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Riverside Project Blog - Scroll down, there's lots to see

Riverside Project gets "Certificate of Achievement" from NIACE

What is The Riverside Project?

The U3A Thames Valley Network Riverside Project is an ambitious project that is focused on the River Thames and its environs from the source to Windsor. It is a Network Collaborative Project culminating in a Study School in Wellington College in October 2011.
Throughout 2010 and 2011, member U3As have been invited to organise and join activities that experience and study the river and riverside. Such activities may include walking, nature study, photography, art and industrial, economic and local history

."Riverside Revealed" Residential event at at Wellington College 26th - 28th October 2011
Here for documents

Adopt a lock
Has your U3A adopted a lock yet? Details here

21st April 2010
Riverside planning meeting attended by 23 U3As and 40 plus people. Preliminary plans made for meetings as shown in Calendar Table. Following groups set up.

Thames Barrier talk at Wokingham 22nd November 2011

Thames Path Map
   Showing sectors walked

August 2011 Riverside Journal
July 2011 Riverside Journal
June 2011 Riverside Journal
March 2011 Riverside Journal
November 2010 Riverside Journal
August 2010 Riverside Journal

Wellington College, the venue for "Riverside Revealed". the residential event taking place 26th - 28th October 2011

On one of the loveliest days of the year,  18 members of Wokingham U3A were joined by wildlife enthusiasts from across the Thames Valley, to study bird and insect life in Dinton Pastures nature reserve.  In the morning, the first talk was by Fraser Cottington, who talked about the formation and management of the reserve, and the identification of the bird species we were likely to see.  Then Jon Cole, our own Vice Chairman gave us some background on the physiology of insects, illustrated by very lively animated bugs!
In the afternoon, we had the privilege of walking through the meadows and beside the lakes in the company of these two experts, who pointed out to us things which we would certainly have missed if left to our own devices.  It was marvellous being able to use the spacious hides, and watch water birds through the 'scope with impressive magnification.  Mobile phones were ringing with excitement, as the story got out that a ferruginous duck had been sighted on one lake!
It was a weary, but happy group, who made their way back to the centre to share their experiences over a cup of tea.  Many thanks are due to our two speakers and guides, who so generously gave up their Saturday to the event.
Patsy Thornton
On a bright and sunny autumn day, the last long walk, and the last short walk for the Riverside Project took place, both finishing in Abingdon.  Many members of Wokingham U3A were amongst the happy group from all over the Thames Valley, who met after their walk for a splendid lunch.  The "long walkers" had put the final piece in the jigsaw of their Thames Path walk, completing the section from Dorchester to Abingdon.  The "short walkers" were led on an exploration of the river and streams around Abingdon, taking in the Swift Ditch, the millstream, the lock and the weir. 
After lunch, a "photo-call" on the steps of the Abbey buildings took place, to mark this very special occasion.
Then Anne Gould of Abingdon led the group on a fascinating tour of the historic buildings of her home town.  We visited the long gallery and the exchequer of the Abbey buildings, St. Nicholas' and St. Helen's churches, the Abbey gateway, and the alms houses run by Christ's Hospital, as they have been run for the last 500 years.  A|t every point, Anne gave us a detailed commentary, and we were amazed at the extent of her knowledge.
It was very good to enjoy the companionship of so many folk from other U3As, who have joined us in our exploration of the Thames Valley.  The next time we shall all be together is for "Riverside Revealed" at the end of October.
Patsy Thornton
Riverside Project - Circular Walk Maidenhead/Bray/Maidenhead 15th August 2011
Bracknell Walking Section organised a walk for the TVN Riverside Project.  12 of us from the Bracknell Walking Group attended , 2 from Wokingham and 2 from Chess Valley.   It was a lovely day, perfect for walking  this five mile, very pleasant circular walk along the River Thames between Maidenhead and Bray, including viewing Brunel's GWR bridge, Bray Lock and the village of Bray
Mapledurham Visit
We were so lucky with the weather, dry and not too hot.  Everything from the river trip on one of the Dunkirk "little ships" to the delicious cream tea worked like clockwork.  Well done!   Even the threatened hold-up for road works at Caversham proved to be no problem and ensured everyone arrived in very good time. The more energetic morning group said they had enjoyed their walk and it was good to be welcomed by them as we landed at Mapledurham.  Everyone enjoyed the tours of the mill and the house and I, for one, managed to secure the coveted bag of flour! 

All together an excellent day and with some forty-five members from six or seven different U3As, it was a very worthy part of the Riverside Project.
Susie Berry

23 members of the TVN went to this July Walk into History. We were taken around Windsor by a Blue Badge Guide, whose brief was to talk about Windsor’s history ,  but to tackle it from a different angle. The Guide, took as her  main topic, Windsor’s involvement  with the Olympic games 1908 (the marathon) , 1948 ( cycling)and next year (rowing)  and we learnt some really interesting facts about what happened at these events. The talk also gave us some history  (such as the fact that George IV prettied up the castle to make it look more romantic) on some of the old buildings in the town and on some of the inhabitants of yore . The new statue unveiled in June to commemorate the Irish Guards was pretty impressive as well.
Swan Upping at Sonning Lock on Wednesday 20th July

Dorchester to Wallingford Short Walk

Benson Waterfront Cafe with happy walkers enjoying their late lunch
The weather was fine, sunny and clear, but fortunately not too hot. The rendezvous, bus and all the subsequent arrangements went exactly according to plan. We strolled through Dorchester village noting some architectural features learnt at the Dorchester Day on 14th March, paused briefly at Dorchester Abbey where the organ was being tuned, then passed through fields alongside the Iron Age earthworks (Dyke Hills) and crossed the bridge at Days Lock where the World PooSticks Championships are held annually. Ten of us climbed Wittenham Clumps to enjoy the magnificent panoramic view including the Berkshire Ridgeway, Wantage, Oxford, and the Chiltern Hills as far as Princes Risborough. The River Thames was visible for about a mile below, but disappeared completely behind trees and hills in both directions. The walk then took us through woodland via a new riverside permissive path opposite Shillingford Village to Shillingford Bridge (and Hotel), where we crossed to the eastern bank and joined the Thames Path to Benson Waterfront Cafe for a late lunch. We then continued along the Thames Path, crossing the river again at Benson Lock to the western bank and arriving at Wallingford at around 3pm, where we said our goodbyes.
Thames Traditional Boats Day at Beale Park enjoyed by a good attendance of Network members
Haddenham U3A Dorney Walk
19 walkers from 5 U3As joined together at Dorney to walk along part of the Jubilee river (Thames flood relief).  Though man made, the Jubilee river looks and acts like a natural river.  Walking across to Dorney Common offered splendid views of Windsor Castle.  We passed Boveney’s tiny  13th century Chapel of St Mary Magdalene, built for bargemen & bargees plying their trade.Following the Thames Path we saw on the opposite bank a fine Victorian Gothic mansion, now Oakley Court Hotel, with a restored steam pleasure boat moored & ready for action.  Further along was the 18th century Down Place – formerly the meeting place of the infamous Kit Kat Club, and now the home of Bray Studios.  At the Eton College boat house we watched Olympic sculler hopefuls on a timed run along the Thames.  Passing the far end of the  Eton College Rowing Lake, we  had an informative guided tour of the 12th Century Dorney church.  This interesting & enjoyable walk ended with a convivial lunch at The Palmer’s Arms.

Family of swans at Sonning Lock. Suddenly the nest was empty, then here they were!
A happy band of walkers at Marsh Lock enjoying the sunshine at Henley Activities Day
"Adopt a Lock".
Wokingham U3A has adopted Sonning Lock and this dreamy photo of the lock by Peter Chapman was taken at 6.00 am
Long Walk – Eton/Windsor to Bourne End

On Wednesday 16th March thirteen of us, representing (only) four U3As, gathered at the Spade Oak public car park in Bourne End for what was to be a splendid day’s walking. We had our very own taxi service to transport us to the Eton/Windsor bridge for the start of our walk upstream. We passed the site of the Olympic rowing venue at Dorney Lake before reaching Bray Lock and some very exclusive properties. Lunch was taken shortly after Brunel’s impressive wide-spanned bridge in Maidenhead, and the afternoon saw us leaving the river for a while. We rejoined it at Cookham where we encountered a large and much younger group of French students. Needless to say we quickly left them in our wake – but not literally. A very pleasant final section brought us back to our car park via Bourne End marina. We had walked over 11 miles and had enjoyed every minute of it.

Thanks go to Brenda Smith of Marlow U3A for organising the walk so efficiently and to her wonderful team of taxi drivers

Dorchester Day

The day was a great success commencing with coffee in the historic Abbey followed by several talks including a fascinating illustrated presentation on the restoration of the building. 

After a picnic or lunch at one of the old coaching inns the attendees split up to follow a variety of previously chosen activities.  I took these photographs during a fascinating guided tour of the village.  Almost all of the buildings are timber framed and hold a wealth of history as Dorchester is one of a very few towns continuously inhabited since the Iron Age. 

The well organised day finished with everyone returning to the Abbey to exchange their afternoon’s experiences over a refreshing cup of tea or coffee and delicious assortment of cakes
Culham Lock to Abingdon

It was a 6 mile walk organised by Abingdon U3A and included a short historic tour of the Abbey remains and St Nicholas Church led by one of its members.  The day started with grey skies and a bitterly cold wind but come the afternoon the wind had blown the clouds away and it was a picturesque, sunny walk back along the riverbank.

John's picture of Windsor BridgeThe Windsor Painters get down to it

Riverside Project Linear (Long) Walks

Walk 5 – Leg 4 Tadpole Bridge – Bablock Hythe

On Wednesday 10th November a group of 17 stalwarts, representing four TVN U3As, enjoyed a wonderful day walking in the autumn sunshine. The peaceful, and still youthful Thames, was a constant companion, providing a splendid background to exercise and conversation. We passed numerous bridges, most notably the one at Newbridge – which, despite its name, has a claim to be the oldest on the Thames – and a couple of locks. Northmoor lock is one of only three surviving Paddle and Rymer locks on the river. We were incredibly lucky with the weather – the days before and after were wet and windy – and we were able to appreciate the autumn colours. We didn’t need to worry about getting lost as we had a heron to guide us for a large part of the morning and another one led the way in the afternoon. Lunch was taken at Newbridge where those who chose The Maybush were fortunate to be able to watch a kingfisher while quaffing their ale. Many thanks to all who walked for making it such a memorable day.

The Start - Tadpole BridgeAutumn Leaves/Lonely Thames

Haddenham's Dorney Walk

Dorney Walk - Jubilee River
Dorney Walk - Windsor castle
Long Walk Number 4 – Reading to Henley
Despite the overcast sky 26 walkers set off from Reading to walk the 9 miles to Henley spurred on by the thought of  the pub at the other end. As it was approximately 3 miles between the locks it was easy to pace ourselves and we had a natural stopping place at the Shiplake College rowing club, where a 15 minute break was scheduled. This was enjoyed by the relaxed half the party, while the energetic half walked straight past and had to wait at the next lock. Then on to Henley via Shiplake village, passing along the way the  local millionaires’ row and the house with the model railway, supposedly owned by a Swiss businessman. Glimpses were seen of the train getting steam up  but unfortunately not of it running. We finished with a glorious walk along the river into Henley and on to the Catherine Wheel where most people seemed to enjoy the 2.99 fish & chips and a pint of something refreshing. It was a wonderful day with lovely company – our thank to Lyn for all her efforts, both before and during the walk.
Half way and wondering about alternative methods of transport
Starting the final stretch into Henley

Marlow Photgraphy Day

Wednesday, October 6th, dawned grey and damp with a most pessimistic
forecast.  However, undaunted, a select group of Riverside photographers met
in Marlow, where they were taken under the wing of Shirley Arnold of Marlow
By this time, the rain had stopped and the clouds peeled back to
reveal glorious sunshine, and in good spirits the event began.  Shirley divided the group into two parts. 
One group progressed up the towpath,

having the sights pointed out to them as they walked.  The other half had
the privilege of riding on Robin Ford's elegant 30ft river launch "Perdita", from which unexpected vistas opened up.
In the course of the morning, the two groups swapped over, and a marvellous
collection of birds had been seen, including a heron and kingfisher,cormorants, coots and any number of ducks and geese.The churches looked magnificent under bright skies and in a waterside setting.
Tales were

exchanged over a convivial pub lunch, and photos went shooting backwards and
forwards on the airwaves later.
A very good day all round.

Happy  Walkers at Shillingford BridgeAt Shillingford
Boulters LockSecond Riverboat Cruise had kind weather - only rained whilst we were having our lunches!
This is Boulter's Lock

Report from Tony Biddle of Chess Valley U3A We had another Riverside Project event yesterday, 2nd September, when Wokingham and Chess Valley U3As each had parties on the Maidenhead Heritage Centre Historical Riverboat Cruise up the Thames from Maidenhead. It was a really geat day in fabulous weather.
This was advertised at the Riverside Project Thames Towns study day on 17th March at Henley.
The leader was the expert Richard Poad, an excellent speaker and Guide, who described all the history and stories along the river and told us about all the famous people who own the houses on the riverside we past along the way.

The walkers at the end of the Long Walk from Lechlade to Tadpole Bridge organised by faringdon U3A


Watch this site for updates as the project gets established