Thursday, 22 January 2015

Thames Path - Bablock Hythe to Swinford

Date of Walk:  3 May 2014
Approx Distance of Walk: 12 km (7.5 miles) (5 km of this on Thames Path)
 Parking/Transport: Car Park at Farmoor Reservoir (Grid Ref  SP 452061)
Starting Point: Bablock Hythe
Finishing Point: Swinford Bridge

This was a circular walk taking in Farmoor Reservoir and the Thames. This walk is a bit of  a cheat and is the only part of all our Thames Path walks that we have done this. The official Thames Path is on the other side of the river from where we walked. It not follow the Thames here but goes inland. We saw on the map that there was a footpath on the eastern bank from Bablock Hythe to Pinkhill Lock and decided to walk there instead, so that we could make a circular walk and not have to cross the river.
Our starting point is the car park  at Farmoor Reservoir. From the car park we take a footpath south through some fields...

... passing some beautiful spring blossom...

... and great views looking back towards the reservoir and the Oxfordshire countryside.

Eventually we join a track which turns out to be extremely muddy. We manage to bypass some of the mud by taking a detour into the woodland by the side. Some youngsters were out on a supervised outdoor trek and were under strict instructions from the leaders not to deviate from the track. (The leaders quietly confided to us that they think it's a good idea to make their charges suffer! The youngsters seemed to be largely enjoying the adventure, but were getting really very mucky!)

Finally the track brings us to the Thames and on the opposite bank is an inn at Bablock Hythe.

We turned right and headed north through an open field. On the opposite bank a large caravan park stretched for nearly a kilometer.

After the caravan park it becomes very quiet and rural.

Our footpath takes us through a small gap between the Thames and the reservoir, where there is a pumping station.

It feels quite remote here, and the river meanders quite a bit as we approach Pinkhill Lock.

Cuckoos are singing in the background.

The sign directs the Thames Path walker to cross the river at the lock and carry on to the section that we are missing out.

The lock is pretty and well kept.

It is a manually operated lock, so a helping hand to open the gates is always welcome.

As we leave the lock we spot a kestrel on the power lines above, intently watching something in the grass below. Seconds later it dropped to the ground, picked up a small animal and flew off to enjoy it's dinner. Unfortunately I wasn't quick enough with the camera to capture the event, but it was thrilling to watch.

We are now back on the 'official' Thames Path which diverts here away from the river and onto a busy road for a couple of hundred metres.

The path then goes through a boatyard.

When we rejoin the river, we are on an open floodplain with many twists in the river. Swinford Bridge is visible in the distance.

It is an elegant bridge.

It is a privately owned toll bridge and there is a charge of 5p for cars to cross.

When we reach the bridge we turn and retrace our steps back almost as far as Pinkhill Lock. We take a path off to the left back towards the reservoir, and can get a view of it from a distance.

Unfortunately we were unable to find a path around the top of the reservoir but made our way on footpaths round the northern side and back to the car park.

We finish our walk on a warm afternoon enjoying the sunshine by the reservoir.

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