This circular cycle route follows a quiet and beautiful stretch of the Thames Path between Newbridge and Shifford Lock before heading back through a nature reserve and some ancient villages along the ‘Golden Ridge’. This slightly elevated limestone ridge affords views right across the flat Thames Valley below with only a short and gentle climb to get to it.
Terrain: mostly flat, 70% off-road, on grassy or gravel paths, bumpy in a few places. Also low-traffic rural lanes. Best in summer as the paths and meadows can be muddy and flooded after wet weather.
Distance: 8 miles, 12 kms, which sounds short, but it’s the sort of ride where you’ll want to pause a lot, sit by the river, maybe picnic, or even swim.
The Thames: Newbridge to Shifford Lock
You can start and finish this circular route in the car park of the riverside Maybush Inn, highly recommended for some relaxing refreshment at the end of your ride. The Thames Path is actually a footpath, but walkers rarely object to considerate cyclists.
The river is full of photogenic and interesting wildlife.
Wild swimming opportunities abound on warm days. Once you’re a good distance from the starting point, you can often have a shady spot to yourself. If swimming at weekends, listen out for the occasional motor boat as swimmers can be hard to spot from the helm.
A historical note: Newbridge, despite its name, is actually the second oldest bridge across the Thames. Built in the 13th century, it played a vital role in the English civil war when, in May 1644, a garrison of King’s Dragoons delayed the Parliamentarian army for over a week, allowing King Charles I to escape from his besieged capital at Oxford.
On reaching Shifford lock, there’s a choice between the easier route to Duxford or the more fun and scenic one, including a ford crossing.
Option 1: stay on the footpath.
Option 2: haul your bike over the steps of the first steeply arched footbridge then ride straight on till you come to a bridleway on your left. This track leads through part of the Chimney Meadows nature reserve, where ex-arable land has reverted to wildflower meadows and natural grassland that in summer sings with the sound of a million grasshoppers, like cicadas in warmer climes.
The Golden Ridge villages
After the hamlet of Duxford, the pleasant little lane to Hinton Waldrist leads gradually upwards to the area known as the ‘Golden Ridge’ from which views of the Thames Valley stretch out below.
Hinton Waldrist is a small village full of listed buildings and historical associations. It gained the name ‘Hentone’ in Saxon times and ‘Waldrist’ after the Norman conquest, when ownership passed to a cousin of King William.
The Blue Boar pub in Longworth, dating from 1606, was voted winner of the Traditional Pubs category at The Oxfordshire Restaurant Awards a few years ago. Stop here for refreshment or save yourself for the equally enticing Maybush at the end of the ride at Newbridge.
Where to stay
If you’re visiting from afar, the Rose Revived, a 16th century riverside inn, is ideally placed at the start of this circular route.
See more circular cycle routes and tours
Photo credits: slowcycling.net
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