Wokingham U3A Historic Pathways Shiplake Walk 10th July 2015

A group of 11 intrepid explorers (plus Patsy for the first part) went on a walk from Shiplake Cross, via Lower Shiplake, along a quiet stretch of the Thames bank and we finished by passing Shiplake College and Shiplake Church on the way back to a pub lunch.

A map of our route is at the bottom of this page. Clicking on it will take you to a larger printable version. To return to this page click on the back arrow at the top left corner of the screen.
We set off from the Memorial Hall, funded by the Marton family in 1925 to commemorate their son, killed in the First World War. We walked eastwards down Memorial Avenue to the main road. Both here and later we saw vast fields of white poppies, being cultivated for medicinal purposes. Crossing the busy Wargrave – Henley road, we went down “New Road” – new in 1900 that is, by when there were enough houses to warrant a road directly down to Lower Shiplake.

On reaching Mill Road the main thoroughfare of the village, we made our way down a narrow footpath. Until 2010 this path had been the subject of an acrimonious dispute between the Ramblers and an adjacent landowner. It is now possible to use this right of way, past the quaint wooden Lashbrooke Chapel (once a store for the paper mill) and ducking under the railway viaduct we made our way down to the Thames. Until the coming of the railway, Lashbrook was very small – once a station was built at Shiplake, development took off at a great pace and Lower Shiplake was born. This branch line goes from Twyford to Henley – the Regatta Line.

The riverbank at Lashbrook was where a ferry crossed from the eastern bank, because 2 miles upstream the owner of Bolney Court forced boatmen coming down from Henley on the west bank to cross the river, not allowing them past his property. The ferries are long gone but the Thames Path is still forced to skirt Bolney Court (now owned by a Swiss tycoon) by keeping inland from the riverside.We enjoyed a quiet walk down the river bank, taking in the luxury properties opposite – raised sensibly above the ground, since this is a flood plain. There is also a marina on the other bank – with many pleasure craft moored on both banks.

Reaching the point where The George & Dragon is visible on the Wargrave bank, we saw the steps for another ferry. This one was vital when Wargrave didn’t have its own railway station – but is used now only during the Shiplake Regatta. We got a good view from here of Wargrave Manor, high on the hill opposite. This is owned by the Sultan of Oman but used only by his mother and wives. By this time our long curve of riverbank had taken us back to the the railway line – time for a group photo.

Passing under the railway again, we entered a strange section of the path – a right of way along the very end of the gardens of a row of riverside houses. Up until the 1930’s this path was fenced off from the gardens, but now each garden has a small access gate, which we were careful to refasten as our queue of inquisitive walkers had a good look around. At the end of these we joined the Thames Path as it went down to Shiplake Lock. We chatted to a few boat owners who were passing through the lock and then a few yards on came across a lovely family occasion. A lady and her two daughters were entertaining her 87 year old mother to drinks and cakes on a beautifully decorated tea table. We sang “Happy Birthday” to Dorothy – much to her delight and adding to her birthday treat.
The path continued past Shiplake House to the boat houses of Shiplake College. The college was used by the BBC as a hostel during the war and became a public boarding school in 1959. Here we climbed the steep path to the church, where Alfred Lord Tennyson was married..

Just beyond the church we regained the main road at the Plowden Arms. Half of us stopped off here and tried the lunchtime menu, while the rest made the short final stage back to the start. We were blessed throughout by glorious summer weather, which also made walking so much easier.

©Crown Copyright 2016 OS 100057513

A selection of photos from the walk are here:

The invitation to the walk has links to old maps and a much fuller description of the places of interest :

You can also click here for an alternative description of the walk: shiplake_notes_and_directions