Walk completed August 16, 2014

Friday, June 20, 2014

June 20, 2014, Day 5, Moulsford to Sutton Courtenay, 15 miles

Jack and I had breakfast together, and then said our good-byes as he continued walking downstream and I proceeded upstream. During breakfast, Jack mentioned that when he hikes the Pacific Crest Trail during the next two years, he’s going to need an ice ax to get through the snow that will still be present at the high mountain passes. That reminded me that I have several ice axes of various sizes that I no longer use. One of the ice axes is ultra-light, which is just what Jack will need. In fact the one I have in mind is so light that it kept floating away until I had it gold plated. Of course the plating doesn’t look like gold, but Jack, trust me – it’s worth every penny that I’ll sell it to you for. Well not pennies, exactly. Dollars. Lots of dollars. Enough dollars to pay for my next trip to England. But don’t balk at the price, because it’ll make you the envy of all the other PCTers. And Jack, if your hands start turning green when you carry it, it’s not my fault. Gold does that to some people.

Early on in today’s walk, I met two ladies on the trail, Anne and Maggie, and their black Lab, Maisie, all of whom are doing the Thames Path in stages. There seem to be far more Labs in this area than I saw through the Midlands and in Scotland. I’m beginning to think that it may have something to do with the number of rivers and canals here, because Labs are water dogs. In sheep country, there seemed to be more border collies.

While walking through Wallingford, I noticed a ladies hat shop, with “Hats for sale and for hire [i.e., for rent].” For those Americans who don’t know, fancy hats are a large part of an English lady’s proper wardrobe, and are a must for formal occasions – weddings, funerals, bah mitzfah’s, coronations, etc.  This week, Windsor is hosting the Ascot horseraces, one of the premier horseraces in the country. Queen Elizabeth II attends daily, and I’ve been told that there is actual wagering on what color hat she will wear each day. From the number of yellow hats in the haberdasher’s window today, my guess is that yellow is the favorite.

Many of you may know that England had more than its usual rain last winter. Yesterday, Don Gray mentioned that the fields we crossed on the way to Pangbourne were flooded with 2 or more feet of water. Until today, all of the floodwaters on the trails I have been on have receded, and the trails were nice and dry. But not today’s trails. There were several large sections that were still extremely muddy, with standing water.

Much of today’s trails parallel the railway tracks. Trains often follow river valleys because they offer the least resistance when surveying the route.  But in England railways were typically established along waterways to directly compete with the canal companies. Eventually the railroads bought up the canal companies, an acquired their land. So as I was walking along the muddy River Thames towpath, being attacked by insects, the beautiful people were whizzing by me comfortably in air conditioned trains, sipping their tea. Knowing how sensitive the beautiful people are, I’m sure they were thinking “Oh, look at that poor man struggling through the mud. Certainly he would much rather be sitting in this comfortable, air conditioned train like me.” Perhaps they were correct.  Nah.

Jack had warned me of a temporary diversion of the Thames Path as a footbridge is replaced – possibly damaged by last winter’s floods. The diversion required several miles of road walking, including a very busy “A” road, and you know how much I like road walking. Having re-confirmed that my attractiveness among women and dogs makes me one of the beautiful people, I opted to catch the first bus that came along and skip the road walking.

Of course, that got me to my destination early, so like all highly trained probate lawyers, my first stop was at the local pub, to be followed by a visit to the church’s graveyard. At the pub, I met two Americans, Keith from Virginia and Katrina from Pennsylvania.
Katrina and Keith

As I was wandering around the graveyard (as I often did before retirement while handing out business cards), I was greeted by John, who triples as groundskeeper, member of the choir, and tour guide. He led me around the church showing me all the special places that only the beautiful people are entitled to see.

Believe it or not, several notables are buried here, including members of the Astor family (except those who went down with the Titanic); former Prime Minister Herbert Asquith and writer George Orwell (which was a pen name, his real name being Eric Arthur Blair).

Herbert Asquith's Gravesite

George Orwell Sleeps Here

As the day wore on and the sun started to set, I thought it best to remove myself from the graveyard and return to my B&B. I know the full moon was a week ago, but there’s no sense in taking chances. Oh, and maybe I’ll keep that ice ax just in case.


© 2014 Ken Klug


  1. Ever such a ladies' man, you better bring one of those delightful hats for Janet, she would look good in any of those colours. If I was Jack Frost as soon as he sees a parcel from you, return to sender immediately! There is no doubt his hands will turn 50 shades of green.

  2. I thought that experienced long distance hikers scoffed at muddy towpaths, at least that's what you told Janet and I on St. Cuthberts Way. Perhaps all hikers get squeamish in the end. By the way I loved the hat shop, what are you wearing for Ascot.