We were still eager to discover the picturesque Thames Valley, still desperate for a stroll at the water’s edge. But the more we zigzagged the ancient waterway, zooming along at sixty miles an hour despite the ‘kill your speed’ signs, the more we seemed cut off by the very thing that had attracted us to the area in the first place – the river. Quite often, we approached a town, drove over a span of bridge, and found the town gone. Most, it seemed, had been built on one side of the Thames and had sprawled along that one bank. Crossing the river at a promising spot, we’d find nothing except boring bits of pasture and a few trees. We actually double-backed several times to see what we might have missed. And sometimes we overlooked the teeny-tiny directional arrows and missed a village completely, resulting in more zigzagging and even more backtracking.
We later realized, the best way to see the Thames Valley was on a boat, floating around the soft curves of the river, traveling at the water’s pace, discovering tiny bank-side hamlets, and generally enjoying the slowness and tranquility of the journey, rather like Mole and Ratty.