Thames Path : Reading to Henley walk

A pretty stretch of the Thames towpath


This is a list of previous times this walk has been done by the club (since Jan 2010). For more recent events (since April 2015), full details are shown.

Date Option Post # Weather
Sat, 23-Jul-22 Saturday Walk: Reading to Henley along the River Thames
Sat, 18-Jan-20 Saturday Walk – The Thames Path from Reading to Henley 16
Sun, 16-Jul-17 A gentle amble along the Thames Path
Sat, 08-Oct-16 Saturday Second Walk - an easy but beautiful walk along The Thames 17 overcast but dry
Wed, 25-Feb-15 Reading to Henley
Sun, 30-Nov-14 Reading to Henley 5
Sun, 29-Dec-13 Reading to Henley 4
Sun, 18-Nov-12 Reading to Henley
Sat, 14-Jan-12 Reading to Henley
Sat, 11-Dec-10 Reading to Henley
Sun, 04-Oct-09 Thames Path : Reading to Henley
Sat, 19-Jul-08 Thames Path : Reading to Henley
Sun, 02-Mar-08 Thames Path : Reading to Henley
Sat, 29-Dec-07 Thames Path : Reading to Henley
10.5 miles / 16.9 km
(or finish at Shiplake for a shorter walk of 8.2 miles)
This is an easy walk following the Thames towpath, which you pick up a few hundred metres after leaving Reading station.
Trains: 10:20 London Paddington, 10:47 Reading.
Return trains from Henley at xx:00, xx:30 (4 mins later from Shiplake), change at Twyford.
Buy a day return to Henley via Reading (this is slightly more expensive than a regular Henley return). If you have a Freedom Pass, you can use this for travel all the way to Reading on TFL trains, and will just need a single from Henley to Twyford.
Lunch: The lunch stop is at The Bull Inn, a popular pub in the attractive village of Sonning. An alternative is the Coppa Club.

Tea: The Chocolate Cafe, near the town bridge at Henley, is a long-standing SWC favourite. There are plenty of pubs and other tea places in the town centre. For an earlier stop there's The Baskerville Arms near Shiplake station.
Extra Walk 61 – Reading to Henley
Length: 15.2 km (9.4 miles). Toughness: 1/10

10:47 Swansea train from Paddington, non-stop to Reading and arriving at 11:10. From Ealing Broadway take TfL's 10:21 Reading train arriving at 11:11; if you just miss this, GWR's 10:35 Didcot train arrives a few minutes later at 11:14. Buy a return to Henley-on-Thames via Reading (if you get the cheaper ‘Not via Reading’ ticket by mistake you'll have to pay an excess fare at Reading).

Trains back from Henley are half-hourly at xx:01 & xx:31 (hourly after 8pm) and go to Twyford, where you change for a GWR or TfL service to Paddington.

Note: London Freedom Pass holders can now travel free all the way to Reading on TfL Rail services only. If you want to take advantage of this, get the 10:13 Reading train from Paddington (Ealing 10:21, arr Reading 11:11; as above). On the way back you'll need to buy a single from Henley to Twyford and take a TfL service back to Paddington.

This simple walk along the well-waymarked Thames Path hasn't had an outing for 2½ years. It's just been tweaked to provide a better route from the station to the river, so it seems a good time to give it another look. The riverside path shouldn't be excessively muddy, but a few short stretches were reportedly flooded (though not impassable) after the incessant rain before Christmas. As it's been much drier since then I'm sure there won't be any serious problems, but be prepared…

The published route includes some roadside walking away from the river after Shiplake Lock, but if you're not a slave to your GPS device you could continue along a section of the Thames Path which was restored in 2012 after a long campaign by the Ramblers. It adds about 1 km to the walk length and should be well signposted.

It's possible to cut the walk short just after this new riverside section and return from Shiplake station (on the Henley branch line; trains at xx:05 & xx:35), but the riverside stretch into Henley is described as a beautiful part of the walk.

You should download and bring the straightforward walk instructions from the Reading to Henley walk page. Lunch is in the pretty village of Sonning, where you can choose between the popular Bull Inn and a newish alternative, Coppa Club (which got a favourable mention from some walkers last May). There's lots of choice for tea in Henley, with most walkers favouring the riverside Chocolate Café near the town bridge. T=swc.61
  • 07-Jan-20

    Just to point out that TFL Rail trains have NO TOILETS. There are toilets on each platform at Reading, however.

    (Gawd help those who want to travel from Shenfield to Reading on the Cross-Elizabeth-Purple Line when it finally opens. You will need strong bladders...)

  • Anonymous

    The stretch between Sonning and Shiplake can be very muddy.

  • 08-Jan-20

    I did the walk on 30 December, and the Sonning to Shiplake section then had slithery surface mud rather than the deep gloopy variety. It was a trifle tedious, but not terminally so, and the lovely scenery made up for it. In the morning the paths are mostly gravel.

    Nearing the Boat House at Old Shiplake (1km before the lock) there was one large flooded bit, which I had to wade through, but this was because heavy rains before Christmas had inundated a playing field. This flood was now draining into the river, whose level was much lower by that point. We have not had heavy rain of this kind since, so I would be surprised if this section was still a problem.

  • 09-Jan-20

    Just to clarify, it is only the Freedom Pass, not the 60+ London oyster card that is valid beyond West Drayton (I had initially thought it was both)

  • Anonymous

    Thank you to Pete G for the fare information,

    I too, thought it was both.

  • 17-Jan-20

    Since the GWR and TfL trains arrive at the same time on different platforms, it may be best to meet up on the overhead concourse, near the escalator exit on the north side of Reading station (NOT the main concourse on the south side of the station).

  • 17-Jan-20

    TfL trains from Twyford to London are at xx:28 and xx:58, taking 49 minutes.

  • 21-Jan-20

    This walk had to be abandoned after a couple of miles due to the Thames path being flooded in several places. 16 walkers turned up for it. I didn't want to return to London straight away so I walked up the River Kennet which took me into the the centre of Reading. There I saw the abbey ruins, Jane Austin's boarding school, a vibrant and friendly town centre and a first class museum. Hopefully this walk can be re-posted in the Spring or Summer.

  • 21-Jan-20

    Having taken an earlier train I walked the first section, Reading to Sonning. Though there was flooding in places, especially in stretches of the water meadows, it was possible to get through and much of the path was OK. Admittedly it helped in the odd place to be wearing wellies. But after Sonning (lunch at Coppa Club excellent), the path was fully flooded, the river well over its banks and flooding over the land on the far side of the path as well. I proceeded for possibly a couple of hundred metres to see if the situation would improve and wss just wondering if I should turn back when a red inflatable boat came into view, motoring down the river. I called to ask if it was better to go forward or back, they indicated back and immediately came over, had me in the boat and took me back to Sonning. They were the Berkshire Search and Rescue Service and told me that the path was flooded up to Shiplake, also that the river was still rising even though the rains had ceased. I walked back to Reading finding a different way to get through the partially flooded meadows.

  • 21-Jan-20

    Bad luck on those who had to abandon the walk, but better to be safe than sorry If someone had a map or gps an alternative might have been to walk to Pangbourne and then possibly on to Goring or as I once did, walk to Pangbourne and then follow a route back to Reading on the opposite side of the river.

  • 21-Jan-20

    Apologies for posting this walk. The full route was passable a couple of weeks earlier but after last week's storm it looks like I should have played safe and substituted something else (not that there are that many mud-free walks in our winter repertoire). Congratulations to those of you who improvised a town walk around Reading or got a free boat trip.

SWC Walk 61 Reading to Henley

Distance 14.8km (9.2m); toughness 1/10

Trains: 10.13 London Paddington (Ealing Broadway 10.21) arrives at Reading 11.11
or catch a fast train at 10.27 direct to Reading (arriving 11.02) and wait for the arrival of the slow train.

Return trains from Henley are at xx:16 and xx:46 mins past the hour changing at Twyford

Buy a day return to Reading but be prepared to pay a single fare from Henley to Twyford.

if you leave Reading station at around 11.15 you should have a relaxed amble to Sonning and get there around 12.30ish for lunch at the very popular Bull pub- please ring ahead.

This is a simple walk along a pleasant section of the River Thames, keeping to the riverside path throughout. The Thames Path turns inland for a while between Shiplake Lock and while passing through the village of Shiplake, but then returns to the riverbank for a very pretty section past Marsh Lock. with its dramatic weirs, and through a riverside park into Henley where the Chocolate cafe is the usual spot for tea and cakes.

Click here for more information about the walk, including an alternative lunch stop and click on the pdf button for the walk instructions. T=swc.61
  • Anonymous

    The Thames Path route just after Shiplake Station is quite overgrown, a more pleasant option would be to take the next left along Bolney Road.

  • Anonymous

    There is no 10.04 train leaving Paddington: walk poster please resolve.

  • David

    It's worth mentioning that walkers should have either GPS or a compass for this walk, since it takes many twists and turns through woodland. It's a sandwich eater's paradise, with as many as a score of benches passed during the day.

  • David

    Oops... right comment; wrong walk. It should have been for the Broxbourne circular

SWC Walk 61 - Reading to Henley
Length: 14.8km (9.2 miles)
Toughness: 1 out of 10 - entirely flat

9.57 train (a big mainline one, destination Bristol Temple Meads) from Paddington to Reading, arriving 10.25.

(From Ealing Broadway it is quicker to get a train into Paddington to connect wth the above, but if you want to travel direct there is a 9.13 stopping service that gets to Reading at 10.21).

Buy a day return to Reading.

This is a very simple walk along the Thames Path, but there are a few places where you can go wrong, and these brief directions ensure you do not do that.

Simple does not mean ordinary, however. I gave this walk a check in March and had a dreamy day out (see the first five photos on the walk's photo page) and found lots to delight me. To begin with you are in the park-like surrounds of Reading but you soon escape into a quiet wooded section. Then past the delightful Sonning Lock and to Sonning itself. The Bull Inn here is a very charming and popular pub, but now has some competition from a new establishment by the river - the Coppa Club: see walk directions for details.

After lunch you have to cross the river (one of the crucial directions in the walk document!) and then there is an isolated section where the river meanders between fields, before you come to Shiplake, with its charming riverside meadows. You are forced a bit "inland" here, and you could take an early train back from Shiplake after 11.1km (6.9 miles). There is even a pub here to act as a tea stop.

But better by far is to push on to Henley, on a route which takes you past posh houses and then out into a lovely watermeadow, past beautiful Marsh Lock and into Henley with its nice tea options.

Trains back from Henley are at 24 past. Your return ticket to Reading may be accepted or you may have to pay a single for the relatively short hop from Reading to Twyford, where the two routes converge.
  • Anonymous

    17 , overcast but dry

    14 set off from the station at the recommended time, 2 later comers joined the group at lunch, one early starter met us at Chocolate Factory in Henley. A nice and easy walk but scenic and enjoyable nonetheless. All stopped at The Bull - nice food and good service (food came very quickly) but expensive. We got to the pub before 12pm. So it is worth while to consider a later start if this walk comes up again. A small group pressed on to Henley or took the train from Shiplake (not sure). 9 stopped at Baskerville Arms for tea where Brexit debate has become rather heated. Another tea stop at Chocolate Factory, where ice creams were consumed to cool down the debate but several others could not take the heat and went to explore Henley. We took 4:20pm train back to London. A divided country, but we are keeping on walking....