Sunday 8 September 2013

Day 1 - Source to Tadpole Bridge (35 miles, 13 hours)

On Saturday 31st August I took the train and then the bus from London across to Kemble. I had a room booked for Gareth (G-Man) and I and immediately made a bad start when I took a wrong turn out of Kemble station and walked a good 20 minutes in completely the opposite direction. It was not the most auspicious start.

The Thames Head Inn
G-Man arrived with his mum Val and sister Helen and we took a stroll down to find the source of the river, just so we knew where we were going the following morning. It was about 12 minutes walk over a couple of gates and across some railway tracks to a pleasant meadow that was perfectly peaceful.

We stuffed our faces with pasta and were joined by General Peter Spence which was an added bonus., watched a bit of Terminator 2, and crashed at about 9pm. The alarm was set for 05:15 and I proceeded to have a fairly fitful night as I wondered what the next week would be like.

Setting off from the Source of the Thames River
I awoke to a couple of good luck texts and off we set at 06:10. We had arranged to stop and stretch every 90 minutes or so, something suggested to me beforehand and the single biggest reason I made it through the day. With 35 miles to go we set off at a strong pace, doing each mile in about 17.5 minutes, however my groin strain that I’d hoped wouldn’t be an issue was bothering me within 20 minutes, but I knew I couldn’t focus on it.

The morning was full of fields and cows and G and I generally playing games and talking nonsense. We went through Cricklade where we finally saw water and at one particular stretching stop we were approached by a considerable number of cows who gathered around us expecting to be fed and G decided to engage them in a stirring conversation that basically went long the lines of “whhoooaaaaa girl, whhhhoooooaaaaa”. We took a 40 minute lunch at the Red Lion in Castle Eaton meaning we had 18 miles under our belts by lunchtime having arrived there at 12pm, exactly the time we thought we would.
The Cow Whisperer
At Lechlade we saw the statue of Father Thames and it was here that we were joined by a couple more Lewis’s as Helen and Val came along for a couple of hours. Unfortunately they arrived at a time when our chat levels were on a fast decline and my groin was basically seizing up entirely. I was starting to have some real doubts about how much longer I could continue on the day, but we stopped for our longest stretching stop so far and afterwards felt like a new man. I was genuinely amazed at the difference it made and started to seriously think about taking up yoga when this was done!

Myself and Gareth hanging with Father Thames at Lechlade
We were aiming for a house in Chimney but by around 4:30pm G had to remove his boots and would spend the rest of the day in his flip flops or bare feet, meanwhile I was getting slower. As the sky got darker and we realised that the day was going to be about three miles longer than we had originally planned it became increasingly obvious that we would not make it to Chimney, so we made the call to camp at Tadpole Bridge and Laura diverted to set up there.

Putting up my tent took a lot longer than it should
We limped in at around 7:15pm, so 13 hours on the trail, went to the pub for a very quick drink and crashed pretty early. There was an incredible sunset and as I wriggled into my sleeping bag I felt that we’d done a decent job, but knew that the next day, more than 30 miles again, would be even harder. I set my alarm for 5:30am and settled down to another dreadful nights sleep.

Facebook Status: "Started at 6:10am, finished at 7:10pm. 35 miles in between. Pretty tired. Thanks for all the messages, no energy to reply but keep them coming!"

Sunset across the road from our camp
Gareth and Laura enjoy the view (you probably can't see them!)

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