A Circular Walk from Culham Lock - alongside The River Thames Path to Abingdon and back via Sutton Courtenay to Culham in Oxfordshire.
The walk is around 14kms long and apart from a short section of undulating track is pretty much flat all the way. It is necessary to be aware of weather
conditions before taking this walk if there has been recent heavy rain. As you leave the lock at Culham you can see the meadows on the other side of the River
Thames (Culham Cut).
If these fields and meadows are badly flooded then it's likely that the River Thames has gone over it's banks and you may not be able to get into
Abingdon itself without diverting onto the road some way out of the town (which somewhat removes the enjoyment of the walk). Equally once you arrive back at
Sutton Courtenay instead of following our instructions which cross the weirs you will need to follow Appleford Road and then Abingdon Road to get back to Culham
Lock with dry feet. Do not forget to take a bag of bread for the starving ducks and geese by the way.
Culham Lock is situated a
little way off the A415 Abingdon to Clifton Hampden Road - map showing Culham Lock and car park
. There is a fairly large and amazingly still free car park adjacent to Culham Lock - leastways it
was last time we went there which was in October 2015.
Leave the car park and turn right along the footpath i.e. towards the bridge - within a few yards there is a path access on the right which goes onto the Thames Path alongside Culham Cut (the River Thames itself has taken one of it's frequent huge bends and it a little way away over fields near Sutton Courtenay).
Just go ahead passing Culham's quite large double Lock. There is no difficulty in following this walk - just keep on the Thames Path as it follows the Cut and a little way after a footbridge The River Thames and Culham Cut re-join. This is lovely countryside - with the path sometimes going between high hedgerows and other times with open
fields on the right. In late Spring and into the Summer the foliage bordering the River Thames is so dense that you cannot always see the river itself - you only know it's there because you can hear the leisure boats and canal barges going past.
The whole area is really nice to walk through as far as wildlife is concerned too - there are always plenty of ducks, geese, swans, moorhens and coots messing about on the river and many varieties of other birds in the hedgerows and vegetation - depending on the time of year you will see lots of wild flowers, dog roses, hawthorn and so on.
The Thames Path eventually takes a large sweep right and ends up at hedgerow where there is a signed pointing you to go left onto a wooden bridge. If you walk onto the bridge you will get an excellent view of the old Culham bridge - this beautiful old stone bridge has a bit of history attached to it: it was built in 1416 and
was the site of a Civil War skirmish in January 1645. Having admired the old bridge there is no doubt that you will need to walk over it so go back through the hedgerow, turn left and walk just past the house and immediately take the gravel path on the left onto the bridge. From here continue across the bridge
and go left and head back down to the Thames Path next to the river. (The water meadows here can be flooded - if they look really wet it may be best to go back to just before the old bridge and take the woodland path on the left which takes you to the Abingdon Road. Cross the -busy- road and go left into Abingdon using
the old raised path instead). Otherwise with Abingdon now well in view - particularly the high steeple of St Helen's Church - just follow the river on into the old town to arrive at it's
really nice old bridge (this was also originally built in 1416 by wool traders) - there are several seats situated amongst the trees here plus unsurprisingly perhaps loads of hungry ducks, geese and swans.
Although our indicated walk now takes you across Abingdon Bridge it's worth noting that you can divert by continuing under the Bridge and wandering along the river to take a look at Abingdon Lock and weir - not too far away.
If you do this then you need to cross the weir and follow the River Ock keeping it on the right - eventually you arrive by a children's play area and just past this cross the Ock and follow the road (or go through the nice gardens) bearing left all the time to get back into Abingdon's Town centre and St Helen's Street (see below).
Cross the bridge using the bridge's only
pavement which is on the far side and walk up through the town passing the old jail on the left - incidentally there are several riverside public houses just along here if you
fancy a beer etc. Go past the well-named Turnagain Lane and take East St Helens Street on the left. Follow this down to St Helen's beautiful church - apart from admiring this old church you might enjoy taking a look at the Alms Houses as well. To the right of the church you will see a sign pointing to "The Ock River Valley Walk" - take this well surfaced path as it follows the River Ock for a while and then keep straight on across a small grassy area to arrive at a main road. Cross over this usually busy road and go ahead into a large grass area - bear half right and walk over to the River Ock. Follow the river to eventually reach
and cross a small concrete bridge on the right.
Turn left and continue following the river (Now on your left) to then reach a wooden bridge - having crossed this turn left and again continue alongside the river. The path emerges onto more open ground and follows more or less alongside the River Ock as it meanders it's way to a large wooden footbridge - cross the bridge and on reaching a small lane turn right up to the end of the lane - passing an old mill house on the way.
Take the track on the left - now simply follow this undulating and sometimes muddy green track between high hedgerows to eventually arrive at the road just outside of Drayton. Cross the road and almost immediately go left again along Sutton Wick Lane - passing some really nice old
barns and also a fairly small duck pond.
Confusingly the road splits and both roads are named Sutton Wick Lane - take the left hand version - passing houses and continue to where the road ends. Do not take the footpaths on the left - instead go straight ahead between hedgerow and fence to arrive at Church Lane.
Bear left going up Church Lane to arrive at Drayton nice old church of Sts Peters - where you will find several wooden benches if you fancy a five minute break. Walk on through the graveyard and on through gates at the end - continue ahead down a grassy track to reach a path and open fields. Turn right and shortly
arrive at a road (the B4016). Go across the road and continue on another path staying in the same direction - to eventually arrive at a small concrete lane (Drayton East Way).
Turn left and continue on to reach a tarmac road - cross this and keep ahead along the wide grassy path - this soon changes into a
fairly narrow high hedge lined path - if the weather has been wet this path for a while can be extremely muddy and slippery. The path ends at the outskirts of
Sutton Courtenay - there is an old water mill on the right but unfortunately the grounds behind it have been saturated by some horrible red brick houses.
Perhaps also visit our National Trail and Woodland Walks in England
Home Page for more topics about England including circular walks on National Trails such as the Oxfordshire Way and The Ridgeway Path.
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