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Henley, Binfield Heath and Sonning

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Henley, Binfield Heath and Sonning
Author: Ecoworrier, Published: 20 Jun 2018 Walk Rating:star0 Henley, Binfield Heath and Sonning Walking Guide  Oxfordshirestar0 Henley, Binfield Heath and Sonning Walking Guide  Oxfordshirestar0 Henley, Binfield Heath and Sonning Walking Guide  Oxfordshirestar0 Henley, Binfield Heath and Sonning Walking Guide  Oxfordshirestar0 Henley, Binfield Heath and Sonning Walking Guide  Oxfordshire
Oxfordshire, Henley
Walk Type: Footpaths and byways
Henley, Binfield Heath and Sonning
Length: 11 miles,  Difficulty: boot Henley, Binfield Heath and Sonning Walking Guide  Oxfordshire boot Henley, Binfield Heath and Sonning Walking Guide  Oxfordshire boot Henley, Binfield Heath and Sonning Walking Guide  Oxfordshire
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This circular walk of around 10.5 miles combines historic villages and beech woods on the lower slopes of the Chilterns with a stretch of the Thames Path between Sonning and Henley in Oxfordshire. The Thames Path section is a particular delight as some of it can be surprisingly quiet and it takes you through meadows and copses rich with wildlife. Sections of this walk will be muddy after wet weather, and parts of the Thames section can flood. You will need to negotiate a few gates and kissing gates, some steps and one stile. The walk is suitable for dogs (although remember the one stile) but not buggies. There are a couple of short sections along quiet roads and a few road crossings that need care.

This walk is adapted from a walk originally published in Raymond Hugh’s “Adventurous Walks in the South Chilterns”. These lovely books are sadly out of print, but it is worth buying them if you ever see one for sale second-hand because of the unique combination of his sense of humour, local history, interesting path choices, hand-drawn maps and his clear love of (some of) the local pubs. In the introduction to Raymond Hugh’s original walk he recommends that this walk is done several times in different seasons and weather conditions.

Although this walk starts on the edge of Henley, the only opportunities to get food and drink on the route are at The Flowing Spring as you approach Sonning and at The Baskerville or the village store in Lower Shiplake towards the end of the walk.

Our walk starts from the public car park at Mill Lane on the southern edge of Henley-on-Thames (Post code RG9 4HB, OS ref 771817). Mill Lane is the last turning on the left in the built-up area as you travel south out of Henley on the A4155 towards Reading. The turning is signed to Henley Football Club and is between two sets of brand new flats. (If you reach the Tesco’s roundabout you have missed Mill Lane). Follow Mill Lane over the railway line and the car park is on your left just after the football club.

The start of the walk is also reachable from the rail station, car parks and bus stops of Henley, although this will add a mile or more to your walk. Alternatively, the rail station at Lower Shiplake is on our route (Waypoint 7).

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Walk Sections

Start to Red Hatch Lodge
Start to Red Hatch Lodge

Start point: 51.5288 lat, -0.8905 long
End point: 51.5143 lat, -0.9034 long

Turn right out of the car park and follow Mill Lane back over the railway line to the A4155. Cross this road, turn right and take the first left to walk up Waterman’s Road. When the road reaches a T-junction, go straight ahead up a gravel track passing between houses on the right and flats (and the YMCA) on the left. The gravel track leads gently uphill to reach a minor road, Harpsden Way. Turn left and follow this road, initially using the pavement on the far side. There are some fine houses along this road, an intriguing blend of old and new.

When the pavement ends continue along the road and follow it round to the right to pass the gateway to Harpsden Court and Harpsden Church. Opposite Harpsden Church there are a series of barns. Look carefully at the wooden tiles on the end of these barns. These were originally used for printing patterns on wallpaper.

After the church the road forks. Take the bridleway to the left of the left-hand fork (Woodlands Road). The bridleway runs alongside the road for a bit before climbing more steeply. When the path forks take the left-hand fork (following the blue bridle-way arrow) and follow this path through Harpsden Wood. Several patches of the beech-woods in this area, including this one, are managed by the Woodland Trust. Follow the main path straight ahead, ignoring side turnings, to eventually emerge on Woodlands Road again. Turn left and follow the road until it bends left just after the track to “Red Hatch Lodge”.

Red Hatch Lodge to Prominent Track
Red Hatch Lodge to Prominent Track

Start point: 51.5143 lat, -0.9034 long
End point: 51.5032 lat, -0.9084 long

Leave the road before the bend and follow the footpath straight ahead with a wooden fence on your left and a wire fence and wood on your right. The path ends at a small tarmac lane (Upper Bolney Road). Cross the lane and take the path on your right that leads diagonally right across the centre of a field, heading for the right hand edge of the woodland (Upper Hailey Wood) ahead of you.

When you reach the wood, continue along the fenced footpath that leads initially along the right (northern) edge of the wood. Keep following this path straight on into the wood, ignoring side-paths, through a laurel-lined dip, to the far side of the wood. Continue to follow the track ahead, ignoring a crossing track, walking now along a hedge and tree-lined track between open fields. To your left there are views across the Thames Valley towards Bowsey and Ashley Hills. Where the track bends gently right take the prominent track to the right.

Prominent Track to Diagonally Right
Prominent Track to Diagonally Right

Start point: 51.5032 lat, -0.9084 long
End point: 51.4978 lat, -0.9119 long

This prominent track leads to Kiln House, a relatively new brick building. Just after a bench and a small brick building (perhaps a gate house?) note the Shiplake Brickworks brick in the wall after the entrance to Kiln House. At this point turn left to pass through a gap in the hedge and follow a path along the right-hand edge of a field. This path leads to a gravel drive which in turn leads to a road (Shiplake Row).

Cross the road to pick up the signed footpath just to the left of the car park of Orwells restaurant. At this point it is worth looking back at the cottage that you just passed on the other side of the road. Their garden is well kept and I am led to believe that the owners also maintain the last section of the footpath that you just walked along. Orwells restaurant used to be a pub called The White Hart and is still shown as a pub on the latest OS maps.

Follow the path along the edge of the field alongside Orwells. At the end of the fence, the path turns diagonally left heading for a small copse. At the small copse, climb a stile (an increasingly rare site hereabouts) and turn right to duck through the copse and follow the path ahead. There are good views to your left across the Thames Valley. The path shortly turns diagonally right across the centre of a field.

Diagonally Right to Dragon Cottage
Diagonally Right to Dragon Cottage

Start point: 51.4978 lat, -0.9119 long
End point: 51.495 lat, -0.931 long

At the far side of the field go through a gap in the hedge, cross an old trackway, and go straight on to follow a path down the right-hand side of a field. Where the field boundary curves away to the right the path goes straight on to re-join the field boundary after a short distance. At the far side of the field you enter Shiplake Copse, a great place to see bluebells in the spring. Follow the prominent path through the copse. The path eventually twists to climb out of the copse (past the remains of a stile) and enter a field. Follow the left-hand edge of the field, with Shiplake Copse on your left. Keep following the left-hand edge of the field, leaving the copse behind, to eventually pass through a hedge to the left of an old iron kissing gate and along the left-hand edge of the next field. At the end of the field you will reach a road (Dunsden Way) and the village of Binfield Heath. Turn left to follow the road through the village. Just after passing Binfield Heath’s church, and just before Dragon Cottage (on the right), turn left to pass to the right of Radbrook House.

Dragon Cottage to Spring Lane Path
Dragon Cottage to Spring Lane Path

Start point: 51.495 lat, -0.931 long
End point: 51.484 lat, -0.9249 long

The track past Radbrook House soon becomes a path between fields. Ignore crossing tracks to continue straight ahead, descending between two areas of woodland. The path skirts the left-hand edge of the rightmost piece of woodland (Roundwood Wood). Continue straight ahead, descending between fields, to eventually reach a strip of tarmac. This is the remains of the old Reading to Henley road and you can probably hear the traffic on the new road, the other side of the hedge ahead of you. Turn right and follow the permissive path signs to emerge in a field. Follow the left-hand edge of the field gently downhill. Watch out for a set of steps on your left leading down to the A4155 opposite The Flowing Spring. Walk down these and cross the road carefully. Unless you are stopping at the pub, walk down Spring Lane to the left of the pub.

Spring Lane Path to Thames Path
Spring Lane Path to Thames Path

Start point: 51.484 lat, -0.9249 long
End point: 51.476 lat, -0.9145 long

Shortly after the road crosses a stream, take the footpath on your left and walk along the right edge of a field parallel to the road. You could follow this path all the way to the B478 (Playhatch Road). However, the last section, alongside allotments, can get overgrown and there is an opportunity to rejoin Spring Lane just before these allotments.

Whether you follow the path or the lane, when you reach the main road into Sonning (B478) cross over it on to a tarmac path opposite. This path was the original course of the B478, and opens up into a lane passing a lovely old cottage on the right. Keep following the lane past Reading Sailing Club. Where the road bends left, follow a lane straight ahead through the village of Sonning Eye. Shortly after this lane bends left (by “Long Gardens”), turn right onto a tarmac path by the village noticeboard. This path reaches a branch of the Thames at The French Horn’s car park. Turn left to reach the B478 again, and then turn right to follow it over a bridge onto an island that contains The Mill at Sonning, a theatre, restaurant and bar. Cross the road opposite The Mill and just before the road goes over a traffic-light controlled bridge across the main part of the Thames, turn left to join the Thames Path.

(If you have time, it is well worth taking the detour into the pretty village of Sonning on the opposite bank of the Thames. The village contains several cafes and restaurants, but my personal favourite is The Bull near the village church, a lovely old pub which has always provided me with good food and beer).

Thames Path to Shiplake Station
Thames Path to Shiplake Station

Start point: 51.476 lat, -0.9145 long
End point: 51.5116 lat, -0.8825 long

From the footbridge across the side-branch of the Thames you get a nicely framed view of The French Horn and its well maintained gardens. At the end of the footbridge turn right along the Thames Path. Our walk now follows the Thames Path all the way back to Henley, only detouring from the river bank to pass through Lower Shiplake. The section of the Thames Path between Sonning and Lower Shiplake is surprisingly rural and gives you plenty of opportunities to enjoy nature on the river and in the riverside fields, hedges and trees. This section can get muddy and has been known to flood.

As you leave Sonning on the Thames Path, have a look at the garden of the last building on the right. At the time of writing this house still belongs to Uri Geller, although he has been attempting to sell it for some time, and there are several mementos of Uri’s career in the garden including a red-framed glass pyramid where he used to re-charge his psychic powers.

Take your time to enjoy this section of the path. You will pass through the grounds of Shiplake College, overlooked by the historic Shiplake Church. The short grass and benches just after the College’s boathouses make this a good point to stop for a rest.

Shortly after this, and before you reach Shiplake Lock, you pass a gigantic London Plane tree, which seems happy in its riverside setting. I assume that this was planted by the owners of nearby Shiplake House. Alongside Shiplake Lock you will pass through a kissing gate in front of a flint wall. Unless you want to have a look at the lock, turn left here to meet a road. Turn right down the road and, just after a gravel track on the left, turn left (opposite Mill House) to go down a tree-lined path. As the trees end, the path crosses the gravel track to continue along the left edge of a field. At the end of the field the path goes through a kissing gate, diagonally across a field corner and through another kissing gate to join a tarmac drive. Turn left along the drive to cross the Lash Brook and then turn right onto Mill Road. Follow Mill Road into the centre of Lower Shiplake to eventually reach a crossroads beside The Baskerville. On the far side of the junction is a convenience store and an old-fashioned phone box that is now a lending library. Turn right down Station Road and cross the rail track beside Lower Shiplake rail station.

Shiplake Station to End
Shiplake Station to End

Start point: 51.5116 lat, -0.8825 long
End point: 51.5288 lat, -0.8905 long

Immediately after Station Road crosses the railway lane, turn left down a well-signed footpath running alongside the railway. When you meet another path joining from the left, turn right to walk between wooden fences. At the end of the fences, cross a gravel drive and a triangle of grass to turn left along Bolney Road. Follow this road, ignoring all turnings off, enjoying the magnificent properties either side of you, until it becomes a private drive just after the entrance to Bolney Court. Join the fenced path to the left, running parallel to the drive. The gardens on the opposite side of the drive are impressive and contain a working railway with a large model of a Swiss railway station.

When the drive bends right to end at Fair Acres, follow the path straight ahead to enter fields and rejoin the river. Follow the riverside path through the fields, past a small copse, and onto a wooden walkway taking you out into the river to Marsh Lock. This is a lovely spot and worth taking the time to enjoy the views up and down the river. Walk past the lock and the lock-keepers cottage continuing straight ahead to cross another walkway back to the west bank of the river. The walkway joins the river bank at the end of Mill Lane. Walk up the lane to return to the car park.

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Text and images for this walk are Copyright © 2018 by the author mikecoker 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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