South Oxfordshire villages on the River Thames

There are many attractive villages on or very near the River Thames and those on the river often have riverside amenities. If they are a little way from the river it is usually only a short stroll by footpath to the river bank and this usually gives the opportunity for a pleasant riverside walk. Then what better than to enjoy a pleasant lunch or drink in one of the village pubs or tea rooms?

The following Thames-side villages are in South Oxfordshire and brief information about them is given below:
Sandford on Thames
Culham
Clifton Hampden
Little Wittenham
Dorchester on Thames
Shillingford
Benson
Crowmarsh Gifford
North Stoke
Moulsford
South Stoke
Goring
Whitchurch on Thames
Mapledurham
Shiplake and Lower Shiplake

All the other villages (except Kelmscott) are in the Vale of White Horse and they are described here. Kelmscott is in West Oxfordshire, and information and pictures of Kelmscott can be found here.

4 Sandford on Thames

Sandford-on-ThamesAccess to the River Thames from the village centre is by way of St. Andrew's Road, and Sandford Lock can be reached across a footbridge adjacent to the popular Kings Arms public house. Next to the pub's car park is a small green which used to be a wharf, and on the other side of the pub and next to the lock a housing development stands on the site of the former Sandford Mill. This was originally a corn mill belonging to the Abbey of Abingdon and recorded in 1100 as owned by the local monks for bread making. It was converted to a paper mill in 1826 and finally closed in 1982.

There are a couple of pubs in the village, one of which is right beside the river opposite Sandford Lock.

Sandford-on-Thames is just off the A4074 Oxford to Henley road about a mile south of the southern Oxford ring road.

Find Sandford on the Ordnance Survey map

6 Culham

CulhamThe oldest part is clearly centred on the Green at the western end. Just off the Green is the church, St. Paul's, and the Manor House. St.Paul's Church is a Victorian church built on the site of a former mediaeval church. North of the Green, behind a high brick wall, is Culham House, the largest house in the village. Culham House was built about 1775 by John Phillips, lay rector of the parish.

A footpath from the Green leads southwards to the River Thames, some 250 yards away. Culham Lock is on the edge of the village and can be reached from the road to Sutton Courtenay and Appleford on Thames.

The village was at one time important for the Thames barges carrying stone from the dissolved Abbey of Abingdon and there was wharfage at Culham. The wharf and the remains of the lock can still be seen as well as the assembly pool for barges that lay near it. These were in the ditch now known as Back Water, but then known as Swift Ditch. Swift Ditch was at the time the main navigation channel when it was abandoned in 1790 in favour of the main channel through Abingdon.

Where the road from the village meets the main road the old Culham Bridge still stands spanning the now insignificant Back Water. The old bridge is built across the site of the ancient ford known as Culham Hyth. Old Culham Bridge can also be reached by following the Thames Path round from Culham Lock.

Culham is about a mile and a half south of Abingdon just off the main Abingdon to Dorchester road, the A415.

Find Culham on the Ordnance Survey map

8 Clifton Hampden

Clifton HampdenClifton Hampden is an attractive picture-postcard Thames-side village. Overlooking the river is the Church of St. Michael & All Angels perched on top of a small hill.

The village is bypassed by the A415 so is is largely quiet and unspoiled, although between the bridge and the traffic lights on the main road it can be busy. Clifton Hampden bridge is very attractive and worth crossing as the well-known Barley Mow pub is on the other side.

The village and The Barley Mow were featured in Jerome K. Jerome's book Three Men in a Boat, and in 1885 Dickens's Dictionary of the Thames said of Clifton Hampden, 'Clifton Hampden, this picturesque little village, is situated at the foot of a bold bluff, which rises abruptly from the somewhat flat country around. The cliff is surmounted by the church and vicarage, and is clothed with luxuriant trees down to the water's edge. The village, a pretty collection of old-fashioned cottages, all of which are bright with flowers ...' This description could have been written today. More recently, a view of the church and village as seen from the river appeared on an episode of the TV series Men Behaving Badly when Gary and Dorothy went into the countryside to explore their sexuality.

The old fashioned cottages are still there, many of them listed, and the whole makes for a very attractive scene well worth a visit. There is a pleasant walk along the Thames Path on the north side of the river, while across the bridge the Thames path takes you to Dorchester on Thames and Little Wittenham.

Apart from The Barley Mow there is another attractive pub/restaurant on the Abingdon Road.

Clifton Hampden is about 4.5 miles south-west of Abingdon on the A415, and about 1.5 miles north of Long Wittenham.

Find Clifton Hampden on the Ordnance Survey map

9 Little Wittenham

Little WittenhamLittle Wittenham is a very small village with an attractive parish church and several attractive old houses, many of them listed and the whole village is within a conservation area.

Nearby, and just over a footbridge over the Thames, is Day's Lock which is well known locally for the Annual Pooh Sticks World Chamionships. The event is inspired by A.A. Milne's tale about Winnie the Pooh and raises funds for charity. It involves dropping a stick into the river and seeing how long it takes to get to the finish line. Teams from across the globe take part in the event.

Overlooking the village are the Wittenham Clumps which stand on top of the Sinodun Hills. 'Sinodun' is a Celtic name, Seno-Dunum, meaning 'Old Fort'. In the Iron Age, the hill fort at Castle Hill dominated the region, providing protection for the local villagers and their animals. The only obvious sign of the fort now is the ditch around the base of the hill.

Both Castle Hill and Round Hill offer superb view over the Thames and the village of Dorchester on Thames and beyond, and from Round Hill there is a good view of the village. The Wittenham Clumps and the nearby Little Wittenham Wood are part of a nature reserve managed by the Earth Trust which is part of an estate of 300 hectares which includes a conservation farm and a new woodland dedicated to forestry research.

The village of Dorchester on Thames is only a short walk away from Days Lock, and Castle Hill and Round Hill can both be climbed and the nature reserve explored.

Little Wittenham is on the road between Long Wittenham and Brightwell-cum-Sotwell, about three miles north-east of Didcot.

Find Little Wittenham on the Ordnance Survey map

10 Dorchester on Thames

Dorchester-on-ThamesDorchester is an attractive and prosperous Thames-side village with a number of fine period buildings which give the village its special character. Two coaching inns remain in the village out of the original ten, and antique shops are very prominent in the High Street.

On the edge of Dorchester is the site of an Iron Age settlement and also the site of the Roman town of Dorcic. Apart from those attractions there is also Dorchester Abbey, which was a former Augustinian abbey. The Abbey is now just the parish church but it does have a tea room and museum for the visitor to see. All in all, Dorchester is well worth a visit!

The village lies within a bend of the River Thames but is actually a short distance from the river. However the river is only a short walk away by footpath, one of which leads to Days Lock and Little Wittenham. The remains of the Iron Age settlement lie close to the river at the edge of the village and are evident by the low hills known as the Dyke Hills.

Dorchester is about 5 miles north-west of Wallingford.

Find Dorchester on the Ordnance Survey map

11 Shillingford

ShillingfordWharf Road leads down to Shillingford Wharf, a small Thames-side green which is the only public access to the river. Here the council has thoughtfully provided a seat to enable relaxing appreciation of the river and plaques on the wall record the flood levels at various times during the 18th & 19th centuries. They must have been some floods; the flood of January 27th 1809 reached some seven feet above the present ground level!

The river at Shillingford is bridged by a fine C19 three-arched stone bridge which was built on the site of an ancient bridge in 1827. And on the far side of the river is the well-known Shillingford Bridge Hotel which has a pleasant lawn running down to the water's edge where mooring is provided for customers. The Kingfisher Inn, another village pub, is on the Henley Road.

The Thames Path leads inland from Shillingford Wharf to Shillingford Bridge, and then on beside the river to Benson. In the other direction the Thames Path follows the A4074 a short distance and then on beside the river to Days Lock and Dorchester on Thames and Little Wittenham.

Shillingford is on the A4074 Reading to Oxford road at the junction with the A329 road to Thame.

Find Shillingford on the Ordnance Survey map

12 Benson

BensonBenson is large village, well served with local amenities and, with around a dozen shops, the High Street is very busy. On the edge of the village on the river is Benson Lock and also a boating marina and popular riverside cafe.

There are pubs in the village for refreshment and the Thames path enables a walk either to Shillingford or across the lock to Wallingford.

Benson is about a mile and a half north-east of Wallingford and about half way between Reading and Oxford on the A4074.

Find Benson on the Ordnance Survey map

13 Crowmarsh Gifford

Sandford-on-ThamesCrowmarsh Gifford is on the opposite side of the River Thames to the historic town of Wallingford across Wallingford Bridge. Wallingford is an attractive little market town with several places to eat and drink, and the usual small town shops.

Crowmarsh itself has a couple of pub/restaurants in the centre of the village. In the shadow of Wallingford Bridge there is a riverside car park and a play area complete with a paddling pool. There is also an open-air swimming pool here and a riverside camping/caravan site. Another caravan site is in the centre of the village.

Passing through the arches under the bridge you come to a pleasant riverside open space, ideal for picnics, barbeques, etc, or just for walking with the dog. You have to cross Wallingford Bridge to pick up the Thames Path which takes you northwards to Benson or south to Moulsford, which is about 3 km away.

Find Crowmarsh on the Ordnance Survey map

14 North Stoke

North StokeNorth Stoke is a delightful small Thames-side village lying just off the Goring to Crowmarsh road. The village itself is on a sleepy backwater, but most people will perhaps know the village as the home of The Springs Hotel and Golf Club which is on the "main road".

The river can be reached by footpath which starts near the medieval parish church, and from here there is a pleasant walk along the river to nearby South Stoke where there is an attractive pub/restaurant.

North Stoke is just off the Goring to Crowmarsh road.

Find North Stoke on the Ordnance Survey map

15 Moulsford

MoulsfordMoulsford is a small Thames-side village on one of the prettiest stretches of the River Thames opposite the village of South Stoke.

On the bank of the river, on the site of the old ferry service to South Stoke, is the former waterfront inn known as the Beetle and Wedge. Now it is more of a smart restaurant with accommodation.

The Thames Path passes through the village and the river itself can be reached from near the Beetle and Wedge or by a footpath from the main road a quarter of a mile or so north of the village.

Moulsford is on the A329 between Wallingford and Streatley.

Find Moulsford on the Ordnance Survey map

16 South Stoke

South StokeLike some of the other Thames-side villages, you may not realise the river was there unless you looked at a map or wandered down the track to the old ferry crossing to Moulsford, from where you can walk northwards along the path to North Stoke. Perhaps though the Perch and Pike pub gives the closeness of the river away, both by its name and its display of record catches of fish from the river!

A footpath south of the village leads to a pleasant riverside path which takes you to Goring.

Close to the village is Brunel's Four Arches bridge which takes the railway across the Thames. This is a listed building.

South Stoke is off the B4009 between Goring and Crowmarsh.

Find South Stoke on the Ordnance Survey map

17 Goring

GoringMost people who have heard of Goring probably associate it with the attractive gap between the Berkshire Downs and the Chilterns known as the Goring Gap. Here the villages of Goring and Streatley stand on opposite sides of the River Thames, Oxfordshire on one side and West Berkshire on the other, linked by a fine bridge which was built in 1923. The beautiful riverside setting and the attractive views of the hills on either side make Goring an extremely attractive village. In the village there are several pub/restaurants and there is a small cafe in the High Street.

Next to the bridge is Goring Lock and weir, and from the bridge you can look down and watch the lock in use. By the bridge also is the old mill but this is no longer in use. It is thought that Goring Lock was build by the local miller in the C16 to provide a head of water to drive the water wheel.

The Thames path takes you southwards to Whitchurch on Thames, some 6 km away, and northwards to South Stoke a walk of about 3 km.

Goring is about 5.5 miles south of Wallingford.

Find Goring on the Ordnance Survey map

18 Whitchurch-on-Thames

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Whitchurch-on-Thames Whitchurch-on-Thames is an attractive Thames-side village on the opposite side of the river to the Berkshire village of Pangbourne, to which it is linked by Whitchurch Bridge. When Whitchurch-on-Thames is approached by road from the north the road drops down from the Chiltern Hills to the villlage, and the High Street then follows the hill down to the river. Before long you reach the toll bridge across the river to Pangbourne.

You can walk along the Thames Path across the bridge to Pangbourne and then on to the Berkshire village of Purley on Thames which is on the edge of Reading. Westwards from Whitchurch the Thames Path goes to Whitchurch on Thames, a walk of about 6 km.

Whitchurch has at least two pub/restaurants to chose from if you are in need of refreshment!

Whitchurch-on-Thames is about half way between Goring and Reading.

Find Whitchurch on the Ordnance Survey map

19 Mapledurham

MapledurhamMapledurham is a small estate village and most of the village is a conservation area. Visitors are attracted to the village mainly to see Mapledurham House and Water Mill. Mapledurham House is a Grade I Country House c.1585 which is open weekends and bank holidays during the summer months and of course refreshments are available to visitors to the house.

The Mill at Mapledurham (in the grounds of Mapledurham house) is a working flour mill and is thought to be the only mill on the Thames still working and producing flour. The core of the present building dates from the 15th century. The Mill continued working until just after the Second World War. In 1980 it was restored and brought back into use.

Unfortunately there are no riverside footpaths from Mapledurham, although it is possible to walk by footpath to Whitchurch on Thames or Caversham.

Mapledurham is on the north side of the Thames a few miles west of Caversham.

Find Mapledurham on the Ordnance Survey map

20 Shiplake & Lower Shiplake

ShiplakeShiplake is on the A4155 road which leads to Caversham and Reading. There is not a lot to see of the village from the main road as both the old village and the newer settlement of Lower Shiplake spread away from the road towards the River Thames, and really, other than the 12th century church and Shiplake Lock, there is little to see of interest in the village.

The development of Lower Shiplake after the coming of the railway owes much to the River Thames itself. It started with houseboats mooring on the river-bank near the new station and acquiring gardens alongside. Luxurious homes followed and inevitably more and more houses were built within easy reach of the station.

The Thames Path follows the river south to the Berkshire village of Sonning and northwards into Henley on Thames, distances of about 3.5 and 2 km respectively.

Shiplake is south of Henley-on-Thames on the A4155.

Find Shiplake and Lower Shiplake on the Ordnance Survey map