Date of Walk: 31 December 2011
Approx Distance of Walk: 10 km (5.5 miles) (return trip)
Parking/Transport: Car Park in Hurley (Grid Reference SU 826840) (free)
(Car park is not marked on OS map.)
Starting Point: Hurley Lock.
Finishing Point: Hambleden Lock
I'm not really one for New Year's resolutions and don't normally make any. However this year, we have decided to try and walk a new part of the Thames Path every month. We live quite close to the River Thames, so some parts of it are very familiar to us - we've already walked most of the stretches between Henley and Windsor. There was one section that we'd not walked - between Hurley and Hambleden, and on New Year's Eve, we set out to do this.
Hurley Lock was our starting point. This is a picturesque spot and the Thames Path actually crosses the river here from the north bank to the south, via a footbridge.
In the summer it is a popular place to picnic on the small island between the lock and the weir. It was quite a grey day when we were there, and the teashop wasn't open.
Some men were sitting in a boat in the lock, fishing. I thought was rather a strange thing - maybe they were just enjoying a sheltered spot out of the wind, but they gave me some dirty looks when I took out my camera, so perhaps they shouldn't have been there.
The lock-keeper must have had the day off.
The path westward was fairly quiet, passing a large deserted caravan park and the small hamlet of Frogmill.
This quirky little seat was amusing, but too high and too small to sit on.
After leaving the houses behind, the path lead through quiet fields by the river, eventually leading up to an imposing country house, Culham Court, the expansive grounds and parkland being surrounded by a deer fence. It looked as if the house and ground are undergoing extensive refurbishment, but it was not clear whether it was just a private home, or some kind of up-market leisure facility being developed. Whatever it was, the park was liberally equipped with CCTV cameras! (We defiantly sat behind a tall hedge to eat our sandwiches!)
There were deer in the park, and some white animals which at first glance looked like sheep...
...but on closer inspection turned out to be white deer.
There was very little traffic on the river, and we only saw one boat travelling upstream. We saw the same boat a short while later, returning downstream, just before we reached Hambleden. When we reached Hambleden Lock, it became clear why there was so little activity on the river.
Although the sign says 'Welcome', the lock was closed for refurishment, so no boats are able to pass this point.
You can see that the lock gates have been removed completely. It was still possible to cross the river on foot and walk across the weir past the famous local landmark Hambleden Mill, but we elected to stay on the south bank and take our pictures from there. The impressive building is the subject of many pictures and paintings, but is no longer a mill, having been converted into designer apartments.
So it was time to retrace our steps back to Hurley, via the same route (with a small detour via a local hostelry).
We always see many red kites in this area; after they were introduced into the Chilterns some years ago, they have become a common sight, soaring in the skies with their pointy tails. It isn't very often that you see them land, so I was pleased to catch a shot of this one landing in a tree.
My next task is to get a good shot of one in flight - not as easy as it sounds but something else to aim for this year!