Walk Distance: 3.7km
Walk Duration: 1hr 30 at gentle preschooler pace with time for exploring the castle and feeding the ducks.
Ordnance Survey: OS Explorer 171 Chiltern Hills West; OS Landranger 175 Reading & Windsor
Suitable for: toddlers, little legs, babies in carriers, all the family. All-terrain pushchairs are fine on most of the route and normal pushchairs would manage the Thames Path stretch in dry weather. You will need to take a shorter detour to complete the return loop on wheels or be prepared to lift a pushchair over one stile.
Walk Features: Riverside walking, ducks, boats, helicopters (RAF Benson nearby), historic monuments (Wallingford castle). Cafe and toilet facilities found within easy reach in Wallingford town centre. Pub at walk start.
‘The Wallingford River & Castle Circular Walk was the first time my 16 month old son walked a continuous kilometer on his little legs. There are also lots of handy options to extend or shorten the walk.
The easy, flat walking is perfect for young kids although if your toddler is particularly speedy and independent you may want a rucksack with reigns or a firm hand on the Thames Path stretch.
Wallingford Castle is just ruins these days but it dates back to the times of William the Conqueror. Kids will love exploring the old fort whilst boats, helicopters from nearby RAF Benson and plenty of ducks to feed are all big draws for younger walkers -don’t forget the duck food!’
The Wallingford River & Castle Circular Walk starts from the roadside just before the west (town) side of Wallingford Bridge.
Walk down Castle Lane just behind The Boat House pub. The Thames Path is signposted to the right just beyond it.
Follow the Thames Path sign down the narrow alleyway between the buildings to your right. This brings you out onto the side of the River Thames. This is a great spot to feed the ducks. Young children don’t need to go near the waters edge as the ducks will often come right up to you as you sit on the benches.
Continue your walk along the Thames Path. The path leads gently along a flat dirt path with plenty of boats to keep little ones entertained and some shade for sunny days.
A little way on and you will see the remains of Wallingford Castle to your left and the first entrance to these (and the first option to shorten this walk) over the Queen’s Arbour Excavations site. Wallingford Castle was built on the instruction of William the Conqueror as his army crossed the river here in 1066. It stood strong until it was destroyed by Oliver Cromwell in 1652. The route to the castle here is possible with a pushchair if you’re looking for a super-short wheel friendly walk.
Continue on until reaching a kissing gate on your left which offers another entrance into Castle Meadows.
There is a second option to shorten your walk here, taking the path into the meadows and back towards Wallingford Castle will provide an alternative, shorter and all-terrain buggy friendly loop that links back up with the full walk at the castle.
For those following the full route, continue alongside the river on the Thames Path. The river begins to feel less busy here and the views become more rural as you leave the outskirts of Wallingford.
As the river begins to very gently curve towards the left, keep a careful eye out for a footpath sign on a stile leading away from the river to your left.
Go over the stile and follow the path as it skirts around the fence line of the field beyond. The path leads to a stile on the back fence-line of the field.
Beyond the stile, turn left and follow the footpath along the edge of the field.
As the field joins a new one, you will see a pathway leading down to the left which takes you to a set of gates. It is up to you which route to take here. If you go through the gate and straight on it will lead you onto a shady track that runs parallel to field you were just walking on. This is the official route. Alternatively, the path along the edge of the field continues straight on and is well walked. The choice is yours.
n.b. If you took the second short cut/buggy friendly option then your route will rejoin this walk here from the direction of the river.
Both paths will eventually come out onto a small lane by a cemetery. Go through the gate to your left here leading into Castle Meadows.
At the end of the wall on your right hand side, look diagonally right across Castle Meadows and you will see the remains of one of the castle’s old towers up on the higher ground above the moat earth works. Follow one of the many paths towards it.
Upon reaching the tower you can begin to envisage how the inner bailey of Wallingford Castle may once have looked here. Across towards the river lies the more imposing Queen’s Tower. thought to once have been part of royal apartments and opposite is the unmistakable mound of the motte where the castle’s principle tower would once have stood.
After exploring the ruins of the inner bailey, head over towards the Queen’s Tower, heading downhill on the path to the right hand side of it in the direction of the river.
Follow the path round to the left where it leads through a little gate to a small wildlife pond which is thought to have originated from part of the castle’s moat. It’s a good place to look for frog spawn and tadpoles in spring.
n.b. There are some shallow steps here so if you have a pushchair it is better to stay up on the hill, and with the Queens Tower on you right side and Wallingford behind you, walk through the meadow to rejoin the path just beyond the patch of trees here instead.
Continue on through the second gate back into Castle Meadows. Continue to walk straight ahead. At the shrubby area ahead turn to your right towards the gate into the meadow beyond. Continue straight on to the gate leading onto the riverside.
Turn right and retrace your outward path along the Thames back to Wallingford Bridge and the finish point of this walk.
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