|Day 11 – May 4||Oxford to Newbridge|
|Weather: Cloudy||B&B: Abbey Guest House|
|Departed: 9:45 Arrived: 14:45||Distance Today: 15 mi / 24 km|
|Total Distance: 139.9 mi / 225 km||Pint of the Day: Morland Bitter|
My improvised route began with a bus ride to the Oxford railway station from where I made my way to the Oxford canal. I felt this would be a dry option and indeed it was. The canal was lined with dozens of narrowboats, all of whom had their wood or coal stoves fired up on this chilly morning.
I spent about three-quarters of an hour following the canal to Wolvercote where I picked up the Oxford Greenbelt Way. While walking through Lower Wolvercote I passed a corner on which there was a playground and two pubs. This allows parents to drop their kids in the park and choose from one of two hostelries … or one each if it has come to that.
I crossed the Thames by a road bridge and followed the path for a minute or two and crossed under a motorway. At this point I could choose to continue along the Thames Path or branch overland along the Greenbelt Way. I knew the paths would merge a couple of miles up river so I decided to follow the latter inland. The first field I crossed was very soggy and the stile was under water but I managed to cross it without taking a bath. Unfortunately the middle of the next field was a mess and I could find no way around it. My only option was to return to the river or remove the socks and shoes. I chose the latter and followed a submerged footbridge (see photo) through the frigid water. I plodded on through the muck for another 100 meters until I reached a bridge where I could put my shoes back on.
The Greenway crossed several more fields before following the perimeter of the Wytham Great Wood. There were some nice views of the Thames Valley from the side of the hill before it descended and rejoined the Thames Path. Here I met a group of 14 students from a boarding school in New Hampshire who were also walking in the same direction. I chatted with a couple of them until they stopped for a break at Swinford Lock.
The path was good in places and almost impassable in others. After a couple of bush-whacking episodes I decided to follow a short but unpleasant stretch of road just before Pinkhill Lock. I rejoined the path and had high hopes that the next long stretch, which deviated away from the river, might prove more conducive to walking. Unfortunately almost immediately I encountered another huge body of water. In this case I followed a fence for some distance before hopping it and finding a way around the edge of the field. The ground was saturated and what should have been a pleasant amble through pastures was a long and tedious journey. I thought I had made it through the worst of it when I encountered another body of water that stretched across the entire field and into those adjacent. The field was full of sheep who watched me remove my socks and shoes for yet another dip. While I was using the last of my drinking water to wash the sheep shit off from between my toes it occurred to me that this was not a lot of fun.
I finally made it to a minor road and had worked out a paved route that would take me all the way to Newbridge. Along the way I passed through Northmoor and stopped into the Red Lion for a well-deserved pint. I was the only patron and so I had the roaring fire all to myself. The family who ran it was having their lunch and the pub dog lay at their feet. I felt much better (and warmer) after my visit to the Red Lion and it was only a half hour walk along a quiet country lane to my destination for the day: Newbridge.
Newbridge is a tiny little place on the edge of the Thames and the only bus stop is conveniently situated outside the Rose Revived pub. I had over half an hour to wait for the bus so I popped inside for a pint of Rose Royce Ale. It was definitely a two-pint day. Actually it was a two and half pint day.
I’m only three days away from the head of the Thames but I’m no longer sure I will be able to continue the walk. When the bus crossed the Thames at Newbridge I couldn’t see anything resembling a foot path in what appeared to be a river as twice as wide as it should be. The problem is that not only is the Thames Path inaccessible in many places but many of the fields that exist within the wide flood plain are also in pretty rough shape. There is no real-time information on conditions in regards to walking and public transportation options in this area are limited, especially on the weekend. I have a route worked out but I may or may not attempt it. Tune in tomorrow to find out what happened.