William Byrd anniversary

Harleyford Manor

Tuesday 4 July is the 400th anniversary of the death of composer William Byrd.

His music is often heard in churches today and will be at Westminster Cathedral on his anniversary but both its survival and his are remarkable since he was very sympathetic to Roman Catholics.

It was fortunate that Queen Elizabeth appreciated his work and liked music in church more than some of her zealous Protestant subjects.

In 1586 William Byrd joined a secret gathering at Harleyford Manor on the Thames opposite Hurley.

Today’s mansion is 18th-century but it was in the earlier house that he attended the Catholic spiritual retreat where his music was performed liturgically thanks to the house having an organ and a volunteer choir of women.

Those present included the now saint Robert Southwell, Shakespeare’s schoolfriend Robert Dibdale and future Gunpowder plot suspect Henry Garnett.


Benson diversion update

Benson Ferry ‘Ferret’

The closure of the Thames Path across Benson Weir has resulted in a diversion to the left bank and away from the water between Wallingford Bridge and Benson.


Benson Lock

When earlier this month Clare Balding walked out of Wallingford for her BBC Radio 4 Ramblings programme she had to follow the road diversion as far as Benson.

The path across the weir has been closed for safety reasons and repair has yet to be undertaken.

The good news is that now a ferry runs from Benson Lock Island to the slipway next to Benson Waterfront cafe.

Walkers should cross the downstream lock gate and bear left past the lock cottage before phoning the boatyard: 07375 677823. Fare £2.

The plan is to run the ferry daily 9am-5pm whilst there are enough volunteers available to maintain the service.

The advantage of the ferry is that the walker can stay on the Thames Path out of Wallingford. Here it has a good surface and at this time of the year is a delight as it runs alongside the sea of buttercups in the Queen’s Arbour and King’s Meadow below the castle.

When the ferry is not running a notice is posted outside the Boat House pub next to Wallingford Bridge.

The Queen’s Arbour by the towpath


View upstream from Wallingford Bridge on the diversion.

The official diversion is on roads but has interesting landmarks.

Cross Wallingford Bridge to Crowmarsh Gifford and continue ahead along The Street. Pass the campsite (right) and Crowmarsh Gifford’s church (left; closed due to ceiling collapse) to walk as far as The Queen’s Head (right).

Here turn left into Benson Lane keeping to the pavement on the left. The road passes the Institute of Hydrology in Howbery Park.

At the lodge entrance to the Park you may enter to visit the cafe in the manor house. (Mon-Fri 8.30am-4pm). The mansion was built by William Seymour Blackstone (1809–1881), grandson of the famous lawyer William Blackstone who lived in Wallingford. His grandson, finding his grandfather’s house Castle Priory too small, built this stately home across the river but the task bankrupted him and he went to prison instead of moving in.

On meeting the main road bear left with the footpath as it joins the major road. There may be a smell from the nearby sewage works.

Turn left at the first junction into a lane leading to Preston Crowmarsh. At the once moated Crowmarsh Battle Farm the road turns sharp right. There are scattered cottages, some thatched, on approaching the end of the diversion.

Ferry Cottage (left) is a reminder of the ferry which once operated below the weir. The regular service ended during the First World War when the ferryman enlisted and never returned.

Soon there is a view of the mill island (left) before passing the point where the Thames Path joins from the weir (left). Continue ahead to find the gate (left) leading into Benson Waterfront.

Norman north doorway at Crowmarsh Gifford Church
The Old Bakehouse in The Street
The Queen’s Head at Crowmarsh Gifford
Notice by the lodge at Howbery Park
Crowmarsh Battle Farm
Cottages in Preston Crowmarsh
Ferry Cottage in Preston Crowmarsh
The closed exit from Benson Weir
The roadworks just stop short of the gate to Benson Waterfront

Temple Bridge diversion

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 ( Go to to find out more or to join one of our tours.

A barrier across Temple Bridge
Bisham Church from the towpath
A close view of Bisham Church’s famous Norman-style door only dates from 1856 but the belfry windows above are Norman.
Roses in Bisham village
A view from Temple Lane of Bisham Abbey’s grange buildings and stables
Footpath gate (left) next to Temple Weir House
The diversion runs through a tunnel
Kissing gate opposite The Old Dairy and path leading back to the river

Benson Ferry latest

Wallingford Bridge

It is confirmed that the ferry at Benson, replacing the closed weir crossing for walkers, is running 9am to 5pm daily.

Those walking upstream on the towpath from Wallingford will find a notice at Benson Lock displaying the phone number to call the ferry service. The ferry point is just upstream of the lock where the

The landing on the far side is the slipway by the Waterfront Cafe.

The vessel Ferret once operated at Brixham in Devon and has taken month to renovate. The ferry is operating where the Benson Horse Ferry used to carry the horses of the towing barges.

Fare: £2 (child £1).


New edition of Cicerone guide

A new edition of the Cicerone guide Walking the Thames Path is now available.

There are many new photographs and new points of interest such as Truss’s Island, named after the former prime minister’s ancestor, and Agatha Christie’s favourite riverside walk behind her house.

New refreshment stops highlighted include The Medley next to Medley Bridge where in summer pizzas are served in a riverside farmhouse garden.

A route has been added from the Source to nearby Thames Head Inn where you can celebrate the completion of your walk and also stay the night.

Walking the Thames Path (£17.95) is available via Cicerone website.


Benson Ferry launched

A ferry boat named Ferret will operate at Benson from Sunday 7 May.

This service is being introduced whilst the foot crossing at Benson Lock is closed. Repair which has yet to commence is expected to take some time.

The ferry is to run upstream of the lock daily from 8am to 6pm; tickets £2 (child £1).

The landing on the Benson bank is at the Waterfront Cafe.


Nuneham Bridge: Thames Path closed

Nuneham Railway Bridge today from the south side. The Thames Path is across the water.

LATEST: On Wed 5 April Thames Path National Trail office said that the path is open. Updates expected from Network Rail over coming days.


The Thames Path is closed under Nuneham Railway Bridge.

The bridge is thought to have developed a structural fault, maybe due to flooding, and trains have stopped crossing the river.

Nuneham is a remote area between Abingdon and Radley.

Walkers reaching Abingdon may wish to catch the bus to Radley (or take a road route) where you can rejoin the river above Nuneham Bridge.

There is a shuttle train from Oxford Station to Radley Station.

Those wishing to travel by train between London Paddington and Oxford are having to change at Didcot Parkway and use a replacement bus services.

Disruption is expected to continue beyond Easter Bank Holiday Monday and into Easter Week.


Rotherhithe Illuminate

St Mary’s Church Rotherhithe

Walkers on the Thames Path over the past week at dusk have been noticing the spire on Rotherhithe Church tower lit up.

It is also being seen from some distance away including by those crossing London and Tower Bridges.

The unannounced switch-on had been long planned and is made possible by the US Embassy downstream at Nine Elms. Rotherhithe has a resonance for the USA as it was from there that the Mayflower set out for America with the Pilgrim Fathers.

The 400th anniversary was commemorated by the Speaker of the House of Commons Sir Lindsay Hoyle and the Speaker of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi with low key ceremonies during the pandemic.

The Christopher Jones memorial in the churchyard is also illuminated until 11pm. Jones was Master of the Mayflower and after bringing her back from America he continued to live in Rotherhithe until his death in 1622. His statue by Jamie Sargeant was commissioned to mark the 375th anniversary of the voyage to America in 1995.

An official switch-on ceremony on the riverside is expected to be announced shortly.

Christopher Jones statue in the churchyard

Dust puzzle on Greenwich Peninsula

Willows showing signs of spring on 4 March at Tunnel Wharf.

The East Greenwich Residents Association has expressed concern about dust blowing along the Thames Path on Saturday 4 March.

The epicentre appeared to be at Tunnel Wharf, between Morden Wharf and downstream Bay Wharf, where work was in progress on that Saturday morning.

This section of path is well-known for its willow trees which are under threat of being felled.

A spokesperson for the nearby upstream Victoria Deep Water Terminal, which once had tunnels to shelter walkers, says that the dust is unlikely to have emanated from its operations.

‘As a result of our recent investment the plant has extensive mitigation measures built in, including for dust suppression.’

Dust on trees and beach (Photo: East Greenwich Residents Association)

Blessing the River

Southwark Cathedral procession on the Thames Path passing under the 1831 Rennie arch of the earlier London Bridge.

The annual Blessing of the River Thames t0ok place on Baptism Sunday 8 January with prayers for those working on the river. A wooden cross, inspired by the Epiphany Orthodox tradition on twelfth day of Christmas, is cast into the water.

Processions of clergy and congregation from Southwark Cathedral on the south bank and St Magnus the Martyr Church on the north bank met in the middle of London Bridge’s downstream side.

St Magnus, the northern gateway church, has the pavement of Old London Bridge, which was a different alignment, running through the base of tower entrance. The church also displays a model of Old London Bridge.

Pictures by Claire Meunier.

The Southwark procession on London Bridge.
St Magnus approaches from the City.
The Cardinal Rector of St Magnus, Fr Philip Warner, and the Dean of Southwark, The Very Revd Andrew Nunn, holding the cross before it is thrown down to the water.
The Rector of St Magnus sprinkles the crowd with holy water with The Shard in the distance.
Dean Andrew Nunn sprinkles the crowd with holy water.