Thames Path – Pangbourne to Benson

Old Ferry crossing on the Thames near Wallingford
Old Ferry crossing on the Thames near Wallingford

I was up fairly early for for a leisurely start and to give me time to research my route and transport plan. I left the house at 08:40 and drove the B4009 to Wallingford, where I parked in the long term car park for £2, it is free after 13:00 on a Saturday. The planned bus was from the market square but I could not find bus stop B (C and A were clearly visible). I asked one of the bus drivers bit they did not know. He asked a colleague who did not know bit when I said I was after a 134 bus he said I had just missed it. I wandered over to where it had left to investigate my options, when I noticed a taxi in the rank. The driver suggested £20 to get to Pangbourne, so rather than mess around I would take him up on his offer.

About 15 to 20 minutes look later I was £20 lighter but I had saved a lot of time. The public transport option involved a bus and a train with a wait for each, a total of one hour and twenty minutes. I will try the taxi option again in future.

Thames countryside view
Thames countryside view

From Pangbourne, unusually the Thames Path goes up a steep hill away from the river, then when you get back to the river it is a path parallel to and high above the river on a steep escarpment. At some point I passed a pillbox, which was from WW2 when the Thames was considered a place to retreat behind should the Germans start to invade southern England.

I missed a sign a mike or so out of Goring but it was only a short back track to the official Thames Path. I was in familiar territory as I had been out this way to look at Monkey Orchids at a nearby nature reserve. At Goring I fancied an early lunch and the Pierrepont cafe near the bridge did a great smoked salmon, avocado, and poached egg on toast, which I washed down with an americano.

Dining room over the Thames at Goring
Dining room over the Thames at Goring

Suitably refreshed I crossed the bridge and joined the path on the opposite bank, my next stop would hopefully be for a coffee at the hotel Moulsford, which I had spotted on the OS map. However the beetle and wedge website looked a bit posh for just coffee. *Set on the banks of the River Thames immortalised in ‘The Wind in the Willows’ and Jerome K Jerome’s chronicled escapades of his friends’ visits in ‘Three Men in a boat’, the Boathouse Restaurant emphasis is on quality of food, wines and service.” I grabbed a custard and chocolate bun just in case.

It did not take long to get to Moulsford, and although the hotel catered for walkers and coffee I walked on up the hill into the village, as the path did not follow the river. About a half mile of busy road was next, then a farm track took me back to the river. Just before the river I got a view of a viaduct and it seemed like a great place to get a time lapse sequence, I was hoping for a train or two to pass. I sat down and ate half my bun, which like the food at the café was excellent. Whilst I waited the 10 minutes I usually give a tone lapse a train did pass and I also watched some parachutists in the distance jumping out of a plane. The weather although sunny with clouds, was great there was a cold wind as the weather man had promised.

Thames countryside view
Thames countryside view

The path keeps to the countryside for a few miles, I heard the distinct sound of a reed warblers and stopped to watch it through my binoculars, it was my first this year. A mile or two outside Wallingford I stopped for a rest on a memorial bench for Dennis William Wilson, who liked fishing according to the plaque. The Thames had become noticeably narrower at this point, an indication that I was making progress, in fact I was over the halfway point.

When I got to Wallingford I decided to walk on to Benson to make the next leg to Abingdon slightly shorter, it felt wrong to walk past the car, and as it turned out quite rightly so. It was only about a mile and a bit to Benson lick where the path crosses the river again. My plan was to get a bus from the stop outside Benson marina. I arrived about 10 minutes early for the bus but twenty minutes late I had still not seen a bus apart from one that was on its way to Watlington. The timetable said there was a bus every 30 minutes, so I popped over the road to get a drink at the marina, then headed out to the stop with 16 minutes to wait.

Lots more pill boxes