Goring and Streatley to Roman Temple on Lowbury Hill – Moulsford – River Thames round
Berkshire pronounced Barkeshire is a county in south east England, west of London. It is one of the oldest counties in England known for its long history of sheep farming and one of the largest sheep fairs in the country is still held at East Ilsley. It was recognised by the Queen as a Royal County of Berkshire in 1957 because of the presence of Windsor Castle and letters patent were issued in 1974. The castle remains one of the Queen’s official residences. The ancient tradition of “Swan Upping” is carried out each year on the River Thames below Windsor Castle. The tradition dates back to the 12th century when the crown claimed ownership of all the swans in the country. Mute swans were an important food source for royalty at banquets and feasts. Today this tradition consists of a rounding up of the swans to collect data and assessing the health of the birds. The swans have their own protector on the Thames, Queen’s Swan Marker, who is responsible for their protection and conservation. Berkshire is also magnificent horse country and the world renowned Lambourn is the centre for horse racing, with flat racing and steeple- chasing regularly taking place at Ascot and Newbury. The River Thames runs along Berkshire’s north east border from Old Windsor via Henley, Reading and Pangbourne up to Goring. This scenic waterway was once a major trade route for the county but is now mainly used for boating, leisure craft and pleasure trips. Berkshire borders the counties of Oxfordshire to the north, Buckinghamshire to the north-east, Greater London to the east, Surry to the south-east, Wiltshire to the west and Hampshire to the south. Berkshire has been the scene of some notable battles through its history. Alfred the Great’s campaign against the Danes, include the Battles of Englefield, Ashdown and Reading. Newbury was the site of two English Civil War battles, the First Battle of Newbury at Wash Common in 1643 and the second Battle of Newbury at Speen in 1644. Donnington Castle was reduced to a ruin in the aftermath of the second battle.
Oxfordshire (abbreviated Oxon) is a county in South East England bordering on Warwickshire to the north-north west, Northamptonshire to the north-north east, Buckinghamshire to the east, Berkshire to the south, Wiltshire to the south west and Gloucestershire to the west. The highest point is White Horse Hill, in the Vale of White Horse, reaching 216 metres (856 feet). Its main city is Oxford the home of the University of Oxford. Other main towns are Banbury, Bicester, Kidlington, Chipping Norton, Carterton, Witney, Thame, Chinnor, Abingdon, Wantage, Didcot, Wallingford and Henley-on-Thames. There is much to do in Oxfordshire with activities such as country walks, cycling, sailing and punting and also many places to visit such as churches, historical buildings and in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds some wonderful idyllic villages. There are many TV and film locations, you can follow in the footsteps of Harry Potter or visit the locations of Downton Abbey. Bampton doubles as the fictional village of Downton. The Swan Inn at Swinbrook, Cogges close to Witney and Shilton a picturesque village near Burford have also been used in the filming of Downton Abbey. There are a number of companies offering Downton Abbey themed tours.
Goring-on-Thames in South Oxfordshire is a large attractive village on the north bank of the River Thames about 16 miles south of Oxford and 8 miles north-west of Reading. It lies in the Goring Gap which separates the Berkshire Downs and the Chiltern Hills. Immediately across the river is the Berkshire village of Streatley connected by Goring and Streatley Bridge and its adjacent lock and weir. The two villages, situated in two Areas of Outstanding National beauty, are often considered as twin villages, even though they are in different counties, sharing in their shops, services, leisure, sports and much of their transport. They have been popular holiday destinations since Victorian times and The Thames Path, Icknield Way and the Ridgeway cross the River Thames at Goring creating some beautiful scenic walks. Streatley is the finishing line for the annual ‘Ridgeway 40’ walk and trail run. Most of the land in the area is farmland with woodland on the Goring Gap outcrop of the Chiltern Hills. Goring built on the riverside plain has a high street with a few shops, pubs and restaurants. The village also has a railway station which is on the main line between Oxford and London. Goring-on-Thames is the home of the late George Michael who was born Georgios Kyriacos Panayiotou in London on 25th June 1963 the son of a Greek Cypriot restaurateur and an English Dancer. George sadly died in his home, Mill Cottage, at Goring-on-Thames on Christmas Day 2016, aged 53 years.
Streatley being on an important crossing point on the River Thames is an ancient village. Neolithic tools have been found at the base of Lough Down and Bronze Age artefacts have been found in the village and a Roman milestone is still present at the Bull crossroads. The iron wheel pump, on the forecourt of The Bull pub, was the only reliable water source in the great freeze of 1895 and water was sold from this point for six pence a bucket. Streatley used to be owned by the Morrell family of brewers from Oxford who resisted change and this enabled the village to withstand the railway line and extra houses built at Goring. The mill burnt down in 1926 and wasn’t rebuilt. The estate was sold in 1938 after the death of Emily Morrell and the manor house and other houses in the village became part of the Royal Veterinary College, which had moved out of London during the Blitz. They left in 1958.
Lowbury Hill, at 186 metres, has been long regarded as a site of a probable Roman Temple. On the summit of the hill there are several earthworks including a rectangular enclosure and round barrow. The site was excavated in 1913-14 when the bank and interior were investigated. There is also a trig point.
Moulsford is a small village on one of the prettiest stretches of the River Thames. The village before 1974 was in the county of Berkshire but following the Berkshire boundary changes of that year it became part of Oxfordshire. Moulsford in South Oxfordshire sits on the A329 just north of Streatley and south of Wallingford. To the west are the foothills of the Berkshire Downs, the Moulsford Downs (a Site of Special Scientific Interest), Moulsford Bottom and Kingstanding Hill which is associated with King Alfred and the Battle of Ashdown. Opposite the village on the other side of the river lies the village of South Stoke. Moulsford like many other villages in Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire it has been used for filming of Midsomer Murders.
The River Thames is the longest river in England and the second longest in the UK. The river is 215 miles in length rising at Thames Head in Gloucestershire and flows into the North Sea via the Thames Estuary. On its route the river passes through London, where it is tidal with a rise and fall of 23 feet, and flows alongside other cities and towns, including Oxford, Reading, Henley-on-Thames and Windsor. The River Thames has been a transport route for centuries and Wallingford’s growth as a town relied partly on it. Coal was supplied from North East England by coaster to London and then by barge upriver to Wallingford. In July 1866 the Wallingford and Watlington Railway was opened between Cholsey and Wallingford. Its speed and reliability enabled it to take a large amount of goods previously carried on the Thames.
The Thames Path, which opened in 1996, is a long distance walking trail following England’s best known river for 184 miles. From its source in the Cotswolds near Kemble in Gloucestershire it meanders through several rural counties and on into the heart of London. On its way the trail passes peaceful water meadows rich in wildlife, historic towns and cities and many lovely villages finishing at the Thames Barrier in Woolwich just a few miles from the sea. Several sections of the path are also open to cyclists.
The Ridgeway National Trail is a ridgeway or ancient trackway described as Britain’s oldest road and at least 5,000 years old. It follows a route used since prehistoric times by travellers, herdsmen and soldiers. The 87 mile long distance route passes through ancient landscapes, downland, secluded valleys and woodland. The trail starts at Overton Hill in Wiltshire on the edge of the Marlborough Downs and heads east through the Chiltern Hills to Ivinghoe Beacon in Buckinghamshire. Highlights on this ancient route are a series of Iron-Age Forts the beautiful Chiltern Hills and a lovely stretch of the River Thames at Goring-on-Thames.
From the Goring and Streatley Bridges we head through the main street of Streatley to the traffic lights. We turn right and keeping to the footpath at the side of the road we bear left at the y-junction sign posted Wantage then left again at the no through road sign. We keep heading forward following the tarmac road passing Thurle Grange on our right. At the end of the road with a thatched cottage on our left we turn right on to the Ridgeway. We keep heading forwards soon going uphill. We pass a footpath off to the right and then to the left. Soon after passing the entrance to Warren Farm the track bears left we bear off right leaving the Ridgeway to following the footpath sign. When we meet a track we bear right back onto the Ridgeway again. Very soon the track bears right we head forward to the metal gate and turn left through the small gate at the side. We then head uphill through the field to the trig point at the top. This is where the Roman Temple once stood and from here there is a 360 degree view of the wonderful countryside. We then make our way back down to the Ridgeway turning left. After a short way we come to a crossroads, we turn right onto the Fair Mile. We keep heading straight forward along the Fair Mile ignoring any tracks going off left until we come to the main road. We turn right, using the grass verge. At the bottom of the hill we turn left at the footpath sign. We keep heading forward to the right hand side of the trees following the arrow. The path soon turns left through the hedge then right. We make our way downhill to Moulsford and at the cricket field we head forward to the road then turn right. We follow the road using the pavement then at the pub and the crossroads we turn left down Ferry Lane. When we reach the River Thames we turn right and follow the Thames Path back to Streatley and Goring.
This is an easy to moderate walk on grass, gravel and tarmac public footpaths and tracks. Also two short distances of main road.
Elevation: approx lowest point 41.20m (135.17ft) approx highest point 186.09m (610.56ft) approx ascent 178.20m (584.65ft)
Distance and Start Point
Approx 10 miles allow 4 – 4½ hours using OS Explorer Map 170, Abingdon, Wantage and Vale of white Horse. This walk is done clockwise.
Start point: Streatley and Goring Bridge.
Streatley and Goring-on-Thames, on the Oxfordshire, Berkshire border.
Directions and Parking
Streatley and Goring-on-Thames lie on the B4526 between Reading and Wallingford.
Parking: there are two car parks in Goring one is free the other is pay and display.
Toilets and Refreshments
There are public toilets in Goring. For refreshments there are three pubs, cafes, take-away and shops in Goring, two pubs in Streatley on the other side of the river and in Moulsford there is the Beetle and Wedge pub down Ferry Lane.