We were lucky enough to be invited to the excellent opening party last month, so we already knew that the melitzanosalata... ...
This walk is a gentle stroll along the thames near Henley. This is a 3km walk, with a short uphill section at the start to get the blood flowing. It starts and finishes at Aston.
From Henley on Thames take the A4130 towards Maidenhead. At Remenham Hill, turn left on the single track road signposted for Aston. Drive down the track for just over a kilometre and park up by the Flowerpot Inn in the tiny hamlet of Aston. I urge you to wait till the end of your walk to visit this excellent and quirky pub which was a finalist in a Beer & Cellar Pub of the Year competition in 2004.
To begin the walk head back along the lane (Aston Lane) past a couple of lovely little houses. As you pass high brick walls on either side of the road, you may realise you are walking between the remains of an old bridge. We assumed it was a railway bridge, and was probably a line killed off by Beeching but have been recently informed (thank you Graham) that it was a road bridge.
Turn right at the first stile you come to (pictured above) and begin a climb up through a field toward high ground. The land you are walking on originally belonged to the manor of Remenham, which was recorded as being owned by Queen Edith during the reign of Edward the Confessor (1003 – 1066).
After just a few minutes you will be at the top of the hill and will be pleased to hear that the entire walk from now on is pretty much on the flat or downhill.
On the december morning when we walked this path, the grass to the right was decorated by literally millions of dew covered spider webs glinting in the morning sun. The picture below captured this amazing sight.
Continue walking in a straight line for about a kilometre along a straight path heading west along the ridge of the hill. Once you have passed the trees you will see some spectacular views to your right down over the thames valley.
Look up above you and see if you can spot the Red Kites that have grown in number here in recent years. The large Red Kites (Milvus milvus) are one of the most beautiful birds of prey with an impressive wingspan of nearly two metres. Red Kites are particularly distinctive because of their forked tail and chestnut red colouring with white patches under the wings.
(Watch video of red kites at Remenham)
You may see the local crows mobbing kites that get too close to them. The kite, despite its size is a very light bird and so is not as aggressive as the casual observer might suppose. Red kites had been driven to extinction in England by human persecution by the end of the nineteenth century, but then between 1989 and 1994, Spanish Kites were released here by the RSPB and English Nature.
The Chiltern Hills area is one of only seven areas in the UK with resident populations of Red Kites, but numbers are growing and the birds are doing well.
Looking down at the ground also reaps rewards on this walk. The ridge has been walked for about 10,000 years by our ancestors and many have left worked flints lying around. If you know what to look for you will most likely find worked flint (mostly neolithic unifacial scrapers) littering the surface.
Continue along the ridge and eventually you reach a large metal gate blocking your path parallel to the tall observation hide that you will doubtless have spotted on the left and have been walking towards for the last fifteen minutes. Here you should cross the style onto the road and turn right, following the road down to the delightfully pretty village of Remenham.
The lovely church of St. Nicholas dates from the fourteenth century and sits in a wonderful location. Follow the road past the church and round to the right. Now head down to the riverbank and look upstream to your left. In the distance you can see the bridge and church tower of Henley on Thames.
Turn downstream and walk along a well made riverbank path. Ahead you will see a lovely white georgian building on Temple island sitting in the middle of the river. The structures was a summerhouse or fishing lodge for nearby Fawley Court and was built in 1771. Temple Island is very close to the spot where they start off the races of Henley Royal Regatta.
As you walk along the bank, look out for swans, cormorants, herons, ducks, coots and moorhens that all live on this stretch of the thames.
Further on, you will pass opposite the beautiful white riverside building that is home to Henley Management College.The college is set in 30 acres of beautiful parkland on the banks of the River Thames and is a favoured venue for corporate execs studying for an MBA.
Continue past this and round the bend of the river toward Hambleden lock. The old Mill has been transformed into flats.
You are now close to the site of a Roman Villa that once stood here. You are also only a ten minute stroll from the Flowerpot Inn at Aston, having almost completed this wonderful circular walk by the river thames.