Kemble Circular walk

The source of the Thames, an overgrown canal, quiet tracks, a pretty village, and the Thames path

Walk 256 Kemble circular- SWC Expeditionary Group

Walk 256 Kemble circular- SWC Expeditionary Group

14-Aug-16 • peter.boon on Flickr

swcwalks swcwalk256 walkicon 28402208733 G-T

Length 16km (10 miles)
Toughness 2/10. Virtually flat
OS Map Explorer 168 and 169 for Kemble and Cirencester. Landranger 173
Walk Notes

The main feature of this tranquil walk is a visit to the source of the Thames (the Thames head) which is in a field just 3 km from Kemble station

Beyond the source the route continues along a section of the disused Severn and Thames canal which is not a typical towpath walk but more like a trail through dense woodland as the canal is completely overgrown and has become an important wildlife corridor, particularly for butterflies. You reach Sapperton Tunnel and the aptly named Tunnel pub for your lunch. Leaving the pub you go over fields to the village of Coates and then on rarely walked tracks along field edges to pick up the Monarch's Way and then cross the busy Fosse Way (Roman Road). From here you head south on quiet tracks and lanes to the lovely village of Ewen where you can have a refreshing drink before walking through the village and picking up the meandering Thames path for the final stretch back into Kemble. Adjacent to Kemble station there is another pub for any final refreshments while you wait for your train.

This is a summer walk best done between June and September. In winter the source of the Thames and surrounding fields often flood and other sections of the walk will be very muddy.


Kemble is served by First Great Western Trains out of London Paddington station. It is on the main line for Swindon, Bath, Bristol, Cheltenham and stations in South Wales. Direct trains to Kemble take around 75mins. You can take a train to Swindon and change there for a train to Kemble. This makes the journey about 1hr 30mins.

Cost of train tickets (August 2015)

Unfortunately this is an expensive day out!. Kemble is outside the Network South East Railcard area. For those with a senior railcard and an older persons London Boroughs Freedom Pass a day return ticket will cost you just under £30.

For those under pension age you can use your SE Network Rail Card to get a 1/3 off a return ticket to Reading plus a return ticket from Reading to Kemble. You can buy both tickets at London Paddington . Cost: London to Reading £18 minus 1/3 (£6) = £12. Reading to Kemble Super Off Peak return = £25.70 Total cost of two tickets £37.70.

If you book in advance or travel as a group you may well be able to get reductions on these prices. The Saturday Walkers website section on train travel is a very helpful guide here.

Thames Path

This walk is part of the Thames Path [wikipedia] [National Trails] - a 184 mile national long distance path - that follows the Thames from its source in Kemble to the Thames Barrier at Charlton in SE London. There is an unofficial 10 mile south bank extension on to Crayford Ness.

It follows the river's historic towpath where possible. In a few places, nearby paths are used instead as towpath sections do not match up where former "horse ferry" crossing have been lost. Through London, and on to the sea, there are north and south bank paths.

Help Us!

After the walk, we would love to get your feedback

You can upload photos to the SWC Group on Flickr (upload your photos) and videos to Youtube. This walk's tags are:

By Train

Out (not a train station)

Back (not a train station)

By Car

Start GL7 6AW Map Directions


National Rail: 03457 48 49 50 • Travelline (bus times): 0871 200 22 33 (12p/min) • TFL (London) : 0343 222 1234


Feb-17 PeterB Thomas G

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Walk Directions  

Full directions for this walk are in a PDF file (link above) which you can print, or download on to a Kindle, tablet, or smartphone.

This is just the introduction. This walk's detailed directions are in a PDF available from