- Getting there
OS Explorer 170. Grid reference: 538018.
Radley lies north east of Abingdon and can be approached by car from Kennington off the A423 south of Oxford. There is a train station at Radley, about 0.8 miles from the Thames, with trains running approximately once an hour. Public car parks can be found near the river at Hales Meadow Abingdon, Culham Lock and Clifton Hampden Bridge.
Overnight: Although the Bowyer Arms (01235 523452) near the station, offers food and drink, the best place for accommodation is Abingdon or Oxford if travelling by public transport.
Lunch: The Barley Mow (01865 407847) is near the river at Clifton Hampden, and in the summer Hales Meadow just south of Abingdon bridge has ice cream vans. Dorchester has a range of hotels and pubs.
There are public toilets at Abingdon, and Culham Locks
- The route
From the boathouse of Radley College, it is a short walk to Abingdon, one of the oldest continuously occupied towns in England. The path runs under Burford Bridge, built by the monks of Abingdon Abbey in 1416, and offers glimpses of the 13th century St Helen’s Church and the 15th century Almshouses.
Through Culham Cut and the attractive Lock, the village of Sutton Courtenay over the river is the birthplace of Matilda, only legitimate child of Henry I and contender to the throne against her cousin Stephen. The Abbey, built as a grange for Abingdon Abbey, is run today as a Christian conference and retreat centre. The 14th century All Saints, Sutton Courtenay, boasts the graves of George Orwell, writer, and Herbert Henry Asquith, former Prime Minister.
Winding through the Clifton Cut, the approach to Clifton Hampden is one of the most beautiful on the Thames. The church spire, surrounded by trees, can be seen beyond the bridge, which, together with additions to the church, was built by George Gilbert Scott.
DAY 4 – A NEW COMMANDMENT
‘For this thing is too much for you; you are not able to perform it by yourself.’ (Exodus 18:18)
‘You are the Body of Christ and each one of you is part of it.’ (1 Corinthians 12:27)
Strung out along the banks of the Thames, like so many beads linked by the flow of the water from the source to the sea, lie numerous settlements. Many of these date back over a thousand years; some have evidence of pre-historic habitation. Even in those early days, the challenges as well as the benefits of living together must have made themselves known, and we can find evidence of communities growing, failing and growing again throughout history.
According to recent research, the ability to thrive in the company of other people is one of the indicators of happiness and moreover, likely to lead to a long life. Certainly difficult relationships with individuals and communities add a strain to one’s existence and colour one’s perception of life.
Jesus recognised the importance of community. Although he had no settled home during his time of ministry, he gathered together a group of people for mutual support, people to whom he would eventually give the responsibility for sharing his message throughout the world. They were chosen not for their similarity to each other – tax collectors and fisherman probably did not share the same social circle – but perhaps for the very reason that each could bring different viewpoints to the group, sharing their gifts for the benefit of the whole.
Today’s world comprises many fractured societies. Politicians decry the breaking up of family units, local planning authorities point to the increasing demand for single person’s accommodation, neighbours often do not recognise each other, let alone exchange conversation.
As Christians we must acknowledge and reinforce the importance of community, for it is where “two or three are gathered” that Christ is made known. And it is in the community of the Church that our work should begin. We must join in with the endless self-sacrificing, constantly giving love that enables a church to accept all people under its wings, forgiving again and again the hurts that occur, and recognising the importance of the small gestures of recognition and thankfulness make communal living harmonious.
Mother Teresa, who gave her life to working with the poor in India, summed up life lived with other people: “We can do no great things, only small things with great love.” We must not be afraid to risk rejection by reaching out to those we encounter. The merest recognition of fellow human being, a brief enquiry as to their wellbeing, perhaps simply remembering their name, will make us part of Christ’s body here on earth.
As you walk along the Thames Pilgrim Way, consider the community of fellow pilgrims, as well as those who live along the route. Remember to close gates after you have been through them and respect the area by making sure you “take only photographs and leave only footprints”.
Your son was born into a human family,
And enjoyed the company of friends.
Help us to build solid relationships with our family, friends and neighbours,
Supporting and encouraging those with whom we share our lives,
So that our communities are built up by our contribution to them.