Thursday 2nd January, 2014
It's always difficult timing walks at this time of year. I had a fairly long drive to Maidenhead, but didn't want to leave early and sit in rush hour traffic. On the other hand, without an early start, there aren't many walking hours before dusk. However, I think I got my timing right and had an easy drive to a multi-storey car park in Maidenhead town centre. I popped into a bakery to buy a pasty and ask for directions to the train station. Ticket bought, I was soon on the train to Windsor.
I've been to Windsor several times in the past and so didn't feel the need to spend time poking around. I took a few photos of the castle and headed for the bridge across to Eton. I did digress from the Thames Path to take a quick walk up to the top of Eton High Street and back and took a few photos of the school.
Formally known as Eton College this is the posh public school Princes William and Harry attended. Apart from the princes, it has also been responsible for the education of nineteen British Prime Ministers including current PM David Cameron. Oh, and Bear Grylls was a pupil here too. Does that mean he'll be Prime Minister one day? As it's the Christmas holidays, if there were any future prime ministers wandering around, I couldn't tell because they were not in the long-tailed jackets and pin-striped trousers that comprise the school uniform.
Back at the river, I turned right and continued along the path. Walking over a grassy meadow along the bank I passed under the railway bridge and over a footbridge on to a small island. The path skirts the edge of the island, alongside the main river before leading another over another footbridge back to the 'mainland'.
Continuing, I soon came to Athens. No, I hadn't taken a wrong turn, this Athens was an Eton College bathing place. Rules stated that boys who were 'undressed' when any boating ladies passed by must either get immediately into the water or else hide behind screens. These days there are no screens, but there is a nice bench to sit on.
Leading past Boveney Lock and Dorney Lake, the path passes under the M4 motorway. Before reaching the M4 I stopped to peer across the river at Oakley Court. The house was built in 1859 by an Englishman for his French Wife. The French connections continue with General de Gaulle who is known to have stayed there. In 1950 Hammer Films bought the house, possibly swayed by its Gothic style, and used it to film St Trinian's and The Rocky Horror Picture Show. The house looked very sedate and peaceful when I passed by. Maybe because it's been a luxury hotel for the past 40 years?
Once on the other side of the M4 more people start to appear as the path draws closer to Maidenhead. I passed under the railway bridge before reaching Maidenhead road bridge over which I crossed the river and headed back into town.