Friday, 15 February 2013

Incorrect decision

After a long night of consistent rain it was highly likely the local footpaths would be a sea of mud.  It seemed a wise decision to avoid these areas and instead chose another location with better paths.  Having previously walked the Thames River Walk from Reading to Pangborne and finding the footpath in excellent condition it seemed a logical decision to walk in the opposite direction downstream from Reading to Shiplake Lock.  Subsequent events revealed I had made a serious mistake erred in my judgement. 

Before heading along the Thames River Walk I decided to check the conditions of the River Kennet at County and Blakes locks in Reading

There was no significant change in the water level at County Lock after my last visit.

Water is still going over the upstream gates

There is also flooding around the downstream gates.

The water level is high where the river passes through the Oracle Centre and I noticed the access to lower paved area on the riverbank had been blocked.

Further downstream there was debris deposited on the riverbank which suggests the water level has actually dropped at some stage.

Blakes Lock looked rather normal, but then there are two large weirs immediately upstream from it.  I did notice the RED BOARDS were on display.

Now for the actual walk.  The first kilometre of footpath was in reasonable condition but when I reached the canoe clubroom the path became a meadow.   A very muddy and flooded meadow.

The footpath went straight through this flooded section and there was no alternative route.  I carefully waded my way across picking the ‘high ground’ by looking for the tips of the flooded grass floating on the surface.  Whilst I don’t object to getting my feet wet, I do try to avoid it!  In this situation my last step let me down and the water poured over the top of my right boot <bugger>!  I was to later learn this was the “good part” of the path.

Just before Sonning Lock the footpath was completely submerged by the adjacent Thames.  Rather than turn around and walk back to Reading I managed to climb along the 6ft high steel picket boundary fence beside the path.  The path either side of Sonning Lock was in good condition.

There is a bridge on the downstream side of Sonning Lock where the route of the Thames River Walk crosses to the opposite bank.  The path on the opposite bank was in very poor condition and after 300 yards it became completely submerged.  I backtracked over the bridge and elected to follow the footpath on the south side of the Thames.  A major error!  Not only did this path also get very muddy and flooded, it also diverted away from the river.

At one point I was forced to climb the fence into the adjacent field.  I never did make it to Shiplake Lock, although I think I must have been close.  Rather than retrace my route I opted to walk back via the roads.  According to the GPS the distance covered was slightly more than 21km.  Not very far, but then much of it was hard going slipping and sliding down muddy paths.

Reading at the bottom left.  Read arrow points to Sonning Lock.

Back at Waiouru by 4:30pm dirty, tired, hungry and ready for a hot shower Smile


Paul and Elaine said...

21ks not very far! I dont like driving that distance.... :-)

Tom and Jan said...

Fair suck of the sav.... You're becoming very pommie about distances these days! :-)