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The Thames Path in the morning, historic Hambledon for lunch, and back via the hills above Henley in the afternoon. Short but pretty.
Oxfordshire TOCW Book 1, Walk 1 • Toughness: 2/10 • Length: 10 miles (16 km)
The mainly flat morning of this walk follows the Thames path to the quaint and well preserved hamlet of Hambleden with its brick and flint red roofed buildings. The return is via the wooded geological terrace above river. Historic riverside Henley, with many tea rooms and pubs, is a nice place to finish
The walk starts in Henley (famous for its rowing regatta in late June or early July) and goes along the Thames towpath, with rowing instructors on bikes shouting instructions to their crews, past Temple Island with its neo-folly, to the 250-metre footbridge over the weir at Hambleden Mill, where canoeists practise in the stormy waters. Route finding is easy! From there the route is northwards to the suggested lunchtime pub in the well-preserved hamlet of Hambleden, which has a huge church out of all proportion to the population.
After lunch, the walk for the next 2.5km is through the Great Wood, the endlessness of which gives an inkling of how most of Britain must once have been. From the village of Fawley with its church and mausoleum, the walk returns along the Oxfordshire Way, past the manor of Henley Park, to Henley for tea.
Pretty villages, a toll bridge, fine views of the Thames in the morning and a serene stroll through a rural idyll after lunch.
Oxfordshire TOCW Book 1, Walk 4 • Toughness: 3/10 • Length: 8 miles (14 km)
Pangbourne and its companion Whitchurch, on the other side of the River Thames – in Oxfordshire – are delightful villages, spoilt only by too much traffic. Passing on a toll bridge over the river, you come to St Mary’s Church, with the route continuing along part of the Thames Path National Trail (which opened in 1996) past Coombe Park, to a wood with views down to the Thames. From there it is up through a nature reserve and Great Chalk Wood, from where the route heads to a pub for lunch by Crays Pond. After lunch you pass the entrance to Oratory Preparatory School, and go through woods and fields, then head back down through Whitchurch and into Pangbourne for tea.
The River Thames, Rotherfield Greys village, Greys Court (NT) and historic Henley
Oxfordshire TOCW Book 1, Walk 9 • Toughness: 4/10 • Length: 10 miles (18 km)
This walk has plenty of variety, with riverside legs and paths through bluebell woods and beech woods. In addition, as soon as you are more than a few feet up, you have magnificent views over the unspoilt Thames valley. From Shiplake Lock the route follows the Thames, then up to the church beside Shiplake College, and through bluebell woods beside Crowsley Park (the grandiose site for the BBC’s listening masts), to the church and pub in Rotherfield Greys. The cherry trees and cricket green in the hamlet of Greys Green lead on into the National Trust estate of Greys Court, and from there into the beech woods of Lambridge, and past Friar Park, with its splendidly over-opulent Gothic gatehouse, to a teahouse in Henley beside the river. Note that if there has been sustained heavy rain the river may be flooded and make the first stretch along the river in the main walk route impassable.
A tourist's stroll around Oxford - it rivers and historic colleges
Oxfordshire TOCW Book 1, Walk 13 • Toughness: 1/10 • Length: 9 miles (15 km)
This is not so much a Country Walk, but more of a day out exploring this historic university city, with an undemanding but enjoyable walk thrown in as an hors d’oeuvre before you start a tour of Oxford University’s Colleges.
The walk’s route is easy and entirely level but can be muddy along the path beside the River Cherwell after Wolfson College while after periods of heavy rain, paths beside both the Rivers Isis and Cherwell can be flooded. The walk starts along the River Isis to Binsey, a favourite walk for the poet Gerard Manley Hopkins (the ‘wind-wandering, weed-winding bank’), who lamented the felling of aspens along the towpath here in his 1879 poem Binsey Poplars (‘the sweet especial rural scene’). You can take a dip here if you want. Passing the ruins of Godstow Nunnery, you come to the Trout Inn at Wolvercote (a lunch option) then take in a bit of Port Meadow before coming to the Plough Inn (a second option for lunch).
After lunch the walk heads south along the Oxford Canal, past a community of houseboats, then across town and via a footbridge by Wolfson College to go along the River Cherwell through its Nature Reserve, where buttercups are abundant in May. Going through the University Parks, you come to the Pitt Rivers Museum. From here you start your walking tour of Oxford’s historic colleges and famous buildings, winding in and out of small streets as the walk fits in many of the colleges before you stop for tea and finally head for the railway station.
A figure of 9 - Up over Winter Hill, overlooking the Thames Valley, then along the Thames Path.
Oxfordshire TOCW Book 1, Walk 24 • Toughness: 3/10 • Length: 10 miles (17 km)
This walk incorporates most of the Cookham (round walk) – the original Walk 24 in earlier editions of this Book – and adds an extension along the Thames Path to Maidenhead.
You start with a circuit of Cookham, heading westwards from the town and passing the very ordinary house where the artist Stanley Spencer lived and worked for some 15 years until his death in 1959. After passing through Cookham Dean you go past a large free-range turkey farm and into Bisham Woods, where an attractive stretch along an escarpment with fine views over the Thames Valley leads to Winter Hill. Mole, Ratty and company of The Wind in the Willows fame inhabited the riverbanks and wild woods around here, at least according to their author Kenneth Grahame who lived nearby. From here you drop down to the Thames to return by the river to Cookham for lunch, with the opportunity to visit the Stanley Spencer Gallery.
After lunch you head south on a particularly attractive stretch of the Thames Path, with the hanging beech woods of the Cliveden Estate on the other side of the river. On the outskirts of Maidenhead you go past Boulter’s Lock, a popular spot to watch the river traffic.
A long way from London, but Blenheim Palace, and its landscaped parkland, are beautiful.
Oxfordshire TOCW Book 1, Walk 38 • Toughness: 6/10 • Length: 12 miles (21 km)
The River Evenlode and its soft, easy hills and fertile countryside inspired Tolkien’s Hobbit Shire. At lunchtime you could take a dip in the river and picnic in the meadow by the Stonesfield Ford and the old slate quarries.
Before lunch, there are the 2,100 acres of the Great Park leading to Blenheim Palace, its lake and the Column of Victory that the first Duke of Marlborough had placed on the horizon so that he could see it from his bedroom. Once over the wall out of the Park, the route is along Akeman Street, the Old Roman road from Alchester to Cirencester, with big stone slabs from the old road still visible in places. This is now part of the Oxfordshire Way and the leg of over a mile to Stonesfield is through open farmland and progress can be hard work if into the wind. You pass through the delightful stone villages of Stonesfield, Finstock and finally Charlbury, entering it from a footpath beside Lord Rotherwick’s deer park, Cornbury Park.
Bulstrode Park and Burnham Beeches woods, the Thames, and Stanley Spencer
Oxfordshire TOCW Book 1, Walk 40 • Toughness: 2/10 • Length: 9 miles (15 km)
Near the start, this walk crosses Bulstrode Park and from there, past woods and lakes to a cratered moonscape where the route crosses the M40. Then it goes through the Hedgerley Green Nature Reserve to the church at Hedgerley, and on through Egypt Wood and Burnham Beeches to a pub in Littleworth Common. 8.8km (5.5 miles) of this walk is covered before lunch. In the afternoon, there are more woods and fringes of woods, with an optional detour to the hilltop Church of St Nicholas in Hedsor for a fine view over the Thames Valley and across to a late eighteenth-century folly, a ruined castle. The walk ends alongside the Thames, going over Cookham Bridge to Cookham Church, the Stanley Spencer Gallery and tea and then across the National Trust’s Cookham Moor to Cookham Station.
Another lovely country ramble, and the perfect pub crawl. Starts and finishes by the Thames, via forests and several country pubs.
Oxfordshire TOCW Book 1, Walk 51 • Toughness: 6/10 • Length: 11 miles (19 km)
Long walk through the Chilterns over gentle rolling grassy hills. Historic riverside Henley for tea.
Oxfordshire TOCW Book 2, Walk 6 • Toughness: 6/10 • Length: 13 miles (22 km)
The Thames path in the morning. Gentle woodland after lunch in an NT Village, Historic riverside Henley for tea.
Oxfordshire TOCW Book 2, Walk 7 • Toughness: 3/10 • Length: 9 miles (15 km)
The Thames path in the morning, a classic pub for lunch, gentle hill afterwards.
Oxfordshire TOCW Book 2, Walk 8 • Toughness: 3/10 • Length: 13 miles (22 km)
A walk in Oxfordshire, taking in Dorchester-on-Thames and the Clumps. Can start from Appleford.
Oxfordshire SWC Walk 44 • Toughness: 3/10 • Length: 13 miles (22 km)
This walk takes in an attractive part of the Thames Valley south of Oxford, with a lunchtime stop in Dorchester-on-Thames. This handsome village is now bypassed by the traffic but used to be an important staging post between London and Oxford. It has retained a large number of coaching inns and other pubs, so there's plenty of choice for refreshment. You should be sure to visit Dorchester Abbey, one of the few large monastery buildings to survive the Dissolution; it now functions as an impressive parish church. In the afternoon the walk comes to the Wittenham Clumps, the name given to a pair of Iron Age hill forts set in a nature reserve managed by the Northmoor Trust.
Fairly gentle climbs through Oxfordshire and Berkshire countryside ending with a southerly stretch along the Thames.
Oxfordshire SWC Walk 49 • Toughness: 3/10 • Length: 14 miles (24 km)
This walk offers a fine combination of gentle Oxfordshire countryside, wide grassy horse training gallops, a stretch of the Ridgeway with splendid views from the Berkshire Downs, and a final saunter along the banks of the Thames. Although the walk is fairly long, it has nothing too steep or demanding.
The main walk is best undertaken from mid spring to early autumn. With a fairly late start to accommodate the early lunch stop at The Red Lion Blewbury. The suggested tea stop is the Beetle and Wedge riverside restaurant at Moulsford, a place with ‘Wind in the Willows’ and ‘Three Men in a Boat’ associations. There are also plenty of hostelries in Streatley and Goring at the end of the walk.
Before starting the walk, devotees of Agatha Christie’s detective stories might want to make a short detour to visit the novelist’s grave in the churchyard of St Mary’s, Cholsey. To do this, follow the walk directions for the first 180 metres till you reach the railway bridge, but instead of turning left under the railway, turn right and follow the path for 700 metres as it climbs up to the church. Afterwards, retrace your steps and pass under the railway to rejoin the directions.
Hilly route to Pangbourne for lunch, shorter return along the Thames
Oxfordshire SWC Walk 170 • Toughness: 3/10 • Length: 8 miles (14 km)
This walk offers fine views of the Thames valley from the inland heights above Goring. It visits both Pangbourne and Goring, two interesting and pretty riverside villages. The walk can be done in either direction, but the anti-clockwise direction does the hillier section first, saving the shorter flat Thames Path for after lunch. The Thames Path provides a fine contrast with the inland section.
It is possible to do just a short walk to Goring, in which case buy a ticket to Goring which is one stop down the line (further from London).
Martyn Hanks beautifully drawn user-friendly map (used here with the permission of Streatley YHA) means you'll have less time with your nose in the directions and more time to savour the beauty of this lovely countryside. Download from the link above.
YHA - Streatley Youth Hostel - beds from £15, rooms from £25 (2013 prices)
A ridge walk over open downland with good views along a neolithic trail to an ancient hill fort. Very long or short option. Return by bus.
Oxfordshire SWC Walk 171 • Toughness: 5/10 • Length: 18 miles (30 km)
This walk follows a section of the Ridgeway National Trail, along an open grassy ridge with good views throughout. There is a short, and a very long version of the walk which follows Britains's oldest road dating back to neolithic times. The long version visits an ancient hill fort.
More recently, The Ridgeway is used by 4 wheel drives in winter, and by horses and mountain bikes year round. This means its surface can be rutted after dry weather, and muddy after wet weather.
The Ridgeway is quite remote, there are no pubs en-route, so bring a packed lunch
The walk starts by the Thames in Goring. It leaves it via a quiet lane. There is an option to avoid a little road walking at the start by detouring via Lough Hill (NT). Both routes meet up futher along the quiet lane.
After 2km, the lane becomes a track and reaches open downland with grass covered gentle hills and good views. It follows the open ridge for 8km / 5 miles to the A34 (motorway). Just before it, there is an option to cut the walk short to Chilton (nice pub, hourly buses to Didcot). This would make a nice winter walk.
Just after the A34, there is an option to finish at Harwell Science Park (regular buses, but no pub to wait in)
Alternatively, for the long walks, continue on along the Ridgeway for 6km / 4 miles. Here there is a shortcut to Wantage, 4km to the north.
The long walk continue on for 4km to Letcombe Castle, an ancient hill fort (free entry). Then its north 4km north to Wantage
From Wantage, a pretty town, there is a bus (via Hartwell Science parke which you walked by earlier) to Didcot Station for regular fast train back to London
Note that the last direct bus from Wantage to Didcot is quite early for such a long walk. Make sure you don't miss it. If you do there are hourly later buses north to Abingdon and either on to Oxford (where you'll need an extra train ticket as well), or change in Abingdon for a bus to Didcot. It'll take an hour longer, and cost a lot more
Scenic ramble through quiet villages in the Thame Valley on the Oxon/Bucks border, north of the Chilterns.
Oxfordshire SWC Walk 190 • Toughness: 3/10 • Length: 12 miles (21 km)
A scenic and easy ramble north of The Chilterns through the Thame valley on the Oxon/Bucks border that involves a short bus ride (on a frequent service) at the start and the finish of the walk. Set off in a westerly direction from the charming market town of Thame through a nature reserve and soon pass through a beautifully laid out golf course to join the Oxfordshire Way through the ancient Rycote Estate. Head north through a few quiet villages to lunch in Worminghall or Ickford. After lunch continue easterly, largely following the waymarked Thame Valley Walk, to the numerous tea options in Thame and then the return bus journey to Haddenham & Thame Parkway station.
Cuttle Brook Nature Reserve
Thame's award-winning nature reserve is a unique piece of 'semi-wild' countryside. Meandering through the reserve is a tributary of the River Thame called the Cuttle Brook, which springs to life in the Chilterns.
A 108 km (67 mi) waymarked linear Long Distance path linking the Heart of England Way at Bourton-on-the-Water with the Thames Path at Henley-on-Thames across the rolling limestone countryside of the Cotswold Hills.
Rycote is Anglo Saxon and indicates a small group of dwellings amongst fields of rye. Rycote House was a great Tudor country house built on the site of an earlier mansion early in the 16th century, probably for Sir John Heron, Treasurer of the Chamber to first Henry VII and then Henry VIII. Henry VIII and his fifth wife, Catherine Howard, honeymooned here in 1540. It was long believed that Rycote House burned down in 1745 and that its remains were demolished in 1800, apart from one corner turret and some outbuildings. However, in 2001 Channel 4's Time Team investigated Rycote Park and established that Rycote had been rebuilt after the fire. Ca. 1920 the stables were converted into the present House.
Saint Michael’s Chapel
A Perpendicular Gothic building with a chancel, nave and west tower, founded as a chantry in 449 by the Lord and Lady of...
The Midsomer Murders Walk
Oxfordshire SWC Walk 223 • Toughness: 4/10 • Length: 14 miles (24 km)
This Thames Valley and Chilterns walk is inspired by the locations used in the Midsomer Murders TV series.
In many respects this is a similar walk to the Book 2 Walk 6 Henley circular via Stonor and Pishill walk. It’s a bit longer and a fair bit flatter but both go along one side of a valley in open countryside on the opening leg and return to Henley on the other side in the afternoon, often through attractive woodland. This walk, however, also finishes with a lovely, peaceful Thames path back to Henley
However this walk covers completely different territory to the Book 2 favourite visiting new villages and countryside not incorporated in other SWC Henley and Chilterns walks in the area. This is a high summer walk although shorter options can be done in autumn or winter given dry and sunny weather.
You should allow at least 11 hours for travel, refreshments and walking for the main walk.
An alternative map-led Midsomer murders walk with minimal written directions is also offered and you will find information on this at the end of this walk’s detailed instructions.
Henley on Thames
This is a popular start and destination for a number of SWC walks and you can find details about the town in TOCW Volume 1 Walks 1, 9 and 51 and TOCW Volume 2 Walks 6,7 and 8.
This walk visits a number of places familiar to those who have done the relevant walks in Books 1 and 2 but after Hambledon you visit 2 or 3 villages that are not on the route of other Henley or Thames Valley walks in the SWC itinerary. These are:
An attractive hamlet where you pass a former flint church which has been converted into a home.
The village name of Fingest comes from the Anglo Saxon name Thinghurst, meaning 'wooded hill where assemblies are made'. The parish church of St Bartholomew's dates from the early Norman period. It has an unusual tower, with a double vaulted roof. The church is a Grade I listed building .
A picture post card village which has not only featured in the...
The Thames Path to Wallingford, rolling hills and South Stoke, finishing along the Thames path
Oxfordshire SWC Walk 242 • Toughness: 4/10 • Length: 12 miles (21 km)
This is a companion walk to the Cholsey to Goring walk SWC 49 but takes a completely different route. It starts with a 2km stretch through the village of Cholsey to reach the riverside Thames path where you turn left and continue all the way to the bustling market town of Wallingford and your riverside lunch-time pub the Boat House.
After lunch you leave the river Thames and take paths around and across fields in the gently rolling Oxfordshire countryside with some fine and expansive views before visiting the attractive village of South Stoke and some refreshments at the Perch and Pike pub.
From South Stoke the short, last leg of the walk is along the Ridgeway and Thames Path to Goring where if you arrive before 5pm tea and cakes await you at Pierreponts café. Otherwise there are some excellent pubs in the village or you can rest by the river and enjoy the views before a short walk to the station.
The walk is best done in April to June or early autumn. It is a long, exposed walk so in hot, mid-summer weather, it could be fairly tiring.
Rolling Chilterns countryside, forest trails, quiet country lanes and 3 pubs
Oxfordshire SWC Walk 243 • Toughness: 4/10 • Length: 11 miles (18 km)
This circular walk is best done anti-clockwise and the walk instructions are written to reflect this . It is a mix of beautiful, rolling Chilterns countryside, forest trails and quiet country lanes. This is a spring to early autumn walk. The best time to do it however is probably late April or early May when the foliage of the beech trees is at its most vibrant and where there should be good displays of bluebells and other spring flowers in some woods. Sections of the trails through woods will be muddy after rain.
There are very short but safe stretches along potentially busy roads. There are three pubs en route before you reach Goring. At the end of the walk there is Pierreponts, a lovely, friendly tea stop by the River Thames in Goring. It closes at 5pm on Saturdays (not open on Sundays) so you need to pace the walk accordingly (or catch an earlier train!)
The Oxfordshire Way, the river Evenlode, gentle rolling hills, woods and fields that were the inspiration for Tolkien’s Hobbitshire, and 2 Cotswold villages
Oxfordshire SWC Walk 246 • Toughness: 2/10 • Length: 10 miles (18 km)
This Cotswolds walk mostly (but not exclusively) follows the Oxfordshire Way (OW) from Kingham to Charlbury and never strays far from the river Evenlode passing through a dreamy countryside of gentle rolling hills, woods and fields that were the inspiration for Tolkien’s Hobbitshire. It goes through two attractive Cotswolds villages, Shipton under Wychwood and Ascott under Wychwood which have the beautiful stone cottages in the traditional Cotswold’s style.
The OW is a bridleway and the pre-lunch section is well-used by horse riders that can make the going in some places very muddy after rain. Even during a period of dry weather parts of the morning route will be rutted. After lunch the going is much better. The walk is best done and appreciated after a period of dry weather from late April through the summer. The walk is stile-free; access to fields and woods is through kissing gates or farm gates.Walk