Oxford CAMRA:
Pub Walk 2: Thames Path to Stanton Harcourt

The Thames Path is a 294km/184mile National Trail walking route from the source of the Thames at Kemble, Glocestershire, to the Thames Barrier at Greenwich. Our second pub walk uses a short section of the Path, starting at Farmoor (on the B4044 between Oxford and Eynsham), crossing the river at Pinkhill Lock, and over grassy fields to Stanton Harcourt (which has two pubs). Leaving Stanton Harcourt we follow a bridleway that takes us into Eynsham (which has nine pubs, though one is currently closed).

Some members of Oxford CAMRA did this walk on Sunday 25th April. See below for some notes on how we got on.

Distance: 11km/6.8mile

Surface: much of the walk is over grass or tarmac, though there is one field-path and some sections of green lane that could be a bit muddy if it has been wet in the days leading up to the walk. Stout, sensible footwear that you don't mind cleaning afterwards is recommended (walking boots if you have them).

Accessibility: there is one (relatively easy but unavoidable) stile on section between Pinkhill Lock and Stanton Harcourt, and a small footbridge with a pair of stiles on the footpath between Stanton Harcourt and the bridleway back to Eynsham (it is possible to route around these latter stiles, though this involves deviating from the public right-of-way and exiting the field by a different route). The walk is very level, with no significant inclines.

Public Transport: the start point at Farmoor can be easily reached from Oxford, Eynsham or Witney by S1 bus, seven days a week. The walk ends in Eynsham, where again the S1 is available for return to Oxford or Witney. If you want to break the walk up then travel to or from Stanton Harcourt is possible Monday-Saturday daytime, by 18 bus (Oxford to/from Bampton service). Note that there is currently no Sunday bus service at Stanton Harcourt. Up-to-date public transport details can be checked with Traveline (http://www.travelinesoutheast.org.uk/, 0871 200 22 33).

Further Information: The footpaths and bridleways that make up this walk are shown on OS Explorer Map 180. The OS map has the Thames Path route marked with green diamonds, and numerous guides to the Thames Path are available. If you would like to navigate the route by way of a hand-held GPS device, this GPX track log of the route may be of interest.

Overview map of the route.

Farmoor to the Harcourt Arms, Stanton Harcourt

Our route starts at a green metal public footpath sign, bearing the words "Thames Path" and the acorn symbol denoting a National Trail, on the B4044 at the north-west end of Farmoor village. If you get off the S1 bus at the bus stop at the west-end of the village, walk a couple of hundred yards away from the centre of the village and look for the footpath on your left (map). Walk down this path towards the river. When it reaches the river the path bends left over a small bridge. Cross this and walk along the bank of the river, with the Thames on your right side.

On reaching Pinkhill Lock follow the "Right of Way" arrow sign and walk through the car-park, and then enter through the gate which is signposted "Thames Path - Bablock Hythe 3m". Cross the over the lock gates immediately in front of you, then follow a grassy track which leads between some trees towards the weir. Cross over the bridge on top of the weir and go through the gate on the other side into a grassy sheep pasture. Head off south-west across the grass, in the direction indicated by the wooden Thames Path sign post. The route is normally faintly visible on the ground, trodden into the grass by the Thames Path walkers who have gone before. On reaching another gate, go through and walk in a southerly direction through the next field with, the river on your left. Cross a stile into the field after and follow the faint track across the grass towards a meander in the river ahead. Eventually you should reach another stile (which we don't need to climb - the gate next to it is missing) and a Thames Path acorn waymark disk pointing half-right. Follow the curve of the track around to the right, cross a small concrete-slab bridge over a brook, and then turn left to head for the gate at the far corner of the field that you have just entered. Having passed through the gate walk along the edge of the next pasture, with a fence and hedge on your right. Exiting from this final pasture, you should find yourself making a right hand turn at another Thames Path wooden signpost, onto a well surfaced farm track. After a few hundred yards you come to a four-way cross roads, where the Thames Path turns left - however this pub walk now reluctantly leaves the National Trail and goes straight on, following the sign "Public Bridleway - Stanton Harcourt 1m". Follow the bridleway all the way to the village, where it eventually becomes a residential street called Steadys Lane. On reaching the main road, turn right out of Steadys Lane and walk along the pavement following the road through a right/left dog-leg, after which you should find the first pub, the Harcourt Arms, on the other side of the road. At this point you have completed about half of the distance, and certainly deserve your first pint!

Harcourt Arms to the Fox

On leaving the Harcourt Arms, turn left along the main road, follow it for around 600 yards around several bends and you should come to the second pub in the village, the Fox.

Stanton Harcourt map.

Fox to Eynsham

On leaving the Fox, turn sharp right and head down the lane called New Road. Shortly after you pass the Methodist Church the road starts to bend right. Rather than following this bend, cross over to the left and carry straight on along a signposted footpath which runs behind some houses and alongside the edge of a field. Where the path around the field turns left, go straight on along a narrow path with tall hedges on both sides. Emerging onto a road in the hamlet of Sutton, turn right and walk along the road. At the end of the road continue straight on into a field ahead, following a public footpath signpost for the River Thames.

Walk the left hand edge of the field. As you get down towards the corner of the field, the official right of way peels off and crosses the field towards a gate hidden in the hedge ahead. However there is a gate in the left-hand corner of the field which is accessible, so if the going underfoot is a bit soft then it is probably easiest to stick as closely as possible to the with the field boundary and use that gate to exit the field. In the following field the footpath runs across the field towards the far left corner, where there is a small wooden footbridge through the hedge, with stiles at both ends - this brings you out onto a farm track and you should turn right onto this. If you want to avoid tackling the stiles then rather than crossing the second field you could try exiting that field by a gate in the near left corner, which takes you straight onto the farm track (note that this technically involves you leaving the public right of way, so be prepared to be apologetic and conciliatory in the event that you are challenged by the land owner).

Follow the farm track for about 500 yards until you reach a point where the footpath crosses with the bridleway to Eynsham, which is a green lane at this point. Turn left onto the bridleway and head north. After a few minutes walk the bridleway crosses a rough stone arched bridge over a brook and then enters a field, running along the right hand edge of the field. Having walked the length of the field with a hedge on the you reach a group of cottages at Pinkhill farm. The bridleway then follows the farm driveway towards Eynsham, with easy walking on gravel and tarmac.

After 10 or 15 minutes stroll, the bridleway bends quite sharply left and crosses a bridge. Immediately after this you will find a gate in the hedge on your right, bearing a yellow arrowed waymark disk captioned "Circular Walk". Follow this footpath across another series of close cropped grassy sheep pasture fields until you eventually reach the ring-road around Eynsham. Cross the road with care, then take a wooden footbridge which leads into Eynsham's recreation ground. Turn left and follow the edge of the recreation ground, with the stream that you have just crossed to your immediate left. The path then goes into some light woodland, crossing the land that was once the site of Eynsham Abbey. Exit through a small car park onto Station Road, where you should turn right and walk up into Eynsham. At the T-junction with the High Street you should see the Swan Hotel on your right.

There are a grand total of 9 pubs to explore in Eynsham, if you include the Evenlode out on the A40 west-bound towards Witney, though at the time of writing the Star on Witney Road is not trading and we know nothing about its long term future. The other seven are:

  • On the High Street: the Swan Hotel, the Jolly Sportsman and the Red Lion.
  • On Queen Street: the Queen's Head.
  • On Newland Street: the White Hart and the Newlands Inn.
  • On the B4044, leaving the village towards the Swinford Toll Bridge: the Talbot Inn

Eynsham map.

Notes From Our Walk

Oxford CAMRA undertook this walk as a social event on Sunday 25th April 2010. Around a dozen branch members and a few guests came along.

The weather started clear and bright, and we made good time down the Thames Path to Pinkhill lock and over the pastures filled with sheep and lambs to the bridleway leading over to Stanton Harcourt. We arrived at the Harcourt Arms by around twenty past twelve, comfortably ahead of my intended schedule. We lined up to order our first pints and collected a sheef of menus to figure out our options for Sunday lunch. The Harcourt serves a three-course Sunday lunch, with a range of options for each course, but will also sell single courses for a reasonable price if people don't want to tackle the whole lot. Since we still had quite a lot of distance to cover (and quite a lot of beer to drink!) we all went for a single course: roast dinners for the hungry ones, and starters for those who preferred a snack. The beer range was: Brakespear Bitter, Adnams Bitter, and London Pride. Ansell's Mild was "coming soon", though not available during our stop, unfortunately.

From the Harcourt it was just a short wander through the village to reach the Fox. Don't let the Greene King style external decor put you off - the pub is one of those that escaped from the clutches of GK a few years ago and became part of Admiral Taverns. When we visited the only beer currently on was the Brakespear Bitter, which is the pub's regular beer, though I know from other recent visits that the second handpump normally has an interesting guest beer on. We collected our pints of Brakespear and headed out into the garden to enjoy the remaining sunshine (it was still fine at this point, but ominous clouds were starting to gather on the horizon).

On leaving the Fox we headed down the lane to the charming little hamlet of Sutton, and from there on to the footpath which leads back towards the Thames. This path crosses a couple of fields and was the only section that I was a bit concerned about from a mud point of view (after our rather squelchy February walk I have become a bit more paranoid about such things!). However the weather had been kind in week or so before the walk and the earth under foot on the field paths was firm. We made it over to the Pink Hill Lane bridleway without incident, and turned north for Eynsham. Unfortunately, just south of Pink Hill Farm the weather broke and we were caught in a short but quite intense rain shower. Water-proofs and umbrellas were hastily unpacked and shared around.

We did have something to be thankful for, however: we had got the potentially muddy field-path and green lane sections out of the way before the rain hit, and much of the remaining walk was on gravel or tarmac farm track. Other than the rain shower, we made it to Eynsham without further incident.

Our first pub in Eynsham was the Swan Hotel, where the ales were Hooke Norton Bitter and Village Idiot, both in good condition. We then moved on to the Jolly Sportsman, where the beer was Marston's Pedigree. This was okay, but nothing exciting - this isn't a reflection on the pub or the way they keep it - in conversation we agreed that Pedigree just isn't as interesting or characterful a beer as it used to be ten or fifteen years ago.

From the Sportsman it is but a short stagger to the Red Lion, a Greene King pub with GK IPA and Speckled Hen on offer. Most of us went for the Speckled Hen and found it okay, though again not the beer it was when Morland were brewing it in Abingdon.

We cut through the alleyway called Pug Lane to reach Newland Street, where the White Hart had on offer Greene King IPA, Holdens Golden Glow and Okells Old Skipper. We sat out in the pleasent beer garden at the back. Unfortunately the other pub on Newlands Street, the Newlands Inn, closes on Sunday afternoon and doesn't re-open for an evening session, so we were not able to visit it on this outing.

The route I used to take the party to the Talbot, along Cassington Road and then the grassy verges of the B4449 ring-road, wasn't very popular but nobody got flattened by the traffic. If you prefer pavements then Queen Street and High Street is probably the more sensible way to go. The Talbot is an Arkells pub, with a range of their beers served straight from small (pin, 4.5 gallon) casks stillaged at the bar. On sale when we visited were Maypole Mild, 3B and Moonlight.

With evening begining to set in we staggerd back up the High Street into the village and to our final pub, the Queen's Head, which has long been a branch favourite in the area. Those of you who are keeping score will realise this was our eighth pub of the day. And I had two pints in the Harcourt Arms. So I hope readers will forgive me when I admit that I forgot to take any meaningful notes in the Queen's. I do remember that I had a very nice pint of White Horse Village Idiot, and that we sat in the snug lounge bar admiring the railway memorabilia.

All in all I think it was a very successful day out. Thanks to all who came along - I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did.