George Michael a tribute – Goring-on-Thames to Whitchurch-on-Thames round
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.
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.
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. He formed the group Wham! in 1981 with his school friend, Andrew Ridgeley. The following year when George was 19 the duo’s first single “Young Guns (Go for it) was released it was a smash UK hit, reaching number three. George was also a songwriter, record producer and philanthropist. He was best known in the 1980’s and 1990’s with hit singles such as “Wake Me Up Before You Go- Go” and “Last Christmas” and albums such as “Faith” and “Listen without Prejudice Vol.1”. Until his death George Michael had sold more than 115 million records worldwide making him one of the best selling music artists of all time. His breakthrough duo Wham! Sold 28 million records between 1982 and 1986 and his debut solo album “Faith” sold more than 20 million copies worldwide. He achieved seven number one singles in the UK and ranks among the best selling British acts of all time. He also achieved eight number one songs on the Billboard Hot 100 in the US, including “Careless Whisper” and “Praying for Time” and in 2008 he was ranked 40th on Billboard’s list of Greatest Hot 100 Artists of All Time. George also won various music awards over his 30 year career.
Whitchurch-on-Thames is a small attractive village on the Oxfordshire bank of the River Thames and on the opposite side of the river on the Berkshire bank is the large village of Pangbourne. The village has several attractive flint cottages, Edwardian villas and Georgian town houses. There is also a mill which is no longer in use and has been converted. Since the 16th century the village has had a weir and flash lock on the Thames to manage water level for navigation. The flash lock was replaced with a pound lock in 1787. The original Whitchurch Toll Bridge between Whitchurch and Pangbourne was built in 1792. It is the fourth on the site having been reconstructed in 1853, 1902 and 2014. The bridge still privately owned costs 60p to cross. It is maintained by The Company of Proprietors of Whitchurch Bridge entirely from toll receipts. The Church of Saint Mary was originally Norman and was altered in the 15th century and the Gothic Revival architect Henry Woodyer completely rebuilt the church in 1858 retaining only the Norman south door, Perpendicular Gothic south porch and a few other items.
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 Chiltern Way was created by the Chiltern Society as its Millennium Project. It is a circular way marked walking route of 125 miles taking in some of the finest scenery in the country. The Way passes through the most attractive parts of the Chilterns, including the Bovingdon Plateau, the Chess Valley, the Misbourne Valley, Penn Country, Hambleden Valley, Stonor Park, Ewelme, Swyncombe Down, Bledlow Ridge, Hampden Country, Bulbourne Valley and Dunstable Down. In 2003 two extensions were added to the route the Chiltern Way Southern Extension adds a loop of 31 miles from Bix Bottom via Mapledurham on the Thames and the Chiltern Way Northern Extension a loop of 27 miles from Sharpenhoe Clappers via the Icknield Way and the outskirts of Hitchin. In 2010 to mark the 10th anniversary of the Chiltern Way the Chiltern Society developed a new extension of 28 miles called the Berkshire Loop from south of Penn taking in Winter Hill, Ashley Hill, Remenham Hill and Henley Bridge to Harpsden Bottom.
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.
From the bridges over the River Thames at Goring we head forward for a short way and turn right to the late George Michael’s home to view the tributes then return to the road and turn right. We walk along the high street to cross over the railway bridge and at the t-junction we turn right. We head forward for a short way on the Chiltern Way and turn left at the next t-junction. We head forward then turn right into Whitehills Green. The road turns left and right then at the end of the cul-de-sac we go through the hedge into the field. We bear half left to the corner of the field go through the hedge into the next field and turn left uphill. At the end of the third field we turn right downhill and go through the gate and turn left into the wood. We come to a cross roads of paths and keep heading forwards following the arrow. We soon come to a way marker and turn right. At the t-junction we turn left towards the farm. At Stapnall’s Farm we bear right up a gravel track than after a short way we turn right onto a tarmac track. We head forwards then at the t-junction we turn right sign posted restricted byway. We pass a thatched cottage then at the minor road we cross straight over towards Coombe End Farm. We walk past the first house and keep bearing left then at the big barn we turn left through the gate. We bear off right and cross over the stile then at the next stile we bear slightly left into the wood. We soon come to a path going off to the left but we keep heading straight on through a kissing gate. We head forward towards the farm and turn right following the footpath signs through a gate. We head forward through the field to go through a gate to come out at the road. We turn right downhill following the road on the footpath through Whitchurch-on-Thames. We cross over the Toll Bridge into Pangbourne for a cup of tea and an ice-cream. We then return back over the Toll Bridge and turn left at the footpath sign Thames Path. After passing Church Cottages we turn right between the hedges into the Churchyard. We exit the churchyard and turn right to the road. At the road we turn left and retrace our steps uphill through Whitchurch. Then at the 40 sign we turn left and follow the little road. At the end of the road keep heading forwards downhill towards the River Thames on the Thames Path. We soon walk along a narrow path between the hedges taking us to the River Thames. We follow the river on our left and when we come to a footpath sign we turn left to the Towing Path. We turn right and follow the path back into Goring.
This is an easy walk on grass paths, gravel tracks and some minor and major tarmac road. There are some stiles, gates and gradual inclines and declines.
Elevation: approx lowest point 38.50m (126.31ft) approx highest point 157.70m (517.39ft) approx ascent 238.40m (782.15ft).
Distance and Start Point
Approx 9.6 miles allow 3½ – 4 hours using OS Explorer Map 171, Chiltern Hills West, Henley-on-Thames and Wallingford. This walk is done clockwise.
Start point: The bridges that separate Goring-on-Thames and Streatley.
Goring-on-Thames, on the Oxfordshire, Berkshire borders.
Directions and Parking
Goring-on-Thames lies 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, twp pubs in Streatley on the other side of the river, two pubs in Whitchurch and numerous pubs, cafes, take-away and shops in Pangbourne.