Many remarkable people found their identities on rivers: Cleopatra on the Nile; Lewis and Clark on the Missouri; Mark Twain on the Mississippi; Jeff Bezos on the Amazon. This is the story of my 600+ mile walk along the waterways of southern England in the summer of 2014, and the remarkable people I met along the way. It is best read in chronological order, so I recommend starting with the earliest posting in the Blog Archive list in the right margin.
Walk completed August 16, 2014
Tuesday, June 24, 2014
June 24, 2014 -- Day 9, Lechlade to Cricklade, 11 miles
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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.”
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
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
Henry and Marica on road to Castle Eaton
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.
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.