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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August 8 Thames Path : Marlow to Maidenhead

Hello, Mrs Hg137 here.

Marlow

Marlow

For today, we had a plan to park the geocar at the end of the day’s walk, use public transport aka train to get back to the start, and walk back; much searching went on to find somewhere (anywhere) in Maidenhead that had free parking and was close to the river; Google’s Streetview was most useful here and we found a spot in Ray Park Road.

A fifteen minute walk brought us to Maidenhead station and the first cache of the day, one of the Sidetracked series which are hidden near stations.  On the train, we had a few minutes to sort out our walking boots and to chat to the many other walkers who were also on the train; one group of six were off on a two day outing, walking to Goring on the first day, then back along the river; we passed Goring some few weeks ago and it’s a long, long walk along the river, but not nearly so far if you cut off the big loops in the river.

Sidetracked geocache

Sidetracked geocache

Sidetracked geocache

Sidetracked geocache

Sidetracked geocache

Sidetracked geocache

After a twenty minute train ride we disembarked at Marlow, dawdling behind the other passengers so that we could retrieve our next cache, another Sidetracked, without being watched.   The Thames Path was a short walk away, and we walked down to the river, then stepped away almost immediately for a look at Marlow Lock.  This was a busy lock (they all are!) with neat gardens (they mostly are!), a fine view back to Marlow Bridge … and the answers to clues to a multi cache, another with a Dr Who theme, which we found just a little further on our way.   Once under the speeding cars on the A404M we were out in the country and it was a quiet, warm sunny morning.  A couple of miles walk, with not a single cache, and we arrived in Bourne End.  We stepped aside to find the third Sidetracked cache of the day, near Bourne End station; we’d passed close by while we were on the train but we didn’t have quite enough time to find the cache while the train pauses at the station.

Bourne End railway bridge

Bourne End railway bridge

Just here, the Thames Path crosses to the other side of the Thames, and it does so on the railway bridge.  Here, too, somewhere, is another cache.  It’s a multi cache, and the description gives five possible locations, with a clue to work out which is the right one.  We solved the clue, and we tried all five locations.  Could we find the cache?  No, reader, we could not!  We paused for lunch, looking at the river.  Then we had another look.  Could we find the cache?  No!   We reluctantly gave up and moved away downstream across the meadows.  It was rather hot now and we wished there was more shade.
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAt Cookham, the path diverted from the river, to walk past some expensive houses who had kept their river frontage private.  We passed the Stanley Spencer gallery, then followed the path through the churchyard, where a wedding was in progress; we’d read that Stanley Spencer’s memorial is here but we didn’t spot it.

We went down a leafy track away from the village; part way along a cheer rang out from the village.  We wondered if that was the moment England won the Ashes?  (Checking later, it wasn’t.)

Boulter's Lock

Boulter’s Lock

Busy river!

Busy river!

We arrived back at the river, and the remaining caches for the day were all along the path back to Maidenhead.  It was so pleasant that I walked past one by 400 feet, when I should have been watching the GPS, and we had to backtrack; grumbles, and rightly so, from Mr Hg137!  Another  most notable one was entitled ‘You want me to look there?’ and was close to both a litter bin and a dog poo bin.  We spent some while feeling round in places where we really did not want to feel – and it was a very hot afternoon so things were … aromatic – but we found the cache close by.   The final stages of the walk took us back into Maidenhead and past Boulter’s Lock, which was packed, and past a blue plaque showing that Richard Dimbleby had lived close by (he was a famous war correspondent and factual journalist).

Richard Dimbleby lived here

Richard Dimbleby lived here

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Then we were back at the geocar after pausing at this poem etched into a stone by the river:

Old Father Thames goes gliding by
As ripples run he winks his eye
At Cotswold cows and Oxford dons
Nodding to Windsor’s royal swans
He bears our nation’s liquid crown
By lock and weir to London town
May all that know and love his banks
Pause here awhile to offer thanks.

Ian Miles (2002)

Here are some of the caches we found:
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Thames Path statistics :
Route length : 7.6
Total distance walked : 121.25 miles

Caches found : 12 Total caches found : 221

August 1 Thames Path : Henley to Marlow

A mixed riverside walk, but only a few caches!

Today we took the car to Marlow, parked near our end point on the Thames Path and then headed off through Marlow Town Centre to a bus stop where a bus would take us to our official start at Henley. We had so few caches on route we grabbed one in Marlow Town Centre first. It was a great start!

Frequently urban caches are magnetic nanos placed on some boring, indeterminate railings. This cache was a magnetic log book tucked away near a golden letter box.

“Read all about it ! – Cache hidden in Marlow”

British readers may recall that the Post Office painted post boxes gold to celebrate the ‘birthplace’ of GB Gold medal winners during the 2012 Olympics/Paralympics.
Marlow has one such post box and it celebrates the achievements of paralympian, Naomi Riches, part of the gold-winning Mixed Coxed Four Rowing crew (LTAMix4+). Well done Naomi (and crew)!

Celebrating Naomi Riches' 2012 Paralympic Gold Medal

Celebrating Naomi Riches’ 2012 Paralympic Gold Medal

Waiting for our bus, we chatted with another rambler expecting him to be starting his day’s walking. No! He had just finished his walk (at 10am) having left Reading at 4am and watched nature take its course as dawn broke. Sounds really romantic…but just think of the lost hours sleep!

We’d found many of the Henley caches on our previous visit, so we headed straight for the Thames Path. What we hadn’t realised was this was the day of the Henley’s Town and Visitor Regatta and there were rowers/scullers from far and wide. Our progress down the path was hampered by the spectators, coaches (on bikes looking at the crews not at the walkers on the Thames Path), and our stopping to watch the constant conveyor belt of races.

With lots of trophies to be won it was very, very competitive!

We got so used to seeing the crews gently paddle to the start, circumnavigating Temple Island, and lining up for the start.. we almost walked past our next cache.

Temple Island

Temple Island

We had a short walk, uphill, away from the river to find it. It was hidden in woodland and we were totally misled by the clue “at the end of some parallel logs”. We looked at the ends of the parallel logs – but no cache to be found. However there was a tell-tale pile of stickoflage a few feet from the ‘parallel logs’ which we eventually saw to yield the cache! Duh! We dropped our the BadgerBaby Trackable here – good luck on your new adventures!

Badgerbaby joins the other swag in the cache!

Badgerbaby joins the other swag in the cache!

Back to the river and after the noise of the racing, we were grateful for the peace and quiet of the riverside walk. We reached Hambleden Lock – another place where people congregate and then onto open fields. Here we saw our first painter of the walk, and a fine picture he had created too !

Painting the view!

Painting the view!

We were in a long cache-less section which took us away from the river at Aston and through a deer park. No caches here .. I’m sure the deer would eat them!

Aston : The Flowerpot pub

Aston : The Flowerpot pub

Aston : Deer

Aston : Deer

This was a surprisingly quiet section but as we have discovered once a lock is approached, so do the people. Near to Hurley Lock many families were picnicking, barbecuing, and having a good time. All we had to look out for was the occasional football being mis-kicked in our direction!

Hurley was slightly off the Thames Path – but it did have a cache ! It was a multi based on a location used in a 1981 Doctor Who episode “The Visitation”. (No we didn’t remember it either!)
We quickly found the all the information and more importantly, the Doctor Who themed cache container (no photo now.. wait until our end of year best-caches blog.. sorry!).

1981 Doctor Who filming location... anyone remember it ?

1981 Doctor Who filming location… anyone remember it ?

Hurley Lock was busy. It was THE place to be on a sunny Saturday afternoon. A campsite. An ice-cream seller. Toilets. Boats. River. Places to sit. People watching the world go by.

Hurley Lock

Hurley Lock

Here we crossed banks from Berkshire to Buckinghamshire and ambled towards Marlow. Just one more cache – magnetically hidden – but some 30 feet from the published co-ordinates. Fortunately we’d read this before we arrived at GZ, but it didn’t make our searching any easier especially as the path was narrow and busy!

So we found all four of our target caches, a gold post box, set a trackable free, and walked a further 8.5 miles down the Thames!

Marlow ... here we come!

Marlow … here we come!

Thames Path statistics :
Route length : 8.75
Total distance walked : 113.65 miles

Caches found : 4 Total caches found : 209

May 9 : Thames Path : Abingdon to Clifton Hampden (circular)

After a few days on the Isle of Wight… its back to the Thames Path !

For much of the Thames Path, we have taken two cars and walked linearly between them.

Our next section of the Thames Path (Abingdon to Wallingford) seemed quite long if we were to cache the path too. Instead we chose to break the section at Clifton Hampden which enabled a circular walk… and only one car!

We started at Clifton Hampden and walked away from the river through countryside towards Abingdon. Our first target was a 3-stage multi. (Given our feeble efforts with a 5 stage multi on the Isle of Wight a few days earlier, this was a brave choice). Fortunately the caching gods were with us, as we found all 3 parts and the final part too! The cache container was awkwardly hidden in a tree stump, and it took some minutes to retrieve it.

As we were collecting the 3 parts for the multi, we tried one of the caches we passed on route. It was last found 6 months ago prior to the trees losing their leaves. 6 months of the leaf litter was over a foot deep, and concealed the cache so well we DNF-ed it.

The multi took us close to the high, and slightly intimidating, fence surrounding Culham Science Centre (http://www.culham.org.uk/)

Culham Science Centre

Culham Science Centre


We continued around it before arriving at our next cache, one of the RRR series (Rascal’s River Ramble) of 12 caches we were to follow for much of the day. The particular cache had us fooled momentarily, until we undertook the cachers trick of lifting and moving everything.

The RRR series description quite clearly stated “it is thorns, ivy and stingers free!”. Sadly this piece of information caused us much confusion at several caches, as they were indeed in nettles ! A good variety of containers including sawn-off logs, magnetic nanos, bisons and tupperware made this a very enjoyable and thought provoking series.

We arrived at Abingdon, and thus our Thames Path resumption, at lunchtime. There are many seats by the river and it was pleasant watching the life of the river unfold. A canal boat was being filled for a few days away, another boat went to the fuel station to fill up, other pleasure craft chugged along.

Lunch stop by the river

Lunch stop by the river

We still had a few miles left – and a few caches too – so set off in search of the cache called Ollie the Owl. We weren’t expecting to find it, as it had been disabled as the cache had gone AWOL (or should that be AOWL ?). A shame as the pictures on http://www.geocaching.com showed a really fine creation.

Ollie the Owl... before he flew away (source : www.geocaching.com)

Ollie the Owl… before he flew away (source : http://www.geocaching.com)

We nearly walked passed Freddy the Frog, as were distracted by a game of cricket – fortunately a quick find.

Frog...

Frog…

...Squirrel

…Squirrel


Thereafter we picked more of the RRR caches including a great hide in a squirrel! Nuts eh ?

We had one other DNF, where the cache was hidden in/under/on a deserted bridge.

The river took us close to Didcot Power Station. Built in the late 60s, much of it is now being decommissioned. During the Summer last year, 3 of the 6 cooling towers were demolished. The remaining 3 will be demolished later this year.

This view will change when towers are demolished later this year!

This view will change when towers are demolished later this year!

Our final cache was a puzzle cache we had solved some weeks earlier. We haven’t been tackling many of the puzzle caches, as the final co-ordinates may be some distance from the Thames. This one was dangling in a tree only yards from the water’s edge.

We paused at the last lock of the day, Clifton Lock, and watched a boat pass through. We then noticed the lockkeeper had plants for sale. Sadly no fuschias as Mrs HG137 wanted- but we did buy some Aubrieta, which we’ve subsequently planted. When they flower next year (I have great faith in Mrs Hg137’s green fingers) they will remind us of a great days walking and caching in the Oxfordshire countryside.

Plants for sale

Plants for sale

Here are a few more of the imaginative containers we found on this trip :

Thames Path statistics : Route length : 3 miles Total distance walked : 65.7 miles

Caches found : 14 Total caches found : 139

April 11 Thames Path : Swinford to Oxford

Hello, Mrs Hg137 here.

River Thames, Port Meadow, Oxford

River Thames, Port Meadow, Oxford


It was Boat Race day, so it was most appropriate to be walking into Oxford.  And it was a fine morning, after earlier rain, and once again there were caches to be found.

We set off from Swinford toll bridge and, where Wytham Woods came down to the Thames, quickly found three caches, all quite large and easy to find.  My, so good to find caches so close together!  Then we were out into open fields, speckled with sheep and lambs, and heading for the most northerly point of the Thames, at Kings Lock.  From here it’s (mostly) east and (mostly) southwards towards the sea.   And, guarding the most northerly point, there be dragons …

Kings Lock, the most northerly point on the Thames

Kings Lock, the most northerly point on the Thames

... here be dragons

… here be dragons

The river turned south and under the noisy A34.  We passed an old metal boundary marker and into Oxford.  Our next stop was the multi-cache based around the ruined Godstow Nunnery http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Godstow ; we collected the clues and solved the problem while eating lunch and watching boats go through Godstow Lock.  The final location of the cache was … upstream, the way we had come. 

Godstow Nunnery

Godstow Nunnery

Back we went to that boundary marker; we now recalled that we’d read about that in the cache logs.  But the GPS said we weren’t yet at GZ (ground zero, the cache location), so it was off into the undergrowth and nettles; and there, a little way away, was another metal boundary marker, with a cache nestling next to it.  Success, and an excellent cache!
IMG_9393
Back at Godstow Bridge, we turned aside to find another cache, hidden by Wolvercote Mill stream, one of the many side-streams of the Thames.  But the likely location of the cache was on a narrow bridge on a busy lane, and we gave up before we got squashed by a car. 
Trout Inn, Godstow

Trout Inn, Godstow


We passed the Trout Inn http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Trout_Inn , originally the hospice for the nunnery, and more recently the haunt of Lewis Carroll (in real life) and Inspector Morse (in fiction).  We went by the nunnery yet again, and headed off towards Oxford; the next mile or two passed the huge Port Meadow, an open space for the people of Oxford.  Children played, picnics were eaten, walkers and cylists came past, cattle came down to the river to drink, geese paddled by, and rowers practiced on the river – this is a VERY popular place.  We had just one more cache to find along the Thames; it was on Fiddler’s Island, one of the many, many islands along the river.  It’s a cache that’s described as ‘suitable for beginners’ as it is next to the path, not too high or low, and fairly easy to find.    But, though we found it (in the end), we still managed to make it quite hard for ourselves, by looking in the wrong place, in the wrong kind of trees, not believing the GPS, and all sorts of other errors.

On leaving the Thames at Osney Bridge, we had nearly a mile to walk back to the geocar.  There were two caches near our route back so we decided to find those, too.  The first was in Botley Park, at the edge of some allotments, and near a side stream of the Thames where there used to be a swimming place called Tumbling Bay.  We had rummaged around for some minutes, without success, when two ladies walked up, each with a GPS.  They were puskailves and Tarya, from Finland, who were at a conference in Oxford and who had sneaked off to do some caching.  They, too, searched for the cache, and found it in a place where we thought we had looked.  We felt very silly.

puskailves and Tarya, geocachers from Finland

puskailves and Tarya, geocachers from Finland


As a group of four cachers we set off towards our final cache of the day, on a bridge over yet another side-stream of the Thames. We talked about geocaching on the way and found out that these cachers had been all over the world to cache, both have about 5000 finds, and have arranged lots of events.  On arrival at the cache site, we searched once again we searched, and once again the two Finnish ladies beat us to the find.  Finland 2 – England 0 !

Finally we headed back to the geocar, after a lovely day’s walking and caching along a beautiful stretch of the river.

Thames Path statistics : Route length : 6.2 miles Total distance walked : 53.0 miles Caches found : 5 Total caches found : 92

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April 7 : Thames Path Newbridge to Swinford Lonely Thames (part 2)

Back on the Thames after a couple of weeks away, we continued along the ‘Lonely Thames’. Few people, fewer boats and even fewer caches !   There were, on this 8 mile section, just 2 caches, both of the query/multi type. In both cases, the cache owner expected us to find out information (hooray for Google!) before we arrived at the initial cache site. Here we would then find extra information and using the two sets of information go to another location to find the cache. The information was easily found before we left, but we have gone wrong with multis before, so it is always a relief to find the cache after applying 4 numbers into equations! We were a little surprised with the location of one of the caches (Pinkhill Lock and Weir) as it did seem to be hidden very close to at least one of the structures in the cache title. We were hoping for more caches for the day, but our car journey to the start was impeded by a road closure yards from our destination. This delayed our start, and we never really got the time back! Apart from the two caches, the quietness and solitude were the key features. We heard skylarks singing, woodpeckers knocking and rooks clacking (what is the name for the noise they make?). We followed a cormorant downstream, and a few lonely swans. The celandines were in flower, and catkins hung from trees.

Celandines

Celandines

Catkins

Catkins

Yet again we passed pill boxes, and locks (including Northmoor Lock which is yet to be modernised from the ‘paddle and rymer’ system). Time has taken its toll at Bablock Hythe. There was a ferry crossing here for over 1000 years, but stopped in the mid-60s. We had our sandwiches there (good job we weren’t relying on the associated pub (closed Tuesdays!)), and saw several people arrive at one bank and look longingly at the other.

Bablock Hythe Crossing Point... or rather was!

Bablock Hythe Crossing Point… or rather was!

Our walk finished at Swinford Toll Bridge. There are only 2 toll bridges on the Thames, and this is the first. The toll has been set by an Act of Parliament since 1770 (to our foreign readers of this blog, Britain does have modern Laws too!) at the small sum of 5p per car. Fortunately as pedestrians there is no charge!

Swinford Bridge ...

Swinford Bridge …

... and its toll house

… and its toll house

Thames Path statistics : Route length : 7.8 miles Total distance walked : 46.8 miles Caches found : 2 Total caches found : 87          The two caches we found! Fingers crossed there are more on the next section!

March 21 : Thames Path Radcot to Newbridge : Lonely Thames

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.

Lonely Thames

Lonely Thames

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!)

Somewhere under this bridge, in the cold, cold water is a 5/5 cache!

Somewhere under this bridge, in the cold, cold water is a 5/5 cache!

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.

Rushey Weir, modern and old controls together

Rushey Weir, modern and old controls together

Also at Rushey Lock... a topiary frog!

Also at Rushey Lock… a topiary frog!

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.

Chopped Trees

Chopped Trees

Spring Flowers

Spring Flowers

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!

Has an otter been through here ?

Has an otter been through here ?

What lived here ? Bird, Bat, Bee or Hornet ?

What lived here ? Bird, Bat, Bee or Hornet ?

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.

Newbridge

Newbridge

Fish Mosaic

Fish Mosaic

Thames Path statistics :
Route length : 10 miles Total distance walked : 39 miles
Caches found : 5 Total caches found : 85

Some of the caches we found included :
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One of the other caches was so good we are only publishing it in our end of year highlights!