Leo had warned me it was a hard stretch, and I was not to be disappointed during this last Thames Path recce!

The original plan was to recce from Oxford to the source, but I decided to run to Rushey Lock and back to reduce a bit the distance and to leave me something to discover during the actual attempt.

All water companies have now lifted the hosepipe ban. And the reasons were obvious: the Thames at Oxford was fast, high, and dark. Too fast for most boats, which stayed moored all day, leaving the lock(wo)men idle. Too high for Thames Path, frequently flooded. And a bit too brown to my liking, but I drank from it anyway.

A number of meadows were partly flooded, sometimes with water up to mid-calf, which I tried to avoid a first before giving up. Looking at the current floods in the UK, it could have been much worse, though.

If the section up to Newbridge is still manageable, the path then becomes even wilder. First, a section with relatively dense shoulder-high abrasive vegetation to tenderise the meat from the ankles to the thighs. Then, fields of stinging nettles taking advantage of the soreness. Typically on the side of a narrow, muddy, crossfall path to make sure that gravity will make you slip into them. Just like with water, I tried to avoid them for the first 100 meters, then gave up. To ensure my skin was kept nicely abrased, thistles and brambles also featured in between nettles. I might consider wearing leggings for this final section. I can still feel them 48 hours later...

To celebrate my run in the middle of the British countryside, HM The Queen was kind enough to send me the Red Arrows, although they only passed by in V formation, and did not leave a trail of smoke on seeing me...

After turning back at Rushey Lock, I filtered 2L of turbid, brown water. A lot of particles in suspension could clog the filter. This is not a major problem, but it means I might have to clean it more often on the long run. It also means that the riparian meadows hosting grazing cattle and sheep have been washed straight into the Thames, increasing the concentration of parasites in the water... So it was by far the dirtiest water I drank with the MSR filter!

The path is not very obvious for some sections, cutting across meadows, and very few people were to be seen. Nevertheless, the afternoon was not as quiet as expected, as 5 large military airliners (including a Hercules and a Globemaster) circled at low altitude for more than an hour. Occasionally deploying and retracting landing gear for fun.

It is a very nice part of the countryside, though. Newbridge, actually the oldest one on the Thames (built 1250), is also the best looking Thames bridge I've seen to far. I also found Pinkhill Lock particularly cute (and visibly so did the grass snakes).

Calf next to the river Thames
I didn't pull this calf :)

Overall, it was a tough 67km run. I had planned a bit over 7 hours, but it took me 8:20. Much longer than anticipated, but I spent quite a bit of time and energy figure skating on mud rather than running. Whilst this time I still managed to mostly run, I am not sure how I would feel about that after 200km... At least I know what is waiting for me. Hopefully the path will be in better condition by then, but hopes are thin, as the coming week appears to be no different than the previous months. But at least my calves were fine, which is the most important.

Ultra last recce