|Day 8 – May 1||Pangbourne to Wallingford|
|Weather: Cloudy with sun & showers||B&B: Alushta Guest House|
|Departed: 11:40 Arrived: 16:45||Distance Today: 11.3 mi / 18.2 km|
|Total Distance: 102.9 mi / 165.6 km||Pint of the Day: Sharp’s Doom Bar|
I delayed my start until late morning as the rain was supposed to taper off by midday and sure enough when I left Pangbourne station it had more or less stopped. I crossed the vintage toll bridge into Whitchurch-upon-Thames, one of the prettiest villages so far.
The Thames looked high after last nights rain so I wasn’t sure what to expect today. The first part of the walk followed a road and then a lane as it climbed up a hill and along the side of the valley. I was more than happy for a change in scenery and the opportunity to avoid the mucky paths alongside the river. I was less happy with a navigation error that cost me three-quarters of an hour and added another couple of miles to my walk (not included in the total listed above). I second-guessed myself and ended up traipsing up and down the same road twice only to discover that my original route was correct.
It was while following a bridle path through the woods that I stumbled upon the first of a handful of WWII pillboxes. They were constructed as a last line of defense against an expected German invasion. Only one of them was sealed up but I wasn’t about to crawl inside the narrow opening, half covered by wet leaves and debris. But I have included photos of several of them.
Eventually I returned to the river and the footpath was pretty muddy in places. The downside to being back in cattle country was the quagmire that their hooves churn up in the corner of many fields. The one pictured in the photo I’ve included was tricky to navigate but I managed to cross using logs and small bits of wood strategically placed in the mire. The only shower of the afternoon hit just as I reached a railway bridge and lasted no more than 20 minutes.
The last stretch into Goring was right along the river and I almost made it all the way to the bridge but was turned back by a section that had merged with Thames. I had spotted another path 5 minutes earlier so I backtracked and followed it to a quiet road which led into town (Goring is another fine looking town). I crossed the bridge into Streatley and walked through a churchyard and into a meadow submerged under water. There was no alternative and so off came the shoes and socks, fortunately for the only time today.
The Thames Path followed the river for a couple of miles before veering into Moulsford and following a road for the better part of the mile. The path returned to the river where I crossed under a pair of impressive railway viaducts, at least they were impressive to walk under. The last 4 miles stuck to the river the entire way and the quality of the footpath varied from good to poor.
The sun made an appearance on several occasions and so did Dylan the Dickhead Dog. Apparently Dylan had an issue with my backpack and so he did his best to bite my ass until the apologetic owner leashed him up. The last thing I needed was to have to go looking for a tetanus shot! Ironically 15 minutes later I slipped in the mud and cut my arm on some rusty barbed wire. I patched myself up and when I met another dog walker I asked him if there was a clinic near by. Amazingly I was only a five minute walk away from the Wallingford surgery/hospital and so I was able to check out the NHS for the first time. I was even more amazed when I was able to walk into their first-aid unit and see someone immediately. He had a look at it and told me that I didn’t need a tetanus shot for rusty barbed wire (it’s an old wives tale). We chatted about walking for about 10 minutes and then he gave me a couple of deluxe NHS bandages and I was on my way.
I caught a bus from Wallingford’s market square that took me directly to Henley. Wallingford is a beautiful old town with some fantastic architecture. I might get a bit of time to explore when I return here tomorrow.