n our sunny Saturday walk, we are never too far from the banks of the River Thames, its boating activity, and the affluence that accompanies the river hereabouts. We make our escape from Maidenhead and head north along the river, from the historic Maidenhead Bridge to the edge of the Cliveden Estate. Green trees basking in the summer sun, busy boating and affluent Edwardian houses and gardens accompany us on the way. Cookham of Stanley Spencer fame is next on our route, and Cookham's venerable church adds that interesting ingredient of English history to our walk. It's back to the banks of the bustling Thames again, and it's "The Bounty" opposite Bourne End, to which we head for our lunch time stop.
On Cookhamdean Common, we pound up to the highest point (109 m / 358m ft) of our walk, and will shortly reward ourselves with a distant view of the Surrey Hills. Maybe, our walk should be called a three county walk, for we start in Berkshire, finish in Buckinghamshire and on the way, have occasion to peer into Surrey.
We then gain the high ground, scaling Winter Hill, with its "Toad of Toad Hall" connections and fine views to the north over Marlow. The complex of ups and downs through Cookham Rise and Cookham Dean are next on our agenda. From the top of nearby Cookhamdean Common, we admire the southerly view to the Surrey Hills, before we enter Quarry Wood of "Wild Wood" fame in "Toad of Toad Hall". A descent through the woods brings us to William Tierney Clark's famous suspension bridge, the southern gateway to bustling Marlow. For some, there is time for some refreshing beverages and a chat about what has been a successful sunny summer Saturday. Then it's time to leave for home on the "Marlow Donkey".
And now for a bit of playful verse to introduce the story of our walking day. You can probably wax more poetical than I. However, I think it's nice to summarise our experiences before continuing our narrative, provided you can make allowances for my own poetical endeavours, however modest they undoubtedly are.
At Maidenhead's station we all do meet,
and after the town, it's the Thames we greet.
For it's to Marlow from Maidenhead
that today our eager feet shall tread.
Along the river's green and sunny banks
past Cliveden's scene of erstwhile pranks.
Then we make a sharp west turn,
and about Cookham's history we do learn.
Sir Stanley Spencer's Gallery "downtown" we find,
and see what went through his artistic mind.
Nearby, the church from the Norman and the Middle ages
filled with monuments to dignitaries and local sages.
And so riverside it's to the popular "Bounty",
filled with day-trippers from every local county.
And when we've had our lunchtime fill,
we can make our climb to Winter Hill.
Into the far distance we now can gaze,
and indeed our very eyes we can amaze.
Then more ups and downs in the afternoon sun,
until to Cookham Dean's war memorial we do come.
Just before, in Dial Close, Kenneth Grahame did dwell
and wrote "Wind in the Willows", which we know so well.
And now to Cookham Dean Common our path does lead,
from whose top, distant Surrey hills our eyes do feed.
Our steps then take us down off the wooded ridge,
to enter Marlow via its famous suspension bridge.
For some it's still time for beer or tea
to end a day with whose success we all agree.
In the evening, the Marlow Donkey we take,
so that we can our homeward journeys make.
Nick, thank you for your pleasant walk.
For some while yet, it'll be our talk.
So here's what you will see on this page. If you joined us on our walk, I hope this page will bring back some memories of this pleasant CLOG Saturday. If you were not fortunate enough to join us, then I hope you will at least get some flavour of what this neck of the Thames has to offer. I wish you happy perusing!
n our arrival at Maidenhead Station, we are greeted by a seated bronze statue of Sir Nicholas Winton, a one-time resident of Maidenhead who, in WWII, became Britain's "Schindler". After our own ritual introductions outside the station, we effect a reasonably quick escape from Maidenhead's busy streets via its eastern reaches. On the way we see the clock tower, Maidenhead's contribution to Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee in 1897, although completed two years' later. Some interesting alms houses, dating back to 1659 also attract our attention as we head along a small part of the original Great West (London to Bath) Road to reach the bank of the River Thames.
Sir Nicholas greets Maidenhead's commuters as they return every evening,
and reminds them of heroic deeds in WWII.
Maidenhead's town council decided to celebrate Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee of 1897
by putting up this ornate clock tower, finished a mere two years later.
Some almshouses on the old Great West Road to Bath remind us of Maidenhead's Tudor heritage.
rom Maidenhead Bridge we strike northwards along the Thames as far as Cliveden. Cliveden itself is in hiding behind abundant verdant summer foliage - hiding as if in consideration of a very prominent and well documented post-war political scandal already quite a few years in the past. Time flies! On the way we see much boating activity, as befits a warm and sunny summer weekend.
We join the Thames by the Maidenhead Bridge, which today is still an important transport link, although, at one time, it was even more important when it carried the Road to Bath across the river.
Rowing and boating, that's what to do on the Thames when the Summer sun shines brightly.
Maidenhead Bridge looks on behind yours truly, the photographer.
What would a saunter along the Thames be, without a poem or two?
However, if you look carefully, should not the text be arranged as four verses, not three?
We head north and find the Thames, as it basks in the sunshine, a most refreshing sight.
It's time to stop for a natter and a quick swig of refreshing H2
Well to do Victorians and Edwardians, understandably, seemed to like this stretch of the river bank as their erstwhile houses, surrounded today by their "English Country Gardens", testify.
Onwards we go, occasionally looking back over our shoulders so as not to miss any river view.
This is one of a number of houses and cottages nestling on the river bank beneath the wooded hill of the Cliveden Estate. To the right of the picture is an ornate set of stone steps - well hidden in the summer shade - leading up to Cliveden House. Now which one of these riverside houses and cottages belonged to Dr Stephen Ward?
e turn away from the Thames to reach historic Cookham, one of whose famous sons was the artist, Sir Stanley Spencer. His Gallery is in the main street and his memorial is in the church yard. Cookham church itself dates back to at least Norman times, and is filled, as many venerable village churches are, with interesting monuments to past residents of the village, as well as the - probably obligatory but nicely executed - Royal Coat of Arms. From the church it's a mere stone's throw before we regain the bank of the Thames.
Cookham has a nice traditional main street, with an excellent sprinkling of historical houses from a number of past centuries. Sir Stanley Spencer's Gallery is to the left, just out of the picture.
Cookkam's church dates back to at least Norman times.
Yew trees, if kept in nice shape, give an air of calm to a church and its surroundings.
Inside the church, it's a bit dark, in pleasant contrast to the Summer sun outside. It is still possible to admire the monuments, pictures and artefacts accumulated over many centuries, including a copy of Sir Spencer's painting of the Last Supper.
In every C. of E. church, it seems that a Royal of Arms was required - whether by rule or by wish, I do not know. A further gap in my knowledge is the date of this particular Coat of Arms - however, as you can see, here the English Standard is more complicated than today's version.
Tudor and Stuart monuments are often fascinating works of the stone mason's art. In the typical fashion of the time, the parents are accompanied by their children - two sons and three daughters.
What a lovely hatchment! "Nous persevons" - we persevere. The left hand side of the crest points to the Venable family, whose ancestors came from France and many of whom eventually settled in the States. More than that I don't know. Sorry!
Actually, these hatchments are usually colourful works of art,
often hidden in the dark upper regions of a church.
Behind the church, we quickly regain the sunny bank of the Thames.
efore lunch, we enjoy some more of the sunny Thames. Cattle bathe in the river water - and add a touch of a bygone age to the scene. Affluent houses appear on the northern shore and the railway bridge outside Bourne End adds the delicate but robust tracery of the industrial revolution to the scene, in stark contrast to the rural idyll engendered by those bathing cattle. Our lunch time stop is the "The Bounty" pub" (food hygiene 4/5), a watering hole and eatery catering for day trippers and not as upmarket as those establishments on the opposite northern shore.
The Thames upriver, just past Cookham ... so that cattle may safely enjoy the water! Looks exceedingly traditional, pastoral and rustic! What more could one possibly say?
More Victorian and Edwardian affluence "waves to us" from the north bank of the Thames.
What a splendid piece of Victorian iron work! 'Tis the crossing for the railway between Maidenhead and Marlow. We shall be travelling over it on our return this evening. This was once an important link to High Wycombe and onwards to Aylesbury. Beeching chopped out the bit between Bourne End and High Wycombe - but then, he was very much into railway fragmentation.
This is outside the popular - and today very well frequented by day trippers - "Bounty" pub.
The last picture looks east - this one looks west.
West is the way we are going when we leave "The Bounty".
This copy of a Victorian map shows Maidenhead, Marlow, High Wycombe, and the damage done by Beeching. It also covers our walking route - interestingly related to a bygone era.
fter lunch we rise to higher things. First we visit Winter Hill, from whence we enjoy fine views to the north over Marlow and beyond. Then we go through Dial Close, passing Kenneth Grahame's erstwhile house and now a school. Cookham Dean, with its distinctive war memorial is next on our agenda. Then we cross Cookhamdean Common. and just before we enter the woods at the top of the hill, we turn to take in distant views of the Surrey Hills. It's amazing what you can see from here! We descend on the northern side through Quarry Wood, which featured in "Toad of Toad Hall" as the "Wild Wood" where Badger lived.
Here we are looking back as we ascend Winter Hill.
This is the nothward facing view from Winter Hill ...
... and here are some of us having a rest on the said Winter Hill. Today we have good weather, but Winter Hill, being north facing, can get very wintry indeed in - would you believe - the winter.
Here is Cookham Dean's splendidly placed war memorial.
We climb up Cookhamdean Common ...
... onwards and ever upwards ...
... until at the top, we reach the highest point of our walk at 109 m / 358 feet.
The Surrey Hills are stretched out to the south of us.
rom the foot of the sloping Quarry Wood, we soon reach bustling Marlow. The famous suspension bridge makes a grand southern gateway to the town. Some of us visit a tea shop or one of the nice pubs, before taking the "Marlow Donkey" back to Maidenhead on the Great Western main line to Paddington. It's been a great day with good - albeit quite warm - weather to match.
Here is Marlow's famous suspension bridge. It was built in 1832 by one William Tierney Clark. The only other bridge of his that's left, is the one linking the two halves of Budapest - Marlow's bridge was the prototype for its much larger Danube relation.
To the right is the white-painted "Compleat Angler" Inn - pricey.
Spiritual aspects are also the domain of Marlow's parish church - entrance usually free of charge.
Twinning and Bridging - there's a lot of that in the E.U., and Marlow plays its part.
Here's the bridge again, seen from the south ...
... and here it is yet again, seen from the north. Single file traffic rules OK. Not quite so good if you really want to drive out of Marlow in a hurry.
And finally, here's the Marlow Donkey, coming in to spirit us back to Maidenhead.
Of course, we can relive something of our walk by looking out of the train windows.
It's been a good day!
Our walk of about 12 miles or 18 Km largely followed the curve of the River Thames from Maidenhead to Marlow,
with the main climb reserved for the afternoon. Our total ascent was, to be reasonably precise, 531 feet or 162 m. Average rising and falling gradients weighed in at 2.5% over about 4 miles and 3.1% over 3¼ miles - not too strenuous.
Now prepare ye for some plots and graphs. Not too overwhelming, but hopefully quite interesting! You will see here:
Outline Map of Our Anti-Clockwise Circular - or should it be "Triangular" - Walk
Our walk has wriggled about a bit, hugging the northern reaches of Berkshire and finally, getting into Buckinghamshire.
Here are few numbers. The minus signs for the longitude angles indicate "degrees west of Greenwich".
The map grid scales translate to 1.1119 Km per 0.01° latitude and a mean of 0.6914 Km per 0.01° longitude,
all when using 6371.0 Km as the volumetric mean radius of the earth - as per the WGS84 standard! It was 0.6972 Km per 0.01° longitude on our Godalming walk, but then in Godalming we were just that bit further south!
Because we don't live on a flat earth - unless you are a convinced "flat earther" - maps are inevitably a distortion of what is. In other words, it's all a matter of mapping a curvaceous surface onto a flat surface. We don't want to carry curvaceous representations of the terrain on our walks, do we? In our case, the northern length of our map grid is stretched out by an extra 0.18 %, to make it the same on the page as the length of the southern part of our map grid. Not that much for hiking purposes really! Can't complain.
This height profile emphasises that our main climb was in the afternoon. In fact, we visited at least three reasonably distinct "high points", of which, Winter Hill, (at about 96 m) gave us a nice northerly view, and the highest point (at about 109 m) at the top of Cookhamdean Common, allowed us to see the distant Surrey Hills. In the morning we "bobbed along" at about 28 m on the banks of the River Thames. Remember, we were some way up from "Tide End Town", or Teddington as it is now known today.
"Walk facts and figures"
Here are some "vital statistics" in metric and imperial units. Start and end elevations are almost the same. Of course, the total ascent (here 162 m) usually exceeds the difference between maximum and minimum elevations (here (109 - 25) m or 84 m); I'd suspect things, if the reverse transpired!
The total distance, as always measured on a conceptual "flat" plane at mean sea level, is 11.43 miles or 18.39 Km.
Rising and Falling Gradients
And here, for the numerical fun of it, are the average gradients we overcame on our walk. The rising and falling (negative) gradients are both averaged over the distance given, with level stretches having rises and falls of less than ± ½ metre. By comparison, Hertfordshire County Council recommends that its roads should not have longitudinal gradients of more than 5% and one of the steepest adhesion railways in the world, in Austria, has a maximum gradient of 11.6%. By way of further interest, the clockwise route of the Fairfield Horseshoe in the Lake District has a total distance of 15.62 Km (9.71 miles), with the following calculations: an average rising gradient of 14.66% over 6.589 Km, a level part over 0.345 Km, and an average falling gradient of 11.11% over 8.676 Km. This is seen by many as really quite challenging - but then, when you compare it with our Saturday Thames-side walk, it can be said that on our Thames walk we had a more leisurely and less demanding aim compared with Lakeland challenges!
This graph shows how the gradients vary with the distance into our walk. On this graph, I have really superimposed two plots.
- One is a repeat of the height (elevation) plot above, but now in pink. The vertical scale does not refer directly to this Gradient Profile graph, except to say that its scale is proportional in magnitude to that required for the height plot, and its vertical zero is correctly positioned.
- The main (blue) plot represents the gradient (rising - positive, falling - negative) at each measured point of our walk. As some of you know, differentials are notorious for introducing noise. I have done some mild smoothing by looking at the gradient over the two neighbouring points either side of each central reference point on the horizontal distance (x) axis.
As might be expected, the gradients are greater in the hillier area of our walk. Rising gradients reach a maximum of over 11% and the maximum falling gradient reaches over 16%. Interesting if you like that sort of thing - I mean, not in theory but out on your walk!.
Thank you Nick for organising and leading this walk, without undue hesitation or deviation. Thank you all for your good company. It certainly has been a nice and successful day out - lots of nice countryside and good exercise AND excellent weather for doing a walk on the banks of the River Thames. A rewarding way to spend a Summer Saturday!