Tamesis Fluvius
The Thames Path from
the Source to the Thames Barrier

Lechlade to Newbridge

Monday 10 April 2017

Day Three had always appeared a little daunting, right from the moment that we first planned out our schedule, simply because it was scheduled to be more than two miles longer than any other stage of the route. It is also by far the most remote part of the river, with no settlements of any significant size after leaving Lechlade, not even at the end of the day. We had been due to be camping for a second successive day, but having found it very cold and difficult to sleep over the previous night, we took the decision to abandon the other three campsites on our route and make alternative arrangements. Thankfully there was room for us at The Rose Revived pub, right by the river at Newbridge, so we knew that once we had completed the long trek there would be no additional journey to our accommodation.


We made another early start from Lechlade, packing away our camping equipment in the knowledge that having decided not to use it again, we could drop it off when the path took us back through Oxford in a couple of days' time. Our final view of Lechlade was of St Lawrence Church casting its reflection into the Thames on another sunny morning, but one which we were assured would not turn into such a hot day. Within a short time, we were introduced to two things which would become regular features of the river from here on. We soon came across the first of many pillboxes which line the Thames, small fortifications dating from the Second World War as part of the planning for dealing with a possible German invasion. Shortly after that, we reached the first of the many locks on the Thames, St John's. Located here is the statue of Old Father Thames which was originally located at the Crystal Palace in London and later at the Source of the Thames, before being moved here in 1974.

By this stage Wiltshire has been left behind and the river marks the border between Gloucestershire and Oxfordshire, with the path following the Oxfordshire bank until it crosses a footbridge back to the northern side. We quickly realised one of the reasons why this stage was so long, as the path wound its way round every slight meander in the river with fencing preventing any shortcut across the adjoining fields. At Buscot Lock, the second that we passed, the path took us across a weir for the first time and on to the island in the middle of the river, before returning to the northern bank for one final stretch of walking in Gloucestershire. By the time the meanders started to open out and the river widen further, bringing us to the grounds of Kelmscott Manor, both banks were in Oxfordshire and would remain so for the next four days of walking. Boats were now a much more regular sight on the river, both on the move and moored along the banks. After almost three more miles of very pleasant riverside walking, we paused for a longer than intended break at The Swan near Radcot Bridge to try to finalise our alternative plans for the nights we had been due to be camping.


Radcot, despite being only a tiny village, is the biggest place that we would pass through all day and one of its bridges is the oldest still in existence over the Thames. There are now three different bridges crossing various channels and the Thames Path does not pass over the oldest, instead turning onto an island between channels and then taking you over a footbridge onto the southern bank. We followed the ever widening river past Radcot Lock into more agricultural fields, where there were a number of cows making use of the Thames for drinking water. Although the meanders in the river are by no means as tight or as frequent as those we had passed in the morning, the Thames is still very much winding its way through the countryside here. It was on the edge of one such meander that we stopped for lunch, watching a single swan taking a lunch break of its own and diving for food numerous times.

After lunch we continued alongside the winding river on a section where, without the fences that we had seen earlier, the most well trodden path cuts out a few of the meanders. There is clearly another path, less well defined, that runs around every turn in the river bank though, having been used by those who don't want to miss out a single step of the path. The next landmark on this section is Rushey Lock, where again the path crosses the bridge over the weir and then crosses the lock itself, taking you to an Environment Agency track. Although this may be technically road walking, it is likely that most walkers will never see more than at most one or two official vehicles using it. The path follows the track all the way to Tadpole Bridge, where on the other side of the public road it becomes a simple footpath once again. We continued along this path for about another half a mile, before stopping for another very welcome rest.


Having left Tadpole Bridge behind, the Thames Path next passes alongside Chimney Meadows Nature Reserve, one of the largest in the area and an important refuge for the many birds that live on and around the river. We took great care along this stretch not to stray off the well worn path, as it is often hard to see exactly how close you are to the edge of either the river itself or a ditch on the other side. At the other end of the nature reserve, the path soon comes to the weir and the split in the river which marks the start of the Shifford Lock Cut, the first significantly sized 'new' cut that we had passed. The cut in its present form dates from the late 19th century when a small channel was widened and like other similar features downstream, has noticeably quite stagnant water when there are no boats passing through as the faster flowing river is running around the old course.

Using two footbridges, the path crosses first onto the island made by the old course of the river and the new cut and then over onto the southern bank, where we would remain until the very end of the day. As it was now coming to early evening, there seemed to be even more flies around than usual as we passed through the fields on the way towards Newbridge, each one undoubtedly seeming to take a lot longer to cross than it would have at the start of the day. There were still very few other walkers on this stretch of the route, something which we knew would probably not be the case in subsequent days, so despite increasing tiredness we were still determined to enjoy the peace and quiet of the countryside. Eventually though, it was a great relief to see Newbridge itself ('new' only in the sense that Radcot Bridge is older, as both date from the 13th century). The final part of the third day's journey was to cross the bridge to our accommodation at The Rose Revived, where we were very relieved not to be having to put up a tent and spend another night under canvas.