The Thames Path - Oxford to Abingdon.

Walking alongside The River Thames using The Thames Path National Trail between Oxford City and Abingdon in Oxfordshire.

It should be noted that unlike some of the towpaths running beside quite a few of our English canals, very little of the Thames Path has been surfaced to accommodate cyclists. The Thames Path is often quite narrow and can be extremely muddy not only from when the weather is wet but also because the Thames frequently passes through water-meadows and boggy areas - is meant to be for the use of walkers rather than for cycling.
One of the things about The River Thames is the lack of crossing points sometimes for quite a few miles so walking the route is often best achieved by making the walk one way rather than circular. Our topics are split into town to town walks and where possible there is an indication about where public transport i.e. buses can be used to make such one way trips. However there are some locations where circulars can be created without having to walk huge distances. (please see at the end of this topic for more sections which are great to walk along on The Thames Path).
Abingdon Town with the River Thames flowing by - OxfordshireWhich direction to take?. Choosing in which direction to walk along The River Thames can make quite a difference in how enjoyable it all is especially during the Winter bearing in mind that the River basically runs across England from the West to the East. Although The Thames does enjoy some magnificent bends in the process - take a look at a map of Abingdon for instance and see the loop there.. On some sections if you are walking in the Autumn or Winter and start out during the morning then the sun will be very low and will be on your back if heading towards the East so no problem with glare. However walking in this direction and with a strong north to north east wind (which can be quite normal at that time of the year) means you are walking right into the wind - warm gear needed in other words.

Public Transport options between Oxford and Abingdon - there is a good bus service operating along this route - the distance is around 10 miles and takes about 25 minutes. Buses: X2, X3 and service 35 numbered buses run from Oxford St. Aldgate to Abingdon (X's actually end up going on to Didcot) and back every 10 minutes or so, If getting to the start by car then because of the high cost and difficulty of car-parking in Oxford City the best place to park would be in Abingdon - then get the bus to Oxford and walk back into Abingdon. (There is plenty of car parking next to the River Thames near to Abingdon Town Bridge but you do have to pay sadly if you wish to stay there for more than two hours).
Iffley Lock on The River Thames in Oxfordshire, England.

A walk from Oxford to Abingdon on The Thames Path in England.

Starting off from Folly Bridge in the centre of Oxford the Thames Path immediately leaves the noise behind and enters open countryside - Christ Church Meadows are on the far side of the river. The path soon reaches Iffley Meadows which are ancient water meadows that flood annually - the Thames itself is quite wide and has quite a few college boat houses on it's banks. The first lock reached is Iffley Lock which is interesting in that it is the site of the first of three pound locks which were constructed on The Thames - the pound lock dates back to 1632 whilst Iffley Lock as it is today was built in 1924. Previously boats had to "flash" across the river's weirs which was quite hazardous but with the introduction of Pound locks things became a lot safer. These locks were created by removing part of the weir so that boats could go through by using the current or were winched through if going upstream. The weirs were originally constructed by creating solid banks of interwoven stakes which were filled with large stones. Just up on the hillside you can see the Norman Church of St Marys which can be easily reached by crossing the weir.
From Iffley Lock the path continues on it's way soon going under the A423 road bridge and then under a railway bridge (which once carried a sadly now dis-used railway line which once connected Thame and Oxford). The Thames Path reverts to a grass surface and Hinksey Stream is crossed via a footbridge followed quite soon by a further bridge which goes over the weir stream and just here a narrow path leaves the Thames Path to shortly reach Sandford Weirs.
The violent Sandford "Lasher" Weir - Oxfordshire, England.Sandford Lock which has the greatest fall on the River Thames. The Thames thunders through these weirs which are known as Sandford Lasher however due to a variety of accidents and drownings the weirs are completely blocked off. To get a look at the weirs just a little way further along the Thames Path go over a field sometimes next to the weir stream and then Sandford Lasher can be seen quite well (**also see a little below). Shortly after the bridge the path arrives at Sandford Lock at Sandord-on-Thames. Sandford Lock has the greatest fall of water on the River Thames with a drop of 8 feet 10 inches - the lock is 174 feet long and 21 feet by 9 feet wide. Around here there are several bench seats plus a nice grass bank which is just right for sitting on and having a drinks break whilst watching not a lot going on (or you can cross over the river and visit the public house which is sat on the bank opposite). The mill which once stood here has been nicely converted into flats and overlooks the lock.

Having passed the lock the Thames Path crosses a small bridge and then goes left through a car park to continue via a gate. (**Just over the bridge on the right there is a a stile into fields - divert this way and you can go back to get a really good view of Sandford Lasher however you have to cross a wide muddy stream on the way and as of August 2014 the planks across it are barely crossable - hopefully it will be fixed). Back on The Thames Path this stretch of the walk is shrubbed and tree lined until open fields are reached at the end of which is Radley College Boathouse where there are some nicely placed bench seats. Radley railway station can be reached from here and also Bus no.35 stops at the station. Now going along a long stretch with the river swinging in an easterly direction another railway bridge passes overhead and then near some dilapidated picnic table take a look across the Thames where you can see the start of Swift Ditch (Backwater) and also it's small weir clearly visible. The Thames originally split into two streams here with both routes once navigable however Abingdon's monks eventually succeeded in making the river's course through Abingdon the main route. Swift Ditch is now unuseable/un-navigable as it is almost completely overgrown and silted up - it eventually re-joins the River Thames at Old Culham Bridge.
Abbey ruins within the gardens at Abingdon, Oxfordshire.Abingdon's beautifully restored County Hall - near The Thames in England. The Thames Path leaves the river just as it reaches the outskirts of Abingdon - the path is narrow and just a small amount of rain makes it very difficult to walk without slipping all the time on the muddy surface. This condition underfoot gets noticeably worse for the last few hundred yards until the path reaches Abbey Stream in Abingdon itself. Cross the bridge and turn left to soon arrive at Abingdon's weir and Lock and of course The Thames. Cross the lock and turn right to follow the Thames on down to Abingdon Town Bridge. Abingdon itself is well worth a wander around and has some really beautifully restored old buildings such as the County Hall - also St Helen's Church and it's Alms houses which date back to 1446 are right next to the river. The town has an extensive set of gardens where some of the original Abbey walls and ruins still exist - also there are children's play areas - this can all be found by going past St Nicholas's Church and through the Abbey Gateway.
There are a couple of nice circular walks involving Abingdon and Culham which may be of interest - please see on our other website Culham, Sutton Courtenay, Abingdon circular walk and our Culham, Clifton Hampden, Abingdon circular walk.

The next section of the route can be seen on our Abingdon to Culham Lock on the Thames Path

Related items about The Thames Path:
Our The Thames Path towpath Walks in England Home Page lists all our topics about walking along the Thames Path from Lechlade through to the end of the Path at the Thames Barrage.
Via our Site Resources find links to more items about England - canals include The Oxford Canal, The Grand Union Canal, The Kennet and Avon Canal, The Regents Canal, the River Lee Navigation and The River Stort and The Stratford-upon-Avon Canal. Also there is an item showing British Wild Flowers.
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External Link: Where Thames Smooth Waters Glide - all about Abingdon and The Thames in olden days.