Water Walks and Winter Warmers
PUBLISHED: 16:48 15 October 2008 | UPDATED: 15:30 20 February 2013
What could be finer that an autumn ramble among some of England's most beautiful scenery with a great pub at the end of it? As the River Thames bursts into colour this autumn why not make the most of the spectacular scenery with a waterside walk a...
Main photography: Sue Milton
What could be finer that an autumn ramble among some of England's most beautiful scenery with a great pub at the end of it?
As the River Thames bursts into colour this autumn why not make the most of the spectacular scenery with a waterside walk and a winter warmer in a cosy pub along the way. Take your pick from our top four walks along the Thames Path National Trail. They are all within a few minutes walk of a First Great Western train station, so you can leave the car at home and catch the train instead!
The Thames Path follows the River Thames for 184 miles from its source in the Cotswolds all the way into London.
It is the only national trail in the UK to follow a river for its entire length which makes it very easy to follow! It takes around 14 full days to walk the entire path but for those of you who just fancy a taster there are dozens of sections to choose from.
Goring to Pangbourne
Water walk This walk takes you through the dramatic Goring Gap, with the hills dominating the Berkshire Downs to the west and the wooded Chilterns to the east. The Goring Gap is the narrowest part of the Thames Valley with the river and a railway nestled between the hills either side. Downstream of Goring the walk takes you under Brunel's red brick railway bridge and over only one of the two remaining toll bridges on the river, in Whitchurch.
Winter warmer You will find several lovely pubs in Goring. In Whitchurch there is the Ferry Boat or Greyhound and Pangbourne boasts more lovely pubs including the Swan, which overlooks the river and is where an exhausted Jerome K Jerome finished his journey in Three Men in a Boat.
Length 5 miles.
Time 2½ hours.
Train stations Goring & Streatley and Pangbourne.
Reading to Shiplake
Water walk From Reading train station you can join the Thames Path at Caversham Lock. As you ramble downstream you reach Horseshoe Bridge which crosses the mouth of the Kennet and Avon Canal as it joins the Thames. From Reading to Sonning cyclists can share the Thames Path but once you reach Sonning the path narrows so is only suitable for walkers again. The walk to Shiplake takes you through beautiful rural countryside.
Winter warmer In Sonning you will find the picturesque Bull Inn, visited by Jerome K Jerome in Three Men in a Boat. The Bull Inn is just off the path and can be accessed by walking through a small church graveyard. Alternatively you could start the walk early and reach the Baskerville in Shiplake in time for lunch, just a few minutes walk from the train station.
Length 7 miles.
Time 3½ hours.
Train stations Reading and Shiplake.
Marlow to Cookham
Water walk This stretch of walk is arguably the most beautiful of the Thames Valley with the wooded slopes of Winter Hill rising on the opposite bank as you leave Marlow. In Marlow you will see Marlow suspension bridge designed by William Tierney Clark who designed Hammersmith Bridge in London. This walk gives you fantastic views of Winter Hill and as you near Cookham the path takes you through Cock Marsh, a designated site of special scientific interest preserved by the National Trust and home to many rare plants. Once in Cookham why not visit to the Stanley Spencer Gallery? Stanley Spencer lived in Cookham most of his life and the village's former Victorian Methodist Chapel has been converted into the gallery where you can see much of the artist's work exhibited.
Winter warmer You will find plenty of places to stop for a drink or bite to eat in Marlow including the Spade Oak which is just a short walk from the river before Bourne End. You will find more to choose from in Bourne End and Cookham.
Length 7 miles.
Time 3½ hours.
Train stations Marlow and Cookham.
Maidenhead to Windsor
Water walk Along this stretch you pass under Brunel's Maidenhead Railway Bridge just downstream from Maidenhead. The arch the Thames passes under is known as Sounding Arch, because of its spectacular echo. At the time of building the arches were the widest and flattest in the world. The flatness of the arches was necessary to avoid putting a 'hump' in the bridge which would have gone against Brunel's obsession with flat gradients. The bridge features in Turner's painting, Rail, Steam and Speed - the Great Western Railway, displayed in the National Gallery. Once in Dorney you can take a short detour from the path to visit Dorney Court manor house and in Eton you will pass the rowing lake which will be used for the Olympics.
Winter warmer Just across from the road from Dorney Court is the Palmers Arms and in Windsor you will find plenty of places to eat and drink like the River House, right on the river with views across to Eton.
Length 8 miles.
Time 4 hours.
Train stations Maidenhead and Windsor & Eton Central.
Maps of each walk and more information can be downloaded from www.nationaltrail.co.uk/thamespath when you click on Planning a Trip.
For more information on pubs and restaurants along the River Thames plus places to visit, where to stay and what to see, go to the award-winning www.visitthames.co.uk or go to www.berkshire-life.co.uk.
The River Thames can flood in rainy conditions, making the path impassable. Get information on the latest situation before setting off by calling the Environment Agency's Floodline on 0845 988 1188.