The walk starts and finishes at the Red Lion Pub in Northmoor, taking in a section of the Thames Path. Parking in Northmoor’s not always that easy, so please park politely. The walk is pretty flat and doesn’t include any particularly hard walking. The optional Appleton section includes two gentle hills. Early morning and late evening, look out for barn owls! I had three sightings in the opening sections of the route, very close to Northmoor!
Walk length: Approximately 5.5 miles. Allow 2 hours.
1. On the road with the Red Lion behind you, head west (left) along the road for around 150 yards to a junction. Turn left into Moreton Lane, which has footpath, National speed limit and 7.5t signs.
2. Follow Moreton Lane for around 250 yards, then take the farm road to the left, towards Church Farm.
3. Follow the farm road for about 350 yards. The road bends right at farm buildings on right. As soon as you pass the buildings and before the road straightens, there is a metal gate on the RIGHT with a footpath arrow.
The path may not be visible here, but it goes straight across the field from the gate, under the powerlines to a metal kissing gate under some tall trees opposite (photo A). Just to the left of the gate is a young piece of woodland in the field, called the Jubilee Wood.
4. Go through the metal gate, across a little bridge into the next field and follow the hedgerow on your left for the next 3 fields, all with metal kissing gates. All these hedgerows contain lots of birds!
5. Through the kissing gate at the end of the 3rd field is open ground down to the Thames path by the river. The river is easy to find as the line trees you can see follows the bank on the other side.
6. The actual path down to the river may not be visible, but it goes across the open ground at an angle to the right of around 45 degrees to a concrete footbridge across the Thames (photo B). If walking the full route via Appleton, follow this. If taking the shorter route along the river, missing out Appleton, you may want to just walk down to the river and turn LEFT along the Thames Path. Simply walk along the river for just under a mile, rejoining the main route at Northmoor Lock (point 15).
Reaching the river, look out for kingfishers and waterfowl. For the longer route through Appleton, cross the bridge. Follow the path straight on through the trees and across a little bridge.
7. At the fork in the path as the trees end, take the LEFT fork (photo C).
You will soon reach a wide green track. Turn left (nearly straight on – photo D) following the track to Appleton Common woods, passing very close to an electricity pylon.
8. As you enter the woods, the path forks again. Take right fork has a footpath arrow, but take the LEFT fork (without a footpath arrow) and follow the path (which stays just inside the woods) for approximately 275 yards.
9. The path then forks again – take the RIGHT fork deeper into the woods (photo E). Follow the path very gently uphill for around 700 yards, keeping eyes and ears open for roe deer and other wildlife.
10. At the end of the path you will reach a dirt road. Turn left here. The dirt road leads very gently downhill back towards the river for just over a quarter of a mile to a house called Willowbank. At the t-junction, turn right onto a continuation of the dirt road.
11. Pass the turning to Otter’s Pool and Cub’s Puddle, which are houses rather than wildlife hotspots! Grass appears in the middle of the track and soon invades it. Keep following it more-or-less straight for nearly half a mile. I saw and heard lots of buzzards around here.
12. The track reaches a t-junction. The walk turns right here heading towards Appleton. (Left at this t-junction takes you on short walk to a nice little grassy spot by the Thames – good for a picnic or rest, but as far as I could see, is a dead end.)
The track to Appleton climbs steadily for just over half a mile, winding up to the ‘back’ of the village, and is particularly good for hedgerow birds.
13. As it reaches Appleton (photo F) the track passes a children’s playground on the left, becoming tarmacked as it reaches houses, and tennis courts on the left.
14. After only about 75 yards on the LEFT, take the little private road to Northmoor Lock (photo G). This is also a permissive public path just over half a mile to the lock, with an attractive open view of this part of the Thames Valley. A lot of the field margins here are also seeded with wild flowers, looking lovely in the summer.
15. Reaching the pretty lock (photo H) cross the river and turn right in front of the lock-keepers house and other buildings. You have joined the Thames path. This is where the shorter and longer routes rejoin each other.
16. Leaving the lock and its buildings, go through a kissing gate and follow the Thames path along the river. After about a third of a mile, you will pass under powerlines. Almost immediately, by the edge of the river in open land you will find a (now pointless!) gate without a fence where there used to be a field edge (photo I). There are still some trees and bushes to the left in a broken line where the field edge used to be. Turn left here, away from the river and follow the broken line of trees and bushes.
17. As you approach the hedgerow at the far side of the open land, slightly to the right of the line you are walking along, you will see a metal gate with a footpath arrow (Photo J). Once through the gate, you will find a metalled farm track with grass in the middle. Follow this obvious track through various fields and gates for just over half a mile. At the final gate you will reach the road back to Northmoor. Go through the gate and turn left. In around 1/3 mile, you will be back at the Red Lion.