Temple Island, Hambleden & the Great Wood
|Length||16.1km (10.0 miles), 4 hours 30 minutes. For the whole outing, including trains, sights and meals, allow 7 hours 50 minutes.|
|Toughness||2 out of 10.|
|OS Maps||Explorer 171 or Landranger 175. Henley-on-Thames, map reference SU 764 823, is in Oxfordshire, 10km north-east of Reading.|
This is a very pretty walk, out along the Thames, and back via the hills above. Its mainly flat morning 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.
|Walk Options||You could get a bus back to Henley from Mill End (there are about three buses each hour) or a taxi from the pub in Hambleden.|
Henley, with its 300 listed buildings, is said to be the oldest settlement in Oxfordshire; a Roman grain store and skeletons of 97 supposedly unwanted children were excavated at Mill End in 1911.
Fawley Temple, the neoclassical folly on Temple Island, is maintained by the Henley Regatta on a 999-year lease. It was built by James Wyatt in 1771 for a local landowner, Sambrooke Freeman, and has Etruscan-style murals inside.
Hambleden Mill, mentioned in the Domesday Book, was used for grinding corn until 1955.
Hambleden means 'village in a valley'. Charles I spent one night at the manor house in Hambleden whilst fleeing from Oxford to St Albans in 1646. Its well preserved buildings are brick and flint, with red tiled roofs
St Mary the Virgin Church, Hambleden, has a memorial with alabaster figures representing Sir Cope D'Oyley (who died in 1633), his wife and their ten children - with the children shown carrying skulls if they died before their parents. To the left of the monument is the oak muniment chest used by the Earl of Cardigan in Balaclava, where he led the ill-fated Charge of the Light Brigade in 1854. And to the left of this chest, tucked in an alcove, is a reusable stone coffin. The churchyard contains the grave of the bookseller WH Smith, who became (posthumously) Lord Hambleden.
The village of Fawley from the Old English for 'clearing') is listed in the Domesday Book as having 13 villeins, one cottager and five slaves. In 1086 it was given to a Norman, Herbrand de Sackville, as a reward for guarding his master's estates in Normandy during the invasion of England. The churchyard in Fawley contains a large circular neoclassical mausoleum built by John Freeman for his family around 1750.
Take the train nearest to 10am from Paddington station to Henley-on-Thames, changing at Twyford. Journey time 65 minutes. At Twyford you have to cross over to the other platform. Be quick if the London train is late, as there is an hour's wait if you miss the connection. For this reason, consider catching an earlier train than the timetable recommends. Trains back from Henley are hourly.
If driving, Henley Station has a car park (£4.50), or there is free parking a little way outside the town.
|Lunch||The suggested lunch pub is the Stag & Huntsman (thestagandhuntsman.co.uk, 01491 571 227) in Hambleden, some 6 km into the walk, which serves food with a local and seasonal emphasis from midday to 2:30pm daily.|
There are a number of tea options, restaurants and pubs in Henley to suit most tastes.
The The Chocolate Theatre Cafe (thechocolatecafe.info, 01491 411412) on Thames Side, facing the river, is open until 5:30pm on weekdays and 6pm at weekends.
In summer the church of St Mary the Virgin on Hart Street (the high street) serves tea with homemade cakes on Sunday afternoons.
Pubs include The Angel on the Bridge on the river, and a Wetherspoons on Hart Street
No major changes.
An earlier version of this walk was published in Time Out Country Walks near London volume 1. We now recommend using this online version as the book is now dated.
After the walk, we would love to get your feedback
Out (not a train station)
Back (not a train station)
National Rail: 03457 48 49 50 • Travelline SE (bus times): 0871 200 2233 (12p/min) • TFL (London) : 0343 222 1234
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The directions for this walk are also in a PDF (link above) which you can download on to a Kindle, tablet, or smartphone.
-  Coming out of Henley Station, turn right, your direction 305°, and walk 50 metres to the main road.
- Here, with the Imperial Hotel opposite you, turn right on the road, your direction 45°.
- After 125 metres bear left passing the ‘Boats for Hire’ place on your right-hand side.
- Keep the River Thames on your right until you reach the bridge, which you cross.
- 40 metres from the other end of the bridge , turn left on a footpath signposted Thames Path, then take the left fork beside the Tollgate, on a tarmac lane with a concrete bollard guarding its centre, your direction 350°.
- In 55 metres, you come to the river and turn right, with the river on your left-hand side, your direction due north.
- After 1.75km , you come to a footpath sign to the right. You may wish to go through the wooden swing gate and take a detour of 100 metres here to see Remenham’s St Nicholas Church (you may only be able to see the exterior and churchyard as the doors are often locked).
- Back on the towpath, in 500 metres you pass Temple Island. In another 1.25km you come to Hambleden Lock 
- Here you pass through a wooden kissing gate and, in 70 metres, go left over the far lockgates (following the public footpath sign).
- Then you are on a tarmac path on the right-hand side of the lockhouse, your direction 60°, which, in 30 metres, leads you over the footbridge across the weir.
- At the other end of the bridge go straight on, staying on the tarmac and bending left with it following the white arrow painted on a fence in front of you, your direction 20°. Your path takes you through a short alley between two white cottages (Old Millgate Cottage to your left) onto the A4155 at Mill End.
- Turn right on this A road, your direction 115°. In 30 metres, by the bus stop, turn left on a road signposted Hambleden, heading northwards.
- In 350 metres, cross a car road that goes right to Rotten Row, to take a signposted footpath through a metal kissing gate into a field and continue straight on, parallel to your previous direction.
- Continue for 600 metres, exiting the field through a metal kissing gate to the right of a bridge over a stream.
- Cross the earth road and enter the next field through another metal kissing gate heading towards Hambleden Church.
- In 500 metres, the path comes out by a metal kissing gate beside another small bridge.
- Turn right on the road into Hambleden Village. The suggested lunchtime pub, the Stag and Huntsman, is 140 metres along on your right-hand side.
- After lunch and any exploring of the village and church, retrace your steps on the village’s approach road, passing the bridge and metal kissing gate by which you arrived.
- Continue straight on, in 20 metres passing cottage no. 57 on your right-hand side and in a further 35 metres you come to the main road.
- Cross the main road, slightly to the left, to go up a tarmac path, signposted as a public footpath , a metal railing on its left-hand side, your direction 195°.
- Continue on this main path, ignoring turn-offs and passing buildings to enter the wood.
- After 25 metres, take a right fork uphill (which is marked by a white arrow on a tree), your direction 190° and keep to this main uphill path, following white arrows.
- After 270 metres, you come to the top of the hill (and depending on the amount of foliage you should be able to see the Thames ahead of you). In 15 metres, ignore a path to your right to carry straight on downwards, your direction 240°.
- In a further 160 metres, and 20 metres before the edge of the wood (marked by a wooden swing gate at the exit), turn right on a bridleway, your direction 285°.
- Your route is straight on thereafter until you come to an earth car road. In 165 metres, you ignore a fork to the right and, in 75 metres, another going very sharp right. In 125 metres you leave the wood to continue along a tree-lined bridleway.
- In a further 250 metres, you come out on to an earth car road T-junction.
- Turn right on this road, your direction 350°, in 55 metres passing houses nos. 6 and 7 on the left-hand side. Ignore a left turn immediately after these but in a further 10 metres , turn left on a signposted bridleway, initially a car-wide earth road, your direction is now 310°.
- At a sign that reads ‘Strictly no riding without permits’, take the right fork, keeping close to the right-hand edge of a field, steeply uphill, your direction 310°.
- Just by the entrance to the wood, ignore a car-wide earth fork to the right to go uphill into Great Wood (as marked on the OS map) following a public bridleway sign, your direction 305°.
- Your route is more or less straight on through this wood, ignoring all turn-offs, for over 2km, following relatively clear white arrows on trees.
- In more detail: in 450 metres, you reach the flatter terrace land above the Thames and ignore a way off to the right. Ignore more ways off (in 210 metres one to the left, in another 45 metres one to the right and in a further 120 metres, one to the left). But then, in 90 metres, bear left for 30 metres, following white arrows on trees, before regaining your initial direction, now 325°. In 250 metres, ignore a fork sharply to the left and in 85 metres, one to the right.
- When the wood ends on your left-hand side, continue on a path with a fence on your left with Roundhouse Farm (as marked on the OS map) visible ahead of you, slightly to the left. This is a potentially muddy stretch, particularly in winter, of narrow bridleway,.
- In 500 metres, you come to a bench by Orchard House from which you have a fine view of the far slopes.
- In 90 metres, continue along an earth driveway. In 100 metres , you come out on to a tarmac road by the Round House where you turn left, your direction 190°.
- Keep on this road, ignoring all ways off, for 1.5km. In 270 metres you pass on your right-hand side the boarded up and disused building which was once the Walnut Tree pub.
- In 230 metres ignore a left turn signposted to Marlow. In 280 metres, keep straight on, following the sign to Henley.
- In 80 metres, you come to the lychgate of St Mary the Virgin Church, Fawley, which is worth a visit.
- Continuing on the road, ignore a footpath to the left by a house called Mavoli. In a further 250 metres , take a public footpath signposted to your left, by a yellow water marker (H100/2), your direction 145°.
- You pass Five Gate House on your left-hand side. In a further 175 metres, you pass the gates of Homer House on your left-hand side.
- In a further 40 metres at a three-armed footpath sign, just before a set of overwrought high iron gates take the footpath branching right from your road, your new direction 230°.
- In 140 metres, you go through a metal barrier, cross a tarmac road and continue straight on, uphill, passing through a small wooden swing gate in 15 metres.
- In 80 metres, you go through a small wooden swing gate and onwards. In a further 140 metres, you go through another small wooden swing gate and over a car lane (passing the gates of a water station on your left-hand side), then through a small wooden swing gate to continue straight on.
- In another 100 metres go through a small wooden swing gate into a field and continue straight on with the field edge on your right-hand side.
- In a further 200 metres, go through a small wooden swing gate to a T-junction with a gravel car road  where you turn left, your direction 150°.
- Thereafter it is more or less straight on into Henley. But in more detail: in 300 metres, you come to a white post announcing ‘Henley Park Private’ but you carry straight on. In 270 metres, you pass Henley Park, a white manor house, on your left-hand side. In a further 100 metres, you leave the car road, which bears left, to go through a wooden kissing gate, marked Oxfordshire Way (a metal fieldgate on its left-hand side) to continue straight on, your direction 150°. In 450 metres pass a metal kissing gate on your left-hand side to continue straight on, your direction 165°. In 500 metres you pass through a metal kissing gate to go down into a wood.
- In 430 metres, ignoring all other ways off, you come out on the A423  and turn left, your direction 135°.
- In 50 metres, you pass the Old White Horse pub on your left-hand side. In a further 250 metres, at the roundabout, keep straight on.
- In 220 metres, you come to New Street with the Teddy Bear Shop on the corner.
- Keep straight on along Bell Street passing Caffè Nero on your left.
- In 100 metres, turn left in to Hart Street. (Maison Blanc, a potential tea stop, is on the opposite corner.)
- In 75 metres, you pass the Old Rope Walk tea place on your right-hand side and in a further 35 metres, Café Rouge on your left-hand side.
- In a further 40 metres you come to Parish Church of St Mary the Virgin. (In summer you may find teas are served in the Chantry House here)
- Turn right just before the bridge to retrace your earlier steps along the riverfront. In 50 metres you come to the Henley Tearooms (another potential tea stop) on your right-hand side.
- Continue along the riverfront until you come to ‘Boats for Hire’ where you bear right with the road, taking the second left to Henley Station, opposite the Imperial Hotel.