Abingdon-Sutton Courtenay-Abingdon Thames Loop

This is not intended to a complete step by step guide to the walk that leads you by the hand every step of the way, but rather to enhance your walk by highlighting local history, views and curios. Some of these items may indeed tempt you to stray off your route so keep a map at hand!!

Start: County Hall Abingdon Market Square

All walks start here, please imagine the great abbey that once towered behind St Nicolas Church.

Pass through the arches of the Guildhall to East St Helens which wends down to the river.

Abingdon has several quality coffee shops and every type of restaurant.

East St Helens view towards St Helens

East St Helen's is steeped in history and has its own walk so today we shall just ask you to admire its beauty

There is a Specialist Walkers Shop here in East St Helens for Boots and Clothing

East St Helens view towards St Helens

East St Helen's is steeped in history and has its own walk so today we shall just ask you to admire its beauty

St Helen's Arch to the Almshouses

Walk though the arch and bear left, but all routes lead to the river so fear not

St Helen's Wharf

This is another picture postcard view of Abingdon, but a century ago this would have been a busy wharf area, with warehouses, carpet factory, rich and poor living side by side

Ock Bridge (Not the former Canal)

Read the writing on the side of the bridge, yes it was built by the canal company but only to ease access to the former canal. This bridge crosses the River Ock which provided access to the Roman Temple complex at Frilford

Former Canal Mouth

This can still be seen as a wide indent. Across the road the massive stone wall marks the line of canal. The Berkshire and Wiltshire canal once brought Somerset Coal via Bristol to Abingdon. It closed over a century ago, but would today be a great tourist attraction.

Former Gun Position

Somewhere just beyond Saxton Rd a WWII defence line joined the Thames, at the junction there was a gun-emplacement. The defence line built in the post-Dunkirk panic was supposed to halt Rommel should the German Army make a successful landing on the south-coast. An anti-tank ditch went across country to Marcham and beyond. On the return half of the walk you will see several blockhouses.

View of Didcot Power Station (Use to get your bearings)

View from Wilsham Rd across the Thames to Didcot Powerstation

Locals have now grown use to the chimneys, they can be seen from most of south Oxfordshire and the Berkshire downs, and serve as as useful direction finder

Romantics even claim that in certain light are are even attractive

Early aerial photos of this bank of the Thames show extensive iron age round hut crop markings

Abingdon Sailing Club (looking back to St Helens Church)

There is a sailing club and also a rowing club

Abingdon Marina

Please respect the private notice, you can view the Marina fully from further on

Abingdon Marina (looking back & off-route) Has become very popular as winter mooring

Abingdon Marina Park (off-route) One of Abingdon's secret hideaways, a lovely place for a picnic

Abingdon Marina Park (off-route) View across the river to Culham Toll House and old bridge

You will be crossing that wooden bridge on your return trip.

A Big Stink!

If you smell a bad smell you are on route, as you walk by Abingdon Sewerage Works, once located far out of town

Peep-O-Day Lane now national Cycle Track 5

This was once the main route from Sutton Courtenay to Abingdon

3 Concrete Blocks (please do not take these home)

If you see these you are still on the correct route

O-Day comes from Oday Common and Oday Hill

Picturesque Stream Bridge

Drayton to Abingdon Rd your "southern most point" Plenty of Maps and Signs to get your bearings

Hamster House (long wooden fence)

Dozens of Hamsters are sometimes to be seen in the garden

In this image you just see one!

Entrance to Sutton Courtenay

Warning a 100 or so metre section without footpath

GingeBrook or Ginge River all the way from East Ginge

Sutton Courtenay is criss-crossed with footpaths and waterways

At the rear of Sutton Courtenay (off-route) there is small nature park

At this junction you bear left and head north back to Abingdon
Admire the sundial of Cross Trees House

Peak over the wall of Sutton Courtenay Abbey, now a New Era Centre with meditation courses.

The oldest section of the Abbey was built in the 13th century by the great Benedictine Abbey of Abingdon.

In 1284 the Abbey was handed over to the Courtenay family, Lords of the Manor of Sutton, in a dubious court trial.

Thomas Courtenay the then owner who was involved in the War of the Roses, was beheaded and his lands confiscated.

In 1485 Henry VII gave the house and its income to the Dean and Chapter of St George's Chapel in Windsor Castle.

Manor House, birthplace of Matilda of Matilda versus Stephen fame in 1102.

The Manor was granted to Reginald de Courtenay in 1177 by Henry II, son of Empress Matilda.

In the early 1900s Captain Lindsay rented the house from Lady Wantage, and hosted many weekend parties for the Prince of Wales set.

Norman Hall built in 1192 by Robert, son of Reginald, de Courtenay

Sutton Courtenay has been settled by man for at least 6000 years.

The region is very fossiliferous with marine and land-animal fossils

It's always worth examining any exposed gravel for Belemnites and Ammonites

All Saint's Church it's graveyard contains the tombs of Eric Blair (George Orwell) and David Astor (former owner of the Observer, and the Manor House, and son of Nancy Astor) who organised his burial here (George Orwell had otherwise no particular connection to the region)

A rather sad Tomb

With his books "Animal Farm" and 1984 Orwell warned of the dangers of totalitarianism.

Much grander is the Tomb of Asquith, Prime Minister of England.

The only excuse I can think of was that England took less space than Great Britain!

Asquith was Prime Minister until 1916 when the death of his son in WW1 caused him to lose his political desire.

If the church is open read the booklet on Miss Shrapnell daughter of the British Officer who invented that terrible weapon. She had fallen on hardtimes and was reduced to buying meat in Oxford pushing it in a pram and then reselling it locally

George and Dragon

It's curious how often there is a pub next to a church

Alms Houses

Not everyone in Sutton Courtenay was noble, and these Almhouses are proof

West Row

A very nice row of houses

Wharf House

Situated at the unusual sharp corner of the village, Wharf House does not appear particularly imposing. Wait until you can see it and its lovely gardens and boat house from the rear to form an impression.

This was the home of Prime Minister Asquith and it was here that Britain reputedly formally declared it's entry into WW1.

Mill House

On the other angle of the sharp corner this house has a magnificient garden and bordered by a section of the Mill Stream

This was formerly the home of Violet Bonham Carter. It was previously a white paper mill with a contract to print banknotes for the Bank of England

Mill Stream Cut Bridge

There is now water on every side, a very dangerous place for small children

Rear view of Wharf House

A glorious garden, cottage and boathouse

Open Water looking upstream towards Abingdon

This is the Thames again but you will see few boats because there is a lock cut

Now cross the field passing by the blockhouse and help to the steep bridge over the lock cut

If the weather has been bad, things could get muddy from now on, this is all floodplane

Cut across the field follow the track you should see the footbridge over the lock cut

WWII Blockhouse part of this defensive line that was supposed to stop Rommel

Were they ever actually manned?

From the top of the bridge you see Culham with a last chance to visit a pub.

On the other side of the bridge turn sharp left and follow the cut upstream

A long bend and a large agricultural field

Culham Toll House situated at the end of the old bridge, provides one of Abingdon's classic postcard views

A civil war skirmish was fought on the "Old" Culham Bridge (intact). When the Royalists unsuccessfully tried to attack the Roundheads in Abingdon. "January 11 1645 - Colonel Sir Henry Gage was mortally wounded attempting to destroy Culham Bridge and establish a fort against Abingdon; he is replaced as Governor of Oxford by William Legge".

The bridge spans Swift Ditch formerly used to bypass Abingdon

Swift Ditch makes the cut off piece of land an Island called Andersey Island

Follow the bank until you reach Abingdon using the Spire of St Helens as your guide

Get your camera ready for more classic across the water views of the Old Anchor pub and St Helens Wharf. When you reach Burford Bridge, observe the few houses on the East bank of the Thames they are built to survive floods.

Cross the bridge, in summer the Nags Head beer garden is very popular.

Bridge Street View

A view largely unchanged for at least a 100 years

© 2006-2010 David Rayner