Thames Path Pilgrimage – the journey continues

By Steve Jenkins

Express trains passing through are an unusual response during morning prayer but it worked for Bishop John and two dozen fellow walkers on stage 7 of the Thames pilgrimage; journeying was the obvious subject of prayers. Thursday 25 September saw the pilgrims start out after worship on the overbridge at Tilehurst station and head for the busyness of Reading, followed by the still small voices of calm at Sonning and Shiplake. Trains were left behind as the Thames and its path veered a little north between the fields and open country again. Here, the pilgrims enjoyed the sight of herons feeding, their nests in the trees, the occasional black shag flying by and even the flash of a kingfisher.

The pilgrimage entered Reading in the late summer sunshine beside the Rivermead site of the Reading Festival, now silent, and with the riverfront houses of Caversham across the water. The tower of St Peter’s, Caversham, appeared through the trees of Caversham Court; long ago, the rector’s garden. To the south, in the middle of town, lay the ruins of Reading Abbey, founded by Henry I, who was buried by the high altar but the pilgrim path beckoned onwards.

Passing under Caversham Bridge, the path passed between the residential riverfront of Reading and the town’s very own Christchurch Meadows on the other bank. Beyond Reading Bridge was a short break at Caversham Lock before crossing the River Kennet on the Horseshoe Bridge and heading on, between the wide open spaces of the Pinsent Redgrave rowing lake and the silicon valley blocks of Thames Valley Business Park, towards Sonning – and lunch. After a well-earned picnic, Bishop John and the pilgrims crossed Sonning Bridge to walk the other side of the river, in open countryside once more, to Shiplake, dominated by St Peter and St Paul’s Church, where Alfred Lord Tennyson was married.

The walkers enjoyed an opportunity of an exhibition of Janet Duncan’s watercolours in the church, as well as tea and discussion in the Ark and the church. After a short service, Bishop John closed the day with a blessing.

For more on the Thames Pilgrim Way see the dedicated website.

A heron takes off as the pilgrims pass through King's Meadow, Reading.

A heron takes off as the pilgrims pass through King’s Meadow, Reading.

The pilgrims take a break at Caversham Lock.

The pilgrims take a break at Caversham Lock.

 

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