Posted: Tuesday 30 October 2018
South East Associates
- Wednesday 1st August –
Shiplake is a small village adjacent to the River Thames, to the south of Henley-on-Thames and close to the boundary of Berkshire and Oxfordshire.
The origins of the village name are unclear, but it most likely means ‘stream where sheep are washed’ - sheeplake.
Our five-mile circular walk began in warm, sunny weather at Lower Shiplake near the railway station and took us out of the village into woodland and surrounding fields.
After exiting Harpsden Wood, we strolled along the road into the village of Harpsden and stopped outside a barn, part of Harpsden Court, whose gable end was decorated with large patterned wooden blocks.
There was also another barn similarly decorated further into the property.
At Harpsden Barn
Whilst we were admiring the barn wall blocks a local lady stopped and kindly offered to tell us what she knew of their origin. She believes that the blocks, which were originally used for wallpaper printing, were salvaged when a wallpaper printing works in Henley closed down sometime before the second world war.
Some detail from a barn wall
The blocks, each engraved with a decorative design, have been fixed in a tile-like fashion and at some time later, painted over with a preservative which gives them their current all-black colour.
The lady then asked if we would be interested in visiting the old church opposite - St. Margaret of Antioch. We accepted and then spent a pleasant half-hour learning about the history of the church, which dates back to the 12th century and its notable features, which included a small chapel or Oratory in the grounds designated for private prayer.
After our unplanned, but interesting stop in Harpsden, we continued our walk following the road into Henley and then headed for the lock and weir at Marsh Lock.
The lock is unusually situated on the opposite side of the river to the towpath, so a long wooden bridge was built from the Oxfordshire bank to carry the path out to the lock island below the weir, and then back again to the riverbank above the weir.
This feature is unique on the River Thames.
At Marsh Lock
We then followed the Thames Path back to Shiplake passing by the grounds of an impressive property - Bolney Court - with its own miniature railway including a model of St. Moritz railway station!
The walk concluded with lunch and refreshments at The Baskerville pub.
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