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Along The Thames: Goring to Shillingford

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Along The Thames: Goring to Shillingford
Author: NickC, Published: 17 Apr 2013 Walk rating : Rating:star1 iFootpath - walking guides and directions for the UKstar1 iFootpath - walking guides and directions for the UKstar1 iFootpath - walking guides and directions for the UKstar1 iFootpath - walking guides and directions for the UKstar1 iFootpath - walking guides and directions for the UK
Oxfordshire, Goring
Walk Type: Long distance path
Along The Thames: Goring to Shillingford
Length: 10 miles,  Difficulty: boot iFootpath - walking guides and directions for the UK boot iFootpath - walking guides and directions for the UK
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This walk starts at a significant point in the course of the River Thames, the Goring Gap, dividing the Chilterns to the north and the Berkshire Downs to the south. As if to mark this, there's a magnificent lock at the start, which can be viewed from above using the bridge across the river. From there, the walk heads towards the town of Wallingford via a short diversion away from the river, after which you cross over the water at a weir with white water hurtling beneath your feet. The route ends at Shillingford, with its impressive bridge, at a hotel, where you can take tea to celebrate your achievement, or something stronger if required!

This is a linear walk covering around ten miles, with places to park a car at either end. Allow the best part of a day to complete, especially if you are shuffling cars. Apart from the single detour, which is largely on pavement, the walk follows the course of the river and the Thames Path National Trail, and as such is easy to follow and is relatively easy. There are a couple of watering holes along the way, but a picnic or Thermos might be a good idea.

Goring is on the A329, half way between Didcot and Reading, and also has a station, Goring and Streatley, reached on the Reading (Streatley lies on the western side of the river). The walk starts in the public car park in Goring (postcode RG8 9HB), but can also be started at the bridge itself. Both Goring and Shillingford are serviced by buses, although you would need to change at Wallingford and it would be best to check times before setting off.

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Walk Sections

Start to Beetle and Wedge
Start to Beetle and Wedge

Start point: 51.5221 lat, -1.1371 long
End point: 51.5481 lat, -1.1453 long

Exit the car park using the path adjacent to the public conveniences in the top corner i.e. not via the road you will have used if you arrived by car. On reaching the main road through Goring turn left and follow the pavement through the village to the bridge. This is Streatley Bridge, Streatley being the village on the other (Berkshire) side of the river. From the bridge you can get a good view of both Goring Lock and the Swan Pub on the left, mentioned in Jerome K Jerome's 'Three Men In A Boat'.

On the other side of the bridge turn right to the church and continue beyond some cottages. Go to the right of a gate and pass between an avenue of trees, at the end of which the path bears right to go through a gate - ignore the nearby kissing gate. On reaching a low footbridge, cross over and follow the path to the left down to a gate by the river. Stay with the path, through another gate and over a drawbridge to an inlet. You are now at Cleeve Lock and have walked the shortest distance between locks on the river! Opposite, you can see the Leatherne Bottel, once a basic pub, but now an expensive restaurant.

Pass along a meadow, following the river, where you pass back unnoticed into Oxfordshire. You will reach a wood, which brings you up to the Beetle and Wedge at Moulsford. Look out for the distinctive Egyptian House just before the pub.

Beetle and Wedge to Ferry Lane
Beetle and Wedge to Ferry Lane

Start point: 51.5481 lat, -1.1453 long
End point: 51.5652 lat, -1.1343 long

The Beetle and Wedge marks the start of the diversion away from the river, but still following the Thames Path, so it is signposted. Turn inland at the pub, walking up Ferry Lane. On reaching a crossroads head right and follow the main road all the way to some school playing fields, walking slightly uphill. Just after the playing fields, the path heads right opposite Offlands Farm. Stay with the hedged path, heading downhill, at the bottom of which the path heads left along a field, with a railway line above you. Bear right and aim for the kissing gate, ignoring a farm gate, where the path narrows and passes under a viaduct using a small footbridge.

You now rejoin the river, although it is not always easy to see through the foliage, passing through woods and down some steps. On rejoining the river proper, stick with the towpath until you reach some kissing gates. Although not obvious, these mark a ferry point, with another Ferry Lane on your left taking you up to Cholsey, where there is a station.

Ferry Lane to Wallingford Bridge
Ferry Lane to Wallingford Bridge

Start point: 51.5652 lat, -1.1343 long
End point: 51.6009 lat, -1.1209 long

Pass through the kissing gates, keeping with the path as it passes through a nature reserve, slightly away from the river itself. After passing through a number of disused gates, the path goes through a kissing gate, and from here you should be able to see North Stoke on the opposite bank.

After a gate adjacent to a footbridge (near a wood), the path follows along some private gardens, with Carmel College now on the opposite bank. Now closed, the College was a co-educational Jewish boarding school in the post war years and was used by the RAF before then, including as a base for planning the Dam Buster raids.

Pass under a road bridge and soon after the path becomes enclosed and becomes a footpath. There was once a lock here, and the official footpath is in fact on the opposite bank. Go over a boatyard and through a gap in the hedge and on reaching Lower Wharf go round a bend and then right under an archway in a house and over a millstream. The path now passes round the back of St. Leonard's church. On reaching Thames Street head right to reach the main road, and head right down to Wallingford Bridge.

Wallingford Bridge to Benson Marina
Wallingford Bridge to Benson Marina

Start point: 51.6009 lat, -1.1209 long
End point: 51.6167 lat, -1.1161 long

From the bridge, turn down Castle Lane at the side of the pub and bear right at the back, heading along some meadows, where there is an information sign telling you more about the castle that once stood here, but was destroyed by Cromwell in 1646, following a four month siege. At the end of the meadows is a gate, with the path now set back a bit after some erosion of the bank here.

This is a pleasant stretch of walking, with a firm path beneath. Stay with the path until you reach a sharp bend to the right and a wooden footbridge, bringing you to Benson Lock. Cross over the gates where indicated and then over the straight weir, followed by a bridge over a millstream, to reach the opposite bank. Continue to a gate at a road and bear left, staying with the road, bearing left again at the next junction. Benson Marina will be visible in front of you, and there's a convenient cafe here with worth-stopping-for cakes.

Benson Marina to Shillingford (End)
Benson Marina to Shillingford (End)

Start point: 51.6167 lat, -1.1161 long
End point: 51.6237 lat, -1.1404 long

Pass through the boatyard, with a caravan park to your right. Stay on the lower path to reach a kissing gate, after which the path follows meadows. Later on, the path follows a fence as it comes up to Shillingford, with the bridge bearing its name now coming in to view. This stone bridge is significant for being exactly halfway between Reading and Oxford, and is regarded by some as the prettiest on the river. Coincidentally, it is also half way between Lechlade and Windsor.

On reaching the road head left, over the bridge, and take the first right into the hotel car park. Now the Shillingford Bridge Hotel, this was once known as the Swan. Look over to the opposite bank to an elegant diagonal brick boathouse. The hotel marks the end of the walk.

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Text and images for this walk are Copyright © 2013 by the author NickC and may not be reproduced without permission.

The information in this guide has been provided in good faith and is intended only as a guide, not a statement of fact. You are advised to check the accuracy of the information provided and should not use this guide for navigational directions nor should you rely on the accuracy of the weather forecast. You are advised to take appropriate clothing, footwear, equipment and navigational materials with you according to the current and possible weather and nature of the terrain. Always follow the country code and follow any additional warnings or instructions that may be available. Some walks may be very strenuous and you are advised to seek medical advice if you have any doubts as to your capability to complete the walk.

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