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 7: Reading to Hurley
Google Maps Open Source Maps

Statistics and Files
Start: Reading Finish: Hurley Distance: 15.7 miles (25.3 km)
Time: 6-8 hours Climbing: N/A Rating: Moderate
GPX Route File Google Earth File About Reading
Start: Reading Finish: Hurley
Distance: 15.7 miles (25.3 km) Time: 6-8 hours
Climbing: N/A Rating: Moderate
GPX Route File Google Earth File
Ordnance Survey Explorer Map (1:25,000)

The Walk:

I had stayed overnight at the Great Expectations, a Charles Dickens themed inn cum hotel in Reading. The inn was fine, the room okay too. I even had a good evening, visiting a couple of local pubs and after supper at my accommodation I retired to bed at around 10.00pm. Soon asleep, all was fine in slumber until the festival goers who were staying next door rolled in. Full of themselves, and full of something else, they kept the party they must have started with Post Malone and the other bands playing on Saturday evening going all through the night. Luckily for me they ran out of steam around 4.00am in the morning so I got another few hours of sleep before getting up for breakfast at 7.00am. Other early risers for breakfast told me similar tales of their nights, all interrupted by boisterous party types. We should have known.

River Kennet flowing through ReadingRiver Kennett flowing through Reading
Colourful wildflowers in Thames Valley ParkColourful wildflowers in Thames Valley Park

I soon forgot about the interrupted night of sleep soon after leaving the inn and heading off on my sixteen mile walk to Hurley. It was a glorious Sunday morning, the sun already beaming down a warm glow as I followed the River Kennett towards its confluence with the Thames. I passed some interesting structures and places along the Kennett including King's Reach Bridge, Blake's Lock and Kennett Mouth with yet another railway bridge of the Great Western Railway by Isambard Kingdom Brunel. Soon after, walking along Thames Valley Park Nature Reserve I watched a group of about half a dozen ladies taking their morning swim in the River Thames. Well done to them.

Sonning LockSonning Lock
River cruisers and survival craftRiver cruisers and survival craft

A little over a mile of pleasant walking in sunshine brought me to Sonning Lock, one where the lock keeper was a keen gardener. There were lots of flowers around the keepers house. I noticed quite a lot of high growing Hollyhocks, which were familiar to me as my wife Lil grows them in our garden too. After leaving the lock I noticed cloud was building which was actually not too bad. It was not rain cloud and it kept the heat of the sun at bay. Perfect for walking. I admired Sonning Bridge, a pretty brick example and soon after I chuckled at the community of river craft berthed up near Shiplake College Boathouses. Two were recycled river survival craft.

Enjoying the high lifeEnjoying the high life
On the boardwalk to Henley-on-ThamesOn the boardwalk to Henley-on-Thames

The gathering of boats, traditional cruisers, narrow boats and survival craft clearly had a plan to be here together. As I passed them by I noticed used barbecues, chairs, benches and tables. Some still filled with empty of part empty bottles of wine and beer. It must have been one hell of a party last night. They must have left bits of food around too for out of the corner of my eye I suddenly saw something drop from the bank into the water with a plop. "Blooming heck, it is a Mink" I thought, while rushing to switch on my camera and get a picture. It was quickly away toward the far bank and I was rushing to get the shot so this picture is the best I got. Anyway, I have finally seen one. Box ticked. Once calmed down I continued on my way, enjoying an enjoyable stretch of walking to Shiplake where I stopped to enjoy a Sunday morning coffee and bun at the corner shop post office. From Shiplake I passed a grand house in which the large gardens housed a model railway line and soon after the riverside path led me on to a boardwalk on the Thames at Marsh Lock and Weir, this heralding my arrival in Henley on Thames.

Having fun on the waterHaving fun on the water

The lock was very busy. Two large cruisers were departing it at the forefront and behind them were a group of enthusiastic and very excited canoeists. Or were they Kayaks. I have just looked it up, they were kayaks. People sit in kayaks with double bladed oars. Canoeists kneel and propel themselves forward with a single bladed paddle. You learn something every day. Beyond the bustle of sporting activity I walked on, passing Marsh Meadows and Rod Eyot to reach the famous town of Henley on Thames. It was around noon on August Bank Holiday Sunday and it was naturally bustling. I took some time out from my walk to look around. I walked up the high street, drawn to the Town Hall and Square before turning back and walking down the other side. Popping into a shop for a takeaway coffee and a sandwich I then chose to have lunch in the grounds of the very impressive St Mary’s Church. I found a bench and sat next to the grave of Dusty Springfield, an icon whose music I have enjoyed since my youth. Thanks for the music I thought to myself as I enjoyed lunch.

The view from Henley BridgeThe view from Henley Bridge
What a fantastic carWhat a fantastic car

After lunch I walked on to Henley Bridge and admired the views both upstream and downstream. They were particularly lovely and then as I turned I noticed this impressively eccentric old vintage car. As I smiled in appreciation the driver cast me a smile back. A great moment. Then I went on my way, this time choosing to make a detour which would provide me with an aerial view of the sweeping 180 bend in the Thames between Henley and Aston. I did this by following the Berkshire Loop of the Chiltern Way. This took me uphill to Remenham Wood which proved to be a very pleasant alternative to walking at river level. As I walked on the top of the hill I was obliged to look up at huge airliners climbing into the sky from Heathrow Airport. At this moment I realised I was getting near London. Qatar Air were follows by Cargologic Air. I knew of the first, I had never heard of the second. Then a very familiar third aircraft flew over my head. British Airways. Downhill and back on the Thames Path at Aston I got another aerial display; this one natural and much more graceful. A group of Red Kites soaring overhead as I walked along Remenham Church Lane.

Culham Court Garden StatueCulham Court Garden Statue
River Thames near HurleyRiver Thames near Hurley

My final part of today's walk led me past Culham Court, once home to gentry and now home to a billionaire. The gardens had statues of grand design and scale. Though the Thames Path goes close by it was clear the property was not inviting. I carried on by, crossing meadow to the riverside once more which led to Frogmill and then to my destination for the night in the Berkshire town of Hurley. Sixteen miles done and despite the lack of sleep last night I really did feel good. I was well into the walk now and well over half way. Still lots to do and see though. I enjoyed a nice evening out in the Olde Bell in Hurley with that thought in mind. Incidentally, the Olde Bell is reputedly one of the oldest hotels in the world.

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