Thames Pathway

Journal of a Walk Down the River Thames

by Keith Pauling

Bablock Hythe

Newbridge to Abingdon is not far by road, just a matter of 8 miles. The river is taking the scenic route and it will take me the best part of a day and a half. When the young Thames was cutting its way towards the sea it decided against taking the short straight line directly eastwards, but instead set off to the north and looped itself around the high ground of Cumnor and Wytham Hill. So it is northwards through the garden of “The Rose Revived” and on towards Oxford.

The Rose Revived
The Rose Revived

The next inn I come to is somewhat different. The Trout, The Maybush and The Rose Revived have all been ancient inns with local stone facades beaming their rustic welcome. By contrast the Ferryman Inn at Bablock Hythe is a stark building that could be described as “Art Deco” if you wanted to be polite, or “Council Estate” if you didn’t. It is certainly not the prettiest building I have come across so far on this expedition, but with only a fifth of the route under my belt I am sure it will not be the ugliest either. I was to discover some ten days later that it would probably win architectural awards in parts of Deptford. There is a rather nice beer-garden area right on the riverbank which gets very busy during the summer.

The Ferryman, Bablock Hythe
The Ferryman, Bablock Hythe

The inn marks one of the most ancient crossing points of the Thames. The Romans are believed to have used this section to ford the river. There is evidence of a ferry here from at least 1279, when it was operated by John Cocas and the area was known as “Babbelak”. Cocas operated the ferry under a rental agreement with Deerhurst Priory, who seemed to have something of a monopoly on river crossings around here in those days...

My way forward is obstructed by a large caravan and chalet park and I have to take a detour along the local roads and tracks before rejoining the river about a mile further downstream opposite Farmoor Reservoir.

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