Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Travel Tuesday : The Thames Path, day 11 - Windsor to Shepperton

Walked May 30, 2002


This stretch -- 13.75 miles -- I walked alone again. Took the train to Windsor & Eton station in the morning, and then wound my way to the river. First I walked onto Windsor Bridge, looking downstream:


And then looking across to Eton on the other side of the Bridge:


Down onto the path, I took a last look at Windsor Bridge:


And I followed the long curve of the river.



A long strip of land called The Cobbler separates the weir stream from the lock cut... which I didn't understand until I could actually see across the Cobbler to Windsor weir.


The towpath ran under Black Potts railway bridge, memorable because of the insanely deep mud. It really hadn't rained all that much lately...


Distinctly muddied, I caught this glimpse of Windsor Castle from across the Home Park.


Soon I came to and crossed Victoria Bridge, one of a pair of bridges erected along this stretch of river to create a private riverside park for Queen Victoria in the 1850s. It's thought that Victoria Bridge and its partner, Albert Bridge, were designed by Albert himself.

Plaque on Victoria Bridge:


The Thames Path follows the other side of the river (too close to Windsor, you know...) which means I brushed against pretty Dachet, all gussied up for the Jubilee:


I went into Datchet to have a look at their pretty church, St. Mary the Virgin. After the Prince Consort died the parishoners of the village raised money to commission three vivid stained-glass windows in his honor:

image from DatchetHistory.org
The dedication reads: To the glory of god and in memory of HRH the Prince Consort. Born August 26th 1819. Died December 14th 1861. Erected by the parishioners of Datchet 1862.

I also saw farmers literally making hay while the sun shines, near Windsor.



I re-crossed the river at Albert Bridge, which, frankly, looked a bit the worse for wear.





Another half mile or so and I reached Runnymede. The name comes from the Anglo-Saxon "runeig mede", meaning a meadow for holding counsels or meetings. It's all now owned by the National Trust and would be pretty even if it wasn't so historically significant.

These entrance lodges were commissioned by Lady Fairhaven -- who donated the land to the National Trust -- and designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens.


First I visited the JFK Memorial, which was designed by Geoffrey Jellicoe, C.B.E, on an acre of land given, in perpetuity, to the United States. Isn't it interesting how sometimes a U.S. president inspires respect in other countries?

You reach the memorial by a set of steps, one for each year of Kennedy's life, based on a n allegory in Pilgrim's Progress. 60,000 hand-cut granite setts -- each unique as it was hand cut with an axe -- have been laid at random. Apparently the craftspeople -- so accustomed to regular paving -- found this challenging, until they were told to imagine the uneven appearance of a crowd at a football match.


The memorial itself was designed by sculptor Alan Collins, and bears the following inscription:
Let every Nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend or oppose any foe, in order to assure the survival and success of liberty.

Of course, the big memorial is the Magna Carta Temple, designed by Sir Edward Maufe in 1957:


Poor hapless King John. I have scribbled in my notes from 2002: "1199 John takes throne; disastrous political marriage resulted in him losing his continental lands and earning him the nickname "Lackland." Then his failed attempt to keep the lands and humiliating defeat gave him the nickname "Softsword".

It's interesting that the American Bar Association, of all people, built this memorial on the site of the signing of the Magna Carta. Less interesting is that they felt the need to state repeatedly that they had built it in 1857, then they came back in 1971 and "pledged adherence to the principles of the great charter", then back again in 1985 to "renew the pledge of adherement to the principles of the great charter" and AGAIN in 2000 "to celebrate magna carta foundation of the rule of law for ages past and for the millennium"...


On I went, eventually passing beneath the M25 roadway bridge, the massive ringroad that marks the "gateway to London".




And then, soon, Staines. Ah, Staines. If the ring road wasn't enough to highlight the "boundary", this coalpost, near Staines, would. It served to warn merchants that, under an act of 1831, merchants would have to pay a levy on coal.


Nearby, and somewhere in those trees across the river, lurks the Staines Stone, the upper limit of the City of London's jurisdiction of the river. Spoiler alert: I would go find the stone (okay, the replica stone...) on another trip.


I managed to resist the lure of the riverside pubs in Staines and continued on. I did, however take a detour to funny little Penton Hook Island, a tiny perfect teardrop. Apparently the little "neck" was so often broken through by flood waters that barges just took the "short cut" across it. The little island is now managed by the Environment Agency. I wandered around the island paths, all quite overgrown in the early summer. 



I came back to "civilization" to find this big boat in Penton Hook Lock -- the biggest boat I had seen in the river so far.


The path continued through Laleham Park, where I saw these pretty water irises:


A little farther and I could see Chertsey Bridge ahead:




Just past Chertsey I came to the last water meadow (and the last cows on the river). They all stood, calmly grazing, about 25 yards from the river. Calm, that is, until I approached. All of a sudden the herd decided, en masse, that they were thirsty. Not "I think I'll wander over to the river and get a drink" thirsty, nor even "I think I'll grab a pint at the bar as it's last call" thirsty, or even "free drinks night at the Frat House" thirsty. This was "we've got to save the world by drinking all the water in the world all of a sudden" thirsty. A small (there were only 20 or so cows) stampede rushed in from of me and splashed into the river, where the cattle did their best ostrich impersonations by stitching their sounds under the water and drinking greedily.

I froze as the herd thundered past and then remained still for a few moments after they began slaking their saharan thirst. It's funny to think that I wouldn't be dodging cow-pies and meadow bulls for the rest of the walk.


I finally arrived in Shepperton -- some ways from the path -- and rewarded myself with a pint at the King's Head, a nice old coaching inn with sloping floors and variable ceilings.


Then the train back to London -- with the knowledge that I was over halfway done with even my extended walk!

Next up: Shepperton to Kingston

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