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The Meandering Thames at Marlow

Enjoy a pleasant mix of town and country on this attractive riverside walk.

Distance 4 miles (6.4km)

Minimum time 1hr 30min

Ascent/gradient Negligible

Level of difficulty Easy

Paths Pavements, paved paths, lane, byway, field and meadow path, tow path, 1 stile

Landscape Thames Valley townscape and meadows

Suggested map aqua3 OS Explorer 172 Chiltern Hills East

Start/finish SU 849865

Dog friendliness On lead in Marlow and under control on Thames Path

Parking Car parks in Pound Lane and Oxford Road, off West Street

Public toilets Behind Waitrose at river end of High Street

1 From the tourist information centre turn right and make for the junction at the top of the High Street. Bear left into West Street, by the Crown. Continue along West Street and pass the Premier Indian Restaurant (No 31) on the left, the home of T S Eliot between 1917 and 1920. Further on is Ye Olde Tuck Shoppe on the right and just beyond it are Shelley House and Shelley Lodge.

2 Walk back along the road, almost to the Red Lion, and branch right at the sign for the Town Council Offices and the Thames. Follow the tarmac path and turn right at the next road junction. Head for Lower Pound Lane and a byway sign and pass hard tennis courts on the right and a cricket club on the left. Pick your way through the trees, cross a bridge and follow the track as it dwindles to a path.

3 Cross a stile, pass a sign for Quarry Farms and continue between fields and meadows. Make for Low Grounds Farm and keep left at the lane. Head for the Thames, with Quarry Hill and Winter Hill rising to meet the distant skyline. The buildings of Temple can also be seen ahead as you follow the lane towards the tow path. On reaching the river, pause for a good view of Temple Lock and the weir. Swing left and follow the Thames Path towards Marlow.

4 Further downstream the buildings of Bisham Abbey edge into view on the opposite bank. Pass a welcome riverside seat and up ahead you will see Marlow's striking parish church. Pass the council offices and head towards All Saints and the suspension bridge over the River Thames.

5 Follow the High Street, with Marlow's war memorial and the George and Dragon seen over on the right. To visit the Two Brewers pub, take the alleyway on the right, just beyond the church. Head along the High Street, cross Station Road and look for Cromwell House on the right, once the home of Edwin Clark, a noted Victorian engineer. Continue along the street, back to the tourist information centre.

A stroll through the streets of Marlow reveals many buildings of architectural and historic interest. These include the Crown. This popular hostelry dates back to 1807 and was originally built as the town's Market House, replacing a previous wooden building. Up on the first floor is an impressive Assembly Room. The original hotel, a renowned coaching inn, stood immediately to the right of the present building and is now shops and offices. The obelisk outside commemorates the Hatfield to Bath turnpike road.

West Street was once the home of the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley, who lived here in 1817, five years before he died. He wrote much of The Revolt of Islam (1818) while out boating on the river. At this time his wife Mary, who had married Shelley when she was still a teenager, would be at home working on her classic story Frankenstein (first published in 1818). From here the couple moved to Italy.

The town's famous suspension bridge spans the River Thames, which forms the county boundary between Buckinghamshire and Berkshire. The bridge, which was completed in 1832, was designed by William Tierney Clark who was inspired by similar bridges he had seen at Hammersmith, in London, and at Budapest. The Marlow suspension bridge is now the only surviving example of his work.

Back in 1965, long before most of today's television soaps were even thought of, the BBC broadcast a drama about daily life in a riverside hotel. The opening shots of The Flying Swan, which starred British film actress Margaret Lockwood and her daughter Julia, were filmed across the suspension bridge at the Compleat Angler, one of the south's most famous and exclusive hotels. Omar Sharif, Clint Eastwood and Naomi Campbell are among many celebrities that have stayed at the hotel over the years.

Rebuilt in 1835, All Saints Church occupies a delightful riverside setting at the bottom end of the High Street. There has been a church on this site since Saxon times and inside are many fascinating monuments, including one to Sir Miles Hobart, a parliamentary maverick who, in 1628, locked the door of the House of Commons until various taxation resolutions were passed.

What to look for

Bisham Abbey, on the opposite bank of the Thames, presents a striking picture on the walk. Queen Victoria is said to have called here whilst out driving in her carriage, but found no one at home. The Tudor house, built by Sir Philip Hoby using fragments of the original abbey, is now the setting for the Sports Council's National Recreation Centre.

Where to eat and drink

The Two Brewers pub, which was a popular haunt of Jerome K Jerome, who supposedly wrote part of Three Men in a Boat (1889) here, is a fine watering hole at the end of the walk. The emphasis is on modern European cuisine, and there is a choice of real ales. Relax in the bar or the private dining areas.


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