Stage 2 Newbridge to Wolvercote

Pilgrim Path Map Stage 2
Getting there

OS Explorer 180 Start grid reference: 405014.

Newbridge lies on the A415 between Abingdon and Witney, 11.5 miles south west of Oxford. It is difficult to reach by public transport and the nearest train station is Oxford (11 miles)

Route Finding

There is a diversion away from the river at Bablock Hythe, along a path and then across two meadows until you reach the river at Pinkhill Weir. Navigation is not easy here, and you need to be alert to spot the Thames Path signs.

Facilities

Overnight: The Rose Revived (01865 300221) offers food and overnight accommodation.

Lunch: After 7 miles, lunch can be obtained at the Talbot Inn, just off the river at Eynsham (01865 881348), reached by crossing Swinford Bridge. There are many picnicking opportunities, as the path is mostly through fields and meadows. Towards the end of the day, the Trout Inn (01865 510930) is a popular eating place, with plentiful seating along the riverside.

There are toilets at Northmoor, Pinkhill and Eynsham Locks, and in Wolvercote village.

The Route

This part of the walk remains relatively isolated, and there are few signs of habitation except for the caravan site at Bablock Hythe and the lock-keepers’ cottages. Beyond Swinford Bridge and Eynsham Lock you can see the edge of Wytham Woods, a 600-acre wildlife sanctuary belonging to the University of Oxford. This site is not just an area supporting much research but is also the location of a number of murder mysteries! Just before the end of the walk, as the road into Wolvercote crosses over the river, you reach the ruins of Godstow Abbey, founded in 1139. It was here that Rosamund de Clifford was educated. Later the mistress of Henry II, it was back here that her body was brought for burial after her mysterious death.

Reflection

DAY 2 WILDERNESS AND SOLITUDE

‘And after the earthquake a fire; but the Lord was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice.’ (1 Kings 19:12)

‘After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray.’ (Matthew 14:23)

This second day of the Thames Pilgrim Way takes us through some isolated countryside. The river runs deep and fast here, and on either side, the fields stretch out broad and flat until they meet the rising slope of hillsides in the distance. There are few stopping places and limited facilities. If you are walking alone, this leg may seem particularly bleak, and as such offers an opportunity to reflect on the place that solitude has in our lives.

Modern life can allow very few chances to be alone, and a pilgrimage offers a unique opportunity to experience this gift. Surrounded as we are not only by so many people, but so much information, often practically enslaved by modern technology, who we are and how we truly feel can easily be swallowed up in the vast mass of humanity on our planet.

Our sense of self, the uniqueness that is our identity, can become eroded by constant exposure to the thoughts, demands and expectations of others. A pilgrimage made alone or in company can help us explore our inner landscape, giving us the time to reflect deeply on our own nature and personality in the context of being one of God’s children.

However, solitude may not always seem to be a good thing, and extreme solitude – that feeling of abandonment by friends, loved ones or even God – can be frightening. When times are hard, it can seem that however hard we pray for help or guidance, God is either not listening or is simply absent. Faith can disappear and we are left alone in our darkness.

This is not an uncommon experience; indeed many of our best spiritual writers have experienced such times of darkness. These words were written by a Jewish prisoner during World War II:

“I believe in the sun, even when it is not shining.
I believe in love, even when I don’t feel it.
I believe in God, even when there is silence.”

There are no easy solutions to this situation, no glib answers. Often we must simply journey on, looking for the light of Christ that is always present, waiting for the road ahead to become clearer and the path easier to walk, praying faithfully if we can, asking others to pray for us if we are beyond prayer, and leaning on memories of God’s great promise that he will never forsake us, until once more we emerge into the light.

Activity

If you are walking with someone, agree to spend part of this day in silence; if you are walking alone, commit yourself not to answer the phone or listen to music for at least an hour. Reflect on who you are and how you could become more truly yourself. What do you need to do to help you live your life with more integrity, rather than trying to fit in with the expectations of others? Take time to listen to God in the silence.

Prayer

God of still waters and green pastures, still our over-active minds, quieten our restless thoughts, help us to understand more about ourselves and lead us into a deeper relationship with you.

Have you any comments about this stage?

Any hints or suggestions for other pilgrims welcome.

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