The pannier or bike bag is a great invention! Who wants to be weighed down with a heavy bag on their back while they are cycling? The purchase of a pair of shiny panniers is going to allow my boyfriend and I to enjoy a new sense of freedom. No more jumpers knotted around our waists or having to lug awkward equipment about. Finally, we have our very own portable storage units.
The plan is to by-pass the Queen and her magnificent castle and follow the flow of the glorious River Thames. Our day started well, awaking to a crisp clear morning and successfully squeezing the bicycles on to a train to Windsor. Hidden in the pannier is a book titled ‘A walking guide of the River Thames’. It was impossible to find any other guide so we about to be following a walking track!
With the sun blazing, the river path quickly takes us away from Windsor and through parched fields of grass. Carefree folk stroll along the river’s edge and pleasure boats slowly propel through the water. We find ourselves pedalling under bridges of all shapes and sizes, over enchanting canal locks and also past the very graceful St Mary Magdalene’s Church which sits all alone on the river bank.
Like candy in a shop window the visual treats kept coming. Our eyes are drawn to the stately riverside homes and boat houses that come into view as we get closer to Maidenhead. Like grand palaces they ooze charm. They pose like precious jewels reflecting their elegance in the ripples of the river.
Standing under the Maidenhead rail bridge we shout and holler with excitement, listening for our echos as they rapidly bounce off the brick walls in response. A plaque states that the bridge dates from 1838 and is designed by the famous Brunel. The brick arches are supposed to be the flattest and widest in the world and to think trains continue to roar across this bridge at speeds of up to 125mph!
At times, the path expresses it is made only for walking shoes not rubber wheels. It becomes a tight squeeze in an around properties as we try to stay upright on our bikes. The thrill of near collisions has us believing that we are car drivers able to weave ourselves in and out of trouble.
Pedalling through the very picturesque towns of Borne End and Marlow and we suddenly come across an ice cream van which is placed perfectly across path. The waddling ducks amuse us as we lick our sticky sweet ice-creams and chat to locals who are also enjoying their day.
Upon leaving Marlow we spot Bisham Church across the river, a huge chunky Norman structure which dates from around 1175. We pause to admire the Temple Weir where the water tumbles and crashes constantly around us and where the view leaves us mesmerised.
The heat of the day begins to whisper in our ears to stop and rest. We find a little curve in the river where the Weeping Willows sag and dip as they pretend to drink from the water. The pannier has transformed itself into a picnic basket and share with us a feast of food that I packed earlier. Yum!
My boyfriend slowly places his toe into the clear water and it looks inviting… It isn’t long before we are both in the shallows of the Thames splashing about having fun. The sun slowly dries our bodies. We close our eyes and happily lie on the river bank as time passes us by.
We are again energised and raring to get back on our bike seats. While pedalling I welcome the sensation of a light breeze. It hits my skin and it runs its fingers through my hair while I continue to admire the lush greens of the countryside, the fluttering of the butterflies and the wide open meadows that expose themselves at every river bend.
We soon pass the quaint village of Hurley and go through the hamlet of Frogmill. Beyond Frogmill the path is less developed and very peaceful. We pedal over a couple of small footbridges which bring us to the imposing Culham Court, dating from 1771. The views of the rolling hills set against the river make you feel envious of the huge house that appears to have it all.
Somehow we take a wrong turn and abruptly encounter dead-end tracks and endless fields of wheat? We are lost and the guide-book is finally pulled out of the pannier and used. Surprisingly, after many twists and turns the river path appears before us like magic!
The Thames then majestically guides us past Temple island and finally into Henley-on-Thames, a town overlooked by the beautiful Chiltern landscape of wooded hills and green fields. It is best known for the annual Royal Regatta and attracts some of the world’s finest rowers.
Inside a tea shop with tea cups in hand, we relax our legs and chat happily before catching a train back to London. It was the perfect day for cycling and with the help of our fabulous panniers I already have another trip in mind!