Henley to Mill End via the River Thames round
Henley on Thames is a beautiful historic market town in South Oxfordshire situated on the River Thames between Reading and Maidenhead and close to the corners of the counties of Oxfordshire, Berkshire and Buckinghamshire. The town has many shops, cafes, pubs and restaurants to suit a variety of tastes and budgets. There is much to see and do in Henley such as beautiful walks, cycling, boat trips, boats for hire, and checking out its many historical features which includes the Temple on the Island which was built in 1771 as a summerhouse come fishing lodge for Fawley Court and is also the start of the Regatta course, the Town Hall a Victorian building which houses the information centre, St. Mary’s Church where there is a memorial to the singer Dusty Springfield, the Chantry House built in 1450 is the only Grade 1 listed building in Henley, Henley Bridge was built between 1776 and 1786 replacing the original 1170 wooden bridge that was damaged in the Civil War and was swept away in the floods of 1774. The Henley Royal Regatta headquarters opened by Her Majesty the Queen in April 1986 is on the right hand side of the bridge. Henley is renowned Worldwide for its rowing centre and Henley Royal Regatta and Festival usually takes place over five days (Wednesday to Sunday) during the first two weeks in July on the long stretch of the river known as the Henley Reach. Henley Regatta was first held in 1839 and took place on a single afternoon but soon became popular with oarsmen that by 1840 racing lasted for two days. In 1851 the Regatta became Royal and Prince Albert became the patron. In 1886 the Regatta was extended to three days and to four in 1906 and as the Regatta became even more popular the event was extended to five days in 1986. Many other regattas and rowing races are also held on this stretch of the river such as the Henley Boat Races for women’s and lightweight teams between Oxford and Cambridge University. The Thames Path National Trail follows England’s best known river for 184 miles from Gloucestershire to the City of London and the county boundary runs through the middle of the river with Oxfordshire on one side and Berkshire on the other. Mill Meadows a large park area has an information centre, children’s playground, Mill Meadow Bandstand, Leichlingen Pavilion, Henley Bowling Club, River and Rowing Museum, Marsh Meadows Wildlife area and Trail. There has been a market in Henley since the 13th century selling grain and items brought up river from London as well as selling local products but today the market is very different and in the year 2000 the Market Place was pedestrianised.
Mill End is a small hamlet only a few miles from Henley on Thames but is in South Buckinghamshire also situated on the River Thames. The hamlet consists of about fifty houses some on the river bank and the rest on the northern side of the road, the A4155, which passes through the centre. Mill End Farm opposite Hambleden Lock has been run by the Bowden family for over 45 years and farms most of the land in and around the Hambleden area and Hambleden Mill which is situated near Hambleden Lock has now been converted into flats. The scenery here is more characteristic with the rolling Chiltern Hills in the background above Hambleden taking over from the flat peaceful area of the River Thames towards Henley. Aston is a very small village in Oxfordshire and houses the Flower Pot Hotel which has accommodation and good pub food. This is an ideal place to stop for lunch or a drink being a half way point on the walk.
Look and listen for the call of the Red Kites that are flying everywhere around this area. They are magnificent birds of prey with a distinctive forked tail, reddish plumage and up to a six foot wingspan. By the end of the 19th century these once common birds were made almost extinct in England by human persecution. People thought they were a threat to game rearing and sheep farming but then realised they scavenged on carrion or fed on insects, earthworms or small mammals. The RSPB and English Nature led a project seeing over 90 birds re-introduced to the Chilterns from Spain there are now 250 pairs breeding here.
We park in Mill Meadows car park at Henley and walk on the path at the side of the River Thames to the bridge where we turn right over the bridge and then turn left to follow the Thames Path. We follow the river on our left until we come to Hambleden Lock where we cross over the river and weir using the footbridges and walkway. At the other side we walk forward between two fences and then between two buildings to the road at Mill End. We turn right and then left on the road sign posted Car Park 500 yards for those needing the public toilets in the car park (optional) and the walk can be started from here if you wanted to do it the other way round. We retrace our steps back over the walkway and footbridges to the far side of Hambleden Lock and turn left and walk on the road with the river on our left. When the road bends round to the right we head forward through the gate into a field keeping to the river. At the end of the field we turn right walking up Ferry Lane to the Flower Pot Hotel at Aston and continue along Aston Lane passing two high sided walls and at the Aston Village sign we turn right through the gate into a field. At the top of the field we pass through a gate and follow the grass path and then bear left at another path coming in from the right. We keep following the narrow path under the telegraph poles with an open field to our left and trees to our right and when we come out into an open field we keep heading forward onto a track until we meet the road. We turn left and follow the road for a short way and at the footpath sign on the right we cross the stile and head over the field towards the wood. From here we have more or less a 360 degree wonderful view of the countryside and the Chiltern Hills. We walk through the wood then through a field keeping to the low side with a telegraph pole on the left and go through the sign posted little gate and continue through a tunnel of trees. We come out into a field with Matson House on the left and walk down to the right hand corner we then cross a small field to the road where we turn left then right onto the main road to cross the bridge back into Henley.
This is an easy flat walk along the banks of the River Thames and only a slight incline and decline from Aston to Henley.
Approx 3.5 miles allow 1 hour 10 minutes using OS Explorer Map 171, Chiltern Hills West.
Start point Mill Meadows car park.
Henley-on-Thames is in South Oxfordshire.
Directions and Parking
From the M40 take junction 4 the A404 to Marlow. At the roundabout turn right onto the A4155 and follow this road into Henley-on-Thames. Just before the river bridge turn right into Thames Side and then left off Station Road for Mill Meadows car park next to the river.
Toilets and Refreshments
There are public toilets in Henley at Mill Meadows and park, Greys Road and Kings Road car parks all with disabled facilities (RADAR keys) and the later has baby changing facilities and also in the Station. There are public toilets in the car park at Mill End. For refreshments there are many shops, cafes, pubs and restaurants to choose from in Henley and there is the Flower Pot Hotel in Aston.