Todays first effort was an inadvertent attempt at self immolation. Staying at our Airbnb venue, the host was absent and left us food in the fridge to cook up. Eggs and bacon sounded great – so I tried to light the fancy gas stove which immediately shot out flames towards my non fire retardant nightie. Not satisfied with doing this once, I tried a second time with the same result. So I googled the manual for the oven and found that yes, I was doing it right – and when the flames flashed their long tendrils out a third time, I thought, stuff the eggs and bacon!
Leaving earlier than originally intended (as the house cleaners had arrived, and entered the bedroom despite me getting dressed) we departed Lane End which is fairly busy in the morning.
We turned off the main road and headed down a minor road to Marlow – a gentle descent was very pleasant.
At Marlow we turned to follow the river, but at a higher level, climbing up and passing in between Davenport Wood and Rassler Wood. It was truly a beautiful setting. This was the second time that I had been in these woods, as I had ridden up the road from the opposite direction in 2007 whilst doing the Thames Source to Sea ride on a mountain bike.
The next main village was Mill End, where we crossed the Thames River for the first time – but along the extraordinarily long Hambleden Lock. The sign says that cyclists must walk their bikes – which initially we did for the first few hundred metres, to be overtaken by a cyclist riding his bike. Well if he was doing it, so would we.
At Henley on Thames we lingered for a while, checking out the river area well known for its rowing regattas. We located a café named ‘Café Chocolate’ and had a nice hot drink and tasty nibbly! We then crossed the river to head into Harpsden and Sonning Common.
At Whitchurch Thames we received a message from our friend John who was on his bike heading our way. So we kept on course and travelled through Pangbourne (and over the Thames again), which seems to feature many swans on the river.
It was just before Streatley that we found John and together we turned around and crossed the Thames, again, into Goring, where we had a nice lunch together – and I purchased the craft work that appears above. It was a cyclist friendly café – the first one we had seen this trip.
Goring is another pretty river village.
It was great having John ride with us as it meant we no longer had to navigate, which required numerous stops and discussions as to which direction we were meant to be heading.
Riding through Crowmarsh Gifford I noted a street named Jethro Tull Gardens, and assumed it was named after the band – but no, it was named after Jethro Tull a famous English agricultural pioneer who helped bring about the British Agricultural Revolution. He perfected a horse drawn seed drill in 1701 that economically sowed the seeds in neat rows. He later developed a horse drawn hoe. The 1970’s group of the same name was named after him!
Another wonderful piece of trivia that I learned from John as we rode, was the sport of poohsticks (I must admit, I had never heard of it!) The sport was first mentioned in The House of Pooh Corner, a Winnie the Pooh book by A.A.Milne. Apparently, it is a simple sport which may be played on any bridge over running water – each player drops a stick on the upstream side of a bridge and the one whose stick first appears on the downstream m side is the winner. The annual world championships are held on the Thames, nearby where we were riding.
We motored along into Wallingford (crossing the river again), to Long Wittenham, following the river to Clifton Hampden (yep, you got it right, another Thames crossing) and into Dorchester.
I was particularly keen to see Dorchester Abbey as I missed it in 2007 due to navigational issues!! Dorchester Abbey was definitely worth a visit.
From there it was just a short ride to John and Val’s home in Benson – where Val was waiting, having cooked us a beautiful lemon cake!