Walk Distance: 3 km
Walk Duration: 1 hour at preschooler pace, not including paddle/picnic time.
Ordnance Survey: OS Explorer 171 Chiltern Hills West; OS Landranger 175 Reading & Windsor
Suitable for: babies in carriers, little legs (just be careful near river), all the family. Off-road pushchairs fine but there are a couple of kissing gates that would make getting through with a large off-roader difficult and require lifting over.
Walk Features: rural Thames walking, paddling and picnic opportunities, beautiful scenery, meadows, country lanes, pass Uri Geller’s old house and sculpture and the cottage belived to belong to Dick Turpin’s Aunt! Pubs/restaurants in Sonning village and tea- house at Sonning Lock just a little further west along the Thames Path.
“Sonning is a pretty if busy little village in Berkshire, famed for its beautiful riverside scenery, rich history and more recently, its celebrity residents.
There are many walking options from Sonning (see Caversham-Sonning and Sonning-Shiplake walks on Baby Routes) but if you want to explore both river and village better in a short, simple little loop, this is the perfect route.
It also has the benefit of leaving the busier sections of the Thames path behind as it meanders through meadows and leafy lanes. There is also the option to extend the walk should you wish by continuing a little longer along the Thames before turning in-land or extend down to Sonning Lock tea-rooms for an afternoon treat in the summer months.
Why not try breakfast at The Great House before (how we discovered this walk) or after your walk or take a picnic and include some paddling time down by Sonning Bridge. “
The walk starts from the southern bank of the Thames directly in front of The Great House hotel and restaurant. A small path leaves from the pavement next to Sonning Bridge and weaves down in front of The Great House lawns alongside the river – take this path.
Continue along the side of the Thames. You will pass Sonning Court – a large house that was formerly owned by Uri Geller during his considerable residence in Sonning. A sculpture of a bent railway sleeper presented by the famous illusionist to the village of Sonning sits on the riverbank just outside. It was not made by Geller but by a pair of German brother illusionists who were inspired by Geller’s feats and gifted it to him during his residence in the village.
A gentle amble brings you to a kissing gate and sign-posted permissive pathway to the right. We did not have our pushchair with us when walking this route but I would imagine it is too small for a sturdy off-roader to pass through. If you bring a pushchair (and the walk is suitable for off-roaders otherwise), be prepared to unload and lift over the gate here.
n.b. if you’d like to do a longer loop continue on the river path until it bends back before taking the path to the right inland. Permissive pathways link back up to Broadmoor Lane and the rest of this route. Check maps for details.
Follow the track through the edge of a meadow on the river flood plain. It eventually joins a more substantial track as it leads past the old sewage works.
Head through the gate on the lane straight ahead (this one should be fine for pushchairs) and continue until you meet the larger country lane ahead (Broadmoor Lane).
Turn right onto the lane. It’s incredibly quiet (we didn’t see a single car/tractor) but it is possible you might meet the very occasional vehicle so keep a bit of an eye out for young kids.
At the end of the lane it joins onto the busy main road into Sonning. You will need to cross over onto the small pavement just next to the University of Reading farm buildings opposite.
Follow the pavement until you reach a turn-off from the main road to your left onto Pearson Road. Whilst it is possible to ignore this and continue straight on the pavement back to Sonning Bridge and the start of the walk (the most direct route), it is much pleasanter, especially with children, to meander through the back-streets of Sonning instead.
Remain on Pearson Road following the pavement as it switches from left to right hand side half way down the street. You will pass a number of lovely houses, many dating back a considerable time, as well as the Sonning Club building on your right.
At the end of the road, just as it bends round to the left, there is a very grand entrance-way into private residence ‘Bishops Close. Turn right down the little footpath here towards St. Andrew’s Church. The little cottage by the entrance-way to the churchyard is said to have belonged to the aunt of Dick Turpin, the famous highwayman!
Inside the churchyard take the first path to the left that passes behind the church. At time of writing, this path was closed due to maintenance work but can be easily rejoined by taking the left and walking in-front of the church entrance instead and round to the left to rejoin it by the little church hall.
It is a pretty and peaceful churchyard with the back entrance to The Bull Inn, thought to have been a former rest house for pilgrims, accessible from by a path to the right opposite the church.
Continue through the little gate to the side of the village hall. The track beyond returns you to the side of the river Thames. If you want a bit more of a wander you can turn left here towards Caversham and make you way to Sonning Lock and the little tea rooms that are open in the warmer months for refreshments. You will need to retrace your steps when ready though.
Turn right and follow the path back to Sonning Bridge. You can nip under the bridge to avoid climbing up and over the road. It’s a good spot for sunbathing and paddling on the other side, with the option of turning up to The Great House for breakfast, lunch or afternoon tea (booking advised).
Map of Route:
Sonning can be accessed by public transport or by car and bike. Parking is limited and gets busy early on the weekend. You can find some just to the north side of Sonning Bridge or on the back-streets of the village. Alternatively guests at The Great House or French Horn can make the most of the large car parks at their accommodation.
Those travelling by bus may prefer to start their walk by Reading University farm on the outskirts of Sonning or from the corner of Pearsons Road near the church pathway, where there are bus stops with services connecting into Reading.
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