Oxford to Reading - narrative

When we did this walk in 2010 we hadn't thought of creating this website and didn't take notes; we find it hard now to remember the events of the walk.

What we do remember is having a lovely time, and resolving to do more Thames walking.

The lack of events is actually a virtue of this stretch of river - it's just very peaceful. The tempo changes, you begin to notice new things, the considerations of 'normal' life begin to recede - even Didcot Power Station looks somehow different.

DAY 1: Oxford to Sutton Courtenay.
The river seems to occupy its own separate universe as it winds out of Oxford and its suburbs.

This was our first time to spend time by the river locks - Iffley Lock first, then the one at Sandford-on-Thames. This last lock is especially attractive if you are happy watching river traffic going up and down (literally) from the beer garden of the Kings Arms.

Having failed to find a B&B at Culham, we took one in Sutton Courteney, slightly resenting the extra walking, especially as the pub was back in Culham. However, the Sutton Bridge proved rather attractive, the evening was mild, and we took two photos that appear in the gallery.

DAY 2: Sutton Courtenay to North Stoke.

These men seemed happily set to fish all day, and we got the sense that if they didn't actually catch anything it was no big deal.

In a way, we were doing the same thing, and although there were doubtless sights to see on this day, the idyllic-looking village of Clifton Hampden (pictured on the Contents page) is the only one we remember.

Having failed to find an available B&B in Wallingford, we crossed the river and back-tracked to North Stoke, to a Hotel and Golf Club there.

DAY 3: North Stoke to Reading

Coming up to Whitchuch, the path goes briefly away from the river into a Chiltern-type hillside, which reminded us of how much we like walking there.

There are two riverside country houses on this day that claim to be the inspiration for E H Shephard's illustrations of Toad Hall; Hardwick House, just before Purley, and Mapledurham House opposite Purley. We plumped for Hardwick House. Purley itself we don't remember as being anything special, though another of the pleasures of this day is walking through picturesque riverside towns, often with pubs.

Perhaps the most surprising, and satisfying, thing about this day is the final approach to Reading. This is a town that, for me, seems to have no soul, so I was expecting the beauties to fade as we got nearer. Far from it; the walk to the final bridge is a delight, with swans, boats, grass, and surprisingly little evidence of the town above. A fitting end to a delightful three days.

© 2011 Jeremy Polmear