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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.
TOCW Book 1, Walk 1 • Toughness: 2/10 • Length: 10 miles (16 km)
Pretty villages, a toll bridge, fine views of the Thames in the morning and a serene stroll through a rural idyll after lunch.
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
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
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.
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 grounds, are beautiful.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
SWC Walk 49 • Toughness: 3/10 • Length: 13 miles (23 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
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.
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.
SWC Walk 190 • Toughness: 2/10 • 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 1449 by the Lord and Lady of the manor. It retains 15C wooden fittings incl. pews, stalls and a screen. Now owned by English Heritage.
Thame Valley Walk
A 24 km (15 mi) waymarked linear path along the Thame Valley from Aylesbury to Albury, linking the North Bucks Way with the Oxfordshire Way.
Nowadays seen as a 65 km (40 mi) long tributary of the longer Thames, there is a school of thought saying that the Thames upstream of Dorchester, where the Thame joins it, is called Isis, and that the Thames is only the confluence of Isis and Thame. What seems certain is that all three names go back to the Celtic “Tamesas/Tamesis” (probably meaning “dark”). The Thame's source is several small streams in the Vale of Aylesbury on the north side of the Chiltern Hills. These streams converge north-east of Aylesbury.
Waterstock House (Horse) Training Centre
A well-known training centre for horses and riders alike and a venue for local and national equestrian training events and clinics, it was once owned by Lars Sederholm, former Consultant Head of Training for the British Showjumping Association, who has been one of the leading trainers and mentors in the equestrian world for the last forty years. Many of the royal family have ridden at WHTC and competitions are regularly held there.
Bernwood Jubilee Way
A 98 km (61 mi) waymarked circular Long Distance trail from Brill, Bucks, developed by the Bernwood Ancient Hunting Forest Project within the ancient Forest boundary. Brill’s close association with Bernwood, as its administration centre, gave it an importance throughout the history of the royal forest and thus makes it an ideal starting/finishing point. The most northerly points of the route are near Oxford and Buckingham, the most southerlys just north of Thame.
Opened in 2002, Queen Elizabeth’s Golden Jubilee Year.
One of several forests of the ancient Kingdom of England and a Royal hunting forest. It is thought to have been set aside as Royal hunting land when the Anglo-Saxon kings had a palace at Brill and church in Oakley, in the 10th century and was a particularly favoured place of Edward the Confessor, who was born in nearby Islip.
From about 1217 through to the 17th century the forest went through a gradual period of deforestation.
The site of the Prebendal House is very close to the heart of the Anglo Saxon settlement: the area known as Priestend where the road to Crendon crossed the river Thame and the Aylesbury to Oxford road used to pass between the Church and Vicarage , and it was surrounded on three sides by a man-made moat, and on the fourth side by the river. The moat could well have been a part of the original Anglo Saxon defences or an enclosure boundary. The current building was originally the residence of the Bishop of Lincoln's prebendary (a type of canon involved in the cathedral administration). It is now a private residence, and its most famous recent resident has been Robin Gibb, the ex-Bee Gees singer.