- Getting there
OS Explorer 171 Grid reference: 593836.
Moulsford lies between Reading (12 miles south east) and Oxford (18 miles north), and is bisected by the A329. There are no public car parks in Moulsford. Cholsey station is about 2 miles from Moulsford. Trains to and from Reading and Oxford are regular and frequent. For Tilehurst station, continue along the A329 for a few hundred yards after the path has turned left over the railway footbridge to drop back down to the Thames.
- Route finding
A short detour at Goring takes the pilgrim from one side of the river to the other over Goring Bridge. The ascent into Whitchurch is off the riverside but clearly marked and on wooded tracks Arriving at the attractive Mapledurham Lock, the route is then diverted again away from the river and through a housing estate. The path is well signed, but be alert, particularly to catch the railway bridge by the side of a former hotel.
Overnight: The Beetle and Wedge at Moulsford has three rooms (01491 651381)
Lunch: Six miles from Moulsford you will find the National Trust Pangbourne Meadow, or visit one of the many pubs in Whitchurch and Pangbourne. Nearer the end of the journey, Mapledurham Lock has a small café serving snacks and ice creams.
There are public toilets at Cleeve Lock, Goring on Thames, Pangbourne River Meadow and Mapledurham Lock.
- The Route
The Thames Pilgrim Way runs through the village of Moulsford on a diversion away from the river. A busy road and narrow pavements make this early part of the journey quite hazardous, and it is with relief that the path drops back down to the river at the end of the village.
St Thomas of Canterbury, Goring, is home to the one of the oldest sets of bells, in use since 1290. Once through Goring and Streatley, on the approach to Lower Basildon, the path is again diverted, with a steep climb through attractive woodlands. Having dropped down into Whitchurch and crossed the bridge into Pangbourne Meadow, the route follows a peaceful path through fields, with views of Hardwick House and Mapledurham House.
It was near Pangbourne that Kenneth Grahame bought a house with the proceeds from Wind in the Willows, and it was along the river that E H Shepherd found his inspiration for his illustrations of the book.
DAY 6 STORYTELLING
‘But take care and watch yourselves closely, so as neither to forget the things that your eyes have seen nor to let them slip from your mind all the days of your life; make them known to your children and your children’s children.’ (Deuteronomy 4:9)
‘Then Jesus said: ‘There was a man who had two sons…’ (Luke 15:11)
It isn’t difficult, when walking along the Thames, to people the riverbanks with the characters from some of the stories that feature this river. A warm spring day, a rustling among the reeds growing out of the lower part of the banks, and we are reminded of Mole, Ratty and the famous Mr Toad who fill Wind in the Willows with their adventures. The first glimpse of a large house hidden among the trees and we could be 19th century aristocrats from Henry James’s Portrait of a Lady or characters from a murder mystery by Agatha Christie. The ‘Gyptians’ of Philip Pullman’s Dark Materials trilogy sail along this river, as did William Morris to research News from Nowhere.
The towns and villages that have grown up alongside this watery thoroughfare also have their own stories, whether providing a stronghold for Royalist troops in the Civil War, or serving as a backdrop for the creation of Christian Britain.
As Christians, we are part of a bigger story, one that also involves travelling, from the great wandering in the desert that fills the Old Testament to the shorter, more dramatic journeys of Christ.
Following the twists and turns of this great river, we would do well to remind ourselves of the great Bible stories that provide the bedrock of our faith. Joseph, whose brash character is refined by years of imprisonment before he can carry out God’s purpose and save his family; Moses, that reluctant, flawed hero, unwillingly given the task of leading his people on their great journey; and David, the shepherd boy made king all provide insights and wisdom not just for their times but for ours. And of course there is Christ, the greatest storyteller of them all, whose images of animals and plants, of lakes and meadows seem so appropriate to our journey right now.
As we make our pilgrimage we can remember and retell the stories that have captured our imaginations and helped our Christian formation. Helped by the rhythm of walking, unhindered by other obligations, we can use this time to reflect on the stories that make up our own lives. Together with those of hundreds of others they become the living story of Christ’s action in the world, vivid and real, dramatic and exciting, giving our smallest actions a meaning greater than we could imagine.
Think of your favourite story from the Bible. What is it that appeals to you? How does it relate to your own life? Retell it to yourself in as much detail as you can; imagine what it would be like to be part of that story, conscious that we are all part of God’s own, great story.
God of stories and parables, adventures and tales,
Fill our imagination and memories with your great deeds in the world.
Feed us with events of bravery and kindness, challenge and sorrow.
Help us to remember the deeds of those who have gone before us,
And to fit them, with those of your Son, into the recounting of our own lives
until we become part of the one true story.