Wednesday, September 19, 2012

A Long Walk on the River Thames

There is a way to get to the River Thames from Christ Church Meadow, but the path along the River isn't nearly as long, as far as I can tell. So, rather than simply go look at the River Thames, I started at St. Aldates Road (which does run along the Tom Clock side of Christ Church), where the Head of the River is.

Head of the River is a pub and also a hotel with 12 rooms. It's also located right next door to the place where boat tours of the Thames pick up as well pretty much on the walking path.  (It is possible to pick up the path on the other side of the street and walk in the opposite direction that I did-- but no guide book discusses walking that way, so I assume that's for a reason.)

The walk along the Thames is scenic--there are lots of people running, walking dogs, and biking along most of it (I kept walking for a while... well past where others seem to go). There are boats of all kinds going up and down the river, people fishing, and rowing teams practicing.  I saw the younger kids who are just learning practicing.

I'm assuming that in the next couple weeks, when the universities start up again, there will be more experienced teams out there. I wish I had my camera out in time to record them trying to turn around because that was funny. But, the videos give a sense of what they're doing.  I wish the sound were better-- the way the one in the front calls out instructions is entertaining.

Those are two different teams.  There were also instructors who were on bikes on the bath yelling directions at them (I kept trying to get a picture of the guy who was the instructor for the team in the second video because he is one of the best looking people I've ever seen in real life, but he kept biking past me and it was hard to snap a photo on the move.).

Watching the teams practice was pretty early in my walk-- it became a bit more pastoral as I kept going.

There were a lot of horses in this one field-- I can't tell who they belonged to. I'm assuming one of the houses that I could see on the other side of the great expanse of field.

 For a while, I was walking with a nice, older couple and their dog-- they were from outside Bristol and were staying in Oxford for a few days. They-- and everyone I passed-- kept commenting on what a beautiful day it was. And it was a nice day, but I've also noticed that there is some critical mass on comments about the weather because it's like one too many people comments on how it's a a lovely day and then it just starts raining.  Which is what happened.  I can't even say where it was coming from-- there were barely any clouds, but suddenly, rain.  I'm not commenting on the nice weather anymore-- it's like a curse, just inviting the weather to turn.

There's this lovely scenery and the River Thames for quite a while until the Iffley Lock, which I came to while it was raining.  If it weren't raining (and, if I had brought more than a breakfast oatmeal bar and water with me) it would be a really nice place for a picnic.

There was an older lock here-- this is the modern iteration.  I'm not really sure what it's purpose is, but the actual lock was open when I went by, and then closed when I was returning, like this, so it's doing something. None of the signs actually explained what the lock was for-- the two that were there were a large map and a more focused map of the area.

I think most people either turn around here or cross the bridge (which I stood on to take the following picture)

and head into Iffley. I, however, kept walking.  And walking.  I kept expecting there to be some definitive landmark that would say to me, "turn around now" but it turns out that the path goes for quite a ways before that happens.  Eventually, I did get to this gate.

I decided this was the sign I should turn around and head back (that, and I had walked about 5 miles at this point and so it's not like it was a quick jaunt back), even though there was an opening in the gate, so I could technically have gone through it. There's no clearly developed path beyond it, so I'm guessing very few people actually do walk past it.  It's interestingly decorative for a gate that is pretty much in the middle of nowhere (and, I have no idea why it's curvy for part of it and then straight for the rest-- by this point, I was pretty much alone on the path, so there was no one to ask).

Right near the Iffley Lock is the Isis Farmhouse Tavern-- part of the reason I actually walked past the Iffley Lock was because the pub is supposed to be a hidden gem.  I get the hidden part-- I can't imagine who goes there.  It would have to be a gem to hike all the way out there for lunch (which is only served for 2 hours).  And, by this point I was really hungry.  But, I'm guessing because it's not the most popular lunch destination, now it's only open Thursday-Saturday; I would have had to wait several days for the good food and pint I was promised in my guide book (which did not mention limited days or times of service).  When I got back to the lock, I did cross the bridge and start to walk into Iffley, sort of hoping there would be a pub, but instead I entered into a residential neighborhood located on a steep hill I was walking up (which wasn't appealing by this point), so I turned around pretty quickly.  I did stop to snap a few pictures of houses-- they were kind of unusual looking. I like the roof on this one, especially since it seems to take up more space than the actual house it's on:

When I first walked up, there was this house, which is the Manor House. It was bigger than anything else I passed in the short distance I walked, so I'm guessing at one time, it really was the house where the people who ran the manor lived (purely a guess though-- again there was no one around and there were no signs).

I couldn't get the whole thing into a picture-- there's a pretty large retaining wall that goes along both sides of the road and I was backed against it to take that shot.

Having looked at a map since I've gotten back to my flat, I'm pretty sure had I kept walking up the hill, I would have eventually walked into the Cowley area, which does have tons of shops and restaurants (though most are on Cowley Road and I would have been walking on Iffley Road...).  But I decided to play it safe and walk back the way I had come because at least I knew where I would end up, so I got back on the path along the River Thames and walked back to St. Aldates and then back to the city center to the Covered Market (finally--the breakfast oatmeal bar really wasn't enough food for walking 10 miles) for a late (I think it was after 3 by this point) lunch.

I knew there was supposed to be something upstairs at the Covered Market, but it took me a while to find the stairs to Georgina's-- now that I know where the stairs are, they'll be easy to find again, but it's the kind of thing that's hard to see if you don't know it's there.  Georgina's is eclectic and cute (and pink).  You can't tell from the picture, but the ceiling is covered in movie posters.

I had a beet, carrot, and hummus sandwich-- the special of the day and really yummy.  Georgina's is definitely one of the healthier eating options in the Covered Market--maybe in the city center as whole (that I forewent having a milkshake from Moo Moos for lunch again was a total act of willpower, especially after I had circled the market several times trying to find the staircase.).

I went home from here-- my legs were really tired, even after sitting for lunch.  What's nice now is that the bus schedule, some of which is dictated by whether the universities are in session or not, is off its vacation schedule and on the regular one which means the U1 (the bus I can ride for free with my pass) is running more often. I've had a lot of luck for the past couple days simply catching one (rather than having to sit at a stop and wait for 20+ minutes, which is what I've been doing for the past few weeks).  It turns out that after walking 10 or more miles, a bus pulling up to the stop right as I arrive makes me really happy.  (I'm wondering if it's like the weather though-- now that I've mentioned it, I've probably cursed myself and will have to spend lots of time waiting on the buses again.)

1 comment:

  1. I really enjoy your story and was feeling myself at your place. All the above pictures are so cool and demonstrating your whole journey very well. I think to have some good moments and good people in life make us really fascinated.

    Kelly@ RiverThame canal boat hire