Tuesday, 11 October 2011

Maidenhead Thames South Running Route

Length: 8.4 km (5.2 miles), terrain flat

For more Maidenhead routes, see Routes List.

Maidenhead is just far enough outside London to have its own character, which is great if you are there on a business trip to Britain's "Silicon Corridor". There is a halfway prosperous town center to be enjoyed, and a green, pleasant running stretch along the Thames River. And the local "Green Way" public footpath runs north/south right through the center of town to two beautiful nearby villages, 3 km to Cookham in the north and 2 km to Bray to the south. The Green Way can easily connect up with the Thames Path at either end or at the center, at Maidenhead Bridge.

Check the town's description of the Green Way at this link.

The Thames also runs north/south, parallel to the Green Way, flowing down along the east edge of town. The river is lined by a National Trail, the Thames Path, that follows the river from its origins in the Cotswolds all the way past London City and Greenwich. Here's a good link to a Thames Path site.

This route starts in the center of town, follows the Thames towards the south, winds through Bray, and then heads up along streets back into town through Braywick Park along the Green Way.

The Green Way across from the Bear Inn
Let's start on the High Street at the Bear Inn, where the Green Way passes through the town center. The Bear was the last inn built back in the days when Maidenhead was just a coach stop on the western road to London. Maidenhead became a real town after the stone bridge was built east of town, routing traffic southwards from the old ford upstream. Let's head right for the bridge.

Just turn east on High Street and head straight out of the center. High Street then merges into Bridge Road at the old almshouses, located across the street. Follow Bridge Road the few blocks out through town to the river and, of course, the bridge.

Maidenhead Bridge
Maidenhead Bridge was built in 1770, back before the American Revolution, and predecessor bridges stood here since 1240. We'll run over this beautiful stone bridge, and then turn right on the other side to run down River Road, behind the Maidenhead Rowing Club.

We are now heading south along the Thames. There are nice homes on both sides of the river here. You will soon run under the railroad bridge, famous at the time it was built for having the flattest arches of any bridge in the world.

Thames River Road heading towards railroad bridge
Soon the houses stop and the dirt trail begins along the riverside. Open fields line this east side of the river. On the other side, though, the homes get bigger and more impressive. This is "Millionaires' Row" in the village of Bray. The line of homes seems to go on for miles.

Millionaires' Row
The riverside is also great for birdwatching. Besides the usual ducks, geese, swans and seagulls, I saw kingfishers and even a flock of green parrots when I was there.

Thames Path across from Bray
After the river curves to the left, you'll come to a boat-lock (Bray Lock), and an island behind it (Monkey Island, now home of a nice hotel).

You will see and hear the M4 motorway bridge straight ahead in the distance. You need to keep running to the bridge, take the steps up to the freeway above, cross the river, then continue running along the loud roadside for a few hundred meters until you get to the next overpass, where you finally get to leave the motorway. There is a footpath along the pasture below, but there are no stairs to get down there.

Running along the M4, my least favorite part of the run
Just before the overpass (Old Mill Lane), the motorway footpath turns to the right and joins Old Mill Lane as it heads northwards, back towards town. Run north on Old Mill Lane.

The first right-hand turn-off is the street leading to the Monkey Island Hotel. It was originally named after monks, not monkeys, but this didn't stop later owners from adding exotic monkey-themes to their estate.

Running straight ahead on Old Mill Lane, you are now entering the scenic village of Bray, winner of the "Best Small Village" award in 2005. You can tell that this is no run of the mill village when you see that the first pub-looking building houses a posh restaurant called "Caldesi in Campagna" (and this isn't even one of the two 3-star places in town).

The lane makes a sharp left turn at some half-timbered row houses. But keep running straight along the footpath along the side of the houses.

Run straight up this path past the nice rowhouses
The path ends at other end of the houses, at Ferry Road. Let's take a short scenic detour to the right to run 100 meters down to the river and the old ferry landing. The building on the left is the Waterside Inn, housing one of the 3-star restaurants.

At Bray's celebrated Waterside Inn
Now turn around and run back out Ferry Road till it reaches the stone cross at Bray Road.

At Bray Cross
Turn right here, and in a few steps you'll pass a non-descript grey house with no sign on it. This is the "Fat Duck", the other 3-star restaurant. Just past it, and even better in my opinion, is the beautiful old village pub, the "Hind's Head".

View of the Hind's Head, taken from front of the Fat Duck
In just 100 more meters, at the last street (The Causeway) on the left before the fields begin, turn left to join the Green Way. This is just across from the Cricket Club entrance.

Entrance to the Causeway: turn left here
The causeway merges into Hibbert Road, where you run 100 meters straight, past the nature center on your right. You'll see a parking lot for the nature center and the Green Way trail on your right, too. Turn right here and then just follow the "Green Way" waymarkers all the way back to town.

Just follow the Green Way waymarkers through Braywick Park
At first the way goes to the right, past a little pond, then turns north to head up Green Lane through Braywick Park.

Along Green Lane
Just as Green Lane comes to a bridge over the Cut (also called Maidenhead Ditch or York Stream), turn left and follow the footpath as it crosses Stafferton Way to then go under the railroad.

On the home-stretch of the Green Way
The Green Way path continues straight north to the library and the Bear Inn.

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