This is a great walk, alongside the River Thames, from Little Wittenham to Shillingford. If you’re feeling hungry you can extend the walk to visit the cafes or pubs in Benson. The return route is along the opposite side of the river, through farmland and woods.
1. The starting point is dependent on parking availability. Ideally park at the church at Little Wittenham. However, parking is very limited, so alternatives are either the main car park for Wittenham Clumps or the car park at the Earth Trust HQ. If you’ve parked in either of these, you will need to walk to the far side of the Clumps and head towards the church to start your walk.
2. From the church, follow the road down to the river and cross the two bridges. On the far side of the bridge, turn sharp left and walk back under the bridge you’ve just crossed, picking up the Thames Path as it follows the river.
At this point I should mention my minor claim to fame. The first bridge was the location of The World Pooh Sticks Championships until 2014, the year in which I was a runner-up at the event! I still like to drop a practice twig in every now and again.
3. Walk alongside the river for the next 2km (1.25 miles). In the summer months the river is busy with boats, canoes and even swimmers. A different story in the winter months! As you approach Shillingford follow the Thames Path as it diverts away from the river; a sharp left turn takes you up to the main road. Carefully cross the road, turn right and follow the path towards Shillingford. The Henley Road can be busy with traffic but fortunately it’s only a short stretch.
4. Shortly after the bus stop turn right down Wharf Road, following the signposted Thames Path. The route heads back towards the river along a quiet road, turns left along a narrow alleyway to join Court Drive which eventually joins Wallingford Road. At the junction turn right and head towards Shillingford Bridge.
5. If it’s time for lunch (or elevenses, or afternoon tea) I highly recommend a diversion to Benson. Do not cross Shillingford Bridge, instead follow the signposts for the Thames Path as it re-joins the track alongside the river once more. Follow the path until you reach the holiday park at Benson. From here you can either visit the Waterfront Cafe, or walk into the village for other dining options.
This is an out and back extension; once you’ve finished in Benson you’ll need to turn round and retrace your steps to Shillingford Bridge.
6. Once back at Shillingford Bridge, cross it and turn right beside the hotel to head back to Little Wittenham. Follow the road until you reach a fork; the road continues to North Farm but you should take the left hand track to bypass the farm. Continue straight on along the track until you reach a T junction. Turn right, following the side of the field, and then turn left along the waymarked path.
7. This path now leads across a couple of fields, eventually taking you into Little Wittenham Wood. Follow the track straight through the wood, ignoring any turn offs. Exit the wood at the far side, through the gate, following the path as it cuts diagonally across open land towards Little Wittenham Church. However, if you’ve parked in the Wittenham Clumps or Earth Trust car parks you should instead turn left and retrace your steps between (or around) the Clumps to reach your car.
Click on the map to view a larger version.
Start and end point: St Peter’s Church, Little Wittenham, OX14 4RB. OS reference: SU566934 What3words: ///combining.rephrase.searched
Distance: Approximately 11.6km (7.2 miles) including extension to Benson. The shorter route, returning at Shillingford Bridge, without extension to Benson is 8.2km (5 miles). Total ascent 47 metres.
Terrain: Riverside path, farmland tracks and woodland. The riverside path can be very muddy and is prone to flooding after heavy rain.
Refreshments: Cafes and pubs in Benson. We had a takeaway from the Waterfront Cafe in Benson. Food is also available at the Shillingford Bridge Hotel, but you might want to check reviews first.