Thames Path walking tour: this wild but tranquil stretch will put a spring in your approach

Take me to the riverside (and its many pubs): this wild but tranquil stretch of the Thames Path between Oxford and Marlow will put a spring in your step

  • Ed Cumming took a self-guided tour of the Thames Path from Oxford to Marlow
  • He watched the rowers row, swim in the river and make a pit stop for “cold pints”
  • Inntravel has organized a new walking tour to mark the 25th anniversary of the trail










On a stretch of the Thames Path between Oxford and Goring, our route took us past a group of teenagers. We approached with caution.

It wasn’t that they seemed intimidating. They were laughing. Drink tinnies, play music. Good for them.

I was just aware that with our backpacks, water bottles, and hiking boots, my friends Jack, Roma, Charlotte and I were provocatively not cool. It’s a funny thing to grow up.

Meander through Marlow: Ed Cumming completed the final stretch of the walk on his own, ending in Marlow (pictured)

The Thames Path follows the route of Three Men In A Boat, pictured

The Thames Path follows the route of Three Men In A Boat, pictured

One minute you’re drunk in a meadow, the next you wonder if a 20-kilometer walk justifies buying a Solero before noon.

I thought we had passed them without comment when a voice called out cheerfully: “Oh, Duke of Edinburgh!

The River Thames in south Oxfordshire has long been dedicated to entertainment.

It’s the setting for that classic vacationing middle-class professional story, Three Men In A Boat.

Kenneth Grahame saw eddies and culverts as a playground for Ratty and Mr Toad.

Today kayakers and wild swimmers rub shoulders with barges and boaters, but the principle remains the same.

There is something fundamentally unrealistic about the Thames beyond London. Although the Thames Path looks like an old road, it was not made official until 1996.

To mark its 25th anniversary, the ‘slow travel’ company Inntravel organized a self-guided walking tour of the most interesting section, between Oxford and Henley.

We started at Port Meadow in Oxford, where horses and cows tried to get away from the happy demo students. Its advantage is that it has many pubs.

We walked slowly, stopping as much as possible for cold pints. After lunch, to prove that it wasn’t “stupid” for bringing my underpants, I insisted on swimming.

Inntravel shows the highlights of the 184 mile route, in days not exceeding 12 miles. Between Oxford and Goring, the bank is a wild but quiet place.

Describing Port Meadow, Ed says, “Its advantage is that it has a lot of pubs.  Pictured is one of the area pubs, The Trout Inn

Describing Port Meadow, Ed says, “Its advantage is that it has a lot of pubs. Pictured is one of the area pubs, The Trout Inn

Pictured is a view of the Thames at Henley, where Ed saw oars of eight coming down the river

Pictured is a view of the Thames at Henley, where Ed saw oars of eight coming down the river

TRAVEL FACTS

Intravel (inntravel.co.uk, 01653 617000) offers a six-night self-guided walking holiday along the shoreline trails from £ 895 per person based on two stays, including six nights in B&B, three dinners, luggage transfer, travel notes route and maps.

We walked through fields of shaggy grass with butterflies and bees. In every town, this gave way to houses, some spectacular, others spectacularly ugly.

The path is a real nosy charter for things in the back gardens – boathouses, gazebos, tennis courts, hot tubs and a few really hideous hangars.

One by one, my friends returned to their jobs or, in one case, defeated by a long lunch.

I completed the last stretch from Henley to Marlow on my own. Figure-eight oars rush downstream.

It started raining. I passed a bachelorette party aboard a boat, giving her as brave a face as possible.

It may be true that there is nothing better to do than have fun in boats, but walking past other people having fun in boats has a lot to recommend too.

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