We are very proud of the fact that St. Andrew’s is designated as a Church of Pilgrimage and a member of the Small Pilgrim Places Network. The church was closed for nine months last year through major repairs and Covid. We needed to kick-start our activities and so I thought that Easter was a good time to do a pilgrimage. On my wish-list was Dorchester-on-Thames Abbey.
I set out from the church, at 7a.m. on a frosty morning, across the fields to Noke, where I joined the Oxfordshire Way to Islip. I followed the footpath along the River Cherwell and met two ladies walking their dogs. They were friends from Islip church. Soon after this I took the footpath to Water Eaton. I was overtaken by a man and his daughter out for their morning run. A hot air balloon landed in the field we were crossing and the runners and I stopped to look at it. The man was Andy Carr, churchwarden of Woodeaton!
Water Eaton has a link with Oddington in that up until the mid-20th century both estates were owned by the Sawyer family.
Across the fields to Cutteslowe Park, on the outskirts of Oxford. Through suburban roads to the Church of St Andrew in Linton Road, Oxford. Much grander than our St. Andrew’s!
Into the city centre and first significant stop at Christchurch Cathedral. It was closed but the porter at Tom’s Gate kindly took my photo.
From there a short walk to Folly Bridge and on to the Thames Path. On the stretch of the river known as the Isis, I passed the college boat houses. The towpath was busy with walkers and cyclists, and there were some rowers on the river.
From Iffley Lock it became quieter and the next point of interest was the lock at Sandford-on-Thames. This was a trip down memory lane as 55 years ago my first posting on C.I.D. was to Sandford. The King’s Arms pub on the river was a place where I may have sipped a pint (or two).
From now on the going was rough, the path being muddy and rutted. I was conscious of energy levels dropping and it seemed to take forever to reach Abingdon. The riverbanks there were a hive of activity, being the first warm day since lock-down ended. I sat on a bench to eat my sandwiches and seriously considered calling it a day. Starting to walk again was agony but muscles eased within a few hundred yards. I went under Abingdon Bridge and looked across to the magnificent Church of St Helen. Our former rector, Rev Charles Masheder, is now a member of the ministry team there.
Next target was Culham Lock, where the friendly lock keeper took a photograph for me.
From there the path was wet and muddy and enthusiasm was waning. Clifton Hampden Bridge was a welcome sight and from there was the nicest part of the Thames Path. At Burcot-on-Thames grand houses had grounds down to the river, with their personal boat houses.
Off to the right the magnificent hills of Wittenham Clumps rose up, bringing memories of the times we spent there when the children were young. Day’s Lock was the point to leave the Thames and head off towards Dorchester-on-Thames. Reaching the Abbey was an absolute joy, a stunning place to end a long trek.
The total distance was about 28 miles. It took me almost 11 hours, which was not surprising as I had walked the last few hours like a crippled tortoise!