Wednesday, 30 October 2013


Now it is late September, several months since we were last making our way up the river Thames to our journey’s end of the Thames Barrier.

Autumn was just starting to show as we re-joined the river at Goring. We pushed our bikes along through steep tree lined Thames Path through Goring gap

This vertical section soon gives way to broad fields with disinterested sheep and cattle grazing in fields through which we walked.

At Mapledurham we took a break and made a great lunch at the Café right next to the Lock’s edge. Here Mike and Dave tucked into large plates of sausage bacon egg and chips, and beans. I made do with a slightly more modest sausage in baguette as befits my waistline

Onwards towards Reading: Reading, the railway town of red brick that nestles up against a now very broad River.

Reading, like Oxford and further upstream, Lechlade, is one of those topographical ‘watersheds’ where the river really does change: From the Thames source to Lechlade it is really a stream although navigable at its nethermost end (Lechlade). At Oxford one sees the city Spires across the fields through with the Thames passes. The river is widening. And then you Reading; with its red brick and gasometers this is a Thames that is populated and populous.

From Reading we reached Sonning with its red brick bridge. Set right in the centre inaccessible to anybody and at water level is a post box. The local press reports:

‘Puzzled villagers were scratching their heads after a post box appeared. It turned out to be a cardboard pillar-box front pinned a couple of metres above the River Thames, was first spotted in July. The prank is believed to be the work of a mischievous artist whose previous work includes traffic islands on the Thames and gravestones in the middle of a roundabout.’

Henley-on-Thames boasts a wonderful wide stone bridge. Henley, that every year hosts the wonderful regatta, where teams from all over the world in ‘single-scull’ ‘two’s’ and ‘eights’ compete. Upstream from the town centre is the wonderful River and Rowing museum and this is where we have our cups of tea and afternoon cake.

We regained the Thames path through the grounds of the famous Leander club. I remembered that my Uncle would often take me to lunch here, sporting his member’s tie with its pink hippo motif.

Past Temple Island and Hambledon and another two more hours walking and cycling along the south bank sees us in Marlow. We are more that ready to be picked up by our spouses after twenty-eight miles along the path!

Friday, 25 October 2013


September 2013 

Two hundred miles south of Paris and right in the heart of the countryside this is, Loiret, one of the original Departments created during the French revolution.

A short walk to the chateau
This is exceptionally green countryside with quiet roads and small farms; flocks of sheep the shelter in fields bordered by lovely woods.  

These woods seem to stretch right up through the region to the area of Fontainebleau. This is a geography intersected by rivers and a canal system, originally built to transport wine up from the Loire vineyards.
Loiret en France 

Last week I was here the literally for day’s business; we stayed in a delightful Auberge arriving late because of the horrendous Paris traffic. The meal that evening was memorable, as was the company. The next morning I woke early to almost no sound through my window wide open.
After the bulk of our business was done

My colleague Andrew and I drove just a little way out of the village on the way to the office and stopped at the small elegant Château of Combreux.

A few hours later, the bulk of our business complete, me made a delightful lunch in another village Conflans sur Loing, close to the factory, an Auberge nestling up against the Church and the Marie.


Monday, 21 October 2013


Judge Richard’s Sat Nav took us in the most circuitous route to Faringdon in Oxfordshire. However the rain held off and after unloading the bikes and quick coffee we were off to explore six churches between the River Thames and the Ridgeway Path.

After ten minutes of hell on the busy A420 road we gained the back road to Shrivenham and the Parish Church of Saint Andrew. Ahead, high up, was the Ridgeway, which was to be our constant backdrop.

St Andrew’s is unusual building inside remodelled in the 1600’s (round arches on Tuscan columns!) and numerous monuments couple had just finished renewing their wedding vows. Ricardo and I were invited to share a piece of cake and a glass of sparkling Saumur in the south transept.

Onwards to Compton Beauchamp some six miles away and Saint Swithun - 13th century. This a tiny church in which local bigwigs invested heavily in restoration and embellishment.  Martin Travers, church artist and designer, in the 1930’s did the work. This is where the Arts and Crafts and High Anglican movements meet.

Suddenly, round the corner out of the village, the lower heights presented themselves as a vertical climb as we cycled, slowly towards Sparsholt along an up and down ‘B’ road.

In Sparsholt and excellent lunch in the Star Inn which also furnished us with hand cream and individual hand towels in the toilet.

The Church of the Holy Cross at Sparsholt was originally Saxon remodelled in the 13th and 14th centuries.  Inside the church are two women effigies and their elaborate tombs in a dimly lit transept - quite exceptional. Here we met another cyclist who was taking his pace and the number of churches visited much more seriously.

We were part of Ride+Stride in Oxfordshire. Each year this activity, in every English county, contributes much sponsorship money each county’s Historic Churches Trust.  These trusts in turn dole the dosh out for repairs and refurbishments. Eschewing the sponsorship bit Richard and I usually send a cheque.

Two miles further and we reached St Mary’s in Childrey. In the south doorway with its Norman dogtooth decoration – 11th century a lady of this tiny parish provided lemonade and biscuits. In the churchyard we sat on a bench looking northeast across the whole of south Oxford and down onto Uffington or next destination.

The church in Uffington is an English Gothic marvel and almost untouched.
We were provided with a nice cup of tea and access to the biscuit tin. Dedicated to St Mary, it is is known as the cathedral of the vale and has the rare feature of a hexagonal tower.

We cycled on back to Faringdon and called in at All Saints Church. We walked through the door (Norman) and were greeted by a nave arches with stiff-leaf capitals – lovely Early English decoration throughout. Some guest bell ringers were giving it what for in the bell loft above the central crossing we did not stay long.

We loaded the bikes for the drive home (direct route).