It was one of those perfect January mornings when Hoover and I walked this section of The Thames Path – from Hurley Lock towards Marlow: everything was white with frost but the sun was rising fast and promised to shine brightly on the sparkly landscape. The river was like a millpond in places, and in others it was covered in ice…most unusual for The Thames.
Hurley is an extremely pretty little village, which predates the Norman Conquest. (map) Many of the buildings that are close to the river were part of a Benedictine Monastery that was mentioned in the Domesday survey of 1086. The village lies halfway between London and Oxford, being 55 miles from each by river. The river has always been an important part of the village’s history with records of a ford as early as the 6th century. Hurley Lock itself is quite unique among locks along the River Thames, for here the river splits into a number of channels, making the walk interesting as you criss-cross over the water. The village has a couple of pubs that you will pass as you drive through the village to the river: The Olde Bell, which first opened it’s doors in 1135, and The Rising Sun, in case you need sustenance after your walk.
We parked in the free car park at the bottom of High Street. (map) As you approach it you’ll see the church up ahead on the right…the car park is on your left. Leave the car park by walking from your car back toward High Street but turn left towards the river (the opposite direction from which you came). You will see a dark green finger post sign pointing in the direction that you need to go, but the path looks like it is heading towards someone’s home….don’t worry, it doesn’t. (streetview) This streetview link shows the entrance to the car park and the tarmac path you should follow.
It is only a short distance to the river, and you are immediately greeted by a timber bridge that takes you up and over the water. Once across it is simply a case of following the footpath and the signs for The Thames Path along the riverbank until you feel you’ve walked far enough and you want to turn round and come back.
We chose to do a loop through the fields so some of our return route was different (as shown in one of the images), however the river is an ever changing scene so it is unlikely that you’d get bored if you walked back the same way. Even at 8 o’clock on a Sunday morning we watched rowing eights in training, chatted to a handful of people who were in the process of defrosting after having spent the night out on the banks fishing, and witnessed (as well as heard) a narrow boat forcing it’s way through the ice…and of course there was the usual selection of mad dogs and Englishmen out walking.
The route is flat aside from crossing the bridges, however much of the route is ‘rustic’ and whilst the going is firm it could be muddy in places in wet weather…so sensible shoes are required.
This really is a lovely stretch of the river – there is lots to see making it more interesting than some of the other stretches, and there are benches here and there if you want to stop and watch the world sail by for a while.