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The Thames Path, Oxford to Sandford

Home > Oxford > Nature | Outdoor | Pubs | Walks
by Cressida Ryan (subscribe)
Classicist and traveller
Published December 8th 2013
The Thames Path stretches 184 miles from CIrencester to Greenwich, and is a popular National Trail for people to walk, whether picking particular sections or attempting to complete the whole trail as a challenge.

One section which can be walked in 1-2 hours is Oxford city centre to Sandford-upon-Thames. Just over Folly Bridge there are two signs pointing towards the path. Follow the South one down the side of some flats, and you find yourself opposite Christ Church Meadows. The path is a little uneven, but is perfectly accessible for bikes and pushchairs alike.

One distinctive feature is the number of houseboats lining the riverside. Whether moored briefly, or used as a permanent base, there's a whole community on the river. You'll often spot people tending to the boats, or sat between them fishing.

You walk past a number of boathouses, mainly belonging to the University of Oxford, and as you walk along this stretch of the river you will often be able to watch boats train, with the coaches tearing along the banks on bikes clutching megaphones.

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Rowing boats on the Thames


At Donnington Bridge you leave behind the city and feel yourself enter the open countryside. The only building along this section is the Isis pub, which provides a welcome pitstop for the thirsty traveller. Inaccessible by road, the Thames path is the only way to access the pub, which lends it great rural charm, increased by the promise of good beer and cake. It also hosts live events on a regular basis, which might be live music or even occasional poetry readings.

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The Isis Pub, Oxford


Once past the pub you enter the back of the picturesque village of Iffley, and head towards Iffley lock.

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Iffley Lock


A small island connected to the path by a quaint stone bridge offers a great spot to watch the wildlife, with ducks and geese swarming around as children stop with bags of breadcrumbs.

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Geese on the Thames Path


Up to this point benches punctuate the path on a frequent basis, allowing you to stop and rest, or just watch the world go by. It's a popular route for cyclists, joggers, dog-walkers and casual strollers.

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Bench on the Thames Path


Beyond Iffley you reach the ring road, and leave the realm of Oxford. Sandford is about another mile, but the path becomes less distinct. You walk through open fields, or down increasingly overgrown paths, and eventually come to Sandford Lock. Here the King's Arms pub offers a great pint, with good food, a smart beer garden, and great views of the countryside.

The Thames at this point has a large number of tributaries so at several points you find yourself crossing little bridges, where the temptation to stop and play Poohsticks is immense.

The route is completely flat, so except for the bumpiness of the fields outside Sandford, it is an easy walk for any group to attempt. When the weather has been very wet, bits can become very swampy, so it is sensible to wear a good pair of walking shoes. Occasionally the river floods and the path is inaccessible, so it is sensible to pay attention to the weather forecast before heading out.

There is a local bus service which will take you back into Oxford. The 106 runs during the day (but not on Sundays). Alternatively you can walk up through Sandford and over the ringroad, or back the way you came.
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Why? A gentle walk along a famous river
Where: Oxford to Sandford-upon-Thames
Cost: Free, but some parking costs
Your Comment
Iffley Lock looks like a particularly nice place to stop and admire the scenery.
by Bryony Harrison (score: 4|12098) 1828 days ago
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