Saturday, 22 June 2013

Pishill to Henley (Oxfordshire Way 10)

Pishill church

At last: the final leg of the Oxfordshire Way - from Pishill to Henley. We met Merv and Pud at Pishill and walked up a lane to find the oddly L-shaped church. Pevsner explains that it was rebuilt in 1854, replacing a plain Norman church, but does not comment on the very strange shape. It feels as though the new church was built at right angles to the old one. Inside there is some very pleasing Victorian stained glass and a single, very striking, window of 1967 by John Piper of the Sword and Gospel.

There was soon a lovely view over the valley which leads down to Henley from Stonor through Middle Assendon. The weather prospects were obviously not great.

Now through the very pleasant Doyley Wood, past the hamlet of Maidensgrove and the Warburg nature reserve - all this mostly in rain - to emerge overlooking Bix Bottom.

We followed the track down to the bottom and then onwards to Middle Assendon, across the B480 and up a steady climb on the other side of the valley. On the way up we saw a lone Speckled Wood and at the top a Small Heath took flight from the long meadow grass, but soon disappeared as it began to rain again. But then we were cheered by the sight of a lark ascending in a welter of song.

We now passed Henley Park, a house so undistinguished that I did not think to take a picture. Fortunately, Wikipedia has one. It was the Dower House of nearby Fawley Court. It is only worth mentioning because very soon you enter the lovely and quite large deer park which descends gently to the very edge of the town. More rain prevented a picture of this.

Once at the edge of Henley we diverted to the ironically named Dry Leas car park where we had left the car to change out of our boots. We delighted to spot on our way back towards the town a pair of lodges, one either side of Marlow Road. Pevsner dates them to 1780. This one is called the Toll House, but Pevsner's description makes me wonder if that was its real origin.

We walked a little further and turned left into New St, with on the right, the Barnaby Almshouses, the speculatively named Anne Boleyn's Cottage and the former Brakspear's brewery. This and the rest of the town is more fully described in a walk around Henley I did a year ago.

At the end of New St you reach the river, where preparations for the Regatta, which starts on 3 July, are well advanced. We were enchanted by this Coot which seemed to be making a nest on a jetty, with the marquees of the Regatta behind. We wished her well, but without much optimism.

Now along the riverside to the bridge (rebuilt in 1786), usually photographed from the other side.

We had lunch at the excellent Angel on the Bridge and I was pleased to get one photograph with some blue in the sky: it is St Mary's church with its "cheerful late Gothic exterior" (Pevsner).

Conditions: reasonably warm, but quite wet.

Distance:  7 miles. Distance now covered: the full 68.25 miles.

Maps: Explorer 171 (Chiltern Hills West)

Rating: four stars.

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