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Trail talk: The Thames Path- Abingdon to Shillingford/Warborough

St Helen’s Church and surrounding almshouses were one of the last and lingering views as we left Abingdon

Abingdon to Shillingford/Warborough, 10 miles

The weather forecast was for stupid hot today and I was again thankful that we had kept daily mileages short. I anticipated few places for refreshment today and was correct. Not that we needed much, if anything. I carried three litres of water for a short ten mile day and the lightest of lunches as a good Full English this morning in the Crown and Thistle would see us both through the best part of the day.

Our first halt was in the shade of Culham lock. Away from the river there isn’t much remaining at the neighbouring ‘shrunken’ village beyond the Manor House and church. For some reason or reasons, any accompanying habitations are now gone. Black Death or changes in local economy, who knows? This is typical of so many places that border the Thames in name only today. We would see many very expensive looking properties abutting the Thames today, their manicured lawns ran down to the river, to either a summer house, boathouse, or combination of both. But these were not part of a village. Occupants lived in splendid expensive isolation. At Culham we paused for just a few minutes in the shade at the lock, again hydrated, we were off again. This is a little used part of the trail and gave every impression that it was only Thames Path walkers that came this way. The path was frequently quite overgrown with nettles, thistles and Giant Hogweed.

For the next halt we had planned our usual twenty minute rest from heat in the shade of a lockside tree at Clifton Lock. But when we got there we found ice-cream on sale from the lock keeper. Two Magnums were appreciated while we watched a Red Kite diving time and again for the raw meat being left for it on the other side of the lock. Kevin, the volunteer lock keeper told us he had previously seen them taking dead fish from the water inside the lock. These scavengers of carrion, road kill and the like can get undeserved bad press, but I for one welcome them and applaud the stunning success of the reintroduction project a few years back. Our twenty minute break became forty, then we were on our way again. The intention was to try and get the majority of today’s walking done at increased pace then slow it down considerably for the expected high temperatures after midday.

Other than brief hydration halts in the shade of a tree, our only other stop of any length was at Day’s Lock. A short nap in the lazy afternoon heat might have been enjoyed. With my back against a tree, a few minutes were also taken out of the day to watch the occasional boat negotiating the lock, also register slight bafflement over a boat modeller radio directing his miniature craft on the river, and surprise at the wheelbarrow load of gear that an angler took over the lock gates for taking further down the riverbank for a night’s fishing, we were informed he was returning for a second load from his car once that was in place. On the first day following the closed season for fishing, this is obviously serious business.

Our last section of trail today featured easy paths and little shade

Approaching Shillingford, the trail leaves the riverside and joins the A4074 for a brief period. I could see there was a slow moving vehicle way on my left that was holding up traffic, so quickly crossed and put on a bit of a spurt, attempting to complete the short road walk before traffic caught up. It was a couple of Shires pulling a carriage behind me on a charity ride. They eventually moved up a gear from their slow walk and passed me, it was then an uncomfortable slow and too close procession of traffic by my side. This was mercifully brief as we soon left today’s trail and turned onto a quiet road to Warborough.

We are stopping in a 5* countryside Bed and Breakfast in Warborough tonight. For our evening meal, we had hoped for a ten minute walk to the 17th century Six Bells pub in the centre of the village but that failed on us. I had both emailed the pub and left answerphone messages in the days preceding, with no reply. Walking toward our nights accommodation, we took the short walk up to the pretty village green the pub is situated on en route, to be met with a sign- no food tonight Thankfully there is a post office/store in the village so we provisioned up for an al fresco meal later that evening on our private terrace. I had been carrying half a bottle of Shiraz left over from last night in my day pack today, that went into the fridge to accompany our simple fare. If the Six Bells couldn’t be bothered replying to messages  then we can’t be bothered putting any trade their way.

It has been a good if hot day on trail today. Beyond the spectacle at Clifton, Red Kites have been a constant companion all day over the river and fields. It has been no different this evening and individuals have been wheeling and tail twisting above our heads while we eat. Feeling content, it is with slight sadness that we recall that our last day of this western ‘half’ of the trail is tomorrow. The Goring gap is in our sights.

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

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