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Trail talk: The Thames Path- Cricklade to Lechlade

From Cricklade the Thames Path was frequently  overgrown and thick with nettles

Cricklade to Lechlade, 11 miles

I was up early to drive the car down to the station carpark in the neighbouring village. Then enjoyed the walk back to the B&B. It was a perfect morning. Dew was steaming in the already warm sun. I had the best of the day as when we both re-emerged later, the sky was grey, remained so, and light banks of rain moved through all day.

St Sampson’s Church, Cricklade
Stone on north face of tower shows a pair of shears. Symbol of the leather trade, once an important trade in Cricklade

Cricklade means ‘place by the river crossing’ and with the luxury of a fairly short day we spent a little time looking around the town. First St. Mary, rededicated as a Catholic Church, locked, so a wander down the mixed architectural style High Street to St. Sampsons, passing the Jubilee Clock on the way. No, not for Elizabeth II, but for Queen Victoria in 1897 on the event of her Golden Jubilee.

Hatchetts Ford in Cricklade was used for baptisms in the 19th century

As suspected, we had been finding this an undemanding trail and the Thames Path  would suit just about anyone that fancied walking a longer trail, provided they can sort out the logistics. Ascent is negligible and we have so far found the tread mostly good, it was the upper reaches that I had expected rougher going but it has been wide grass paths, rooty dirt tracks and just a bit of tarmac for the most part. The first part of today had some overgrown sections that were a little wearisome but things improved after Castle Eaton.

Approaching Castle Eaton the path improved
The Red Lion at Castle Eaton is the first (or last) pub on the Thames. A ‘must’ for a lunchstop- pints and a shared pizza

Accommodation can be hard to find in the upper reaches and gets booked up quickly. For this particular trail I was pleased that we had let someone else handle the logistical nightmare, though for a cost obviously. I have only encountered a single ‘official’ campsite so far and they seem thin on the ground throughout. Wildcamping could be an option for some but some areas would be difficult. And anyway, Mrs Three Points of the Compass had kicked that option into the long grass, this is supposed to be a holiday.

If the trail had deteriorated than the invertebrate and bird life hadn’t. Banded Demoiselle floated on the wind like emerald snow and I failed entirely in obtaining a picture, despite having one cling determinedly to my finger. Cettis Warblers bellowed, Sedge Warblers scratched and racketed while silent Mute Swans just looked annoyed at us.

Approaching Inglesham the Thames Path has recently been permanently diverted. It is a welcome diversion too, now eschewing a mind numbing walk along a busy road and instead returning to the river for a far preferable route

Having taken the improved ‘new’ route of the Thames Path along the river, we stopped in at the evocative St John the Baptist, at Inglesham. Now in the hands of the Churches Conservation Trust, this is a remarkable example of an unrestored Church. The church was given to the monks of Beaulieu in 1205 and each century has left its imprint. Fragments of 14th c. wall paintings, 15th c. Font, timber screens from the 16th c. Pulpit and pews from the 17th and 18th centuries, and so on.

Farming families had their own enclosed box pew for services. 17th and 18th century
St. John the Baptist, Inglesham, now vested with the Churches Conservation Trust
Fragile remains of wall paintings remain at St John the Baptist,  some date to the 14th century
Halfpenny Bridge, Lechlade. Built 1792. Toll house on right. The first of 106 navigable bridges between here and London. Named after the toll once levied on pedestrians. The residents of Lechlade deeply resented the charge and eventually rebelled, the toll was dropped in 1839

Tonight’s accommodation was the New Inn in Lechlade, not far from the Thames Path. We were eating there as well. This is a 17th century former coaching Inn and has a decent menu, so yet again, we had no need to go in search of alternative dining. We had been assigned a new build, self contained block behind the Inn and it was a bit of a treat. Once clean and changed it was up to the main bar for rehydrating and evening meals, there may have been a little beer, cider and wine consumed too…

The New Inn, Lechlade, is a former 17th century coaching  inn

The Thames Path
The Thames Path: Kemble to Cricklade
The Thames Path: Lechlade to Tadpole Bridge
The Thames Path: Tadpole Bridge to Bablock Hythe
The Thames Path: Bablock Hythe to Osney Bridge, Oxford
A day off in Oxford
The Thames Path: Osney Bridge, Oxford to Abingdon
The Thames Path- Abingdon to Shillingford/Warborough
The Thames Path- Shillingford/Warborough to Goring

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