Touring the Thames Valley; Part 2 Henley on Thames

As you will have read from our last post, The Thames Path has been on our “to do” list for a while now. We enjoyed a great walk along the River Thames from Chertsey to Shepperton and now it was time to explore a little more of the Thames Path around Henley on Thames.

We were booked onto the Caravan and Motorhome Club site – Henley Four Oaks – which sits just on the outskirts of the beautiful Georgian town of Henley on Thames.

As we’d had a busy day exploring some of the area downstream around Chertsey, we didn’t end up arriving to the Club site until around 4.30pm. As usual we arrived to a cheery welcome, and were given a list of available pitches that we could choose. One thing we particularly like about the Caravan and Motorhome Club over the Camping and Caravan Club, is that you are allowed to pick your own pitch on arrival, you just nip back to reception to let them know which one you are on.

As the site wasn’t full, we were allowed to upgrade to a hardstanding awning (larger) pitch if we so wished, but actually we preferred pitch 34, a lovely private grand pitch that was on the edge of the site overlooking the woodland. The layout of the pitch meant that even with our nose lined up with the pitch marked as per the rules, we were still able to use our sliding side door to full pitch potential which gave us ultimate privacy.

Set up didn’t take long, and after a cuppa and a shower each, we opted for a leg stretch into Henley on Thames for an evening wander and perhaps a swift pint. The walk down to the town was on the pavement of a busy fish road, however only took 20 mins. We admired the beautiful houses and down found a tempting beer garden at the Angel on the Bridge – as the name suggests, its right on the Thames and overlooking the gateway to the town – the Georgian bridge.

I tried the Mr Hobbs Henley gin, whilst Keefy enjoyed a Brakspear Oxford Gold. We managed to resist the temptation of every single takeaway in the town as we walked back to Ruby the VW for a lovely leek and potato soup we’d snuffled from the freezer before we left home.

We had the most wonderfully peaceful nights sleep – whether it was the excitement of the paddle boarding, or just the tranquility of the site, I don’t know, but Tuesday dawned and we were fresh as a daisy, both of us. I made us a bacon butty whilst Keefy prepared our lunch for our walk and by 11am we were putting our best foot forward on our little jaunt back into Henley and onto the Thames Path.

Using Keith’s memory map, which he now uses on his phone, we’d devised a lovely walk along the Thames from Henley north towards Hambleden Lock, which took us right along the Henley Regatta course to the official start – Temple Island. From there we carried on a little further along the river, until we saw signs for The FlowerPot Hotel – an obvious place for a quick pint, before joining the Chiltern Way Berkshire Loop through Remenham Woods and back joining the river at Henley Bridge again.

The walk was 6.5 miles and only took us 2.5 hours – even with a pub stop, so after eating our lunch on the banks of the Thames by the bridge, we decided to carry on the opposite direction of the Thames towards the River and Rowing Museum, past Marsh Meadows to the next locks.

Again, just like our walk on Saturday from Chertsey, it was a stunning walk, and wonderful to see all the river boats, and houses on the banks. It really is a beautiful area – albeit very affluent!

We enjoyed a beer on the banks again at The Angel before a bit of top up shopping and “one for the road” at the The Old Bell – the oldest building in Henley on Thames before walking back to Ruby – a grand total of 9 miles walked today!

Dinner tonight was a first for me – homemade burgers and they were absolutely gorgeous, especially washed down with a pinot noir.

What a wonderful end to a wonderful 5 nights on the Thames. We realise we’ve only scraped the surface of the Thames Path – it runs for 184 miles, as The River Thames is the longest in England. So – keep an eye out here for updates, as we’re already planing to return to walk more of the National Trail.

Until Next Time

Lx

February half term 2015; An overdue escape to Oxfordshire

Monday
Bluebell the motorhome is parked up on a lovely little certified location (5 van Caravan Club site) just on the outskirts of Oxford, at Kidlington.

https://www.google.co.uk/maps/search/+the+moors,+kidlington/@51.8307518,-1.2983899,17z

We arrived after a rather uneventful but a bit longer than anticipated journey west. We hit several batches of roadworks on our way and the weather was horrific!

The certified location was easy to find, and is in quite a residential area. There are 5 well spaced out pitches surrounded, surprising given its location, by fields. There are electric points on each pitch and a water point and Elsan point and we feel it’s excellent value at just £11 pn. There is even a handy coop store almost opposite the site!

Given the terrible weather we decided to abandon our planned bike ride, instead deciding to take advantage of a short rest bite from the rain and found the Oxford canal tow path, which is just a few hundred yards way from the site, for a little wander.

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Soon the rain came back, so we hot footed it back to the warmth and dryness of Bluebell, where we enjoyed a relax and an early night!

Tuesday
We woke up this morning to a totally different weather front- blue skies and sunshine, so we were up bright and early to take full advantage! We’d planned to catch the bus into Oxford (bus stop at end of road) but given we were unable to do our planned tow path bike ride yesterday, decided to encorporate this with our day trip into Oxford, taking advantage of the Oxford Canal towpath from The Plough Inn at Wovercote into the city centre. We used the excellent cycle network to navigate our way mainly off road from Kidlington to the Plough where we then picked up the towpath for 4 miles into the city centre.

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^this last picture shows a section of the canal path that runs between two different canals- the Oxford canal to the left of the towpath and the Thames canal to the right!^

Oxford is extremely bike friendly and so we easily found a safe place to park up the bikes for the day, whilst we explored the city by foot. The weather was fabulous, picture perfect blue skies with a slight chill in the air- a perfect day to explore the city. First stop was the Tourist information centre, where we were able to get a map of the city which included a suggested self guided walking tour to take in the sights. It was an excellent way to see the city- and at £1.50 for the brochure worked out much cheaper than the guided tour (£9 pp)

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It’s thirsty work this cycling and walking malarkey, and it wasn’t too long into our exhibition that Keith sniffed out one of his favourite types of establishments- a historical public house! The Turf Tavern is found close to the Bridge of Sighs, and is really very cool. It’s built right into the city walls, with 13th Century foundations and has a very impressive list of previous drinkers (see picture below)

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After a swift pint, it was time carry on our whistlestop tour, and next up was The University Quarter. We both found the architecture absolutely wonderful, and the lack of graffiti was really good to see- apparently Rome is terrible for this.

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We were keen to check out The Eagle and Child pub, as allegedly it was where Tolkien and CS Lewis used to frequent to discuss their literature.

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It was a cosy kinda place, with lots of character, but sadly they wouldn’t let us in with the pooch, so it won’t be finding its way on my list of dog friendly pubs which I’m intending on writing at some point, and so after a quick nose in, we went on our merry way in search for somewhere we could go with the dog. 🙂

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^ Jazz couldn’t have been made to feel more welcome in the Kings Arms, Oxford, where we enjoyed a burger and he got spoilt with plenty of fuss, dog biscuits and a big bowl of water.^

By this point, time was ticking on, so we decided to pick up our bikes and head back to the campsite- but first of all we nipped to see Oxford Castle, where we experienced a splendid marriage between old and new. The main tower is partly ruined from the Norman period, and the moat is still visible as is the motte. The Bailey courtyard was turned into a prison in the 14th century and only closed in 1996, when it, along with the courtyard, was redeveloped into a hotel and “Castle Quarters” containing fancy restaurants and such.

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We decided to use the sustains cycle network to get us back to the campsite, and were very impressed with the cycle network signs and route even though by the time we got back to the campsite we had clocked up 18 miles on the bikes, and 5.5 miles on foot- leaving us both feeling like this:

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Wednesday
The nice weather was set to continue for another day, so we had an early start and drove to Ufffington White Horse, where we had a wonderful 9.5 mile walk that took in the White Horse, Uffington Castle, The Ridgeway, Wayland Smithy, and The Ashdown Estate. The views round the entire walk were truly spectacular!

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^standing above the White horse looking down^

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^Uffington Castle site- on the summit of White Horse Hill and the site of a large Iron Age fort^

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^ a large section of the walk was on the Ridgeway- an ancient route between Dorset and The Wash, described as one of the oldest road in Europe^

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^Wayland’s Smithy- a Neolithic chambered long barrow, believed to have been the home of Saxon smith-God Wayland^

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^Ashdown House Estate^

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^Red Kites flying overhead on Weathercock Hill and the view from Weathercock hill to the house^

After an exhausting but completely fabulous walk, we headed the 20 mins or so to our next campsite, one just outside of Wantage, another CC CL – not as nice as the first one, but still for £12 pn with electric and water, we didn’t care- we soon settled in and even managed to pick up a BT Fon hotspot.

Thursday
Bluebell the motorhome is parked up back at home – sadly we had to return a day early due to having some work business to sort out, but also the weather gods turned against us, so it wasn’t a difficult decision to make. We did however get chance to cycle the 16 miles of the Phoenix trail, a disused railway line turned cycle path running between Thame and Princes Risborough. We made a very early start in an attempt to avoid the bad weather heading our way, and got 3/4 of the way before it kicked in. The wind picked up so much it nearly blew me off my bike, and the rain started lashing down, but still, we continued and enjoyed the ride nonetheless.
There are some interesting sculptures along the way, and lots of red kites flying above. There is a beautiful railway house/station conversion half way along, and the last section before Princes Risborough  offers some lovely views across the fields. Sadly, the weather deteriorated so I didn’t get as many pictures as I’d have liked, but here are those I did get…

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As you can probably make out – I was fairly chuffed to be back at the van – modelling my best drowned rat impression!

So there we have it, another trip done, and a long overdue one at that. We are sad to have had to come back a day early, but the weather looked terrible for this evening and tomorrow, and we’ve had a couple of work issues to come back home to. The joys of being self employed! Still, we’ve had a marvellous break and enjoyed some brill weather.

We travelled 350 miles in the motorhome from home to home again, and thats used exactly 1 tank of fuel at £65. We’ve cycled 36 miles, walked 15 miles and watched an entire series of X Files! We spent £36 on site fees and had a lovely meal out in Oxford. We’ve spend less than £150, and thats been for a 4 day break, so we are pretty happy with that!

Our next task is to start planning our Easter break, as we leave in 6 weeks time!

Sorry its been a lengthy post – until next time

Lx

Planning our February Half term Escape to Oxfordshire

Well, it’s been a long time coming, but thank goodness, we are finally able to start planning a little trip in our beloved Bluebell the Motorhome. A mixture of saving for our wedding and a ridiculous work schedule has meant that Bluebell hasn’t had quite so many outings last year as we would normally like, so to say we are looking forward to our next trip is a MASSIVE understatement!

We will be heading west towards Oxfordshire for February Half term so have spent a little while this afternoon getting the maps, the cycle books and the new addition to our planning tools, The Caravan Club site book, and having a little look to see what floats our boat. In true Keith and Lydia style, this initial look has turned into a “right, thats all booked then” and I’ve even got my nerd on by making a fancy spreadsheet itinerary!

Nothing like a bit of holiday spontaneity, eh?!

The truth of the matter is that due to gigs on both weekends of the holiday we can only get away for 4 nights, so we wanted to be especially organised so we don’t waste any of our precious time away with the dreaded “What do you want to do today” discussions! That and I really do enjoy making spreadsheet lists!

So we are hoping to have 5 blissful days of cycling and walking- I’ve found us an ex railway cycle path to enjoy, a canal side cycle path, a day out in Oxford and a couple of hopefully lovely walks. We’ve made the decision to join http://www.caravanclub.co.uk in order to hopefully enjoy some of their Certified Location Sites (5 vans or less). The reason for this is so that we can base ourselves at small site for a couple of nights every now and again so we can switch off and relax – the latter was something that we were struggling with a little at some Brit Stops due to all sorts of reasons. We are still HUGE fans of the Brit Stops scheme and will continue to use their hosts to enhance our time away when we can. 🙂

This is the route we are looking at following; we have booked ourselves onto two small sites for two nights at each, one near to Kidlington (£11pn) and one near to Wantage (£12n) both with electric. We aim to travel home via Thame on the Friday, stopping for a quick cycle down the Phoenix Trail – like you do.

Proposed route

So that’s about all for now, Bluebell the motorhome has her MOT booked in for Monday, so please keep your fingers crossed that she gets through with no problems to worry about.

Do you have any recommendations of places to see/visit etc in Oxfordshire? We’d love to hear from you if you have!

Until Next time,

Lx