Walk Distance: 6.2 km
Walk Duration: 1hr 45
OS Map: OS Landranger 175, OS Explorer 159
Suitable for: All-terrain buggies, jogging buggies and baby carriers (just about possible on most days with basic pushchairs too)
Walk features: Thames Path National Trail, riverside path, city start, riverside meadows, childrens playground, pubs, teahouse, accessible by public transport.
The Caversham to Sonning Thames Path Pushchair walk takes in some great riverside walking on the Thames Path National Trail and is suitable for most pushchairs and buggies. Most of the route is on flat, level surfaces with the only major challenges being a short stretch of grass track through a meadow and the bridge over the river on the outskirts of Reading whose ramp is not quite wide enough to make pushing a buggy up and down it easy. On a dry day though most good pushchairs should manage the whole route without too much effort and it is a great scenic route for Mums and Dads looking for a 10k run with a jogging buggy!
The walk starts next to Christchurch Meadows, Caversham – a stretch of park in between Caversham and Reading bridges, a short distance from central Reading. The park is accessible from George Street, Caversham (postcode RG4 8BY) and contains a good childrens playground, picnic benches, seats and general riverside parkland wandering. Parking is available at nearby Reading Hills Meadow NCP car park or there are other car parks in Caversham. There is also a good bus service from central Reading.
From Christchurch Meadows begin the walk by heading for the riverside path and walking east away from Caversham with the river on your right hand side. Alternatively, if you have parked at NCP George Street then you can access the footpath from the bottom of the car park. The footpath leads out of the park and under Reading Bridge, where the car park is located. After the bridge the path continues along the river, passing parkland on the left. As the footpath bends around to the left there is a small path off to the right.
Take this and then turn right onto the footpath leading over the footbridge. Continue on the path over the second bridge onto View Island. If you fancy a quick detour turn off left over the footbridge and into the View Island nature reserve, otherwise continue straight on towards Caversham Lock.
The path continues straight over the lock offering some excitement for children looking down onto the gushing water below. The path is wide enough to take a buggy over but you might want to keep a close eye on little ones. Once over the lock, turn to your left joining the Thames Path National Trail to Sonning. This leads you for a short stretch on good paths past parkland to your right, including the back entrance to the Tesco Extra superstore (don’t worry – the store itself is not visible from the footpath) so if you’ve forgotten any bits for a picnic then now is your chance to divert to the shops!
The path continues until it reaches a footbridge crossing over where the river filters into the Kennet and Avon canal which goes into central Reading. Unfortunately, whilst the footbridge has taken cyclists in to account, it has not catered very well for pushchairs. It does have a small ramp to the side of the shallow steps but this is pretty narrow and will only fit one or two wheels on. As a result, be prepared to bump your pushchair or buggy up and down the steps over the bridge. The steps are luckily pretty shallow so it’s not too bad but does require some effort.
Once over the bridge continue straight on the path along the Thames, which bends round to the right to follow the river. The Thames Path continues on good surfaces and enjoys good views over to the marina opposite, before passing a boat club on the right hand side and turning into meadows. There is a good track through most of the grass section but some basic pushchairs may struggle, particularly in wet weather, so do be prepared to put in some welly pushing or bring the baby carrier or an all terrain pushchair. There are some beautiful views of the river on this stretch of the Thames Path as it opens out and leaves Reading behind you and there are several benches along the path in pride of place for taking a breather and enjoying the scenery as you head towards Sonning.
Past the meadows you will rejoin a rough footpath which weaves its way under the trees towards Sonning. This is a lovely peaceful stretch of the walk, stretching out until you reach the lock just outside Sonning. Here you can choose to cross over and enjoy afternoon tea or an ice cream in the lock keepers cottage (open from 11am) or else continue the short stretch onwards to Sonning.
The path ends as it goes up a small slope to join the main road at the bridge at Sonning. Stop for refreshments at the Great House
opposite or at the Bull Inn, located just up the hill towards the right, tucked in behind the pretty village church. From Sonning you have three options: continue on a full day walk on the Thames Path towards Shiplake and Henley (see Sonning to Shiplake walk for details of onward route); retrace your steps to Caversham along the Thames Path or you can pick up the bus (no. 128 or 825) from the centre of Sonning and head back to Caversham by road. You can also pick up a bus back to central Reading from Sonning.
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