Friday, 10 February 2012

Maidenhead Revisited: Thames North Running Route

Click here for route map
Length 11.5 km (7.1 miles)

For more Maidenhead routes, see Routes List.

Here is the northern half of the loop along the Thames River out to the village of Cookham and then back along the Green Way in Maidenhead. It's quite a long route, so feel free to just run along the river, then turn around, or just run up the Green Way as far as you feel, and cut it short.

To read more about the Green Way, just click here.

We'll start this route at the same spot as the southern route: in front of the Bear pub on Maidenhead's High Street. You will notice that a stream runs south from the street. This stream -- variously called the Maidenhead Ditch, the Cut, White Brook or York Stream -- is followed by the Green Way in both directions from this spot.
The Bear
The Bear is the last old stagecoach inn built in Maidenhead, beginning life as a coaching transfer spot after the Maidenhead Bridge was opened. Turn to face eastwards, with the Bear to your left and run out along High Street.

In a few blocks, High Street (after a couple of name-changes) merges into busy Bridge Road. Right where they come together, you can see the open lawn of the Moor to the north, where we will be returning later.
Running out Bridge Road
Run the few blocks eastwards until the old stone Maidenhead Bridge. Turn left just before the bridge to run northwards along Ray Mead Road, along the west bank of the Thames. The path goes by a little riverside park with a nice fountain first, at the bridge.
Fountain and Maidenhead Bridge
Just run straight along this very scenic riverside, with its wooded islands and marinas. At a place called Boulter's Weir, you'll see an old boat lock from the Victorian days when this was a famous spot for boaters' parties after the Royal Ascot horse-races. A famous painting by Edward John Gregory depicts one of the boating parties, which you can see here.
Boulter's Lock
Run another 200 meters northwards, and then the road will curve to the left, away from the river, but a footpath will continue along the riverside. Follow the footpath. This dirt path will first lead past some big homes, but later the shore opens up into woods and pastures. 

After a while, you'll see a boat house on the other side of the river. The boat house belongs to the Cliveden estate, a mansion on a magnificent hilltop grounds owned at various times by dukes, earls, the Prince of Wales and then the wealthy American Astor family. Now it's a 5-star hotel, owned by the National Trust.
Path along the Thames
Soon after the boat house, the river trail turns to the left, heading inland to the village of Cookham. It joins in with Mill Lane, which heads west until it runs into Sutton Road, A4094.

This is a busy road, so it's best to get away from it quickly. You can do this by crossing the road straight ahead, heading down the next side street, continuing westwards on School Lane.

This quiet street curves towards the right until it runs into the main village High Street at the stone cross.
Cookham High Street
Turn left at the stone cross to run along the paved footpath next to High Street, which changes its name to the Pound as it leaves the village, heading out through fields. You will run past a manor house on your left, then cross an old brick bridge.

Green Way waymarkers: just follow those signs!
Just where the footpath merges back into the road, you'll see a green way-marker for Green Way West pointing into a driveway to the left, heading south. Go through the wooden gate of what looks like a private house (yes this is really a public footpath) and now just follow the marked Green Way signs all the way back to the center of Maidenhead.
Head down this driveway to continue on the Green Way
You will go through a few pastures at first. In typical English fashion, this public footpath crosses directly through farm-fields, and you might end up sharing the field with bulls, horses or sheep.

After a farmhouse, the trail goes straight through a horse pasture: make sure you close the gates securely! At the far end of the pasture, you exit through another gate, cross a little bridge and then keep running north directly through a wide, open area of vegetable fields.

The trail goes right through this gate, past this friendly guy
When you hit a raised, dike-like tractor road, the path turns right for a few hundred meters until it comes to the Maidenhead Ditch. Just before the stream, turn left and follow the stream from now on. There are new signs here for "Maidenhead Border Trail" which you can follow.
Green Way West: just follow the muddy path next to the ditch
The path crosses the stream at a spot where you see a bigger bridge ahead. You then continue southwards on the west side of the stream, with a lawn and houses to your right side.

Keep going south along the gravel footpath, with houses coming closer to each side. The green areas get narrower, becoming just a small lawn along the stream.

The green area ends in a bigger lawn called the Moor, on the north side of Bridge Road, which we passed at the beginning of the run.

There's a pedestrian tunnel leading beneath Bridge Road, and you come out on Moorbridge Road (the same street as the Maidenhead High Street). Turn right and run the last few blocks back to the Bear pub.
Maidenhead Moor at Bridge Street