Goring and Mapledurham

A very enjoyable walk today – well worth the hour and a quarter drive each way, just about the longest journey I’ve done for any of my walks. I started walking from the car park in Goring about 10.15 – it was very bright and sunny, with lots of blue sky, and that was pretty much how it would remain throughout the walk.

This was very much a walk of two halves. The first half was a fairly flat walk following the river Thames from Goring to Mapledurham. The second half was then returning to Goring on paths across the western end of the Chilterns, most of this half being in woodland. Together, the two contrasting halves made for a very interesting and enjoyable day’s walk.

From Goring I followed the Thames Path along the bank of the river. The Thames here goes through the Goring Gap, the route it has carved for itself between the Chilterns to the east and the Wessex Downs to the west. So there were steep hillsides rising a short distance from the river on either side. Initially the path ran between garden fences and the river, then between a hedge and the river, and then ran through a couple of flat water meadows with a row of bushes along the river’s edge to my right. I went under a railway bridge (designed by Brunel, part of his Great Western Railway), and a bit further on the path turned left away from the river. It ran between paddocks to a T-junction of paths where I turned right onto a bridleway.

The bridleway continued for some way, roughly parallel to the river, sometimes within feet of it, other times further away. The bridleway passed through quite a long wooded section, climbing quite steeply for a very short distance near the end of the wood, before continuing betwen fences and hedges. It went downhill for a bit, then went quite steeply uphill on a flight of steps. At the top it joined a tarmac farm drive, and followed that some distance to reach a road in Whitchurch.

I turned right for a few yards before turning left on to another road. It wasn’t long before I left the houses behind and the road became a lane, with good verges either side. There was a large Alpaca farm here – I’ve seen Alpacas at several places now, but never anywhere near as many as here. There were several fields or paddocks with 50 or more Alpacas in each. Several of them gazed at me curiously as I went by. Eventually the lane turned sharply left, but I went on ahead along a drive towards Hardwick House (no, not the NT property in Derbyshire that was home to Queen Elizabeth I’s friend Bess of Hardwick). There were some attractive views over horse paddocks and parkland to the river here. Near the buildings the bridleway switched to a track between hedges and fences. Beyond a tall iron gate it became a narrower path between hedges, and soon I was on familiar territory as I reached part of the Chiltern Way.

The path led to lane, a short distance north of Mapledurham. I’d said before setting out on this walk, that I wouldn’t actually go into the village today, as I’d been there twice already this year, But it’s such an unusual and charming place, I couldn’t resist wandering in to it and taking photos of the Almshouses and the Watermill. I then returned back up the lane, the only way in or out of Mapledurham, passing the path I’d been on before and then turning left onto a bridleway along a farm drive. This passed a farm, and continued past a couple of cottages. I then turned right onto a footpath, this followed a hedge across a field to a stile, then went very steeply uphill through a sheep pasture (nice view of a Red Kite here, one of several I’d see today). Near the top of the hill I went over another stile, and followed a farm track past a farm to a minor road.

Across the road I continued on another footpath, heading slightly uphill alongside a fence in another sheep pasture – four jays flew up from just ahead of me here. I then entered Nuney Wood, soon stopping to sit on some logs to eat my lunch as it was now 1pm. The next three miles were all through  a series of woods, mainly beech woods – this was quite possibly the longest unbroken section of woodland walking I’ve done on any of my walks. There’s little I can describe as I progressed from Nuney Wood, to Hawhill Wood, to Bensgrove Wood, across a road to Common Wood and then to Oakwood Wood, where I turned right off  a bridlewway to a faint path marked by white arrows on the trees. As always, it was a pleasure walking through the beech woods, with the leaves rustling around my feet, although the paths were muddy in one or two places (hardly surprising at this time of year).

I finally reached a road near Cray’s Pond. I went a few yards along it, then went across the playing field of a private school (the path went diagonally across, but I chose to go round the edge of a Rugby pitch rather than across). Over a road (I didn’t recognise it at the time, but looking on the map now it’s a road I used between Woodcote and Whitchurch Hill on the Chiltern Way) I took a bridleway along a track, passing one or two attractive houses. The track went through a small wood, then passed a very attractive old farm house.

I then entered Great Chalk Wood (I got so lost here on my first Chiltern Way walk, I went round in a complete circle and came back to where I first entered the wood!). I soon turned left, and then right to join the Chiltern Way route. On the far side of the wood, I descended slightly then went uphill beside a hedge, then turned left alongside the hedge, passing a cemetery on the other side. There were now nice views towards the Thames Valley and Goring, with the Wessex Downs across the river, but the sun was now very low, making photography a bit awkward. I followed the Chiltern Way as it crossed a playing field and then went through a fairly new housing estate and on to my starting point in the centre of Goring.

I really enjoyed every section of this walk. I shall definitely be making use of much of it in my planned personal Chiltern long-distance path.

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