Berkshire walk along the River Thames
PUBLISHED: 10:01 21 September 2015 | UPDATED: 14:59 05 October 2017
Follow Steve Davison as he heads to historic Eton, home to a world-famous college, for a walk alongside the River Thames
The first part of the walk follows Boveney Ditch before heading for Eton Wick, passing close to the Victorian Church of St John the Baptist which contains some nice stained glass windows. After leaving the village the route meanders across the commons to reach Eton, famed for its college and beautiful perpendicular chapel. Eton College, the second oldest public school in the country, was founded by Henry VI in 1440 and was described by Gladstone as the ‘Queen of public schools’. Nineteen British Prime Ministers, including the current Prime Minister, David Cameron, as well Prince William, Prince Harry and a long list of writers, explorers and actors have been educated here.
Follow the High Street towards the River Thames, passing interesting small shops and eating places and just before the pedestrianised Windsor Bridge, which was built in 1824, turn right to The Brocas. Named after the Brocas family, notably Sir Bernard Brocas (d. 1395), Master of the Horse to King Edward III and friend of the Black Prince, The Brocas is a great place for a picnic whilst admiring the view of Windsor Castle on the opposite bank.
The walk now follows the Thames Path westwards along the river, soon passing under Brunel’s Windsor Railway Bridge, the world’s oldest wrought iron bridge still in regular service, before crossing a footbridge onto Cuckoo Weir Island and ducking under the Elizabeth Bridge. Take time to study the large (45m by 4m) monochrome mural of 16 faces painted by the London artist, Cosmo Sarson, for the Olympic Games in 2012.
Cross another footbridge, leaving the island and lookout for a seat and memorial stone on the left. This is the ‘Bathing place of Athens’ donated by Hiatt Baker in memory of his son, John, who was killed in a flying accident in 1917; the inscription on the rear sets out the ‘strict’ bathing regulations. On the opposite bank is the Royal Windsor Racecourse.
Continue along the river passing Boveney Lock to reach the beautiful Church of St Mary Magdalene, just a short walk away from the car park. Cared for by The Friends of Friendless Churches, the present church dates for the 12th century, although there was a church on this site before the Norman Conquest (the key for the church is available from the lock keeper at Boveney Lock).
Finally, if you want a shorter walk, then a quick look at the map will reveal that the walk can be split into two and may also be started from either of the rail stations in Windsor.
• Start/finish: Rambler’s car park at Boveney (SU939777); from the B3026 at Dorney Common follow Boveney Road south and 125m after the left-hand bend, turn right into the car park opposite a house
• Distance: 5.5 miles (8.7km)
• Terrain: some gates, no stiles, level walk, paths and tracks, sections of road / lane
• Time: 2.5 hours (excluding stops)
• Refreshments: Eton Wick and Eton
1 (SU939778) – From the car head back to the lane and turn right for 300m, shortly after crossing the cattle grid turn left on a signed path following the left-hand field edge. Keep ahead at the junction and then follow the path to the right at the field corner. Ignore another path to the left and follow the left-hand margin with Boveney Ditch and Eton Wick over to the left. Keep to the path as it curves right towards the River Thames and at the field corner turn left along the tarmac path, crossing the footbridge over the Boveney Ditch. Immediately turn left to a path junction, take the right-hand fork following the tarmac path across the common to the B3026 at Eton Wick, with the Church of St John the Baptist to the right.
2 (SU950783) – Cross diagonally right over the road and keep ahead along The Walk to a T-junction beside The Greyhound pub. Turn right along Common Road for 300m as it soon swings left and then crosses Common Ditch. At the junction on the right, turn right along the track past a house (Brookside), later keep ahead between fields. At the road (A322) turn right and then left through the underpass. Follow the track as it swings left and then right along the field edge to a tarmac lane just before the railway line.
3 (SU961783) – Go straight on under the railway and follow the lane (Common Lane) for 600m into Eton. Turn right along the B3022, soon passing the impressive chapel. At the junction with Eton Court keep ahead along the High Street and just before Windsor Bridge turn right along Brocas Street. Keep left at the junction to pass The Waterman’s Arms pub and go straight on to enter the open grassy area of The Brocas, with the River Thames on the left.
4 (SU965772) – Follow the Thames Path straight on, soon passing under the railway bridge, then crossing a couple of footbridges. Pass under Elizabeth Bridge, keep to the riverside path as the Thames turns sharp right then left and cross a footbridge. Follow the river westwards, cross a footbridge over the Boveney Ditch and keep to the riverside Thames Path to Boveney Lock. Continue straight on, staying close to the river, for a further 400m and then turn right past the Church of St Mary Magdalene. Keep to the enclosed path and soon turn left through a small gate to arrive back at the car park.