I walked along the mighty Thames from Lechlade-on-Thames to Bablock Hythe and I:
- In driving to Lechlade, found that the country is very pretty thereabouts and deserves further exploration.
- Saw a heron, ducks, ducklings, geese, goslings, terns, and a field mouse but hardly any people.
- Discovered that there are pill boxes all along that stretch of the Thames and that one of them has been turned into a hibernaculum for bats. Up the bats!
- And that another of the pill boxes has a ‘No Mooring’ sign on it, when it is yards from the river and so looks decidedly incongruous.
- Saw several badger holes along the path, marked by a polite notice explaining that the holes could not be fixed until the end of badger mating season in June. Up the badgers!
- Heard my second cuckoo of the year.
- Stopped to revel in the sight of fields of marsh marigolds.
- Walked through several locks and wondered ‘How does one become a lock keeper, anyway?’ I find locks deeply satisfying, as they attempt to regulate the unruliness of water.
- Drank a much-needed ginger beer at The Trout Inn at Tadpole Bridge, ate my picnic lunch and buried my over heated toes in cool grass for a few minutes.
- Sunburnt or windburnt my face again and got heat rash on my ankles and calves (the heat rash only seems to kick in at + 16 miles, why is that?)
- Was extremely grateful for a share of S’s Wispa bar on the home stretch, when the walking had reduced to a one-foot-in-front-of-the-other plodding style.
- Found that despite its exotic name, Bablock Hythe suffers a localised epidemic of static homes, and Matthew Arnold wouldn’t put it in a poem today. The ferry has gone, although The Ferryman Inn remains.
Despite the sore feet, weary legs and shoulders protesting against the rucksack, I’d have to say I enjoyed every step of the way. For me, the level of physical discomfort never achieved disproportion, so I could still put it to one side and notice a river bank beautifully blended with the wheaten colour of dried rushes, the fresh green of new, long grasses, and a splash of bright yellow. (I don’t know what that entirely familiar yellow plant is called, but I will have to find out.) The sudden flight of a heron could still distract me into noticing the grey-blue of its feathers and although I would have claimed exhaustion near the end, it’s not true. Fifteen minutes of sitting, stretching, sipping water and eating a bit more malt loaf and I could have forced an extra mile or so.
Nevertheless, I was certainly tired enough to appreciate the basics as luxuries: not moving, getting warm, hot tea, a hot shower and a comfortable bed. I forget this every time I take myself on a long walk but I think it is one of my unconscious aims. Life is easy, and that’s not good for me. I’ll never be an endurance sport type person because I’m too damn lazy, but it’s good to get regular reminders that less breeds contentment far more easily than more.