Strolling the Thames Path

Trip Start Oct 17, 2011
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17
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Trip End May 22, 2012


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Friday, April 6, 2012

April 6-10, 2012: On the Easter long weekend I went on another Walking Women holiday, one of their Thames Path tours. We were a small, intimate group of six, including Caroline, our local, knowledgable and very helpful guide. What a delightful interlude in my travels this was! Really nice women to get to know, and level walks through pretty scenery. We took the train to a different starting point each day and covered the stretch between Henley and Windsor. We walked 14 miles the first day (one woman had a pedometer with her), 11 the next, 9 the next and about 5 on the last half-day.

We passed homes of the rich and famous, the Chiltern Hills on the north side of the river, riverboats and pleasure craft transiting locks, and we saw quite a few red kites soaring overhead, birds of prey that are gradually coming back from the brink of extinction. We wandered through the villages of Cookham, Marlow, Henley and others. The Cookham area is where Kenneth Grahame was inspired to write The Wind in the Willows. Henley, regarded as the spiritual home of rowing, is famous for the royal regatta course that's been used since 1839.

One day’s route passed Dorney Lake, which belongs to Eton College and will host this summer’s Olympic rowing and kayak events. The manmade lake is 2200 metres long.

Another day we had the opportunity to explore Windsor Castle, the oldest and largest occupied castle in the world. Queen Elizabeth spends most of her private weekends here – and the Royal Standard was flying, so she was there when we were. No sightings, though.

The castle was built by William I (the Conqueror) after the Norman Conquest of 1066 and has been enlarged and rebuilt by monarchs from Henry II to Queen Elizabeth II. The castle grounds cover 13 acres and are home not just to the Royals but also to about 500 employees. Within the castle walls sits the 15th century St. George’s Chapel, known as one of the most beautiful ecclesiastical buildings in England. Here lie the tombs of 10 monarchs, including Henry VIII and his favourite wife Jane Seymour, and the current queen’s parents, George VI and Elizabeth the Queen Mother.  

On our last half-day we walked through woodlands to Cliveden Estate, once home of Lady Astor. Up many steps under a canopy of yew trees, we arrived at the manicured gardens of the Parterre. The Cliveden Gardens include topiary, water features, themed gardens, and at this time of year, the Long Garden was awash in the fragrance of hyacinths.

All in all, a thoroughly enjoyable few days along the River Thames.
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