Walking in the Thames Valley
Walking in the Thames Valley describes 25 adventurous day walks in the area covering the North Hampshire Downs, Berkshire and the Southern Chilterns with easy access to London and Reading. The circular walks vary from 10 to 18 miles, including one 2-day walk, as well as shorter route options for those who want a less strenuous day out.
SeasonsSpring and autumn offer the best walking conditions and clearer skies. In winter some paths may become impassable after heavy rain due to flooding, especially along the Thames.
CentresReading, Newbury, Abingdon, London
DifficultyWalks range from 10 to 18 miles, with one 26-mile, 2-day option, all on good paths. Many routes also have shorter options.
Must SeeThe Chilterns and North Wessex Downs Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, the World Heritage Site at Avebury, the Uffington White Horse, lots of cosy pubs and ancient churches
The River Thames flows through some spectacular areas of countryside including open chalk grassland, broadleaved woodland and farmland. The area is also home to two Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty: the Chilterns and the North Wessex Downs. The 25 adventurous walks take you through the Southern Chilterns, Berkshire, Lambourn, the North Hampshire Downs and Southern Oxfordshire, all within easy reach of Reading, Newbury, Abingdon and London.
For those of you with children, the Thames Valley walks are all fairly long and although the terrain is not too hilly, they can be quite strenuous. It’s advised that only children who are used to longer walks should attempt these routes, although 10 trails do offer shorter alternatives. However, if you fancy a longer and more testing walk several long-distance routes pass through the Thames Valley, and all of them are visited by at least one of the walks described in this book. Extra information on 10 of the longer distance walks is also mentioned.
The routes all offer fantastic sites to visit, both historic and modern, from Iron Age hill forts to the Wilton Windmill and the Kennet and Avon Canal. The two-day walk covers 22 miles by following the line of ancient tracks across southern England, many dating back more than 5000 years, and includes an overnight stop at a youth hostel near Segsbury Castle. The route can also be modified into a long day walk of 18 miles by following alternative directions that are also described in the guidebook.
• Each route offers key information about the route: distance, time, grade, map, start/finishing places
• Key information on transport and refreshments.
• Detailed route descriptions, OS mapping and vibrant colour photographs.
Food and Drink
When to Walk
Walking with Children
Using the Guide
Access and Rights of Way
Walk 1 Lechlade and a Thames Meander
Walk 2 Wiltshire Ridges and Liddington Castle
Walk 3 The Bedwyns
Walk 4 Fosbury Hill and the Chutes
Walk 5 Faringdon’s Folly
Walk 6 Lambourn Downs: Striding out with horses and dragons
Walk 7 Thames Village Meander
Walk 8 Hanging Around on Walbury Hill
Walk 9 The Letcombe Gallop
Walk 10 Wantage and the Village Challenge
Walk 11 Farnborough: A poet’s hideaway
Walk 12 Cold Ash and Hermitage: A writer’s retreat
Walk 13 Blewbury and its Hillfort
Walk 14 Watership Down: A land of rabbits
Walk 15 The Pang Valley: A river runs through it
Walk 16 Dorchester-on-Thames: An ancient place of worship
Walk 17 The Aldworth Giants and Thurle Down
Walk 18 The Goring Challenge
Walk 19 Oxford Hills and the River Thame
Walk 20 Historic Ewelme and Swyncombe
Walk 21 Roman around Silchester
Walk 22 Chiltern Patchwork
Walk 23 Thames and Chilterns Meander
Walk 24 Hambledon Valley and a Royal Regatta
Walk 25 Cookham and Stanley Spencer
Appendix 1 A Brief History
Appendix 2 Local Geology
Appendix 3 Useful Contacts
Appendix 4 Further Reading
Appendix 5 Table of Walks
Extracts from the Ordnance Survey Landranger series of maps, at a scale of 1:50,000, are used throughout this guidebook, with overlays showing the routes. However, these maps do not give the same level of detail and clarity as that found on the Ordnance Survey Explorer series, at a scale of 1:25,000 – for example, the location of a path in relation to field boundaries. For this reason walkers may find the larger scale mapping of value on some of the routes. Details of the relevant maps are given with each route description. The Explorer maps that cover the walks in this guidebook are:
• Explorer 157 Marlborough and Savernake Forest
• Explorer 158 Newbury and Hungerford
• Explorer 159 Reading, Wokingham and Pangbourne
• Explorer 170 Abingdon, Wantage and Vale of White Horse
• Explorer 171 Chiltern Hills West, Henley-on-Thames and Wallingford
• Explorer 172 Chiltern Hills East, High Wycombe, Maidenhead and Rickmansworth
• Explorer 180 Oxford, Witney and Woodstock
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Walk 4 At Point (4) the grid reference is SU339565 (not SU339505 as stated)
Walk 9 Revised route description (changed text shown in bold):
(1) SU398879: From the Market Place walk west down Mill Street passing the Bell Inn, later passing Limborough Close on the right (car park). Just after crossing the Letcombe Brook, turn right along The Wharf for 20m and fork left along the tarmac path beside the Sackhouse Museum. Keep to the left-hand path to cross over Denchworth Road. Go north along St Mary’s Way and then left into Wasborough Avenue to take a path to the right past Stockham Farm. At Stockham Bridge go left, following the course of the Wiltshire and Berkshire Canal, for just under 2 miles (3.2km), passing East Challow (detour to the left along the A417 for 100m to visit medieval St Nicholas’ Church).
On reaching West Challow Bridge, leave the canal and follow the road to the right towards West Challow.
Keep left at the junction passing St Laurence’s Church and where the road bends to the right keep ahead towards the village hall. Ignore the bridleway off to the left, but take the left-hand path at the Y-junction across the fields and footbridge to rejoin the canal towpath and reach the B4001.
Walk 19 Map: This walk is covered by OS Landranger map 164 (not 163 as stated)
Walk 20 Map: This walk is covered 183 OS Landranger map 175 (not 174 as stated)
Walk 25 Revised route description (changed text shown in bold):
(4) SU892871: Cross the bridge and then continue along the riverside path downstream towards Cookham.
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Steve Davison is a freelance writer and photographer who has written several walking guides. He has also written for a number of outdoor magazines and other publications, including local and national newspapers, specialising in hill walking and European travel, with interests in nature, geology and the countryside. A keen hill walker for many years and a Mountain Leader, Steve has also worked as a part-time outdoor education instructor. He is also a member of the Outdoor Writers and Photographers Guild.View Articles and Books by Steve Davison