Walk completed August 16, 2014

Sunday, June 29, 2014

June 29, 2014 -- Day 14, Devizes to Wootton Rivers, 12 Miles

A quick email from Janet advised me that we had walked the Kennet and Avon Canal with our Canadian friends, Keith and Cathy, not 5, 7, or 10 years ago as I has supposed, but a whopping 14 years ago. No wonder I’ve been finding it much more difficult this time.

A quiet Sunday on the towpath made for a lovely walk. The most frequent traffic were the cyclists that kept passing – some just out for a short day’s ride, and a few others who are cycling the entire K&A Canal. There were very few narrowboats, and a few paddlers in kayaks. Aside from that, I was generally alone, with the waterfowl in the water and the songbirds singing in the trees.

Quiet canal at Devizes

Several miles out of Devizes, I encountered a group of hikers from the West Berkshire towns of Mortimer and Burghfield. They are hiking the K&A Canal in stages, today starting at Honeystreet and aiming for Devizes. They told me they parked their cars in Devizes, and took taxis to Honeystreet to commence their walk. Taxis?? Had I known there were taxis going to Honeystreet, I could have skipped a good 5 or 6 miles on the towpath today. But it was a lovely day, and I enjoyed the walk.


Chris, David and James
Much later in the day, I encountered a group of 5 cyclists. Cycling on the towpath requires mountain bikes (or at least hybrids), as the path alternates between crushed rock, grass, mud and soil. Wide tires are a must. The first two of the group passed me quickly, but the others were stopped re-securing their packs. They are all from the Maidenhead village of Bray, which is right next to the Monkey Island Hotel. They chuckled when I mentioned the peacocks; apparently they can be heard in Bray.


Approaching Pewsey, the canal passes under Ladies Bridge, and unusually ornate bridge completed in 1808. That’s about the time that Lewis and Clark explored the Pacific Northwest and Beethoven completed his 5th Symphony. One would assume that the bridge has had periodic maintenance over the centuries, but the historical perspective is interesting for such a simple bridge.

Ladies Bridge

David and Martin
The only other walkers I met today were David and Martin, walking the K&A canal in stages.


Wootton Rivers is a picturesque little village, with virtually all of the buildings covered by thatched roofs. I didn’t take any pictures this afternoon, because dark clouds overhead subdued the scenery. The forecast is for clear weather ahead, so perhaps tomorrow’s pictures will come out better.

Keith will remember the pub in which I’m having dinner – it’s the pub from which we arranged the transportation to our B&B 14 years ago.

Reminder - Double click on any picture to enlarge

© 2014 Ken Klug

Saturday, June 28, 2014

June 28, 2014 -- Day 13, Bradford-on-Avon to Devizes, 12 miles

Today’s walk was entirely along the towpath of the Kennet and Avon Canal. Some years ago (I can’t remember whether it was 5, 7, or 10), Janet and I walked the towpath from Bath to Reading with our Canadian friends Keith and Cathy. There’s a good possibility that none of them can remember when it was, either. But no matter, it hasn’t changed much.

Narrowboat passing under Bridge 170

 The daystarted out overcast, threatening a thunderstorm. Loud rolls of thunder came from a very dark cloud overhead, but only sprinkles for about 15 minutes materialized..

About two dozen cyclists rode past me all day, and perhaps twice as many dog walkers. The major traffic consisted of narrow boats navigating the canal.

My feet were hurting a little after yesterday’s long walk. Perhaps the foot pain contributed to hallucinations, but I could have sworn several of my friends were taunting me with prospects of boat rides. Nobody appeared, so I just kept plodding along.


Eventually I encountered Merel and Jules, from the Netherlands, who are cycling coast to coast from London to Land’s End.

Merel and Jules


I stopped for lunch at the Barge Inn – not because I needed lunch, but because I was pretty sure that Janet, Keith, Cathy and I had stopped there on our walk from Bath to Reading, and I wanted them to be envious..


While I was finishing lunch in the garden, David and his crew approached in their narrowboat. I’m not sure what happened next, but to the best of my recollection I called upon my vast nautical experience and commanded the crew to “Avast, ye lubbers. Hoist the mainsail and shiver me timbers.” Those must have been the proper instructions, because they successfully moored, and David, recognizing my American accent, came by to express his gratitude for my help. I’m glad I hadn’t ordered that their ship be scuttled.

Wendy, James, Lucy, Sara and David

David and his crew are the first boaters I’ve had the pleasure to talk with at length. Perhaps that’s because he is more of a walker than a captain. (Hey, he didn’t even have a parrot on his shoulder.) He recognized that my backpack doesn’t necessarily mean I’m a homeless transient (although in this case, I am). He has walked the South Downs Way, which I will be tackling in another week.

After lunch, I continued on toward Devizes, without meeting anybody as interesting as David and his crew. Shortly before Devizes, I passed and impressive series of 29 locks known as the Caen Hill flight. A gentle uphill climb for walkers becomes a five-hour ordeal for boaters. Some boaters consider navigating the Caen Hill flight as a rite of passage, but I’m glad that Daryl and Jack hadn’t actually given me a lift to Devizes.

A big surprise occurred at dinner. Unbeknownst to me, King Arthur had requested the president and officers of the Devizes chapter of the Ken Klug fan club to hold a special reception in my honor. There were literally several in attendance.

My Fan Club

© 2014 Ken Klug

Friday, June 27, 2014

June 27, 2014 -- Day 12, Burton to Bradford-on-Avon, 16 miles

Yesterday’s rest day did wonders for me. That, plus the fact that I’m getting trail fit, had me starting off with more energy than I’ve had in days. My pack felt so light that I kept worrying that I had left something behind. I hadn’t.

Forest, Little Ed and Glen
(with riders Poppy, Jenny and Jill)
I left the hotel with a strong stride, standing fully erect, not like the old man who was walking last week. I don’t know if my new vigor was attractive to women, but it was to horses. Within a few minutes I encountered three horses with riders. Try as they might, the riders couldn’t get their horses to ignore me.
Sassy (with rider Sharon)
Then, not five minutes later, I encountered another horse, with the same result. I didn’t see any dogs today, but riders of England, be warned: my animal magnetism will attract your horse. Your womenfolk are safe, but keep your eye on your horses. It’s remarkable what a rest day will do!!


Castle Combe
Rain started to fall as I entered Castle Combe, and continued on and off all day. The rain didn’t bother me because this was the nicest walk so far, switching from bridleways, to meadows, to pastures, to woods, along rivers and brooks.  The route was a couple of miles longer than I had estimated, but the extra mileage wasn’t any big deal. The big deal was that there were very few directional signs, so I was constantly checking my map and GPS. As a result, the walk took 10 hours, but every step was through beautiful countryside.


Carl and Caroline
The fragrance of wild garlic permeated the woods in one area. As the fragrance kept getting stronger and stronger, I met Carl and Caroline coming from the other direction. We had a nice chat, but I was careful not to take my eyes off them. They may not have been vampires, but they were fleeing the garlic, and I stood ready to cross my hiking sticks just in case. You can’t be too careful these days.


Carl and Sharon
Later, along By Brook, I met Carl and Sharon. I think he was a different Carl than I met earlier, but you know how vampires can change their appearance. I took a pictures of both couples. As you know, vampires don’t have a reflection in a mirror. Nor can you take their picture. So if Carls appear in the images of Caroline and Sharon, they aren’t vampires. But if Caroline and Sharon appear alone in the images, I’m cancelling this walk and heading home immediately.

For those of you following along on maps, todays walk started in Burton, passed through Castle Combe, Slaughterford, Box and South Wraxall, and finished in Bradford-on-Avon.

Today’s quiz, mostly for Larry and Daryl, but open to all: identify this car.

© 2014 Ken Klug

Thursday, June 26, 2014

June 26, 2014 -- Day 11, Thames Head to Burton

Some readers may think that my arrival at the Thames source completes this walk. Actually, there’s a lot more to come over the next 50 days. From here, I plan to work my way south to the Kennet & Avon canal which I’ll follow east for three days, then proceed south along the Test Way following the River Test almost to Winchester. From Winchester, I plan to follow the South Downs Way to Eastbourne, the 1066 Way tracing William the Conqueror’s route to Rye, the Royal Military Canal to Folkstone, and the Saxon Shore Way to Dover and Sandwich. The River Stour empties into the sea at Sandwich, and I propose to follow it through Canterbury and Ashford, to its source near Maidstone. From Maidstone, I’m planning to follow the River Medway to Tunbridge and Edenbridge, and then continue on to Sevenoaks and follow the Darent River to Dartford. Then I’ll end the walk by re-joining the Thames at the barrier near Greenwich, and following it back to Staines.

My arrival at the source yesterday completed only the first leg. Or maybe not. Did I really arrive at the source of the Thames? Certainly, I arrived at the place where the river named Thames starts, but was that the place farthest from the mouth of the river (generally regarded as a source)? Some people think not.

High in the Cotswold Hills, approximately 11 miles north of the “source” I saw yesterday, lies a place named Seven Springs, near the intersection of roads A435 and A436. Those springs form a pond whose exit waters flow as the River Churn. The River Churn flows through Cirencester, eventually emptying into the Thames at Cricklade. There is no question that Seven Springs is farther from Cricklade then Thames Head. Some people think Seven Springs is the real source of the Thames.

Seven Springs Pond

Sapperton Tunnel
I believe Richard is one of them. This morning, he picked me up at my hotel to drive me to Seven Springs. First, he took me to the now-defunct Thames & Severn Canal, which was constructed in the 1780’s to join the two great rivers. At Sapperton, the canal tunneled through the Cotswold Hills. We visited both ends of the tunnel, the Coates Portal and the Daneway Portal. This canal  impassable, and is not likely to be restored like so many other British canals, primarily because it is cut through porous limestone, and cannot hold water.


The Seven Springs were much more impressive than the dry spring at Thames Head. If they were considered the source of the Thames, then the portion of the Thames I followed yesterday would be a tributary. That would make the Thames a tributary to itself. For that reason alone, I doubt that the official designation will change.

St. John Baptist Church
Later, Richard’s wife, Teresa, fixed a nice lunch for us at their home. Then, after a quick tour of the St. John Baptist Chuch in Cirencester, they drove me to tonight’s destination, Burton, because it was far too late for me to commence my planned 14 mile walk. My knees, shoulders and feet enjoyed the day off

Richard and Teresa


Richard and Teresa, thank you very much for all your hospitality. You’ve provided me with memories that I will treasure forever.

© 2014 Ken Klug

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

June 25, 2014 -- Day 10, Cricklade to Source, 12 miles

It’s hard to believe that the days keep getting better. Maybe it’s because I’m getting more trail fit, so I’m not as tired at the end of the day. Maybe it’s because the weather is getting cooler, so I’m not as tired at the end of the day. Or maybe it’s because I’m the luckiest man in the world, and I’m not talking about the soap. More on that later. 

Cricklade is a lovely little village. (I may be going out on a limb there, but I don’t think it’s a market town.) Some of you may remember that Cricklade was in the news due to the flooding last year. My recollection is that Steve Clifford aborted his attempt to reach the Thames source due to the flooding in 2012. Cricklade came close to being flooded again this year, but the village escaped that catastrophe. What damage may have occurred in 2012 has been repaired, and I saw no evidence of flood damage.

Today’s walk followed the River Thames all the way to the source. At the end of this posting I’ll include a series of pictures showing the ever diminishing Thames. The pictures speak for themselves. But, as always, it’s the people who made today special.

Lake in Cotswold Water Park
Outside of Cricklade, the path passes through a series of lakes, all of which were former gravel pits. The map suggests a desolate construction zone, but what I found was a meandering trail through a lovely park-like setting.
On the trail between the lakes, I met Adam, from Yorkshire, who just started from the source.


Jim and Jay
A little farther on, I met Jim and Jay, who were trimming hedgerows for the Cotswold Water Park Trust. Jim explained that as part of the reclamation work, the silt washed from the gravel is used to create the footpaths. Natural seepage fills the lakes, and vegetation recovers naturally. Waterfowl return to the lakes, leaving a natural environment.


As the trail left the lakes behind near Somerford Keynes, a gentlemen approached me. I greeted him with my usual “Good afternoon,” to which he responded, “You’re Ken Klug, aren’t you.”

He said we met in 2011, on the Offa’s Dyke footpath. As soon as he said that I took a picture of him and his daughter, I remembered him. There were only two father/daughter walkers I met on that trip. George and Justine on the Pennine Way, and Richard and Alison on Offa’s Dyke – Day 30 of My 1200 Mile Summer. I remembered him well, because he had stepped into a bog and was quite muddied, and just before I met them he had pinned a flower to Alison’s lapel. (Trust me, if you walk 1200 miles, you will remember little details like those.) Richard lives in Cirencester (about 8 miles from here) and has been following this blog. He knew I would be passing through today, and came out to meet me.


Bruce, Sean, Michael and Gordon
As he and I were reminiscing, four other Thames path walkers came by. Three are from Ireland and one from England, but I can’t remember which was which. (This wasn’t a missed detail so much as it was trying to get a handle on so many things happening at once.) I wish them good luck on their walk, but there isn’t a chance that they are having as much fun as I am.

Two other walkers passed by while I was speaking to the others, but, try as I might, I couldn’t catch up with them. Richard had to leave for a prior commitment, and I was left to walk on my own.

Mark and Chris
Later, I met Mark and Chris, from Australia;
Rob and Jannine
and Rob and Jannine from the Netherlands. Rob and Jannine accompanied me all the way to the source, although I couldn’t really keep up with them either.

Mick and Margaret
As I was approaching the source, Mick and Margaret, from Evesham, England, (the two that I couldn’t catch up with) were returning, and asked if I was looking for Richard. I said no, because he and I had already met about 2 hours earlier. “Well, he’s waiting for you at the source,” said Mick.

And sure enough, he was. He had satisfied his other commitment and returned to greet me again. As I said, I must be the luckiest man in the world.
Richard and Sir Lost-a-lot

At Cricklade

Dry spring at source

© 2014 Ken Klug

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

June 24, 2014 -- Day 9, Lechlade to Cricklade, 11 miles

Narrowing Thames
Officially, the source of the River Thames is at a spring near Kemble, and I’ll be there tomorrow. One could argue that the source of the Thames is near Lechlade, because that is where four rivers converge to make the Thames navigable. Those four rivers are the Leach from the north, the Cole from the south, the Thames from the southwest, and the Coln from the northwest. It seemed to me that each of them carried about the same amount of water, although I suppose that there are hydrological studies available on the internet.

Upstream from Lechlade, it appeared to me that none of the four is navigable by anything other than a canoe or inflatable raft. It is the convergence of all of them at Lechlade which provides sufficient water for navigation.

According to Colin Fletcher (who walked the Colorado River from the source to the sea) mapmakers (and perhaps geologists) have agreed that the source of a river is to be defined as the point the farthest distance (by river) from the mouth. They could just as easily agreed that the source is the head of the tributary that carries the most water – but since water flow is seasonal, that might open up a whole new discussion.

In any event, I’m not yet at the official source, although the Thames has diminished markedly as I continue upstream past each tributary. Indeed, most of today’s walk wasn’t even along the river, itself. Because the river is not navigable, the public never claimed it, and ownership of the river simply passed to the adjacent landowners. The government is still trying to obtain easement rights for walkers, but until then the Thames Path follows roads and other historical rights of way not related to the river.

From Lechlade, the Thames Path initially follows the River Coln (how ironic is that), then follows a canal, crosses over the infant Thames, and exits onto a very busy A road (speed limit 60 mph). Warning signs suggest avoiding the A road altogether by taking a taxi, but since the distance on the A road is only a mile, most walkers just continue walking.

Orange Backpack Cover
There is a 3 feet wide verge on one side of the A road; no verge on the other. Walkers heading upstream (i.e., me) walk with the traffic coming from behind. Walkers and cyclists in the U.K. customarily where day-glow vests when on roads. I did better than that – I covered my backpack with an orange rain cover. Since I was highly visible, most vehicles swung wide as the passed.

Most, but not all. Two vehicles (oddly enough, both were Minis with modified exhaust to make them sound more than the wimpy cars they are) sped by as close to the curb (kerb) as they could, not more than two feet away. I presume they were driven by teenagers who were pretending to be Formula 1 racers. You know the type of kids I’m writing about: the ones who have always been, and always will be losers in life, who can’t afford a real car, and modify the exhaust to demonstrate to themselves how important they are. Then the take to the road and play “Let’s scare the pedestrian.”

Well, I have news for them. I’m old. My reaction time is very slow. They were well past me before I even had a chance to get scared, let alone flip them off.  I was annoyed by the loud exhaust, however. That may not count because those cars would have been noisy even if they had swung wide to pass. Old people don’t like noisy cars no matter how far away they are.
Perhaps I’m being too hard on the kids, and should cut them some slack. Maybe I should give them the benefit of the doubt. Maybe they just didn’t even see me because they were busy texting.

Henry and Marica on road to Castle Eaton
After the A road, the remainder of the walk was a pleasant stroll all the way to Cricklade. Shortly before Castle Eaton, I met Henry and Marica, from London, who started at the source yesterday. They were the only walkers I met all day, but when I stopped at the pub for lunch, I met Alex and Trixie in the garden. They have some ties to Tyneside, where Dr. George and Lady Ann live, so I’ll explore for a possible connection.


Tomorrow’s walk follows whatever river is left. I’ve been told not to expect much, because apparently it runs dry several miles before its official source. Maybe I should hope for rain.

Home in Cricklade





© 2014 Ken Klug

Monday, June 23, 2014

June 23, 2014, Day 8, Tadpole Bridge to Lechlade, 9 Miles

Today was a rest day for me – only 9 miles. After a busy weekend along the river, I was looking forward to a quiet, uneventful walk. John, the lock keeper at Rushey Lock, assured me that today would be a quiet day on the river. He was kind enough to take some time to explain the operation of the river’s weir system, which controls the flow of the water all the way to London. It’s hard to imagine the narrow river flowing past us (and only 8 feet deep) becomes the deep wide river by the time its tributaries add to the flow.

John, with former Niven fishing lodge
Like many of the older locks on the river, Rushey Lock has an interesting history. The grandfather of actor David Niven built a fishing lodge there, and it now serves as the lock keeper’s residence. David Niven, himself, often stayed there, as did a long list of his contemporaries, such as Elizabeth Taylor. It’s hard to imagine today’s stars staying in a place so small.


Stella and Andrew

Back on the footpath, I met Andrew (from Connecticut) and Stella, his sister (from England), who were completing another leg of the Thames Path. Patrick, a solo walker approaching 80, was also completing another section.


Overgrown path (notice nettles)
Beyond Radcot Bridge, the trail passed through extensive marshlands, part of the river’s flood plain. Due to last winter’s flooding, the trail was extensively overgrown. Walking through the marsh grass was like post holing through powder on snow shoes. Each footstep sank deeply into the grass requiring a gait more akin to high-step marching than walking. The marching was easy, though, compared to the bushwhacking required to pass through the stinging nettles where the trail exited the marshland.


As many of you know, I’m not without friends in high places, and when King Arthur realized that I was in dire straits, he sent Mark to the rescue. As quickly as you could say Camelot, Mark whizzed by me in his tractor and cleared the footpath to a condition fitting for the passage of royalty. Hey, Mark, YOU DA MAN!!


But King Arthur wasn’t finished yet. At Buscot Lock, he sent the Gloustershire Search and Rescue Team to protect me just in case I were to fall into the lock. As they finished their training, these strong, dedicated and brave men sought my advice for attracting women. Of course, backpacks are best, but if you don’t have a backpack a uniform will probably do. They all sported super uniforms, and shouldn’t have any trouble attracting women once I leave the country.


But for now, I’m busy attracting cattle, some of whom seem determined to block my way. I pushed past him, however, and made my way to the B&B. It had soap in the shower. I just know that if I buy that lottery ticket, I’ll never have to work again – and every day will be a rest day like today!!

© 2014 Ken Klug