From the source in Gloucestershire to Mapledurham Lock and Watermill on the outskirts of Reading, Berkshire, this branch covers the most rural and least populated stretches of the river.
The Source at Thames Head
The source (map) is located a short distance from The Thames Head Inn on the A433 near Kemble in Gloucestershire. From the pub car park or lay-by on the road, a half mile footpath walk through a field will take you to the source of the Thames and the start of the Thames Path.
The Thames runs through the picturesque towns and villages of Cricklade and Lechlade, the City of Oxford and on again through Abingdon, Dorchester on Thames and Streatley.
As you follow the river, you are flowing through the history of England. Cricklade, Radcot, Oxford and Wallingford were all fortified by Empress Matilda during the Barons War with King Stephen in the 12th Century.
Radcot Bridge is the oldest surviving bridge across the Thames and was the scene of a battle on 19th December 1387 between the forces of Richard II and Henry Bollingbroke, the future Henry IV.
This battle raged along the Thames to Newbridge and finished at Bablock Hythe.
Newbridge is the second oldest bridge across the Thames and when it was built it spanned 725 yards with 51 arches. It was here on 27 May 1644 that a garrison of King’s Dragoons delayed the Parliamentarian army of Sir William Waller by over a week, which allowed King Charles I to escape from his capital at Oxford.
At Oxford King Harold Harefoot was crowned Harold I in 1035 by the side of the Thames and he died in Oxford five years later. Oxford the Royalist capital during the civil war of 1642 to 1646.
Oxford was also the home of Lewis Carrol and Alice in Wonderland, and many of the stories were made up, all featuring people that Alice knew in her home at Christ Church College, as they rowed along the Thames. J.R. Tolkein and C.S. Lewis lived here and created the Lord of The Rings and Tales of Narnia and Inspector Morse was also created here.
Another television Detective, Inspector Barnaby of Midsomer Murders is often filmed in Wallingford and Dorchester on Thames was the original capital of the Saxon Kingdom of Wessex before it was transferred to Winchester.
There are numerous places of interest to visit including Buscot Park and Basildon Park both owned by the National Trust, Kelmscott Manor where William Morris lived and the Mapledurham Watermill, the oldest working watermill on the Thames.