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Along the Thames:Abingdon to Oxford

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Along the Thames:Abingdon to Oxford
Author: NickC, Published: 06 Apr 2013 Walk Rating:star1 Along the Thames: Abingdon to Oxfordstar1 Along the Thames: Abingdon to Oxfordstar1 Along the Thames: Abingdon to Oxfordstar1 Along the Thames: Abingdon to Oxfordstar0 Along the Thames: Abingdon to Oxford
Oxfordshire, Abingdon, Oxford
Walk Type: Long distance path
Along the Thames:Abingdon to Oxford
Length: 10 miles,  Difficulty: boot Along the Thames: Abingdon to Oxford boot Along the Thames: Abingdon to Oxford
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This walk follows a stretch of the Thames Path National Trail, linking the historical town of Abingdon with its more famous (some might say infamous) neighbour of Oxford. The equally notorious Thames provides a guide throughout the walk, so it's difficult to get lost, although there's a small wooded section at the start and occasional side channels of the river which mean that getting lost isn't an impossibility, so you need to follow the directions and watch out for the frequent Thames Path waymarkers.

The walk itself is just under ten miles and could probably be managed in around four hours if you kept up a brisk pace - but this would be a shame, as there's plenty to pause and enjoy. This is exemplified by a short diversion into Iffley, incorporated into the walk, in order to admire the local church and its fine John Piper stained glass window. Rather than rush it, plan instead to make this a day's outing - maybe take a picnic, as watering holes, although available, are not too common.

The walk starts at Abingdon on the A415, which itself cuts across the A34 linking Newbury and Oxford, lying south of that city. Parking is available just south of the bridge near the start of the walk (nearest postcode OX14 3HP), or in the town itself. Regular buses link Abingdon and Oxford to allow you to retrieve your car, but as always, check beforehand just in case. If stuck, a taxi wouldn't be outrageous as the walk describes a wide loop and the journey by road is shorter than by foot.

Walk Sections

Start to Nuneham
Start to Nuneham

Start point: 51.6681 lat, -1.2789 long
End point: 51.6799 lat, -1.2257 long

If you've approached the river from Abingdon you need to cross over the bridge and head left along the southern bank of the river, heading for the lock. Here, cross over the river via the lock gates and over the island that follows, followed by the weir where you meet the Abbey Stream on your right.

Cross over a wooden bridge and you are now in some woods. At a junction in the paths head right, following a ditch, also on your right. You will be required to cross over onto the other side as the path follows an inlet. Bear right and at the next fork head left. The trees begin to fade and the river now comes into view again. There are some picnic tables here, but you've only just got started, so you'll probably want to pass on them unless you need a rest after negotiating the woods!

Pass under Nuneham Railway Bridge and continue on the path, taking note of Lock Wood Island in the middle of the river. As its name suggests, there used to be a lock here, probably pre-dating Queen Elizabeth I. Shortly after, the path is carried over a high bridge and on the opposite bank you will see Nuneham House, a Palladian Villa set in a landscaped park, created when the first Lord Harcourt demolished the local village in the mid 1700s.

Nuneham to Sandford Lock
Nuneham to Sandford Lock

Start point: 51.6799 lat, -1.2257 long
End point: 51.708 lat, -1.2331 long

A straight stretch of path follows, following an unfenced field. On reaching the Radley College Boathouse, follow the path over a bridge that lifts you over the slipway. Radley itself is a little way off the path, too far for a detour. The College (actually a school) was created in 1847 and perhaps its most famous contemporary old boy was the comedian Peter Cook.

Keep with the path along some more fields until you reach the car park at Sandford. Take the footbridge over the weir channel where you will arrive at Sandford Lock. On the opposite bank is one of the few refreshment opportunities, the Kings Arms, and it may be apposite to take advantage of it if you think you've earned it.

Sandford Lock to Iffley Option (Start)
Sandford Lock to Iffley Option (Start)

Start point: 51.708 lat, -1.2331 long
End point: 51.7291 lat, -1.2407 long

Continue on the path, looking out for a view of Sandford church just as the path becomes enclosed. A pair of small bridges follow taking you over the weir, as the path takes you along the edge of the lock island. Soon, the path heads left to cross over the main weir and back onto the western bank of the river.

There's a choice of paths a little later on at Rose Isle, but it somehow seems like cheating not to stay with the river. Pass through a kissing gate at the railway bridge, after which the path follows a wood before passing under Isis Bridge. The railway bridge used to carry the Oxford to High Wycombe line and was opened in 1864. Currently disused, Chiltern Railways has plans to reinstate this stretch of line in order to extend their network. Keep going until you reach Iffley Lock.

Iffley Option (Start) to Iffley Option (End)
Iffley Option (Start) to Iffley Option (End)

Start point: 51.7291 lat, -1.2407 long
End point: 51.7292 lat, -1.2404 long

You could skip this section, but it would be a shame, as St. Mary's Chruch Iffley is well worth a short detour, to say nothing of the opportunity to get a feel of how life is lived away from the immediate riverbank. The church is Norman in origin and has two particularly magnificent features, one ancient, the other modern. The former is the array of stone flowers around the doorway, a feature only found elsewhere at the cathedral porch at Santiago de Compostela. The latter is the John Piper stained glass window featuring the Nativity.

If you decide it's worth it, cross over the river at the lock gates and head past the buildings and the old lock. Head right, following the path amongst the trees, until you reach a fork to the left. Take this and follow the road round to the left uphill until you reach Mill Lane. Turn right at the junction and the church will be on your left.

To return to the river simply retrace your steps.

Iffley Option (End) to Christchurch Meadow
Iffley Option (End) to Christchurch Meadow

Start point: 51.7292 lat, -1.2404 long
End point: 51.7444 lat, -1.2532 long

The path now enters some meadows and runs on to Donnington Bridge, where you might be lucky enough to spot the barge belonging to St. John's College on the opposite bank. Look out for the boundary stone for the city of Oxford, but don't be fooled into thinking you're near the end, there's still some walking to do yet!

A stream joins from the left and the path follows two more bridges. Pass the boathouse for Hertford College, the first of a run of such edifices on both banks. If you look carefully, you might make out the spire of Christ Church on the far bank - again, the first of many. The river broadens out here and becomes quite magisterial, with the Cherwell joining it on the far bank. Shortly after, there are some great views of Christ Church Meadow, where craft of all shapes and sizes mingle, sometimes not too well. This can be a good spot to pause in summer, just to take in the scene and perhaps place bets on which punter is going to be the next to fall in.

Christchurch Meadow to End (Osney Bridge)
Christchurch Meadow to End (Osney Bridge)

Start point: 51.7444 lat, -1.2532 long
End point: 51.7525 lat, -1.2727 long

At the end of Christ Church Meadow the path crosses a footbridge and then another, after Isis House (the Thames is known as the Isis in these parts). Pass under the road bridge (carrying the Abingdon Road) and then over a footbridge opposite Salters Steamers. Stay with the river as it bends to the right and then to the left.

Pass over the top of Marlborough Road and stay with the river as it now swings slightly to the left at the Sir Geoffery Arthur Building. Another bridge appears, which you pass under, after which the river performs an 'S', before passing under a large railway bridge before bending slightly to the right. A long straight section follows ending in a bridge spanning the Bulstrode Stream. There is a monument here to a drowning that occurred in 1898. Cross over the bridge, heading right.

A long straight section follows, which ends in a bridge over the weir stream. Cross over, to the right, and pass Osney Lock. Stay with the river all the way to Osney Bridge. This bridge is especially significant as its low profile effectively marks it as the end of navigation for most craft, although narrow boats can pass underneath it (but even they need to be careful when the water is high). Go up to the road to link up with the station, bus and taxi stops.

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network Along the Thames: Abingdon to Oxford Original GPX source file

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

1 Comments for: "Along the Thames:Abingdon to Oxford"

Toni: A really lovely 10 mile walk along the Thames today doing the Abingdon to Oxford route. The map was very easy to follow and the Kings Arms was a great halfway stop for lunch with good food but limited seating in the bar. We kept a leisurely pace and had 90 minutes for lunch due to the wait, overall the whole walk with stops took 6 hours and was well worth the trip.

By Facebook on 05 Mar 2016

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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