July 18 Thames Path : Sonning to Henley

Hello, Mrs Hg137 here.

The theme for today is entertainment and the arts – with methods of travel thrown in as an extra.

Busy morning near Sonning Bridge ...

Busy morning near Sonning Bridge …


To walk from Sonning to Henley-on-Thames along the river is simple, but getting from one to the other using public transport is not. Bus companies don’t cross the county boundary – the river – and Sonning has no train station. After much thought we decided to park at Twyford (you’re right, that’s not on the river) and catch a bus to Sonning. This gave us the chance to grab a quick cache near Twyford station, and another at a bus stop in Sonning. A stroll through the village and through the churchyard allowed us to collect the final clue for the ‘Border Crossings’ cache (a super multi-cache), where most of the clues are in one county and the final location is over the river in another county.
Border Crossing point

Border Crossing point


Sonning Bridge itself is an old, narrow bridge, built, I think, by committee, as its arches are a range of shapes and sizes, extending over the Thames and its backwaters. It’s controlled by traffic lights and the queues are legendary … An island in the middle houses Sonning Mill, which is now a theatre, specialising in farces; we’ve been there a couple of times and Mr Hg137 hooted with laughter all the way through, enough to scare any local owl!
... quiet moment near Sonning Bridge

… quiet moment near Sonning Bridge


Once across the bridge, we stepped back onto the Thames Path, to look for the ‘Sonning Bridge cache’. Could we find it? No! (It’s not been found since we attempted it.) We sat down on a log to ponder and to look back at the bridge. A passing lady muggle engaged us in conversation; she said George Clooney lived in the house opposite. Now we knew that he lived in Sonning, but didn’t know exactly where. We couldn’t see George anywhere in the gardens of the well-appointed house opposite. Maybe he was out, or was mowing the lawn just out of sight? (We’ve later found out that we were misinformed, and that Mr C’s house is on an island in the river, next to the theatre.)

Abandoning that cache, we set off downstream, and were soon away from the people, cars and cyclists and were in the country. That’s one of the good things about walking – once you are a few yards from any honeypot – it all goes quiet … It was a beautiful warm summer’s day and a pleasure to be out by the river. Near Hallmead Ait (Ait=island) we dropped off a trackable in a nice ammo can, hidden deep in not-so-lovely nettles. Time for Blubbie the fish to swim on; we’d kept him away from the river for far too long.

Shiplake Lock wasn’t much further on, and it was a great spot to eat lunch and watch the river traffic. And it was a busy day. There was a large passenger boat, packed with customers (we kept on seeing that boat all the way to the end of the walk) and many, many smaller boats. A good number of them were ‘older’ boats; the lock keeper told us there was a vintage boat festival going on at Henley. The next part of the Thames Path is away from the river as there is one resident of Shiplake who doesn’t want walkers at the bottom of his garden. We walked through the village, past Shiplake station – which advertises ‘alight here for the Thames Path’ and back towards the river.
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We were heading towards a cache called ‘St Moritz-on-Thames’. Having found the cache, and dropped off our other trackable, we turned round … and there was an extensive model railway and a scale model of St Moritz station. Unexpected or what?
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Soon after, we were back on the riverside, and soon after that we were at Marsh Lock, on the outskirts of Henley. And suddenly it was heaving, incredibly busy. People and boats everywhere, including that passenger boat we saw earlier. We walked on into Henley. Boats were double and triple moored along the bank, paddle steamers, motor boats, launches and rowing boats paraded up the river, and the banks, cafes, and pubs were packed with people enjoying a perfect summers’ day.

At the bridge, the end of the Thames Path section for the day, we turned aside to find the ‘Church Micro’ cache at Henley church. As so often with geocaching, we came across something we didn’t know; Dusty Springfield is buried in the churchyard and there is an impromptu shrine around her grave. Henley sometimes appears as a location in ‘Midsomer Murders’ and it was good to see an appropriately named boat moored on the river, though it was way too crowded when we were there for any of the dastardly deeds in that programme to be played out.

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And finally, back to the geocar: we headed off to Henley station, at the end of the Regatta Line, and caught the train back to Twyford, where we just had time, for one more cache, the ‘Sidetracked’ cache by the station, before heading home, tired and hot and happy. (Editor’s note: Twyford, too, appears as a location in ‘Midsomer Murders’, as so does Sonning and Shiplake.)

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Thames Path statistics :
Route length : 6.8 miles
Total distance walked : 104.9 miles

Caches found : 7 Total caches found : 205

And here are some of those caches:
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