Light and shade on the Thames Path

We’re getting there! 100 miles walked out of 184…

Yup, we were back on the river. It hadn’t been easy getting out – there were birthday parties and swimming lessons, grannies visiting and little ones with coughs and colds…but it’s always like that. With six children between us, the diary is always swamped. Trying to get out on the Thames seems like such a self-indulgent whim, but actually, we sometimes forget that there’s an entirely selfless motive at the root of it. We’re raising money for Mind a charity we really believe in. We have to keep walking, keep talking, keep blogging…keep pushing…

The walk so far…

…and there wasn’t a more apt stretch of river to make us think about mental health. While we marvelled at the scenic weeping willow-lined river banks of Pangbourne and Caversham, we puzzled and pondered the less favourable patch of central Reading. There’s a stretch near the Tesco Extra where you don’t want to find yourself alone at night. You see neglected boats. Piles of junk. Disarray.

Squatting on the Thames

On spotting a shabby tent tucked into bushes on the water’s edge, I remarked ‘Gosh, I wouldn’t like to camp there, I’d worry about the river rising and sweeping me away’, to which Vic responded, ‘I think if you’re living like that, you’ve probably got much bigger things to worry about.’

Not the tidy, affluent Thames we knew
An eccentric home on the river

How true, and it really made me think. You can dismiss people living like this as bums, or squatters, or druggies, but you don’t know the real people, you don’t know the circumstances. You don’t know what happened in their lives to result in existing like this. 

…and out of Reading

Nevertheless, we hurried through, terminating our walk at Thames Valley Park where the rowers were mobilizing. Today the river had revealed the true disparity of life which is evident throughout the world. Rich and poor. Light and shade. Idyllic and unsightly. Harmony and anarchy. Strong and flawed.

Notes about this challenge:

Writer Victoria Pickup and photographer Charlotte Broster are walking the Thames Path, all 184 miles, from it’s source in Kemble, near Cirencester to Woolwich, the steel barrier which protects London from the North Sea’s high tides and storm surges. They will pass through numerous towns including Oxford, Reading, Teddington and Richmond, documenting it with writing and photographs all the way. Vic and Charlotte are tackling the path in 20-mile chunks, simply to fit around family life. The walk is raising money for the mental health charity Mind.

To make a donation to Mind, however small, please visit

Other blog posts you can check out:

Still walking the Thames Path for Mind

Finding my feet on the Thames

The Thames Path: a photographic journey

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