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The Thames Path

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There is something indefinably special about an encounter with the source of a river and the source of the Thames, the most famous of all the great English rivers, is probably the most special of them all. Marked by a commemorative stone, you'll find the spring known as Thameshead a few miles to the east of Stroud in the Cotswolds, just south of the village of Coates. It's from this point that the 184 mile journey of the Thames Path begins, as the trail follows the river to the sea through rolling hills, rich water meadows, peaceful villages, historic towns and the heart of the nation's capital.

The Thames Path

Unless you begin the walk in the middle of a particularly wet spell, it's unlikely that the spring at Thameshead will be bubbling. Far more likely is that you'll meet the first trickle of a stream a few fields further along the trail somewhere just to the north of the village of Kemble. Only a couple of miles later the river passes through the huge complex of lakes surrounding Ashton Keynes. This is the Cotswold Water Park and is the result of extensive gravel extraction. By the time Cricklade is reached the river is already worthy of its title, and after a section of road walking due to access issues, the Coln joins to increase the flow and the lovely Ha'penny Bridge gives a grand entrance to the village of Lechlade. The next section to Oxford is wonderfully remote and peaceful with very little habitation until the trail rounds Wytham Hill and the famous university city of Oxford appears. Without doubt, time should be set aside for an exploration of Oxford.

The weir at Sandford provides an impressive exit from Oxford and from here, the river meanders past historic Abingdon and Wallingford to the Goring Gap where the river once carved a path through the landscape between the Downs and the Chilterns. The hills constrict the river here and beech woodland covers the hillsides above the flood plain as the trail eases quietly past Reading and onwards to the famous rowing town of Henley-on-Thames.

The stretch of river known as the Henley Reach just outside the town here hosts the world-renowned Henley Regatta. From here, past Marlow to Maidenhead is a beautiful section of the river with grand houses and wooded slopes. Further famous names soon follow, in the form of Eton and Windsor, with their college and castle respectively. More royal history follows as the trail passes Runnymeade, site of the signing of the 13th century Magna Carta.

The trail is approaching the heart of London now as it passes through Staines and Weybridge before passing the stunning Hampton Court Palace and park. Soon Teddington Lock is reached and from here you have the choice of walking along either bank of the river all the way to the finish. There are many bridges en-route allowing the best of London to be experienced as you head downstream. The south bank, perhaps, has more open spaces than the north but both offer the walker their own sights and experiences. The Botanic Gardens at Kew, The Houses of Parliament, The South Bank, The Millennium Footbridge, The Embankment, Tower Bridge, the City of London and The O2 Arena at Greenwich. All these and a thousand other London sights lead to the finish at the remarkable Thames Barrier.   





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