Thames Path – Day 4

Day 4 – April 26 Staines to Windsor
Weather: Wind, sun, showers B&B: Dee and Steve’s B&B
Departed: 14:15 Arrived: 17:30 Distance Today: 8.5 mi / 13.75 km
Total Distance: 54 mi / 87 km Pint of the Day: Fuller’s London Pride

Today’s was a relatively short walk and the weather was forecast to improve as the day went on. As such I decided to spend the morning at the local library researching my great-grandfather Herbert. Finding the library proved more difficult than expected due to the fact that the signposts guiding me there had not taken into account that the library had moved. At one point I could see two signposts pointing directly at a building that not only wasn’t a library but also seemed to be lacking an entrance. Fortunately a passerby pointed out the brand new library just down the lane.

I was hoping to find a record of my great-grandfather in the city directories for 1938 to 1945 but the only Herbert Clifford was a Herbert Leslie Clifford. This was bad news because not only isn’t this my great-grandfather but it could also mean that the postman I’ve been researching for over a year is not my Herbert. The four references to Herbert Clifford in the postal archives do not mention a middle name although they do provide them for other personnel. You would think that a reference to someone’s pension record would include a middle name if they had one. On the other hand, if there was a second Herbert Clifford living in Windsor why doesn’t he show up in the directory? I searched the “postal service” newspaper clippings file but the only interesting story was about a post office that closed in 1945 and that was located just 100-feet from where I’m staying.

I took the train back to Staines and was back on the Thames Path by 2:15pm. The winds were very strong and the skies were a rapidly changing patchwork of blue sky and swiftly moving clouds, many of them extremely dark. The good news was that if there were any showers they wouldn’t hang around for long.

It took some time to get past the many residences that lined the Thames on the outskirts of Staines. Eventually I reached a large park at the entrance to Runnymede, a National Trust site commemorating the sealing of the Magna Carta in 1215 by King John. I followed the edge of the water meadow for some time before taking shelter in some trees during a short but very sharp shower. The path parallels the A308 until Old Windsor at which point the peace and quiet of the riverbank returns.

One of the high points of the day was stumbling upon Dobby, a massive European Eagle owl perched in a large enclosure next to the path. I could hear him long before I saw him. I’ve never seen an owl this large before and he was an impressive sight. I took a photo but unfortunately the screen protecting him from juvenile delinquents with slingshots made for a lousy picture. It appeared that the top of the enclosure was open so I assume he flies out at night and returns in the morning.

The next few miles were very rural and although I saw many horses there still were no cows or sheep. What have the Brits done with them?! Perhaps the loud jets taking off from Heathrow every two minutes make for lousy grazing? Before long I crossed the second Albert Bridge of the trip and followed the path through the town of Datchet. The path then returned to the river where I could see a lot of activity on the opposite bank, and later learned they are setting up for the big Windsor Horse Show in early May. After crossing the Victoria Bridge I found myself in the huge public park of the edge of Windsor known as The Home Park.

The weather had proven very cooperative today and here’s hoping it continues for some time (but the forecasts are already calling for a wet and windy Sunday).

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