The Walking Englishman Walks The Thames Path

A personal record of my walk of the Thames Path National Trail with a written journal and with photographs. Tracklogs for GPS units and for use with Google Earth are available for download for each stage.

Journal, Photographs and Download Files

Stage 5: Abingdon to Wallingford
Google Maps Open Source Maps

Statistics and Files
Start: Abingdon Finish: Wallingford Distance: 13.3 miles (21.4 km)
Time: 5-7 hours Climbing: N/A Rating: Easy
GPX Route File Google Earth File About Abingdon
Start: Abingdon Finish: Wallingford
Distance: 13.3 miles (21.4 km) Time: 5-7 hours
Climbing: N/A Rating: Easy
GPX Route File Google Earth File
Ordnance Survey Explorer Map (1:25,000)

The Walk:

Following the Thames Path from AbingdonFollowing the Thames Path from Abingdon
Foliage enclosed lane at Culham CutFoliage enclosed lane at Culham Cut

Except for the first stage of my Thames Path walk, which had started later than normal due to my travel from home before walking, this was the shortest stage. Just a little over thirteen miles to cover to reach Wallingford. Thus I could afford myself a late start, five minutes before 8.00am and after a hearty breakfast. I even treated myself to a tardy start by admiring some of Abingdon's fine buildings first, such as the County Hall Museum, St Nicholas Church and Guildhall. All built of local cream stone, they were impressive to stand and look upon. After my fill of impressive architecture I made my way down Bridge Street to rejoin the Thames Path after crossing over the seven arches of Abingdon Bridge. Afterwards my first two miles of Thames Path walk proper took me on a sweep from southbound to eastbound, leading me temporarily leave the riverside to follow Culham Cut towards Culham Lock. Just before following the cut, at the incoming of Swift Ditch Back Water is Culham Bridge. Take time to seek it out, the bridge is medieval.

Sutton Bridge, CulhamSutton Bridge, Culham
Abingdon Rifle Club Range,now redundantAbingdon Rifle Club Range,now redundant

Whereas the lock is notable, with an impressive lock keepers house and tidy appearance it was another feature just beyond which really caught my eye. Just downstream of the lock is Sutton Bridge, a lovely stone arched span of the river. It is almost as impressive as the nearby and aforementioned Culham Bridge, though nearly not as old, just a little over 200 years old built in the reign of George III in 1807. The bridge is a Grade II listed building. A little way further on from Sutton Bridge I came to the redundant site of Abingdon Rifle Club Range. While the guns are gone the warning signs remain, three were side by side, of different age and in different states of decay. Just past the range the path led me from riverside up a slight bank into a field where I interrupted a group of around a dozen Grey Partridge. Instead of scurrying away to one side they ran up the path, just keeping about ten metres distance from me. They did this for about fifty metres before running out of field and dispersing to one side. Daft birds.

Railway Bridge near Appleford-on-ThamesRailway Bridge near Appleford-on-Thames
Clifton CutClifton Cut

The next couple of miles on the Thames Path was in very rural surroundings and nothing much happened at all. It was very quiet except for the occasion when a train crossed the river by the Railway Bridge near Appleford-on-Thames just as I neared it. A mile beyond the railway bridge the river in an eccentric meander took an unusual turn back on itself at where Clifton Cut began. I guess that was a manufactured turn as it soon did another 180 degree turn to resume its original course to skirt the north edge of Long Wittenham while I kept a straight line on a very beautiful stretch of waterside walking along the cut towards Clifton Lock. It was very gorgeous.

My pretty friend at Clifton LockMy pretty friend at Clifton Lock
Clifton Hampden BridgeClifton Hampden Bridge

It was time for a refreshment break at Clifton Lock. When sitting down on a conveniently placed wooden bench I noticed I had arrived at the lock the same time as a river cruiser which I remembered seeing passing under the railway bridge a mile back when I had. We had been cruising at exactly the same speed. Next moment my attention was diverted to look in a bush next to me. A Robin had popped out into view and with head turned it looking at me. Spotting me looking back, it nonchalantly looked straight ahead. Almost close enough to touch if I had reached out, the Robin stayed in place. I knew its game. I plucked off a few tiny pieces from the energy bar I was eating and dropped them to the ground. Down the Robin came to sweep them off. We were both satisfied with the deal. After the lovely break with my feathered friend, during while the river cruiser had cleared the lock and toddled off, I continued on my way, walking the short distance to reach beautiful Clifton Hampden Bridge. Like Sutton Bridge earlier, it is another grade II listed building.

Paddle Boarders at Clifton HampdenPaddle Boarders at Clifton Hampden
Cow and calf on the Thames Path near DorchesterCow and calf on the Thames Path near Dorchester

On the far side of Clifton Hampden Bridge were a few paddle boarders enjoying their sport. I could see the appeal, it is the type of pastime I would enjoy but nothing caps walking for me. Anyway, they were stuck to the river. Within reason I could wander where I liked. And wander I did for 100 yards or so on the wrong side of the river before realising I had to turn back and cross the road bridge to follow the south bank of the Thames. I had been on the north bank since leaving Abingdon. Oh, I nearly forgot. At Clifton Hampden Bridge I had also seen two chaps paddling a inflatable dinghy and pulling another smaller dinghy with their kit and camping gear. We had exchanged hello's and had a short chat. And a laugh. I was to see them again; we shall come to that. For now, the next stage to Day's Lock was taken in complete peace and quiet. Just me and nature. And a few cows with calves which was nice to see. They were no bother; in fact a delight. The little ones watched me curiously as I walked by with their mums keeping a close eye on them.

Pleasure cruisers were becoming a common sightPleasure cruisers were becoming a common sight
Benson LockBenson Lock

Cruisers on the river were getting bigger now, some very grand indeed. I could see the appeal but having done plenty of narrow-boating trips with my pal Steve I know I would soon get bored. I can't be restricted to plying up and down a channel and that was evidenced at Day's Lock when I crossed the weir bridge to temporarily head away from the National Trail to explore the roman town of Dorchester on Thames. I also fancied lunch there, so off I went, heading northwards away from the river to reach Dyke Hills leading into the south side of the town. I was soon pleased I made the effort to detour and explore the ancient town. And ancient is appropriate, the area being inhabited since at least the Neolithic. Once in town I admired Dorchester Abbey, the old museum and the George Hotel before enjoying a delicious lunch in Lily's Tea Room. Suitably fuelled up for the rest of today's walk I tracked back to the Thames Path via Dorchester Bridge and Henley Road to Shillingford Bridge. Some of the walk was along the busy A4074 which I would have done if I had stayed true to the Thames Path. It detours to the highway officially anyway. From Shillingford Bridge the walk was quietly enjoyed until I reached the hustle and bustle of Benson Waterfront Cafe which was heaving. I hurried past the noise of revelling, soon reaching Benson Lock. It was much quieter here.

Posh boathouse near WallingfordPosh boathouse near Wallingford
Magpie picking flies from the Bull's noseMagpie picking flies from the Bull's nose

The final mile long stretch on a course due south from Benson Lock to Wallingford was most enjoyable. And I walked I looked forward to seeing Wallingford in the dry, having last being there on my Ridgeway walk when it was pouring with rain. I was coming into the town from an opposite direction this time, from the north rather than from the east so although the town centre would be recognisable this approach not at all familiar. On the way I passed some impressive boathouses. There really are some beauties on the Thames. One in particular, which is pictured here, really caught my eye. Wooden framed in a Tudor style, I could imagine spending a long weekend chilling out there. Then at King's Meadow, where Wallingford Castle ruins came into sight, my eyes were diverted to focus on a very humorous sight. A Hereford Bull was lazing in the middle of King's Meadow and perched on his nose was a Magpie. The bird was doing the beast a favour, picking flies off the bulls nose. A mutually satisfying arrangement. I had never seen it happen before though I have seen similar arrangements carried out on Africa based wildlife programmes. Nice to know it happens here too. Chuffed as punch on seeing that I walked into Wallingford and headed to town for a coffee to reward myself on another brilliant day on the Thames Path. I had to pinch myself. It seemed as if I was well on my way but with lots to do on the walk and with still London miles away. Yet, I realised tomorrow I would pass half way. I didn't fancy that. I was immensely loving walking the Thames Path.

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