Colin Wharton takes you on a wonderful hike that explores the villages of Pangbourne, Goring and the River Thames
Over fields, woodland and open vistas you go, covering a large stretch of the Thames Path and three beautiful rural villages. You’ll love prestigious Pangbourne, which lies on the south bank of the River Thames and has the Pang tributary flowing through it. It is thought that the water voles here inspired author Kenneth Grahame to come up with his character, Ratty, in The Wind in the Willows. Here you’ll find lots of pretty shops, pubs and striking sports cars. Pangbourne is linked to Whitchurch-on-Thames via a toll bridge over the River Thames. Most of Whitchurch-on-Thames is designated as a Conservation Area and is part of the Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Goring, also situated on the Thames, has a nature reserve run by the Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire Wildlife Trust, and you won’t want to miss the veiws if offers.
(SU 63294 76660) From Pangbourne Station, walk down the road to the bottom of Shooters Hill. Locate a narrow lane called The Wharf on the other side of the road and follow it as it winds eastwards, until you eventually come to a car park and Whitchurch Road. Follow Whitchurch Road northwards, crossing Whitchurch Bridge and the River Thames. It is an unusual private single lane toll bridge that was in built in 1792 but has had much work done to it over the years. The toll price for a car is 60p, but it is free to
walk across. On the other side, you will join the High Street then continue gradually uphill through Whitchurch-on-Thames. Locate and take the footpath that follows the road to the right. The striking St Mary’s Church in Whitchurchon-Thames, although much altered, still contains some of its original Norman structure.
(SU 63347 77525) After passing the war memorial, cross the road and follow the footpath to the left of the road as it rises up the hill with trees on either side. Take a footpath on the left that enters and follows the edge of a field. The footpath eventually leads to some woods and becomes part of the Chiltern Way. Follow the Chiltern Way northwest as it forks across Coombe End Farm and exit at a narrow road called Coombe End. Follow Coombe End westwards. Take a footpath on your left that winds along a woodland track descending and then rising northwards to Upper Gatehampton Farm.
(SU 61634 79618) At one point along the track to Upper Gatehampton Farm you will see a gate and a footpath leading to a nature reserve called Hartslock. It is worth taking a short detour through the gate and uphill to admire the river views towards Goring and the Gatehampton Railway Bridge.
(SU 61849 80140) From Gatehampton Farm, the path crosses a field and enters Great Chalk Wood, where you will join the Chiltern Way again, walking west and exiting the woodland at the edge of open fields. The path enters a residential area before you reach the Reading Road.
Turn left at the Reading Road and then right at the junction onto the Wallingford Road. Along the Wallingford Road turn left across the railway bridge and follow the road west into Goring and towards the river. At the River Thames, locate the Thames Path. The second section of the walk is easy to follow using the Thames Path. Head southeast along the river back to Whitchurch and then Pangbourne. On the final stretch of the walk you will pass under the Gatehampton Railway Bridge, which was built in 1838 by the famous Victorian civil engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel.
Start/finish: Pangbourne Rail Station, Station Approach, Reading RG8 7DY
Map: OS Explorer 159, Reading, Wokingham & Pangbourne and OS Explorer 171, Chiltern Hills West
11 miles or 18km
Terrain: A medium hike with a mixture of hilly open fields, woodland, flat river paths and short minor road sections with some hill climbs
Time: Three to four hours
Refreshments: Eateries and pubs in Pangbourne or Goring
The view from the chalk downland at Hartslock BELOW: Boats on the river at Pangbourne BELOW RIGHT: The pretty views of Whitchurch from Pangbourne