On a dry but cool 7 degrees centigrade Sunday in September, walkers from all over the country were assembling in Cookham, Berkshire to participate in The Thames Path Challenge to raise money for their respective charities. The objective was to walk along the towpath of Old Father Thames to Henley. A total distance of about 15 miles.
John Horn and I arrived at 07.15 but although we could make out the noise of a generator, the marquee to register was totally obliterated by the mist. We followed the noise and at last came across a large marquee packed with eager walkers ready for a challenge. Registration was easy and we were offered complimentary food and drinks for our ordeal ahead.
John and I met with the other volunteers, from the Livery company including The Master, Rebecca Nelson, Richard Brumby, and family and friends, and by 7.30 we were assembled and, led by The Master, Team Feltmakers was limbering up!
At 08.00 precisely, a hooter sounded and as we crossed the start line we could just see the river that was eerily still. The path was wet from the previous day’s downpour but everyone was in a jubilant mood. Although we were simply walking on the towpath running parallel to the river, the route was well signposted with arrows at regular intervals. However, after about a mile into the walk, a member of our group suddenly noticed that we felt very isolated, with a lack of directional arrows. Yes, in all the talk and excitement we’d failed to spot a sign pointing us to a footbridge alongside a railway line taking us over the river! Luckily, we had only missed the intended route by a few paces and we were soon back on track, eating up the miles.
As Bourne End came and went we approached the outskirts of Marlow. Coming up from the towpath onto the road the sun broke through the clouds and the magnificent splendour of Marlow Bridge stood before us.
Dropping back down to the towpath the famous rowing club of Marlow was observed with a statue of Sir Steve Redgrave in Court Gardens.
With the weather warming up Hurley and the half way point was a welcome sight. Again, there were refreshments, first aid facilities and the opportunity to chat with other walkers, some who were on course to complete the 100km walk. Noticing the agony and blisters that some of these participants were enduring; we were relieved that The Master had only chosen the 25km option!
It was at about this time that the six Team Feltmakers rowers and a cox, including Simon Wood, Jollyon Coombs and Gilly Yarrow, were about to set off from Cookham, with the prospect of rowing against the tide and negotiating four locks. We were hoping to have a Team Feltmakers photo but, alas, just after Hurley, the towpath deviated from the river and we were directed inland and along a footpath running through the Getty estate with its beautifully manicured cricket green. It is likely that it was at this point we missed the opportunity of a team photo with the rowers.
Rejoining the river path at Aston and passing by more locks, bridges and watering stations, the welcoming site of Henley could be seen ahead. The arrows took us over Henley Bridge along by the river to Mill Meadows. With the temperature now at a pleasant 21 degrees, eleven walkers crossed the finish line at about 13.30, given a heroes welcome, a glass of champagne, presented with our medal and offered a massage!
The most relaxed person was The Master’s nine month old grandson who completed the course without his feet even touching the ground! Very clever!
The participation of the rowers introduced a novel and fascinating element to the Charity event. The rowers completed the course in 4 hours, which included a relaxed and delicious champagne lunch served on the boat, a cutter kindly lent to us for the day by the Tallow Chandlers Company.
The Master had explained on the walk that his objective with forming Team Feltmakers for his Master’s fundraising event was to;
- Encourage liverymen, their family and friends to participate in the event either by walking/rowing, or supporting the walkers/rowers.
- Face a challenge which was worth achieving.
- Raise money for our two chosen charities.
- Have a day that was full of camaraderie and great fun.
The general feedback from all Team Feltmakers was that it was a most enjoyable day and a great experience.
The Master thanked everyone who had participated and informed us that the estimate from our endeavours was that over £9,000, including gift aid, had been raised for the RNLI and Feltmakers’ Charitable Foundation.