Another lovely country ramble, and the perfect pub crawl. Starts and finishes by the Thames, via forests and several country pubs.
||19.2km (11.9 miles), 5 hours 40 minutes. For the whole outing, including trains, sights and meals, allow at least 9 hours 30 minutes.
||6 out of 10.
||Explorer 171 or Landranger 175. Henley, map reference SU 764 823, is in Oxfordshire, 10km north-east of Reading. Pangbourne, map reference SU 633 766, is in Berkshire, 8km west along the River Thames from Reading.
A lovely walk, starting and finishing by the Thames, and passing through many woods en route. This walk used to be our pub crawl walk, as you used to pass many pubs along the way. Alas, some of these pubs have closed in recent years, or they have stopped serving food at lunchtime. This is quite a long walk with some road and lane walking, hence it is a bit long for mid-winter unless you start early.
The walk starts beside the Thames in Henley, goes down one of Henley's most ancient streets, out into a broad valley, to the church and first pub at Rotherfield Greys. It then goes to the church at Rotherfield Peppard, and thereafter it is fields, beech woods and small villages.
As at the latest walk update, there remain at least two pubs located close to mid-walk for your lunch stop, plus others at walk-end. The walk also includes an alpaca farm just outside Whitchurch where you can watch hundreds of alpacas grazing in the fields, a true highlight towards the end of the walk.
On the final leg the walk then carries on to the Whitchurch parish church beside the Thames, to the toll bridge over the Thames, and finally into Pangbourne for a last refreshment stop.
||The walk can be shortened to 8 miles by catching a bus just outside what used to be the Chaiyaphum Thai restaurant, at Cane End (now closed down for housing redevelopment). However, by taking this option you will miss the highlight of the alpacas towards the end of the walk. From just outside the restaurant, buses X39/X40 run into Reading about twice an hour Monday to Saturday, hourly on Sunday, taking about 25 minutes for the journey. For more bus information, phone 0871 200 2233. Alternatively, you could order a taxi from any of the pubs en route. As noted below in the lunch notes, you can also reverse the closing leg of TO Book 1 - Shiplake to Henley, to bring into play the Maltsters Arms for lunch. This adds about a mile to your walk.
Henley with its 300 listed buildings is said to be the oldest settlement in Oxfordshire.
St Nicholas' Church in Rotherfield Greys (if you should be lucky enough to find the door unlocked) contains the ornate tomb of Robert Knollys, counsellor to Elizabeth I and friend of Mary Queen of Scots.
The building of All Saints Church, Rotherfield Peppard, began in the twelfth century. It has early twentieth-century stained-glass windows designed by Meredith Williams, son of a rector of the parish. At the start of the twentieth century, Mirabel Grey, another local artist, made the Last Supper picture behind the altar and the other panels of inlaid wood.
St Mary's Church, Whitchurch, dates from the twelfth century. St Birynius is said to have landed at the ferry crossing at Whitchurch and, on seeing how fine the place was, decided to build a church.
An Act of Parliament in 1792 allowed the building of Whitchurch Toll Bridge to replace the ferry. The ten proprietors were given the right to charge tolls, for instance one halfpenny for every sheep and lamb. The present iron bridge built in 1902 replaces two previous wooden toll bridges.
The earliest mention of Pangbourne is in a Saxon charter of 844 as Paegingaburnam (meaning 'streams of sons of Paega'). In 1919, DH Lawrence stayed in Pangbourne, commenting: 'Pleasant house - Hate Pangbourne - Nothing happens.' Kenneth Grahame, author of The Wind in the Willows, lived in Church Cottage.
Take the train nearest to 10am from Paddington Station to Henley-on-Thames, changing at Twyford. Journey time 65 minutes. Trains back from Pangbourne to Paddington are every half hour (hourly on Sundays). Journey time 1 hour 15 minutes, or just under an hour if you change at Reading for a faster service.
Rail ticket Now that Crossrail (Elizabeth Line) trains are running between Paddington and Reading, if you are a senior walker who holds a Freedom Pass you can travel free of charge on these TFL trains (blue livery) as far as Twyford or Reading, leaving you to purchase singles from Twyford to Henley and Pangbourne to Reading. However, if seniors travel on a Great Western train (green livery) they should buy a day return to Pangbourne from the edge of Zone 6 plus a single from Twyford to Henley. Younger walkers should do likewise from the edge of their travelcard.
This walk when first written was advertised as a pub crawl walk, due to the number of watering holes en route. Alas, most have closed down in recent years, with Covid-19 accounting for the latest closures. As of summer 2020, you pass by, in order that you each them: the Red Lion in Peppard Common, 7.6 km into the walk, reported CLOSED; next the Unicorn (tel 01491 628 674) at Kingwood, 8.6 km into the walk, reported OPEN but check on post Covid lockdown times for serving food and finally the Reformation at Kidmore End, 10.4 km into the walk, reported CLOSED.
If you intend to do the short, 8 mile version of the walk and start late, the well-regarded Maltster's Arms (tel 01491 628 400) in Rotherfield Greys, which is the first pub reached on this walk, after just 4.3 km, is a good option (and many consider to be by far the best).It serves lunch 12.00-2.30pm daily, though it can be very busy at times. For those doing the full walk, try reversing the closing leg of Book 1, Walk 9 - Shiplake to Henley, as far as Rotherfield Greys, going via Lambridge Wood and Greys Court: the Maltsters Arms then comes into play as your lunch option. Granted, you then have a long afternoon, but SWC walkers who like the Maltsters believe it worth it.
The suggested tea place for this walk Cafe St. Louis (tel 0118 984 2246) open until "late" (except on Sunday-Tuesday when it closes at 5pm).
Or you could try the George Hotel (tel 0118 9842237), The Elephant Hotel (tel 0118 9842244) or the Cross Keys pub (tel 0118 9843268).
Opposite the George Inn is a Co-op Convenience store.
||Walk instructions were fully checked and the website version updated in November 2016 with further updates September 2018. Pub closures and Travel updated September 2020.