Dave Sergeant

So yesterday a nice walk along the Thames from Shiplake down to Reading, around 7 miles. Not done this stretch since July 1996 as part of my complete Thames Path walk. Using David Sharp's guide book from that time.

Getting to the start at Shiplake was fairly complicated on the train and involved three separate train companies. Firstly South Western into Reading. Then TFL Rail from there to Twyford. This part of TFL Rail is effectively the only part of Crossrail to be running - they took over the stopping service to Paddington last December which you may remember was when the new Crossrail was supposed to open, still several years away. Trains busier than they would appear, up to 6 or so passengers per coach now. Then a short hop on the twice hourly GWR diesel service to Shiplake, a totally unmanned station. I could have continued on the train to its terminus at Henley and started the walk there but decided 9 miles would be a bit too much at my age.

The first part of the walk is along roads away from the river with the rather nice houses of Lashbrook. After half a mile it gets into open country and a huge field of wild flowers (mother nature taking over?) and down to Shiplake Lock and Father Thames. Quite a few fellow walkers out and we exchanged greetings.

The stretch of the river between Shiplake and Sonning is quite long and a lot of it is through riverside woodland with the river hidden. But it appeared in its glory from time to time. Here is one of the buildings of Shiplake College. As I started to cross the wooden bridge a large group of cyclists appeared, the few I saw all day. There is supposed to be a path up to Shiplake Church just past the college but I missed it.

Eventually after what seemed to be a never ending path I reached Sonning, a pleasant little village with its magnificent bridge over the river. The path crosses to the south bank here. The bridge carries a main road with one way traffic lights and I had to wait a while until it was safe to get to the pavement the opposite side. Once over though and down to the river again it was nice and quiet again. There were several boats waiting to go through Sonning lock and several people just sat on the bank enjoying the sunshine.

The stretch down to Reading was quite pleasant with lovely scenery at first and open fields later on, and quite busy.

The big gas holders of Reading soon came into view then I met a huge flock of sea birds and a very inquisitive duck. Plenty of children out playing but far more of the aquatic variety. At the horseshoe bridge I diverted off onto the Kennet and Avon canal, that being the most direct route to Reading town centre Back on familiar ground from the walk I have often done on Reading trips. Quick walk round the town then a very pleasant pub lunch before getting the train back home. Nice day.

May 12th 2022

Today I walked the Thames from Shiplake to Reading again. Like last time I took the train via Reading and Twyford, now with the TFL one displaying Elizabeth Line maps, and arrived at Shiplake Station a little before 10:30. The trains were a lot busier than last time

There are various paths down to the river off Mill Lane, this time went past Lashbrook Chapel. The chapel closed in 2002 and has since been restored as a home and airbnb. Then followed a different route from last time joining the river near the old Lashbrook Ferry and a stretch of the river I had not walked before and a very low bridge under the railway.

So down to the river by where the Lashbrook ferry was with the bridleway closed the other way due to property rights issues many years ago. After a while reached Shiplake Lock. I met some fellow walkers but by and large it was very quiet and I was on my own for a lot of the way.

Like last time the stretch to Sonning seemed very long but nevertheless very quiet. Shiplake College was seen high on the hill then their boathouse by the river. A steep path leads off the towpath to the church on the hill where Tennyson was married in 1850.

Eventually Sonning bridge comes into view with a country boundary sign between Oxfordshire and Berkshire half way across. Sonning church and Sonning Mill visible the other side.

Rested a while alongside the lock watching the boats pass through. Then the stretch towards Reading. The gasholders have at long last gone. I noticed that there were far fewer ducks in the area I found them last time and chatting to a fellow walker it seems there has been an increase in geese which has driven them away. Diverted onto the Kennet on my usual path to the town centre but found part of that was closed for bank repairs so had to go a different route there, enjoying a nice lunch before making my way home.

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