I left my hotel at 07:30, at dawn, but you couldn’t see the sun rise because it was very cloudy and drizzly. Despite the weather forecast, planning for a low chance of rain and grey clouds, it was actually raining. I made my way to Henley bridge to restart my walk today, embarking on the seventh section of my Thames path walk: this would take me from Henley-on-Thames to Pangbourne.
I had crossed yesterday from the Berkshire bank to Oxfordshire when I crossed Henley bridge. Today, this path took my back to Berkshire and West Berkshire.
I passed the Rowing and River Museum, by Mill Marsh Meadows, as I left Henley. Then, just after this, I was fascinated by the long wooden curved footbridge over Marsh Lock and Weir, taking me to the middle of the Thames and back to the North bank. I then looked it up and the reason for this horseshoe footbridge across the weir stream to the lock and back, is that there used to the a mill, used for brass foundry, in the way. On the Berkshire bank there was a flour mill and that is still now known as Mill Bank.
Shortly after this, the rain and drizzle stopped and it just remained cloudy for the rest of the day.
The Thames Path crossed the Chiltern Way as I headed towards Lower Shiplake, then around Shiplake station. I crossed the railway line crossing at which point I realised the Thames Path was signed a little bit differently from where I’d come from. So I must have taken the wrong turn at one point and went through a main road past the houses rather than the footpath along the railway line.
In Shiplake, there was a lovely little corner shop and butcher’s with a couple of stalls outside, just before 9am.
I found a rail bridge which I had to duck to cross under! And I’m short… so that was a first for me; a minute later, a train went past – it was quite impressive. I then crossed a muddy field before rejoining the Thameside, walking along the marsh towards the towing path, opposite Wargrave Manor.
Further along , I went under a railway bridge at Shiplake which took me away from the riverside. The bridge weirdly looked like it was built for two ways but only has one railway side on. I found this both odd and interesting.
Today has been the most mud so far in the walk. There were some really muddy trails around Shiplake up to Shiplake college as well. They were all walkable, and as I said yesterday in the blog I’m only wearing trail running trainers and not proper hiking shoes, so it’s fine. It did make me realise that I may have to plan for switching to my winter waterproof hiking shoes on future stretches.
After crossing Sonning bridge I went over to the Coppa Club for a coffee and brunch, which was nice. It is probably above the price range I would normally have spent, but it was worth fuelling up at that point.
It was an opportunity to use the toilet and change my socks too as my feet had got a little wet in the longer grass and with the light rain earlier.
Restarting after brunch felt quite slow and cold initially but I warmed up after a while, past Sonning Lock.
I was then walking towards Reading along the south bank. I went through Thames Valley Park nature reserve. As the Oracle building was just in sight, there were some people flying remote control aeroplanes. I’ve probably just insulted someone now, because there might be a specific name for that hobby that I’m not aware of; if so, I do apologise.
People were going about their Saturday lunchtime: I saw a lot more dog walkers, joggers and families.
In Reading, I carried on straight when I should have gone over the footpath. So if you’re doing this route: take a left following the National Cycle road 5. As you leave the bridge you’ll see a sign welcoming you to Reading.
The path took me past the back of the Tesco car park. To my right was Coal Woodlands. It made me feel sad to see some of that woodland has got a lot of litter and extremely sad to observe that it might be homeless people staying here.
The path had now very much got no mud but instead was paved throughout.
I reached Reading bridge in just under five hours for 11.9 miles .
I past my (unofficial ) halfway mark for the Thames Path, which was by Caversham bridge. Unfortunately I didn’t find anywhere suitable to buy a pint to celebrate.
I walked out of Reading and Caversham on the Thames promenade and saw a few people walking.
The area after the Thames promenade was a lot more rural than what I expected looking at the map. It was quite pleasant rejoining the countryside.
Overall I was quite pleased. I was happy to have reached over halfway and also looking forward to resting my legs in the evening.
As I leave St. Mary’s island on my right, there are some allotments and gardens on the left but it was still quite rural.
I continued along the railway line (above e on the left) and signposts for the Thames Path take me over Roebuck footbridge over the train line: there were a few steps to climb. At that point, the path took me to Purley along the A329/Oxford Road, which was a really busy road.
A path was on the right after a gate which, although was not by the side of the Thames, at least it was away from the main road. To my right, through the trees I could just about see the railway line and then further down, the Thames.
I crossed over the railway on a bridge and rejoined the Thames side by Mapledurham Lock.
This all route today was nothing like I imagined from the map: I’d thought that coming out of Reading would be very much in housing areas but it’s very much been in the countryside, walking mostly through some meadows, which has been really a pleasant surprise. From the A road up to Mapledurham Lock hadn’t been necessarily pretty in itself; there were even some hills! But being back on the riverside, and hearing the water from the lock was such a nice feeling .
I walked past a small, new, footbridge over what looked like diverted water from the Thames: it was neither on my OS map nor on Google Maps.
As I approached Pangbourne, I could see the white toll bridge ahead. There was a sign for toilets towards the left. I didn’t need to use them because I was about to go check in my hotel but it may be of use for you, if you plan to walk along here.
I arrived on Whitchurch bridge in Pangbourne after a good day’s walk. I covered 18.89 miles (30.40km) in 7h38min.
I had a celebratory ½ pint at the Village bar to celebrate my ½ way through the Thames Path.