Mar 092024

First published in: The Times Click here to view a map for this walk in a new window
Georgian folly designed by James Wyatt on Temple Island 1 Hambleden Weirs rushing and roaring serenity at Mill End Georgian folly designed by James Wyatt on Temple Island 2 Warm and characterful Flower Pot hotel at Aston Tranquillity on the banks of the Thames opposite Aston

A cold cloudy morning where the Chiltern Hills meet the boundaries of Bucks, Berks and Oxon. Not that the red kites were inclined to respect the county borders – they soared and wheeled indifferently over the bare woods and rain-sodden fields.

At Mill End the River Thames had forsaken its measured pace through the green meadows. The river, swollen by a whole night’s rainfall, came rushing and roaring, pushing a solid skein of sinewy grey-green water through the sluices. ‘She’s risen six inches higher than we expected,’ said the lock keeper as he pulled the sluice gate cable. ‘In for some flooding tomorrow, I should think.’

How did Thomas Caleb Gould, lock keeper here from 1777-1832, cope in similar conditions with no modern technology to help him? Gould was a celebrity in his day, famous for his many-buttoned coat and his daily diet of onion porridge. What his wife thought of that went unrecorded, but it kept him in good fettle till the age of ninety-two.

Heads reeling with the sound and energy of the seething water, we turned along the river bank and were instantly doused in peace and plenty. The Thames formed a broad, graceful bend, the water slow and wind-stippled as it slid smoothly past riverfront villas and their ornate wooden boathouses. Kempt lawns studded with fine cedars sloped up to Greenlands, a white wedding cake of a residence, built in 1853 for stationery mogul WH Smith.

A great crested grebe bobbed in the midriver flow, cautiously observing a nearby tufted duck with straggly crest and brilliant golden eyes. Black-headed gulls still sporting their white winter hoods screamed and squabbled over titbits, and a grey heron emitted a mournful shriek as it skimmed the water like a ragged umbrella on the loose.

At Upper Thames Rowing Club’s handsome premises we left the river and followed a snowdrop-spattered path to join up with the Chiltern Way that led across the winter wheatfields to Aston. From this elevated stance the Thames lay hidden by a fold of ground as though it had ceased to exist.

The Flower Pot Hotel at Aston exuded good smells of log fires. A venison pie (with juniper berries) and a golden pint of Boondoggle bitter here; then the final stroll beside the racing Thames towards the rumble and tumult of Hambleden weirs.

How hard is it? 6 miles; easy; riverbank and field paths

Start: Mill End car park, Hambleden, Bucks RG9 6TL (OS ref SU 786854)

Getting there: Bus 800 (High Wycombe – Reading)
Road: Follow ‘Hambleden’ from A4155 (Henley-on-Thames to Marlow) at Mill End. In ¼ mile, left into car park.

Walk (OS Explorer 171): Right along road (pavement). Dogleg right/left across A4155 (786850); follow footpath signs (‘Wokingham Way’) across River Thames via Hambleden Weirs. Cross Hambleden Lock (783851); right on riverbank Thames Path for 1¾ miles. Beside flagpole of Upper Thames Rowing Club (767836), left through car park to Remenham Lane. Right; in 50m, fork left (768835, fingerpost). In 50m, left (fingerpost, ‘Permitted Path); in 150m, left on Chiltern Way, Berkshire Loop (770834, fingerpost). In 400m left on Remenham Church Lane (774837); in 200m, right (773839, kissing gate, fingerpost) on Chiltern Way. In ½ mile, just before wooden gate across path, left (782840, ‘Permitted Path’) down to road (783842). Right into Aston. At Flower Pot Hotel (785842), left down Ferry Lane. At river, left (787845, ‘Thames Path’) to recross Hambleden Weirs and return to car park.

Lunch/Accommodation: Flower Pot Hotel, Aston RG9 3DG (01491-574721,

Info: Henley-on-Thames TIC (01491-576982)

 Posted by at 05:57

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