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Along the Thames: Shillingford to Abingdon

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Along the Thames: Shillingford to Abingdon
Author: NickC, Published: 17 Apr 2013 Walk rating : Rating:star0 iFootpath - walking guides and directions for the UKstar0 iFootpath - walking guides and directions for the UKstar0 iFootpath - walking guides and directions for the UKstar0 iFootpath - walking guides and directions for the UKstar0 iFootpath - walking guides and directions for the UK
Oxfordshire, Abingdon, Shillingford
Walk Type: Long distance path
Along the Thames: Shillingford to Abingdon
Length: 11 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 straightforward, if fairly lengthy, walk criss-crosses the River Thames as it meanders its way through the Oxfordshire countryside. It is marked out by four bridges, Shillingford at the start and Abingdon at the end, with those at Clifton Hampden and Culham in between. There's meadows, fieldside walking and brushes with local villages, as well as a number of locks, where lock-keepers sometimes offer ice cream or other refreshment during the summer. Even if they are not when you are there, these locks are often highly picturesque and offer good 'pause points' to sit and watch the river traffic go by.

The walk is linear, although it ends in Abingdon where you can either park a second car or get a taxi back to the start point. Public transport options aren't great. This is an all day walk, there's no point in hurrying it, taking around 4-5 hours to complete without stops (which you will need).

Shillingford lies at the junction of the A329 and A4074, three miles north of Wallingford, half way between Oxford and Didcot. Park in the car park of the Shillingford Bridge Hotel (postcode OX10 8LZ), asking the owner's permission.

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Walk Sections

Start to Days Lock
Start to Days Lock

Start point: 51.6236 lat, -1.1403 long
End point: 51.6384 lat, -1.179 long

From the hotel car park turn left and over the bridge, heading up the Wallingford Road. On reaching Court Drive, turn left, following this road until you reach Shillingford Court and, after turning left into a passage, the old Shillingford Wharf. The wharf is distinguished by a number of flood marks and was once used to land coal and send off beer brewed at the Kingfisher pub, which you now have to reach by heading up the length of Wharf Road. Look out for the magnificent wisteria growing on the side of a cottage here.

On reaching the road, head left along Henley Road (A4074), crossing over the main road at the bus stop. Just after a pair of houses there is a gate on the other side of the road, near a large traffic sign. Cross the road and pass through a kissing gate down to the river, heading right.

Not too long after, you pass the confluence of the River Thame, from which the Thames is thought by some to get its name. The small settlement of Dorchester lies to the right, with its prominent church spire. Soon, the river bends to the right and you begin to approach Day's Lock. Pass under a bridge and come to a kissing gate.

Days Lock to Clifton Hampden Bridge
Days Lock to Clifton Hampden Bridge

Start point: 51.6384 lat, -1.179 long
End point: 51.6545 lat, -1.2097 long

Go through the kissing gate at the end of the lock compound and cross over the river at the lock gates and weir. Bear right and follow the meadows in front of you as they curve round to the left. On the far bank you might just make out Burcot and its long gardens. Until the middle of the seventeenth century this marked the end of navigation from London and goods had to be unloaded here to make the final journey to Oxford.

Stay with the river as it performs a near 180 degree arc. From around here you may catch a glimpse of Clifton Manor House, perched on a high cliff near the church on the opposite bank. The path ends in a gate, which you go through to reach the brick built Clifton Hampden Bridge, the second significant bridge on this walk. Here it is possible to reach a pub, the Barley Mow, if you detour left. Clifton Hampden Bridge was designed by George Gilbert Scott, perhaps better known for St. Pancras Station and the Albert Memorial (as well as the Foreign Office).

Clifton Hampden Bridge to Culham Bridge
Clifton Hampden Bridge to Culham Bridge

Start point: 51.6545 lat, -1.2097 long
End point: 51.6507 lat, -1.2661 long

Cross over the bridge and go down the slope on your left to Clifton Lock. Pass along the side of the lock and pick up the footpath on the other side. The long straight section that follows is man-made, being Clifton Cut, dug in 1822 to bypass a straggling stretch of river to the south.

After the weir at the end of the cut the path follows some fields. After a small copse, the path ducks underneath the Appleford Railway Bridge, and soon after there are views of Didcot Power Station to the south. Also look out for the Wittenham Clumps, a series of small hillocks in the otherwise flat Thames Valley, topped with beech trees.

As Culham gets closer, the path begins to rise and go through a wooded section. Ahead you will see the third main river crossing of the walk, Culham Bridge, which crosses both the old route of the river and the navigable Culham Cut.

Culham Bridge to Abingdon Bridge (End)
Culham Bridge to Abingdon Bridge (End)

Start point: 51.6507 lat, -1.2661 long
End point: 51.668 lat, -1.2788 long

Cross over the bridge and head left past Culham Lock. The path now follows the line of the Culham Cut, again created to bypass a meadering section of river to the south, the success of which prompted the Clifton Cut seen in the previous section to be dug.

Pass under a bridge (a footpath to the right would take you into Culham) and, later, the remnants of an old bridge, and at the end of the Cut the river heads dramatically northwards. At the end of a large open field take the footpath over Swift Ditch, originally a short cut dug by Abingdon Abbey, albeit a thousand years ago! The river now curves slightly to the left and the beginnings of Abingdon appear on the opposite bank, marked by the appearance of the Abingdon School Boathouse and a marina, as the river begins its final curve to the right.

Also on the opposite bank, you may make out where the River Ock joins the Thames and the point at which the old Wilts and Berks Canal used to bring coal up to this part of the world from Somerset (now boarded up but clearly visible). The attractive Abingdon Almshouses are another feature as you continue along meadows up to Abingdon Bridge, the fourth and final fine bridge and the end point of this 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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