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
Thursday, June 26, 2014
June 26, 2014 -- Day 11, Thames Head to Burton
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
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.
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
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.
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
St. John Baptist Church
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
and Teresa, thank you very much for all your hospitality. You’ve provided me
with memories that I will treasure forever.