Monday, 18 October 2021

Following in the footsteps of teenage George Orwell

LEAVING Henley by Harpsden Road, branch left after the church and take a holloway which was originally the Roman way to a villa perched above Henley golf course.

Follow the metalled road as it curves left under the fully-leaved beeches and continue towards Shiplake until you spot a little red post box.

Note this crossroad and the concrete road to the right, but take the flinty track to the left, down to the Reading road and over it by the old Engbers site, not into the chestnut avenue but into the paddocks by a diagonal, fenced footpath on the right, leading to Northfield Avenue, which ends by the excellent village store (drinks, snacks and fresh bread delivered daily).

Now follow the signs straight ahead for the Thames path to Shiplake lock.

The longer and more interesting route is labelled “to the river” at New Road.

This takes you past the old clapboard chapel, now being repaired and restored, under the railway and across the marshy meadows to reach the old ferry site opposite Henley Sailing Club.

Here is a natural, overgrown section of the towpath, with reed warblers singing on either hand, until you reach the railway viaduct and proceed either through the gardens or behind the houses to the lock with its restful benches.

All river life is here, so continue among the dog walkers and cyclists to the college boathouses and more benches before leaving the bank, passing between the sheds and skiffs, to climb steeply up to Shiplake church.

Cross the Reading road again and head up to the village school and beyond, where you can pass through the hedge and walk up the path beaten flat by the children walking from Binfield Heath.

Kiln Lane on the right leads to a dark plantation with a huge fallen conifer across the track, emerging into a field of barley and thence to the concrete road with a right turn to the pillar box.

You have now circumnavigated Eric Blair’s (George Orwell) teenage territory in about two hours, with no stiles and only one hill.

P.S. Have you seen and smelled the glorious pink rose on the wall just beyond the Kenton Theatre? Worth a detour!

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