Walk Distance: One way: 3.7 km ; There & back again: 7.4 km
Walk Duration: One way: 45 minutes; There & back again: 1hr 30 (allow 2 hours for paddling & ice-creams)!
OS Map: OS Explorer 171 Chiltern Hills West;
Suitable for: All-terrain strollers; sturdy pushchairs (in dry weather); babies in backpacks and all the family.
Walk features: No stiles, riverside walk; pub, cafe & refreshment options along route; paddling; perfect picnic spots; ducks & boats; adventure playground; option to take the train back to start of walk; rail connection to London.
With stunning rural riverside views, the fabulous walker-friendly Baskerville pub next to the rail station in Shiplake village and the hustle and the market town bustle of pretty Henley-on-Thames, this has to be one of my absolute favourite walks in Oxfordshire. With a great adventure playground in Henley and plenty of ducks and boats to spot, not to mention paddling and picnic spots, it is a great walk for kids too. Best of all, if you only fancy walking one way, there is the option to hop on the train at the end of the walk to take you back to your starting point. One word of caution – you will need an all-terrain stroller in winter or after wet weather when the meadow stretch of the walk can be muddy.
The walk is written up here starting from the village of Shiplake but can be walked just as easily in reverse starting from anywhere on the riverside path west of the bridge at Henley-on-Thames. The River and Rowing Museum in Henley is a particularly good starting point and the location of the adventure playground. The advantage of starting in Shiplake is that parking is free and that if you are planning to get the train back you can spend any waiting time in Henley-on-Thames where there is more to keep children entertained until the train departure time. Either way though makes a delightful walk.
Begin the walk from Shiplake Station car-park. The station looks like something straight out of the Railway Children and you will need to cross over the level crossing to begin the walk. On the far side there is a green sign post on the right-hand side pointing out the Thames Path opposite. Turn left down the narrow alleyway (it does fit an all-terrain buggy) and follow around to the right hand side at the end. The alley continues before joining a quiet residential avenue.
Turn left along the avenue. As you head towards the Thames the houses seem to get larger and the gated driveways longer – this is definitely a wealthy part of the world! At the Thames Path signposts keep to the right-hand fork of the road, continuing straight along the avenue. Follow the road as it bends around to the right. Here the footpath moves over to the left hand verge before leaving the avenue completely and passing over a small bridge into beautiful meadows.
Walk along the well-trodden meadow path and enjoy your first views of this picturesque stretch of the rural River Thames. The path follows the Thames waterside through the meadow with some great picnic spots along the river edge to be found here. A couple of these have very small ‘beaches’ where children can cool their toes in the water.
The walk continues out of the meadow and onto the riverside path, before bending to the right. Walk over the river on the wooden bridge across to Marsh Lock where on weekends particularly, children will enjoy watching the boats going through and the lock at work.
The path continues back to the Oxfordshire bank via another wooden bridge back across the Thames, providing good views of the weir behind. From here, take the path to the right of the bridge and continue along the riverside towards Henley-on-Thames.
The walk is now an easy stroll along good paths to central Henley. There are some great picnic spots in the meadows here before you pass the Henley River and Rowing museum on the left hand side (they have a good cafe and a Wind in the Willows exhibition). Just beyond there are two playgrounds – a good adventure on for the older kids and a separate area for the little ones.
If you are returning to Shiplake via the train, the station is just a short walk from the playgrounds. Otherwise carry on along the river into central Henley-on-Thames and explore the lovely shops and cafes or enjoy an ice cream by the river before heading back on the return walk to Shiplake. If you’ve not yet had enough of the Thames you can even hire a boat from Henley! You can’t miss the boat-hire shop on the riverside just before the bridge.
Map of Route:
Free parking is available at Shiplake Station (weekdays this car park is full with commuter cars but space at weekends). Limited off-road parking available at Shiplake. Those starting from Henley-on-Thames can find convenient pay & display parking on Meadow Road. Both Shiplake and Henley-on-Thames are accessible by rail, with some direct services to London Paddington, or connection via Twyford. Shiplake and Henley are also both accessible by the Reading – High Wycombe Arriva 800 bus service.
View Shiplake to Henley walk in a larger map
Rate this walk: