Tilehurst to Henley - June 8th 2021
I’d stayed at the Didcot Premier Inn the night before this walk. Having had our foreign holidays cancelled due to you know what, I thought I’d treat myself for a couple of days and save on driving to and from home each day. To get to the start I drove to Didcot Parkway Station and got a train to Tilehurst Station.
This walk covers about 12.5 miles of the Thames Path and passes through Reading, Sonning and Shiplake before reaching Henley. When I did this section in 2020, I said I thought GPs should prescribe it for people who were struggling to cope mentally with the protracted lockdowns we had that year. In 2021 my views hadn’t changed. It was a gloriously sunny start to the day and it was forecast to remain as such all day – hooray!
I reached Shiplake Lock about 2pm. Pausing to have a drink of water, I got talking to a couple of ladies who were sitting on a bench relaxing. One of them advised me that she rented a house in the village belonging to Urs Schwarzenbach. Jokingly she said the scale model of St Moritz station that he has in the gardens of Thames Side Court in Shiplake was probably bigger than the house she rented. My ears pricked up at the mention of Mr Schwarzenbach as I knew he was the exceedingly rich Swiss financier who bid £10 million over the asking price to acquire the Culham Court Estate. The Thames Path has a right of way through the estate and you pass it on the walk between Henley and Marlow.
Mr Schwarzenbach was living at Thames Side Court prior to buying Culham Court. At the time he said he would hold on to Thames Side Court for family to use. I’ve not been able to find out if he still owns the property but from what you can see from the Thames Path, the grounds look impeccably well kept! Thames Side Court isn’t just a house – it’s huge with a great deal of land, polo facilities and a large model railway. When I did this walk in 2020, I hadn’t noticed the model railway and station but having been alerted to it by this lady, I got to see it this time around, since it runs alongside the path for a short distance.
Other interesting facts about Mr Schwarzenbach are that he’s married to a former Miss Australia and also sponsors the rowing gallery at the River & Rowing Museum in Henley. In appreciation of this, the gallery was renamed to the Schwarzenbach International Rowing Gallery.
After the excitement of learning more about Mr Schwarzenbach, the remainder of my walk into Henley was drama-free and thoroughly enjoyable. Arriving there about 16:00 an ice cream followed by a cold lager were called for. Duly refreshed I walked to Henley Station and caught the train to Twyford, followed by one to Didcot Parkway. This had been an absolutely fantastic day!