Walking The Thames Path - towpath walk from Lechlade to Radcot Bridge in England.

Halfpenny Bridge beside The Thames Path at Lechlade, England

Following the Thames Path from just outside Lechlade along to Radcot Bridge which is a walking distance of around 6.5 miles.

Ideally when walking any distance alongside the River Thames the idea would be to walk a 12 or 14 mile section of The Thames Path - parking one end of the route and then getting a bus to the other end and walking back (or vica versa). However this bit of the path had to be done as a "there and back" since there did not appear to be any relevant public transport available - the only alternative of course would be to use two cars. There is parking available just outside of Lechlade - take the A361 heading out of Lechlade towards Highworth and having gone over Lechlade's bridge a few 100 yards along the road there is a fairly small but free car park on the right.
From the car park go under an old barrier and follow the sometimes muddy grass path/track across fields to reach The River Thames and The Thames Path. Turn right and follow the path alongside the river on a well surfaced albeit grassy path to soon reach Lechlade and Halfpenny Bridge - this beautiful old bridge used to be a toll-bridge hence it's name. As a short diversion it's only a short walk over the bridge to go into Lechlade itself - this old market town has a very pleasant centre where there are quite a few pubs and lots of local shops - also take a look round Lechlade's lovely old church (built in 1476) with it's very impressive spire. Back to the walk though, having passed under the bridge look across to it's far side where the toll-house can still be seen attached to the side. The Thames Path now continues alongside the river through meadowland - there are very good views of Lechlade's church and also a very nice example of a WW2 pillbox sat beside the river.
St John's Lock just outside of Lechlade - Thames Path, England.Lechlade's church seen from The River Thames and The Thames Path in England. Eventually the path reaches St John's Lock which is the first and highest lock on The Thames - the old bridge and subsequently the lock are named after the Priory which once stood nearbye. The locks along this part of the river have been beautifully kept, many have small flower gardens, seats and there are really informative information boards describing various things and places of interest in the immediate area - also there are often toilet facilities available too!. There are in fact two bridges just here - firstly the lock cut bridge which crosses the River Thames navigable stream and then just along from this the very old St. Johns Bridge which goes over the weir stream. Should you climb up to the bridge then go left across it to reach an old public house called The Trout Inn which is sat on the edge of the River Thames and well worth visiting. From around here there are also good views of the lock's weir. The Trout Inn was originally an almshouse and hospital under the care of St John's Priory.
St Johns Weir with the bridge somewhat hidden behind it- Thames Path, England.
Once you have gone on under St John's Bridge (i.e. the newer Thames Cut part of the bridge by the lock) you again enter open country. If you want to literally stay next to the river take a very overgrown, muddy and narrow path immediately on the left of the gate or alternatively go ahead and divert on a marked path which leaves the river for a short while and crosses fields - a much better option if the river is high or there has been heavy rain. The paths both end up at Bloomers Hole footbridge where you cross the river and then continue along as the Thames meanders along sometimes taking some enormous loops - the countryside is beautiful and very peaceful. Just before reaching Buscot Lock you can spot the small church hidden amongst trees on the opposite bank. The path crosses the weir to reach Buscot Lock - the area is immaculately kept with lovely flowers, shrubs and trees and there are also several bench seats beside the lock. Having passed the lock and crossed over a concrete bridge you are again out in the fields - with few other walkers around and very few boats using the river in this area the walking is very peaceful.
The path eventually arrives at Eton Weir footbridge which is the site of the last of the flash weirs on The Thames - the weir is no more since it was removed in 1936 and all that remains is a rustic footbridge and a small cottage.
Radcot's beautiful old bridge over The Thames next to The Thames Path, England.The river continues to meander as it takes you to the outskirts of Kelmscott where there are some boat moorings - then continues on heading for Grafton Lock - where certainly when we last visited there were half a dozen very greedy ducks in situ. From Grafton Lock the river unusually travels in a reasonably straight direction - the Thames Path is considerably harder to walk along since the grass is quite high and tangled - it does improve a little as you approach Radcot. The Thames splits just here and there are lots of pleasure boats moored. The footpath itself takes you via an artificial cut to arrive at Radcot's single arched bridge which was built in 1787.
Just along the road is Radcot's older original bridge which is three arched and dates from the 13th century and crosses the original river's course - it's the oldest surviving bridge on the River Thames - or possibly the oldest. That "possibly" is because the bridge no longer crosses the main stream whilst the much more modern bridge at Newbridge does - Newbridge is around 50 years later in construction.

We last did this as a there and back since no obvious public transport is available along this part of the river - so obviously the return to Lechlade can just be a reverse of the outbound along the Thames Path again. However if you wish to return more directly there are several places where you can cross the fields along tree edges and miss out following the river's huge loops - this does cut the return distance and time back enormously.

Inglesham's Old Church of St John the Baptist - England.Once back at Lechlade before leaving The Thames Path and returning to the parking area it's worth walking further along to first reach The Roundhouse at Inglefield. This marks where the River Thames is fully navigable for powered craft heading south and where narrow boats can wind - although of course small boats have right of navigation and can go further back towards the Thames source at least as far as Cricklade. By the Roundhouse The Thames is joined by the River Coln and this is also where the now disused Thames and Severn Canal met the two rivers. The roundhouse is one of several on the canal and these were in fact once lock-keepers houses. If you cross the footbridge you can get a glimpse of the bridge which crossed the canal - the area is unfortunately privately owned so there is no way of getting closer for a proper look.
Further along The Thames Path you can also visit the unusual and beautiful little Saxon Church of St. John the Baptist. The present building is from the 13th century and inside the layout is like going back in time. The church has not been modernized and it has a Jacobean pulpit, old wooden pews and there are several albeit faded frescoes on several of the walls.

The next section of the Path can be found on our Walking along The Thames Path Radcot to Newbridge.

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. .
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External Link: Where Thames Smooth Waters Glide for excellent info about this part of The Thames