Walk #794: Thames Path: Marlow to Reading
Map of the walk
Maps courtesy of Google Maps. Route for indicative purposes only, and may have been plotted after the walk. Please let me have comments on what you think of this new format. For a detailed table of timings for this walk, please see the table file.
Due to our house move, the plan for Sencan and myself to walk the Thames Path had taken a back seat. However, with all of our boxes (nearly) unpacked and the house more or less right, we decided to do the next stretch of the path from where we had left off in Marlow. The journey up to Marlow from Southampton took longer than I expected, and we pulled up in a narrow car parking space at the station and started to get ready for the day ahead.
The weather looked to be promising, with bright clear skies overhead that were cold nonetheless, and as we walked down the road towards the river we pulled into a shop and bought some food for the day - crisps, nuts, some chocolates and, joy of joys, some custard cream biscuits. Suitably provisioned, we walked down the roads to the magnificent Marlow Bridge, an old suspension bridge that uses chains instead of cables. Marlow is a lovely little town, and like many of the Thames-side towns the river seems to give it a heartbeat.
We chatted as we walked along the path towards the Temple Bridge, repeatedly passing a man who was taking photographs of the scenes in the sunshine. It was a marvellous, if slightly chilly, day for a walk, and I also frequently stopped to take photos of the riverside scenes. Although I have walked this stretch of river three times before it was still a pleasure to be doing it again.
It was a gloriously sunny day as we walked on, crossing a bridge on the island that passed Hurley Lock, where unofficial yellow signs pointed the way to various places along the Thames nearby. Another bridge led back onto the southern riverbank, which we followed westwards. We chatted away as the path eventually left the riverside and started climbing up, passing below Culham Court and reaching the little hamlet of Aston, where the Flower Pot Inn looked very inviting, but we walked on back towards the river.
There was a bench by the river here, and Sencan stopped to tie up her boots, which had come undone. The next stretch of the walk past Hambleden Lock was very pleasant, and we concocted stories together as we strolled along. On the other side of the river there were some formal gardens in front of some very expensive houses, and a few of the small tree were spectacularly fire-red. Sencan was impressed by the lovely little fishing lodge on Temple Island, after which we headed down the long straight towards Henley. The towpath was very busy with people out for the afternoon, and I made some strange comments to some just to see their reactions. Yes, I am that strange, but I was very happy, and deeply in love with the woman beside me. Love does that to me.
After crossing the Thames in Henley we continued on along the western bank of the river, leaving the busy Henley behind as we walked along the long footbridges that take the walkers across to the island that houses Henley Lock. This bridge is quite spectacular, and there were some good views along the river. After passing the lock another bridge led back to the riverbank, and we headed on across a lovely meadow. Unfortunately we came across the less pleasant side of walkers - a dog off its leash ran loose and started trying to attack another dog that was firmly on a leash. It was the sort of situation that causes everyone to stop and stare, and fortunately the owner of the loose dog ran over and restrained it before too much damage was done. The viciousness of the dog was frightening.
Soon afterwards the path left the riverbank and stared heading in towards Bolney Court and Shiplake. On the way we passed a little miniature railway in the gardens of a house on the left, complete with two branches and an ornate miniaturised station building. By the time we reached Shiplake we were both in need of a rest, so we stopped off at the Baskerville Arms, which was right on the path. I had a Sunday roast whilst Sencan had a vegetarian option, and as we set off I felt slightly unwell as a result of the combination of the pint of bitter I had consumed and the heat.
A road and footpath walk took us down to Shiplake Lock, after which we started following the northern bank of the river westwards. It was an enjoyable stroll in the afternoon, but Sencan start flagging slightly. It seemed to take an age to reach the magnificent 1775-built brick Sonning Bridge. It took a couple of minutes to cross due to the traffic, but we then headed back along the Thames southwestwards. We had to get the train back to Marlow, but Sencan was walking slower and slower as her feet hurt more. We struggled on along the fields to the east of Reading, and there were plenty of people out enjoying the late Autumn sunshine.
After the bridge over the entrance to the Kennet and Avon Canal (which I had to get a boat across when I walked this path in 2000 due to the bridge being replaced) we walked faster towards Reading Lock and the city centre. At one point we saw a very friendly grey squirrel who kindly paused long enough for me to take photographs of it. I guess that being in such a populated area it is used to people.
At Reading Bridge we left the river and started the walk south to the station. We arrived and managed to buy ticket in plenty of time before the next train, and Sencan rested her feet as we waited. It had been a lovely walk along a beautiful stretch of the Thames.
This makes a total distance of 18.2 miles, with 452 feet of ascent and 417 feet of descent.
There are regular train services between Reading and Marlow. Take a train eastwards to Maidenhead, and change there for the Marlow branch.
Please note that I take no responsibility for anything that may happen when following these directions. If you intend to follow this route, then please use the relevant maps and check the route out before you go out. As always when walking, use common sense and you should be fine.
If you find any information on any of these routes that is inaccurate, or you wish to add anything, then please email me.
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And finally, enjoy your walking!
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