (a few pubs though) and just one road crosses the Thames during the entire 10 mile section.
All the caches were in the first and last miles of the walk, the middle section (some 7-8 miles) has no caches at all! This must be one of the longest sections of a National Trail where there are so few caches! Yet, there are plenty of obvious hiding-places with bridges, gnarled trees, and ivy bushes abounding. Perhaps the remote location puts Cache Owners off, or maybe the land-owners have not given permission. Understandably there are no caches in the 2 mile Chimney Meadows Nature Reserve section, but much of the remainder of the path is well equipped to hold large and small geocaches. For those cachers with a sense of adventure, there is though a difficulty 5, terrain 5 cache. The hardest possible type of cache. The cache is hidden underwater, under Old Man’s Bridge. We did look at the cache site, to see if the cache was visible, but even it was, we had no boat to retrieve it. (And we really didn’t want to swim in the cold, chilly waters either!)
Even though there weren’t many caches, the River Thames had much to offer. Meander after meander gave us an ever changing view. Sometimes we espied more of the WWII pillboxes we had found on the previous section, sometimes we saw ducks, geese, swans all vying for the same quarter mile of river. We passed by three locks with lock-keepers busy at work preparing for the new season. The primary purpose of a lock-keeper is not, as many think, to help boats through the locks, but to maintain the flow of water on the river using the associated weirs. The weir at Rushey Lock was of particular interest, as the old system of paddle-and-rymer had recently been replaced by a more, modern system. The paddles are a listed structure (yes, really!) and can be seen alongside the modern system in the photo below.
The lock-keepers weren’t the only people who had been busy. Many trees had been chopped, either as part of on an ongoing pollarding programme, or presumably to clear low branches from the river. The harshness of this was in contrast to the beautiful spring flowers and blossom that peppered our journey.
Apart from a few startled ducks, we saw little wildlife in Chimney Meadows Nature Reserve, which was slightly disappointing as we had been told that otters can sometimes be seen. We did notice the monitoring boxes that the Wardens use to ascertain what wildlife frequents the river. Nature doesn’t just live in the river, as a small copse was full of bat boxes/bird boxes. We were told by a lock-keeper that one of the boxes contained a hornet’s nest last year!
But the most amazing wildlife scene we encountered was late on in our walk. Forty, yes 40, swans were lined up in the river and the path. Never before had we seen so many wild swans in one place together. A truly memorable sight, which this picture inadequately shows.
Finishing in Newbridge, a misnomer since the bridge was built in the 13th century, we found our last cache near a Mosaic of Fish. This is part of a much longer Mosaic Trail, which we may well return to.
Thames Path statistics :
Route length : 10 miles Total distance walked : 39 miles
Caches found : 5 Total caches found : 85
One of the other caches was so good we are only publishing it in our end of year highlights!