Pangbourne – Reading – Sonning.
I was a little apprehensive about today as the map showed mainly the city of Reading. The morning was also rather dull but I was soon on my way along the meadows by the river, a popular promenade for the Pangbourne dog walkers. Out into the flat countryside the railway was still very close and regular GWR trains flashed by, this continued all day. The trees being leafless showed up the balls of parasitic mistletoe which grows well in the south.
The latest craze of children painting stones and leaving them to be found has reached the Thames.
Hardwick House across the river is thought to have been an inspiration for the illustrations to Wind in the Willows. Mapledurham is a picturesque hamlet inaccessible on the far bank further on. The weir here, as others, has a fish ladder incorporated surprisingly only since the late 20th century. According to plaques they seemed to have been installed with the aid of local sponsors. Before the locks were constructed boats were hauled up basic weirs and took their chances floating down.
A curious walk through the streets of Purley eventually came back to the river and railway at Tilehurst. People are living on boats moored up along the next stretch as they can cycle the towpath, I was disappointed by the amount of rubbish some of them left.
A promenade led towards the outskirts of Reading. At Caversham Bridge I braved the traffic to reach a great little ‘transport’ cafe I’d been recommended, The Gorge. It was worth it for the usual tea and teacake. More of the same promenade continued through parks with varied architecture on view. The junction with the River Kennet was crossed on a horse shoe bridge. That route gives a link into the Kennet and Avon canal system. I passed a Tescos just as a couple appeared with their shopping bags and climbed into a small boat to motor back to their marina base, brilliant. Benches along the way had Thames related poems and stories inscribed.
The suburbs were left and rural walking resumed. Passing by the extensive grounds of Reading Bluecoat School there was this poignant gate in memory of a drowned master. Sonning was a pretty village, lots of old cottages and an interesting church. Flint is used a lot in the walls. Next to the church is a Lutyens house with a Gertrude Jekyll garden but unfortunately hidden by high walls.
Staying at a The Great House tonight. The accommodation was superb but the dining arrangements poor. One big noisy party room full of pretentious diners and out on the terrace were plastic igloos for some sort of experience, I think food comes second here, who in their right mind would sit in a plastic dome all evening?