Temple Bridge, a vital link upstream of Marlow, has suddenly been closed following an inspection by the Environment Agency.
Part of the structure is deemed to be unsafe and the closure is expected to continue all summer.
Also closed are the crossing at Benson and timber towpath at Henley’s Marsh Lock which suggests that after more than 25 years the trail’s infrastructure may need reviewing.
In the early 1970s, long before Temple Bridge had been built, the Harleyford Estate on the left (north) bank considered reopening the ancient Temple ferry which had closed in 1953. However, a revived ferry was thought to be viable only in summer months.
Last week there was a new local call for the return of the ferry.
Another suggestion forty years ago was to allow walkers to cross on the Temple Lock weir which reaches the south (right) bank at Temple Mill Island. The houses had yet to be built and it was thought that future island residents might wish to be able to cross the river and walk into Marlow.
Temple Bridge, a 267 foot West African hardwood span, was completed in 1989 -seven years before the Thames Path was officially opened.
The temporary diversion from Marlow is across Marlow Bridge and ahead on the main Bisham Road. There is a pavement on the right hand side.
This unexpected and slightly unpleasant diversion does give an opportunity to visit the churchyard of Bisham Church which is usually only seen as part of an attractive view from across the water.
To visit the church (which may not always be open but has lots of riverside seats) turn right after a mile, by an oak tree on a bend, to go down Church Lane. The great attraction is the memorial to the family of Sir Philip Hoby of Bisham Abbey whose body was brought by water from his London house at Blackfriars in 1558. See message below from the churchwarden.
Continue past the Church Lane turning as the main road still with a pavement becomes Marlow Road. Walk through Bisham village, with The Bull at its centre, and having passed the entrance to Bisham Abbey (right) immediately bear right into Temple Lane.
There is double bend round the grounds of the Abbey and before the lane passes the Temple Island entrance (right).
Keep ahead and where the row of cottages (right) ends go through the gate to the left of the entrance to Temple Weir House ahead.
The footpath follows a curving wall before passing through a tunnel.
Go ahead on the wide metalled road. Soon after passing the entrance to Temple House (right) the wide way loses its hard surface and shortly runs up against gates.
Go through the small gate to pass The Old Dairy (left) and at once go right through a kissing gate. Follow the straight path leading to the river. Temple Bridge is to the right. But go left to continue the walk to Henley.
Church Warden Stewart Featherstone-Clark writes: All Saints Bisham Church is nestled between the river and the old turnpike, the route of the Marlow flyer to London until it closed in 1888. Take a moment off your route to go down and sit by the river in the tranquil churchyard. Dating from the C12 with a Norman chalk tower. The church was the place of worship for the Abbey family. The Bisham estate saw the Knights Templar and the Earls of Salisbury and was part of Ann of Cleves divorce settlement from Henry VIII. The heyday was in the 1500s with the Hoby family, here for 200 years then the Vansittarts for another 200. Discover a treasure trove of court and political influence in the spectacular monuments which tell their tales.
Contrast with the modern industrial copper of the Williams Chapel, another story. Bisham was the place to be, so why not visit? (Yes it is in the Simon Jenkins book of 1000 best churches). Contact the warden before your visit to ensure the church is open (www.achurchnearyou.com). Go to www.bishamchurchfriends.org to find out more or to join one of our tours.