Day 9 – Henley-on-Thames to Marlow

Today’s walk was a fairly short 8.5 miles from Henley-on-Thames to Marlow. Staying at the Red Lion again (so like King Charles I, staying twice) meant I was already virtually on Henley Bridge which takes the path over to the north bank and on toward Marlow, from Oxfordshire into Berkshire.

As you cross the bridge and turn sharp left, you pass the home of one of the oldest rowing clubs in the world, the Leander Club (with it’s website here), built in 1897, it only took 100 years to decide to admit women – yes, 1997.

As you come to the river bank, you find yourself looking down the course of the Henley Regatta. The stretch of water from the bridge to Temple Island is the longest straight stretch of any river in Britain at 1 m 450 yds. It was here the first Oxford/Cambridge Boat Race (which has it’s own web site) took place in 1829. When the second race moved to Putney in 1836 the people of Henley realised they had been on to a good thing and decided to establish the Henley Regatta in 1839; it now takes place in the first week of July. Temple Island is now the starting point for the Regatta races marked by the “temple”. It was built in the Etruscan Style in 1771 originally as a fishing lodge.

Half way along the course is the pretty hamlet of Remenham. Taking a short detour off the path brings you to St Nicholas’ Church, originally built in 13th century still stands having been almost completely rebuilt in 1870. Apparently Jenny Agutter was married there.

Over the river is the mansion of Greenlands, built in 1853 originally the home of William Henry Smith (that’s WHSmith) when he was First Lord of the Admiralty. The original 1604 building was bombarded by Oliver Cromwell’s forces. Since 1946 it has been part of the University of Reading Henley Business School.

Hambledon Lock is the first of today’s three locks. The weir is vast and creates some impressive white water. Just across the weir is Hambledon Mill, which stopped work in 1955 having been operational for some 700 years . It has now been converted into 10 flats.

Shortly after, is the site of the Aston Ferry (not too obvious) and the path deviates from the river bank through Aston and it’s pub The Flowerpot.

Eventually you pass the Grade II listed Culham Court, built in 1770. It was the home of Lady Barber, who founded The Barber Institute of Fine Art now part of Birmingham University. Culham Court was mentioned earlier as once owned by the “infamous” Urs Schwarzenbach who bought it for £35,000,000 – some £10,000,000 over the asking price. According to the 2015 Sunday Times Rich List, Schwarzenbach’s net worth increased from £860million to £1billion in the previous 12 months. More on Culham Court can be seen here, and here. It is an enormous property. In its favour is the creation of a small deer park with a small herd of white deer.

Medmenham Abbey was a Cistercian abbey opened in 1217, closed in 1536 due to lack of inmates. At this point you have a choice of routes. One is a shortcut avoiding a bend in the river. I took the long cut round the river bend and through an attractive woodland glen.

You next pass Frogmill Farm which has been converted into an attractive stone and flint residential community.

Perched high above on the opposite bank is a white castellated mansion, Danesfield, now a hotel.

Hurley can’t be seen from the river, so a short diversion is needed. The church was used as a Benedictine chapel in 1086. Edward the Confessor’s wife is buried in the churchyard.

Hurley Lock (and here) is quite busy and is located on an island which you reach by crossing the wooden footbridge. At the far end of the island is another bridge which takes you back to the path.

Temple Footbridge follows the line taken by the ferry, which closed in 1953, and takes you over the river to the North bank past Temple Lock (and here). at 150 ft it is the longest hardwood footbridge in Britain.

Soon Bisham Abbey can be seen over the river. Going back to 1139, it was given to Anne of Cleves as part of her divorce settlement. From Henry VIII. It is now the National Sports Centre and home to the England football team. Soon after is Bispham Church.

Round one more bend Marlow comes into view. The bridge, which was based upon Hammersmith Bridge opened in 1832. It is one of the two bridges designed by William Tierney Clarke. The other Is the Széchenyi Chain Bridge linking Buda with Pest.

Percy Bische Shelley lived at Albion House in West Street, and it is here that Shelley wrote The Revolt of Islam. At the time his wife, Mary, wrote Frankenstein. Later, TS Elliot lived at No 31.

At Marlow, I stayed in The Prince of Wales only a short distance off the path and cheaper than the Compleat Angler on the river by the south bank.

Marlow is a rather quaint town, with a very interesting historical heart.