We have walked the Thames Path between Pangbourne to Reading a few times in the past, and as a result knew what to expect.
However this short section taught us that paths change and more importantly can be diverted too!
The number of caches available to find was relatively small compared to the previous section, so before we set off we revisited the scene of our Church DNF in Streatley. Of course we found the cache within seconds!
We are both certain we looked in this particular location last time. What threw us then was the two muggles on a nearby bench. We suspect they had the cache on their hand and didn’t know what to do with it! When we signed the log on July 11th, a pair of names was present for July 4th – the day of our DNF. The cache has never been logged online since 4th July (except us) so we just wonder if they found it.. saw other signatures and then returned it after we have left.
Anyway back to the Thames Path and our longest section to date in Berkshire.
It was a Saturday, and it was going to be quite hot and Pangbourne Meadow was already getting busy. In fact within minutes of walking through the meadow we headed away from the river 100 yards or so to look for a cache. Sadly we couldn’t see or indeed reach it. A thick veil of stinging nettles, brambles and branches prevented us from getting within 30 feet. A wasted diversion.
We were under a little bit of time pressure as we had a 1530 booking at a special cream tea emporium – we should really have walked a bit quicker than we did but as with many of our caching trips we lose more time than we gain!
The busy-ness of Pangbourne Meadow soon disappeared and sometimes we could be alone on the path. It was during this section we deviated again from the path to find the cache Hardwick Haul. Named after the imposing Tudor building on the opposite bank it was a small ammo can. Its always nice to find one of these containers, and to spend a few minutes rummaging in the contents. We removed a trackable, Badgerbaby’s Travel Gift, and will move it elsewhere along the Thames Path. Hardwick House has had a chequered history having been built in Tudor times, damaged in the Civil War, and was apparently one of the inspirations for Toad of Toad Hall. (This actually means very little, as most of the large buildings in the area make this claim!)
Onward to Mapledurham Lock. Before we reached the lock, the noise level increased as we heard lots of dogs yapping and barking on the opposite bank. What was going on ? We discovered later it was a flyball competition where dogs run over obstacles and retrieve balls. They love it. But it is quite noisy with owners shouting and cheering and dogs barking and yelping with excitement!
Mapledurham Lock was busy but tranquil compared to noise level of the flyball competitors. Close to the lock were caches, one a simple find (but hard to get to). and a hard find (but easy to get to).
Here the Thames Path leaves the river and heads south to Purley on Thames (via another cache). Here we walked through a housing estate which confused us. We had walked this route several times before, but this time we were routed a different way. Our instincts were pushing us one way… and the signs the other. Eventually we arrived for a short section on the A329 and here, we believe is the HALFWAY POINT ON THE THAMES PATH. Its not specified in any of the guide books (because we guess the route is always slightly changing) so it is pure speculation on our part. Ironically there is no view of the river at the halfway point! (But there is a cache!)
Returning to the river, making our tea booking time was looking doubtful especially when a walker in the opposite direction told us the path was closed by a fallen tree. It wasn’t … but why do people tell such stories ? Had there been a fallen tree, we wouldn’t make our tea-time so we were grateful the story had been made up. However we did make the decision to phone and move our booking for a few minutes later.
There were a few nano caches on this section – one easy find in some fencing, another on a seat which we couldn’t attempt as there were three generations of muggles using it, another in an ivy tree (a DNF from us), a fourth hidden in the decorative ironwork on Caversham Bridge.
There was also a much larger cache some distance from the path which proved unfindable with a tea-clock ticking ever louder.
So we arrived at Reading Bridge slightly late, and in front of us… a Thames Path diversion. We could see our destination but a quarter of a mile diversion away from the river did not help our timing! The diversion bypassed strengthening work for Reading Bridge and the building of a new pedestrian bridge. All essential of course but not when a tea-clock is ticking ever louder…
Eventually we arrived at Whittingtons, a tea barge. A canal boat that serves delicious cream teas. The boat was full and we were grateful we had a reservation. The service and food were a great way to celebrate the first half of our year long odyssey!
Thames Path statistics :
Route length : 6.9 miles
Total distance walked : 95 miles
Caches found : 8 Total caches found : 194
Caches we found included :