I arrived in Cricklade around 10.45am in bright sunshine. Discovered Cricklade was a 9th Century Saxon Town with beautiful old stone buildings along a typical English country high street with more pubs than they need. They all looked inviting but it was too early to indulge. Cricklade is built on a junction of the Thames with one of the main Roman Roads to Cirencester, I made a mental note to find out more about the Roman/Saxon origins of the area.
The Thames at Cricklade
Overgrown trees obscured some of the Thames Path signage so it was a bit disorientating trying to find my way out of the town to the Path. In fact I ended up walking on the opposite side of the Thames to where the path ran as I got out of town. In one way I was glad because I see large herds of cattle across the river standing on the official path, but I did have to climb a couple of fences and cross some fields to join back up with the path by a bridge with a cycle path crossing it.
Having turned left off the cycle path the Thames Path then winded its way through huge lakes presumably reclaimed from Gravel pits, industry filled in. I’m always amazed how quickly the industrialised countryside can be filled in. A few professional looking fisherman were dotted about and more than a few Private Property signs. The river and path then skirted the east and north of the small town of Ashton Keynes, passing through a very picturesque housing estate of Cotswold Stone. Although as flat as a pancake according to the map we were on the South East edge of the Cotswolds.
On leaving Ashton Keynes, by a very pretty lawned mill and cottages and , despite once more moving through a complex area of lakes, the riverbed completely dried up. I knew it wasn’t usually like this because I’d seen photos of it in full flow, but nevertheless that was the last I saw of the Thames. Later I was told that 2 largish brooks feed into the Thames at Ashton Keynes and that was what had given it the lease of life I’d experienced up to there.
Path next to dried up riverbed
The last lake before the path meets the next village Somerford Keynes is surrounded on three sides by a gated luxury housing estate. Despite my indignation on rich folks spoiling the view again, I was rather taken with the big steel and glass lakeside properties. Even looking them up when I got home.
Had lunch in the country park at Neigh Bridge with 2 walkers from Cardiff, but left first, heading north through fields and kissing gates, which seem to be preferred to stiles in this area. Running alongside the now empty Thames towards Ewen. Just before you reach Ewen there is a magnificent Grand House and gardens which you almost entirely circle as the path twists back behind it as well. A man in the garden and I eyed each other embarrassingly throughout the whole manoeuvre. I kept thinking hasn’t he got anything useful he should be doing.
The official Thames Path now went along the road through Ewen and out the other side towards Kemble. A road that was busier than it had any right to be. Eventually turning right across fields and just now starting to rise, almost imperceptibly climbing, the very start of the first foothills of the Cotswolds and then finally crossing the A429 I was now just 4 fields away from the Source of the Thames.
Unfortunately the first two long fields were full of large herds of very big cows. Anyone who knows me well is aware I’m a bit cow-phobic, but I’d come this far so gripping the dogs lead tightly and keeping to the dried up river bed, less and less distinguishable, I marched eyes forward on just nervous tension and a prayer, and was relieved to take a well earned breather after getting through.
The final road crossing took me through a few more field still gently climbing and skirting to the east a steeper forested hill t the stone and path that mark the source of the River Tames. Luckily there were 2 nice young women there to take my picture. I reciprocated.
Sign and stone at the source of the Thames
Horror of horrors I then had to repeat traversing the cow fields to hurry back to Kemble railway station for my connection back to Bristol. I think I was very brave.
I’ve decided to do the walk again, the way I originally intended , from Cirencester to Cricklade, in the Winter with Hilary. If anyone else wants to come along they’re more than welcome.