Culham Circular Walk - The Thames and Oxfordshire countryside.

Didcot Power Station seen from The Thames near Culham (pre-demolition of several towers)

Culham Lock on the Thames Towpath to Clifton Hampden Bridge, round UKAEA Culham then walking across country to The Thames and back to Culham via Abingdon.

Car parking: There is a large (and as of March 2018 - free) car-park next to Culham Lock (just a little way off the A415 Abingdon to Clifton Hampden Road) - map showing Culham Lock and car park. This walk is around 10 miles in length and is fairly flat most of the way - the Thames Path from Culham to Clifton Hampden is very heavily overgrown but fine if you are on foot however cyclists will find it very bumpy and perhaps not that exciting from sitting on a saddle point of view. As with the above walk if there has been heavy rain and you can see that the Thames has gone over it's banks it probably means that the walk should not be attempted. The problem area is a little way along from where you re-join the Thames near Abingdon and the Back Water joins the Thames - the area is prone to flood easily and is also extremely boggy in places. Should you get this far and not be able to continue you would have to go some distance back to Thames Lane.
From the car park turn right towards the bridge, and very shortly cross the road and take the wooden gate which goes onto the Thames Path i.e. before the bridge actually crosses the Cut. Now simply follow the Thames Path as it goes along the river often with very heavy foliage either side - in fact the growth is so strong you often cannot even see the river just a few yards away on the right. As mentioned this path is particularly bumpy and perhaps not too comfortable for cyclists. After a while the remaining towers and buildings of Didcot Power Station come into view*** and then eventually the path reaches a particularly nice old girder railway bridge. A little further on the Thames Path goes through Clifton Cut to arrive at Clifton's Weir and Clifton Lock - keep going and just a little way further the really beautiful Clifton Hampden Bridge appears - particularly picturesque as apart from all the fine trees by the bridge you also see Clifton Hampden's Church just behind it all.
***(the picture shows all of Didcot's well known towers - three of them are now demolished)

Lovely countryside to walk through in the Culham area. The actual Thames Path now switches over to the other side of the River Thames however continue under the bridge and just a very short distance on the path bears left across a small field and arrives at a road just by the church. Turn right - passing the church and when the road is clear (it can be very busy with traffic at times here) - cross over and walk up to the traffic lights at Abingdon Road. Cross Abingdon Road and then turn left along it - almost immediately take a grassy path leaving on the right which goes alongside a building and then into a field - the path goes sharply left near the far side of the field and then arrives at a concrete road. Go right on this old concrete road heading towards a farm and with and old quite high wire fence on the left.
(A little history - Mostly now used for nuclear and atomic research by the United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority and also by JET (more nuclear stuff) the area is interlaced with old concrete roads which are typical of ex military establishments. In fact this part of Culham was opened towards the end of World War 2 (in 1944) as RNAS Culham - HMS Hornbill - and once had three runways capable of handling bomber aircraft - the Royal Navy closed the "ship"? in 1956. There are still several huge aircraft hangars which you pass a little later on this walk - one is in good condition but the other is rapidly falling apart and will presumably end up being flattened - not so long ago there were three hangars still up). Follow the concrete road always keeping the wire security fence on the left - there are in fact plenty of grassy areas to walk along and the area is by no means as bleak as "concrete road" and "security fence" might suggest. Eventually the route (which is now Thame Lane) passes two huge hangars (these are a little way off on the right) and goes straight on for several 100 yards before bending left - as always still with the security fence on the left.

**-**Soon a footpath signed "Abingdon 3 miles" (it actually starts off as a narrow track) leaves on the right heading off across a field and reaches a double railway line. This is a "Stop Look and Listen" crossing i.e. you have to walk across the tracks - trains do sound before reaching this point but they can also be travelling quite quickly. Once across the railway turn right along a track. If uncomfortable with crossing the railway line like this instead of taking the **-** path just continue along the original road (i.e. Thame Lane) which shortly goes sharp right and crosses the railway on a bridge - once over the bridge go immediately right on a wide track now with the railwayline on the right.
The beautiful Culham Bridge outside of Abingdon, EnglandIn either case follow the track down - you are meant to use a path between this track and the railway line but it is impassable due to nettles, bramble and so on so just stay on the track. At the bottom in the corner believe it or not you will find the River Thames - once again the area is really heavy with trees and growth - if you just divert slightly through a gap you will find the river bank and also just off to the right there is another fine railway girder bridge. Form the corner of the field turn left and now simply follow the grassy path (this is NOT the Thames Path which is on the unreachable other side of the river) with The Thames on the right sometimes visible to eventually arrive at some trees. Follow the path slightly away from the Thames as it crosses what can be a very flooded/boggy area which is where Back Water joins the Thames - there are several wooden bridges to help keep you out of the bog fortunately. (Just after the third very wide footbridge a path goes off to the left - this goes almost directly to Abingdon Bridge). If you do not want to use this shortcut then follow the path on the right which passes Back Water Weir and then follows the Thames to Abingdon Lock and the huge weirs located there.
Abingdon is a really nice Oxfordshire Town - should you cross the weir there are large grass areas and gardens to wander around as well as a children's play area and paddling pool.
The walk continues by following the Thames Path on down and under Abingdon's excellent old bridge - now just keep going with the river nearly always next to the path for a change. The path and river manage to take several sweeping bends and the countryside is really beautiful to walk through - sometimes the foliage beside the path is so dense you can hardly see the adjacent River Thames. Eventually the path brings you back via Culham Cut to Culham Lock.

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