Not sure why but todays walk was very short, just over 10 k’s. Think Footpath must have thought we would join in the Regatta festivities- we did- briefly, but walking boots and trou just do not cut it amongst the chiffon dre sses/fancy hats and very high heels, with tiger coats on many of the men. Just in case the term tiger coat invokes an imagine of a proper English gent in some kind of tiger costume it is in fact a blazer, in the past made of quite loud stripes, nowadays the young ones have more tasteful ones. Well, almost tasteful, a plain colour, usually quite bright, bound with a contrast. All have monograms on the pocket showing what school/uni/county etc the wearer won the tiger coat for. I think Oxford? Cambridge?must have blue blazers as I have read about ‘getting a blue’. Some gents top them off with a tasselled cap. I am sure someone will correct me if I am wrong about this satorial code.
We encountered a boat load of men we had seen the day before at Reading, where they were loading up their large power boat with lots of booze, many packets of chips and little food. They were in fancy dress and went up and down the river area not closed off for racing, standing and yahooing on the roof of their boat. All in tuxedo tops, above mad shorts and one sporting a large black curly wig. We would have fitted in with them.
Huge numbers of people poured in each time a train from London arrived plus huge numbers of cars parked on the outskirts in organised parks. The idea is to have a picnic and drink champagne. The regatta has been going since 1839 so they have had lots of practice. It is not just a race between Cambridge and Oxford- that one I think was held in May , teams from all over the world come… Our taxi driver- we had to stay out of Henley as accommodation prices go thru the roof, told us that 70% of his passengers this week had not seen a race- purely there for the fun and to be seen. Of course the place to be seen is an enclosure across the river and the various hospitality tents.Everyone was happy and having fun.
Looking down the regatta course was enough to make you feel tired- it is 2.21 km long- not sure how that compares with Karapiro- probably the same, but here they have to row from the boat sheds near the finish up to the start and then race back. We saw a womans 8 getting ready to race.
All the time away from the course there are power boats in every shape and size thrashing madly about, from 2 seater electric motor jobs to very large drinking palaces.
We left after a couple of hours of people gawking and went to our accommodation in Bourne End, about 30 minutes away- we get ferried back in the morning to walk back to Bourne End- mad!Glad I saw it but hard to reconcile it with the sleepy henley where we stayed a few years ago!
Prior to Henley, the walk from Sonning was very pretty. We had been lamenting about the lack of anywhere to sit along the walk, at Shiplake Lock there were 9 big seats and two benches- there is really no more room for memorial seats- perhaps they could put them further up the Path?
We had one of those very expensive English icececreams at Shiplake, $12 for two cones, still it was at the Baskeville Pub/restaurant and it was Regatta week. They were yum. Our diets have been pretty good till now but went to hell in a handbasket today, dinner at the pub next to our B&B (prefer hotels) was ham, eggs and chips! T loved it. I suspect scurvy is imminent. There was a party on at the pub so we were lucky to get anything.
Marsh lock just before Henley was different, Thames is very wide here and has a long wooden causeway across it, cross it and you are virtually in Henley.
Only a couple of paddocks today and not a cow in sight.
Forgot to mention the large paddock of opium poppies just out of Wallingford, obviously grown as a crop, bet they have to guard them when they are getting ripe pods. Have also seen large paddocks of broad beans.
T said to mention the mole holes which are everywhere on the path, plus rabbit diggings and earlier on badger diggings- they were quite deep! You know the moles are there as they leave a small cleared patch on the surface, discarded mole homes are sunken below ground level. Still lots of nettles.
And always the sound of aircraft overhead. From day 2 we have rarely had an aircraft noise free 15 minutes. Getting closer to London and Heathrow, the giant jets shake the ground! Saw a hurricane fly over today, got T all excited. Seen lots of bi planes, loads of helicopters ,microlights, even a back powered hang glider or two.
And still the weather is fine!