Day 9 of the #185milewaffle – Tilehurst to Wallingford accompanied by Ben.
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Day nine started with two welcome changes to the normal routine.
Firstly my good friend Tom Minter drove all the way from Wiltshire to join me on the stage – really very kind of him. As per my previous comments, having a companion is great both in terms of entertainment and taking one’s mind off distance, state of the feet, etc! We made a rendezvous at Benson, left one car there and then headed off to Checkpoint Charlie aka The Swan at Abingdon to take custody of Ben.
The Hamilton family very kindly turned out en masse to deliver Ben – a good hour from their home in Sunbury. Very much appreciated! They could not have been more charming in having total faith, supplying all the necessary gear and entrusting Ben before heading off.
Ben is a three year old Cocker who is absolutely full of it, investigating every inch of the trail and many more to each side, as well as going for frequent swims and paddles. All this accompanied by frequent checks on location and returns for a regular sequence of treats. While at one point we wondered if the latter were possibly being oversupplied, Tom and I figured that given the amount of calories he must be burning it could hardly do any harm.
The Thames Path from Abingdon does a long loop up through the town and then back down through a couple of miles of countryside before it rejoins the river. All pleasant enough and surprisingly unpopulated for a Saturday.
While grey, it didn’t actually rain on us as we strode along, picking up a couple of figs from a wayside display with an “honesty box” tin in which we deposited the requisite 50p. No bad thing as there turned out to be a shortage of appropriate pubs – one came too early in proceedings and the other turned out to be posh, to the point where only meals on plates inside were on offer. Not really appropriate for us and a muddy Ben!
Consequently it was 4 o’clock-and following four hours of walking-before we made it to Wallingford and gratefully sank onto seats at The Boathouse. We are extraordinarily fortunate that it was just at this point that the heavens opened and it poured down. A sandwich and a baked potato were accompanied by plenty of treats for Ben, and then it was on the road again for the final 2 miles. Once more fortunate, by then it was only spitting and we were largely covered by trees overhanging the path.
Having made it to Benson we all clambered into my car and headed back to Pangbourne to pick up Tom’s (thanks to The Swan for allowing it in their car park throughout the day as part of the cause), and then to Sunbury to return the splendid Ben.
To date, Ben does take the award for the most energetic companion! He must have done about 40 miles – at least three times our distance – and was still straining at the leash on the last run in to the car….
Thwarted by a crowd at Twickenham, but eventually home at 7:30 for a bath and dinner.
One more day of phase 2 to go.
Upwards and onwards
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