In a week from now I will be walking for 9 days over 119 kms, not counting getting lost and detours to pubs, from Oxford to Windsor along the Thames River in England.
I am not walking alone as we have a merry band of five on this walking trip which is patterned after a "Relaxed Pace" itinerary used by a reputable (I hope) walking company. Relaxed in the sense that our average daily distance is 13.5 kms...with the longest day 16 kms and the shortest 6 kms. Our bags will be moved each day to our next accommodation by Move My Bags and we will have a rest day in Reading in the middle of our walk.
Quite a change from my previous long walks however we will be walking a decent distance every day and each of us must take good care of our feet!
The Thames Path National trail is one of only 15 National Walking trails in England and Wales. A brief description from the National Trails website:
Follow the greatest River in England for 184 miles from its source in the Cotswold hills to the sea. Passing through peaceful water meadows, unspoilt rural villages, historical towns and cities, and finally the heart of London to the end of the Thames Barrier in Greenwich.
|Thames River Walk|
Elevation gains are always a challenge on a long walk...the Thames River promises to be no different.
|Here is an example of what we have trained so hard for and will face on a daily basis|
A brief introduction to our five walkers:
Well there's me...nothing too exciting there...retired...volunteering consistently ...trying for the odd laugh here and there! I am really looking forward to being outside, simply walking again and exploring.
Dawn my wife of 36 great years is joining me. Dawn is a super mom of three adult daughters and mamie to our super cute little grand-daughter Rose. Dawn is an Actuary (run to the dictionaries on that one!), whose wide range of interests range from physical fitness training to learning to play the piano. While we have had walking holidays together in Vermont and the Eastern Townships in Quebec this will be our longest walking vacation...really looking to walking with Dawn on this adventure.
We are joined by long time friends Elaine and Dennis who asked us if we would be interested in the Thames River walk. Twist my arm why don't you. Remember it's their idea when reading upcoming blog posts!
Elaine is a former school teacher, super mom of 2 adult daughters and an adult son as well as being an incredible volunteer to many organizations. I suspect Elaine has also been the financial genius behind the construction empire run by her husband Dennis.
Dennis is quite the guy. He is CEO of a major construction company of which he is the only employee. Dennis has also been a commandant in the Canadian Navy on multiple ships. Thinking about it Dennis is sort of a cross between Santa Claus (looks) and Rodney Dangerfield (considering the lack of respect shown by the next walking party member Dave).
While we fully expect Dennis to do well on our walk we have also made provision for emergency support to help Dennis move ahead should he tire. All of us have agreed to take turns pulling Dennis in a red wagon as required....note front pocket is for Dennis's lunch.
Dave the final member of the walking group is a recently retired senior executive with a large U.S. insurance firm which is a sister company with the Canadian insurance firm I worked for 35 years. He has known Dennis for longer than I have, poor fellow, as they first met in their Navy training days way back. While having just recently met Dave I know we will get along great given our common working backgrounds and our mutual respect for Dennis.
Critical to our success will be to have well defined and accepted roles within our group...all good groups need this.
My role was to book all accommodation and the company moving our bags each night on our walk...should there be a problem with either I will be in real difficulty! Given my previous walking experience across Switzerland, France and Spain I am also the official route finder...anyone reading my previous blog entries will know this is a very wise choice for the group.
I have also planned out a very special surprise for our group upon our arrival in Windsor however they simply have to wait to find out what it is!
Dawn and Elaine will represent the common sense part of the group...ensure we rest as required, enjoy the views, find good places to eat...stop in small interesting shops.
Dave will be charged with seeking out and finding pubs to sample local beer. While he will be determining the frequency of such stops along the way Elaine and Dawn may have something to say about his timing choices. After all we must get to the accommodation before nightfall! Dave also has a phone in case of emergencies.
Dennis...well...he will be in charge of nothing...absolutely nothing. Ok if we get in real difficulty and we must commandeer, like pirates, some type of water vessel he can be the commandant on the Thames River. Dave will of course be second in command should that be necessary. Elaine and Dawn will be deck hands while I will man the lifeboat.
Those who read postings from my long walk will know that I faced multiple very real dangers from dangerous animals...cows with horns, cows without horns, menacing cows, supposedly docile cows, loose chickens, dogs, leopards pretending to be cats, snakes (all dead but one) and the ever present and frightening slug that followed me on my 2,600 km walk.
Dangerous bridge crossings were also too frequent to count!
However the Thames River walk presents a much greater danger...GHOSTS....😫😱😰... I have always been fascinated with ghost legends...believe in them...and have to admit am deathly afraid of them!
Britain is known for it's ghosts and hauntings...the island is teeming with them!
If you don't believe me here is what a little research has surfaced about some of our nightly stops...I am literally shaking in my boots at what/who may try to scare us in the middle of the night!!!
I can't wait to sign up for the various ghost tours!
Oxford - Oxford Castle
Believed to be one of the most haunted buildings in the U.K. Terrifying report from a security guard on nightly patrol. One dark night, at the end of patrol, his dog stopped, growled and stepped back. Two large shadow figures appeared before him...a few days later the dog died suddenly...frightened to death!
Ghostly figure of a woman is seen, white mist rising up a flight of stairs...disembodied footsteps are heard!
Abington - Goal
First British jail with winged corridors. Spooky voices have been heard, doors bang mysteriously and ghoulish figures are seen lurking in corners. One of its ghoulish claims to fame is that the youngest person to be hanged in Britain met his end in Abington goal. He was eight years old and staff hear him laughing and talking as they are locking up.
No ghosts that I know of...time to rest and get heart rate down.
Wallingford - George Hotel
George Hotel (almost booked this place!) is where a Royalist sergeant, John Hobson, was stabbed to death in a pub brawl. Proprietors daughter saw her husband stabbed and locked herself in the bedroom. She painted large shapes on the walls with her tears and in the soot on the window...both of which have survived.
This bedroom is known as the "Teardrop Room". In the middle of the night when she appears she is weeping...when spoken to she glides through the wall into the room. There is also a phantom of a local man who was hanged and that of two children in early Victorian dress.
Henley-on-Thames - Kenton Theatre
Ghost of Mary Blandy, executed for poisoning her father, is seen standing at the back of the theatre stalls as if watching a performance of The Hanging Tree, a play based on her crime.
With the start of rehearsals for The Hanging Tree, strange things reputedly started to occur, including doors opening and closing, lights switching on and off, a large mirror jumping off a wall and items being smashed by what has been described as poltergeist activity. A cup was also reputedly seen rising from a table before dropping and smashing whilst cast members were discussing Mary Blandy.
Phew another rest night...time to heal and recover!
Reading - Roebuck Hotel
The ghost that haunts this hotel is from two centuries ago. Both employees and residents have frequently seen it. His appearances usually open with loud hammering on doors. Then furniture has been noisily moved around. Witnesses have seen and heard a naval officer swearing in a loud voice...could Dennis possibly be a reincarnation of his former self?
Marlow - Bisham Abbey
Bisham Abbey, based around an ancient perceptron built by the Knights Templar around 1260 is known as one of the most haunted houses in Britain. The condemned ghost of Lady Hony has haunted the Abbey relentlessly since her death in 1609.
It is said that her apparition materializes with a black face and sobs relentlessly since her death in 1609. She beat her son due to her bad temper until he collapsed with blood streaming down his face. He was left alone to die in a locked room and his mother ceaselessly roams the Abbey in tears.
Maidenhead - Hobgoblin Pub
Hobgoblin pub in Maidenhead High St. has a resident ghost called Bob. There have been a series of spooky incidents, noises and things that go bump in the light ale. Coats are moved, money goes missing and mysteriously returns, the beer taps are turned on and off and footsteps come and go.
Someone has been locked in a bathroom that has no locks on its doors! A barman was hit by a flying pen and paper clips with no one around! Beware!
Dave, this pub has to be on your must stops pub list!
Windsor - Windsor Castle
Wow what a scary place!
Windsor Castle has numerous ghosts and paranormal activity. Famous ghost King Henry VIII who broke away from Rome and established the Church of England is reputedly heard in Dean's cloisters wandering castle halls and corridors and is heard groaning and dragging his ulcerated legs which ultimately caused his death.
Ghost of Anne Bolyn, wife to Henry VIII and former Church of England head was beheaded at the Tower of London. Her ghost is alleged to hound Dean's cloister at Windsor Castle. Her ghostly form has been seen peering from a window with a sad and distressed face occasionally weeping.
Queen Elizabeth I haunts the Royal Library...sounds of high heels have been heard on bare floorboards. Her ghostly spectre is often seen in a window at Dean's cloister where she always wears a black gown with a black shawl over her shoulders.
(Mad) King George III was confined to a room below the library in periods of madness. His ghost appears to be mournfully peering through windows and a doorway. Military Guardsman have been startled to see his face looking out.
The ghost of Queen Victoria is said to have been upset at alterations to Windsor Castle. Her ghostly figure has been seen striding towards workers from the Castle waving her arms and moaning loudly.
There you have it...really worried now!