Fifteen Polyramblers met at Paddington to join the 0942 GWR train to Twyford. This train gathered up 5 more members at Ealing and one more at West Drayton. At Twyford the 21 of us crossed the footbridge where we joined the little train to Shiplake. From the unstaffed halt at Shiplake (actually at Lower Shiplake), I phoned our numbers through to the lunch pub. Then we proceeded straight off the platform down a few steps onto a gravel path, then south down a lane and a path onto the Thames Path. Soon we were passing the rugby field pitches of Shiplake School, with rugby players in action, situated by the riverside. Now, it was the weekend after our Street YHA trip last March, when I first attempted a walkover for this ramble. It was at this point I had to abandon this walkover as I had not come prepared with waist high waders. The onward ramble was under about a foot of river water, as were all the rugby pitches which were turned into a lake! Hence the substitute Henley ramble in April.
Back to November, no such flooding, so we continued by the river onto Sonning. As we were early, I decided to give the party nearly half hour to look around. We all met up again outside the mill near the narrow bridge and set off, beside a stream of constant traffic and then by a lane, where I exercised some traffic control to let the party cross the road! Then by a northward path where we reached The Flowing Spring PH, our lunch venue. As I was directing the party to go up the steps into the pub, or to go into the field over the road if they had their own food, suddenly Gillian and Stuart appeared in the distance, so I welcomed them. They had made their own way to the ramble but got delayed by a bus cancellation.
We enjoyed this free house pub. This was the only part of the ramble where all 23 attendees were met. Although the food took a while to arrive for some of us, it was in a pleasant sunny spot. Danny discovered that a bus stop with 2 routes existed about half mile down the road from the pub. As there had been some enquiries from members not wishing to do the whole nine or so miles, this was a useful solution, as I didn’t see a bus stop at the pub on my walkover. We set off from lunch, saying goodbye to 4 members who bailed out to the bus stop. Those walking with me carried on a little way down the lane to a gap in a hedge at a path going up a bank into a higher field. I assisted pulling members up the bank. The afternoon walk proceeded via Dunsden Green, Binfield Green, and fields and wood to Shiplake village. From here we retraced our morning steps beside the Thames and back to Shiplake station. The sun was soon to set across the meadows, so I paced up the ramble.
When we reached the station I announced “train in 2 mins” to rest of party who were strung out down the lane. We eventually boarded this 1627 train, stragglers and all, (even though I had to hold the doors open from the inside, before they could be locked, no conductor to be seen on train!) On the next train to Paddington I was haunted by an announcement at every station arrival about not obstructing doors when the train departs! However, I did secure an arrival in London by 1730 for us. Overall I had good feedback about the walk from the party, despite the rush for the train back! Shall I do it again, in the Summer ??