August 15 : Thames Path Maidenhead to Eton (Windsor Bridge)

7 interesting bridges, 5 colourful rings, 4 DNFs and bucketloads of nostalgia

The Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead includes, as the name suggests, both towns – yet there is no direct public transport between the two! So, for the first time in three months we took 2 cars and parked at the start and close to our destination (in the rural backroads of Eton).

Back at the start, we misfired at our first two caches of the day. The first was a puzzle we hadn’t solved (based on the Finnish ‘Angry Birds’ characters) and the other, yards from the Thames Path, was a magnetic nano hidden on or near to the entrance to Guards Club Park gardens. After 15 minutes searching, and being watched by a young muggle family we gave up.

Guards Club Garden Gate

Guards Club Garden Gate

Finding the first cache seems to the set the tone for the remainder of the day – we were to experience several more DNFs before our walk was complete.
This section of the Thames Path goes under various bridges. The first, probably the most un-noteworthy, is under the A4. The second, and most noteworthy, is under Maidenhead Railway Bridge. Designed by Isambard Kingdom Brunel the bridge has the widest and flattest arches in the world. Each span is 128 feet and a rise of just 24 feet. Not only that, it has great ‘echo’ properties and the owner of the nearby cache suggests clapping and shouting ‘ten’ to generate the echo. We did – great fun! The cache nearby was an easy find, masked by an empty beer bottle left by a reveller from the night before. (We CITOed it, into the nearby bin).

Maidenhead Railway Bridge

Maidenhead Railway Bridge

Pleased with our first success, we then found 3 very simple caches, part of the Thames Path Mini Trail. (In fairness, one of the three did involve a major scramble over 2 ditches). The trail finished with a bonus cache so we carefully wrote down numbers and letters that we would use later. Before we reached the 4th cache of the trail we wandered away from the Thames Path to find a JJEF cache. We are rarely disappointed with a JJEF owned cache. Frequently made of wood, but the main puzzle is how to retrieve the log! Here we were faced with a pseudo-birdbox, which needed to be opened. After a bit of head scratching we were signing the log and back to the Thames Path.

A typical JJEF cache

A typical JJEF cache

Our third bridge of the day was under the M4 Motorway. We have travelled over this bridge many times, but never realised how beautiful it was underneath!

Under the M4 !

Under the M4 !

The caches were coming think and fast – including Part 4 of the Mini Trail, another near a bench overlooking the Waterside Inn at Bray, and a third under Summerleaze (foot) Bridge. This was bridge number 4, and was a former conveyor belt bridge used to transport gravel away from the nearby leisure lakes. It was just the other side of the bridge where Mr HG137 broke his arm Segwaying earlier in the year so it had a special resonance for us too.
Our last cache, before a 2 mile cache-less section, was the Mini-Trail bonus cache. Found with ease ! Yay!

The 2 mile cache-less section went around 2 sides of the London Olympic Rowing Venue (Eton College Rowing Lake), and it is possible to walk round the full lake (we didn’t!). Just standing by the lake brought back happy memories of the fantastic achievements by British athletes in 2012.

Olympic Rings...

Olympic Rings…

... Olmypic Course

… Olympic Course

Just yards from the lake is Boveney Church (home of a Church Micro). St Mary Magdalene’s Church, Boveney, is a redundant Anglican church standing close to the river on the north bank of the Thames. The church has been designated by English Heritage as a Grade I listed building, and is under the care of the Friends of Friendless Churches. The church was originally built in the 12th century, but somewhen during the intervening years, the graveyard has disappeared!

St Augustine's Church

St Mary Magdalene’s Church

Our next target was Boveney Lock, again with a nearby cache. A quick easy find, in a ‘numbered tree’, sadly though it was yards from a gents lavatory!
It was here that Mr Hg137 went into nostalgia mode, as when he was a little child he was brought up in the little of village of Eton Wick just a short stones-throw away. A favourite walk destination from Eton Wick was Boveney Lock, so the young family could watch the boats pass through.

Boveney Lock

Boveney Lock

The short walk to Eton Wick

The short walk to Eton Wick

Then came 3 newly placed caches, precariously placed on the riverbank. We found the first, but failed at the second and before we could attempt the third (which we did find) we had to cross a bridge (bridge 5 of the day) over a Thames tributary. Under the bridge was a terrain 5 (the hardest possible) cache. The cache description suggested using a boat (we have none), climbing over the bridge parapet (Mr Hg137’s arm is still weak) or paddling chest high in murky Thames water. Suffice to say we managed to talk our way out of all these alternatives. We may though be back once we pluck up the courage!
Disappointed with our ineptitude, our next DNF was in undergrowth. Lots of trees, brambles, ivy but no cache for us. We did find another in similar undergrowth, but our DNF count was starting to mount for the day.

Our 6th bridge of the day was under the A355. Here there is a mural of very emotional faces painted by Cosmo Sarson. Very weird and thought-provoking!
By contrast the path suddenly opened out to give the classic view of Windsor Castle, and a short walk across the fields known as ‘the Brocas’ brought us to the Eton side of Windsor Bridge. We didn’t cross the bridge (we’ll save that for next time), but we did spent a few minutes observing the many tourists armed with selfie sticks!

High Street, Eton

High Street, Eton

The short walk to the car meant a walk through the streets and alleyways of Eton. Here we found one cache, and failed on another. Unlike many DNFs we felt we were very close to this one, and since it is close to the Thames Path we will have another go when we resume our walk!

A Fine Pair

A Fine Pair

Our car journey back took us through Mr Hg137s home village of Eton Wick. We stopped for a nostalgic cache based on “A Fine Pair”. While we solved the clues to this multi, we saw the shop where his uncle ran the Post Office, the village hall where his cousin had her wedding reception, and a short car ride away the house where Mr Hg137 lived for his first 7 years. Happy days!

Some of the caches we found include :

Thames Path statistics :
Route length : 6.7 miles
Total distance walked : 127.95 miles

Caches found : 18 Total caches found : 239

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