Nicola, Pete, Lola and Nell love to travel - but try not to rack up their carbon footprint as they go. Here's how...
If it wasn’t for the pile of dry pale rocks – and the engraved tombstone – by the corner of the wood you’d never guess this was the start of the River Thames. This September there’s no sign of water, although two fields away, at what’s known as the head of the Thames, you can clearly see the course of a river, even if that too is dry.
I’m used to the forceful, grey Thames of central London with its curves, boats and treasure-lined tidal shores, so it’s strange to see around 180 miles away that it starts off as a dry spring leading to a dry ditch. The track beside the outline river is well worn as many walkers enjoy tracking the Thames back to its Gloucestershire source, see how to do this at http://www.thames-path.org.uk/
We cheated the footslog by taking a detour from Kemble train station, following the well-signed Wysis Trail and then left on to the last stages of the Thames Path (about a mile and a half each way) to see our river’s birthplace, marked in marble with "The Conservators of the River Thames 1857 - 1974. This stone was placed here to mark the source of the River Thames". Unfortunately we are in such a hurry to catch our designated train back to London that we have to race the route, as if fleeing from the sort of floods that have recently hit Manila. We do not even have time to chat as we open gates/climb old steps, dodge cows or admire the heron flying by.
I’ve seen a volcano spring out of the sea, spitting red rocks into the Pacific waves. And the girls have seen chicks hatch, pecking and peeping and struggling through the shell. Dramatic enough births to oblige us all to puzzle how the UK’s greatest river (with apologies to the Tyne, Avon, Severn, Clyde and others) can have such a low-key start. Obviously deep waters can run to silt, although not if you’re here in a wet January (or so the potter-postcard seller by Kemble station would have us believe).