Today’s walk was 11 miles from Wallingford to Pangbourne. Yesterday was a scorching hot day, but this morning was cool and cloudy after last night’s thunderstorm. This was different day in two respects. I had the first rain on the path since I set off at the source, with some light rain between Wallingford and Moulsford. Secondly, I encountered the first steep incline on the path into Whitchurch around Lower Basildon.
Setting off at 8:50 I followed the path down Thames Street to St. Leonards Church, the oldest in Wallingford.
After weaving through some small cottages the paths meets the Thames and we skirt a boatyard before coming to the University Boathouse for the elite Oxford rowers
The path now crosses meadows, the Oxford Brookes Boat Club, then some lawns of rather large houses whose gardens reach down to the river.
Just after the track off to Cholsey (the Papist Way) the path reaches the site of the old but now defunct Littlestoke Ferry, and crosses the river. Consequently, the current path goes under the low railway viaduct and deviates through the Cholsey Marsh Nature Reserve, under the first red brick skew bridge, built by Brunel in 1829, and along the A329 through Moulsford. Eventually Ferry Lane takes you down to the iconic (and closed when I arrived!) Beetle and Wedge pub that was the site of the original Moulsford ferry service. It is said H.G. Wells stayed here while writing The History of Mr Polly.
From here the path opens and the views are quite delightful over the Chilterns and onto Cleve Lock – with the smallest fall on the Thames of 0.69 m.
The next stretch of the river is quite attractive, through a wooded area over a steep footbridge and with views over the houses on the outskirts of Goring, before going round St Margaret’s Church, Streetly, where Lewis Carroll preached in 1864.
A right turn onto the B4009 takes you onto the bridge between the twin towns of Streatley and Goring, compared by Jerome K Jerome as:
It is an ancient place, Streatley, dating back, like most riverside towns and villages, to British and Saxon times. Goring is not nearly so pretty a little spot to stop at as Streatley but it is passing fair enough on its way.Jerome K Jerome, Three Men in a Boat
Given that Goring has been voted “South of England’s Village of the Year“, ahead of Streatley, things must have changed since 1888. Though the sign doesn’t clarify it was back in 2009. However “Goring is a finalist in the small towns category of the Britain in Bloom contest in 2019” (Wikipedia).
Furthermore, Goring is famous for several past inhabitants:
- Oscar Wilde stayed in Ferry Cottage
- Arthur ‘Bomber’ Harris, once RAF Bomber Commander, and
- George Michael.
This is a busy part of the river with Goring Lock, and the large Swan restaurant on the banks of the river and the tiny Pierreponts Cafe on the other side. Standing on the bridge you are in the middle of the Goring Gap.
Crossing the bridge brings you to the Grade I listed, St Thomas’s Church and the Grade II listed Goring Mill, (both painted by Turner) before turning left along the banks and through the Goring Gap.
This part of the river valley was formed during the ice age, when the river cut a channel through the chalk hills. Just past a high escarpment on the opposite bank you get to the second of Brunel’s brick railway bridges of the day.
Shortly after the railway viaduct the path curves round and reaches another long-lost ferry point – Gatehampton Ferry, where the cottage still exists and sold recently for over £600,000. However from here the path climbs slowly along a wooded bank high above the river and then onto a long farm track down to the B471 into Whitchurch-on-Thames.
Shortly after joining the road is the Greyhound Pub (which was open). The path goes through the churchyard of the Grade II listed St Mary’s Church, on the right and out onto the river and the mill, and the Toll House before the Grade II listed Whitchurch Bridge – only the second of two toll bridges over the Thames; cost for cars – 60p. Cross over the bridge and you enter Pangbourne.
At Pangbourne, I stayed in The George Hotel, first established as a coaching inn in 1600s.
Pangbourne was a rather nice small town that still seemed to exude a sense of history.