A figure of 9 - Up over Winter Hill, overlooking the Thames Valley, then along the Thames Path.
||17.0km (10.6 miles), 5 hours. For the whole outing, including trains, sights and meals, allow 9 hours.
||3 out of 10.
||Explorer 172 or Landranger 175. Cookham, map reference SU 886 850, is in Berkshire, 4km north of Maidenhead.
This is a figure of 9 walk, looping around the hills above Cookham with views over the Thames Valley, before returning to it for lunch. The afternoon follows a pretty stretch of the Thames Path to Maidenhead.
You start with a circuit of Cookham, heading westwards from the town and passing the very ordinary house where the artist Stanley Spencer lived and worked for some 15 years until his death in 1959. After passing through Cookham Dean you go past a large free-range turkey farm and into Bisham Woods, where an attractive stretch along an escarpment with fine views over the Thames Valley leads to Winter Hill. Mole, Ratty and company of The Wind in the Willows fame inhabited the riverbanks and wild woods around here, at least according to their author Kenneth Grahame who lived nearby. From here you drop down to the Thames to return by the river to Cookham for lunch, with the opportunity to visit the Stanley Spencer Gallery.
After lunch you head south on a particularly attractive stretch of the Thames Path, with the hanging beech woods of the Cliveden Estate on the other side of the river. On the outskirts of Maidenhead you go past Boulter’s Lock, a popular spot to watch the river traffic.
You can shorten the walk by returning to Cookham Station, making a Circular Walk of 11.3km (7 miles).
2km before Cookham, you could cross the Thames by the railway bridge to catch a train back from Bourne End.
A shorter route into Cookham (saving 1.3km) is also described in the Walk Directions.
Another re-imaginging of the original Cookham Circular is SWC Walk 56 : Maidenhead to Marlow
Cookham was inhabited by ancient Britons, Romans and Saxons, and in the Doomsday Book is listed as containing ‘32 villagers, 21 cottages, 4 slaves, 2 mills, 2 fisheries and woodland at 100 pigs’. In 1140, a Norman church was built on the site of Holy Trinity Church, Cookham. There is a memorial stone to the artist Sir Stanley Spencer in the graveyard.
Spencer was born in 1891 in a Victorian semi-detached house called Fernley in Cookham High Street. He lived and worked from 1944 to 1959 in a house called Cliveden View (passed on this walk) and attended services at the Wesleyan Chapel in the High Street which is now the Stanley Spencer Gallery (tel 01628 471 885). From Easter to October the gallery is open daily 10.30am to 5.30pm; in winter, Thursday to Sunday and bank holidays only, from 11am to 4.30pm. There is an admission fee (2020) of £6.00 .
The grade I listed Cliveden was built in 1851 in Italianate style by architect Charles Barry for the 2nd Duke of Sutherland and was later owned by the Waldorf and Astor family. From the 1920s it became the centre of high society, culminating with the notorious Profumo affair in the early 1960s. The house is now a luxury 5-star hotel. The grounds, now owned by the National Trust (tel 01494 755 562), were laid out by John Fleming in 1855 and contain an extensive collection of sculptures. There is limited access to parts of the house and its chapel on Thursdays and Sundays, by guided tour only, April to October, cost (2020 for non-NT Members) £2 in addition to gardens fee. The gardens are open daily from 11am until 5.30pm (summer), 5pm (spring and autumn) and 4pm (winter); admission fee (2020) £16.00 including gift aid.
||Take the train nearest to 9.45am from Paddington Station to Cookham, changing at Maidenhead . Journey time 48-58 minutes. If you plan to have a very early lunch stop at Cookham Dean on the short Circular Walk, leave an hour later. There are four trains an hour back from Maidenhead (two on Sundays). Journey time 44 minutes. Return trains from Cookham are hourly. Buy a day return to Cookham.
Late starters doing the Circular Walk could take an early lunch at the Jolly Farmer (tel 01628 482 905) in Cookham Dean, where good food at reasonable prices is served from noon to 2.30pm every day. This walker-friendly pub is often busy and groups over 12 are requested to phone ahead.
The suggested place for lunch in Cookham is the Kings Arms (tel 01628 530 667) in the High Street. A varied food menu offering good value is available all day from noon until 10.00pm (9.00pm on Sundays).
Alternatives in the village include The Ferry (tel 01628 525 123), which has a fine patio overlooking the river, and another pub-restaurant, Bel and the Dragon (tel 01628 521 263), situated in a 15th century building.
If you are doing the Circular Walk and returning to Cookham, two suggestions for tea on the High Street are Infusions (tel 01628 528 537), a delicatessen with a garden where you can eat your purchases, and Culinary Aspirations (tel 01628 523 904), a nice tea-room with a splendid selection of cakes which is open until 4.30pm, Tuesday-Saturday. Any of the town’s pubs listed above would also make a good tea stop. Finally, there is an attractive tea place near the station, Station Hill Deli (tel 01628 522 202), but it closes early at weekends (Sun 1.30pm, Sat 3.30pm, otherwise 5pm).
On the way into Maidenhead a particularly attractive place to stop for tea is the up-market terrace bar at Boulter’s Lock (tel 01628 621 291), which serves cream teas.
Further along the A4094, a more prosaic alternative is Jenners Café (tel 01628 621 721) in the Riverside Gardens, which is open until 5pm in summer but may close as early as 3pm in winter.
The recommended route to the station bypasses the somewhat unattractive town centre, but if you choose to take a direct route through the town you will come across many pubs, cafés and coffee shops, some with a few outside tables. There is also a refreshment kiosk on the station platform.
No major changes. This edition November 2017
[Pre 2011 editions] Almost a new walk - use the online version. This walk incorporates most of the Cookham (round walk) – the original Walk 24 in earlier editions of this Book – and adds an extension along the Thames Path to Maidenhead. The original route was blocked by a new dual carriageway. The only way to cross it was via an often waterlogged storm drain. And the lunch pub in Bisham became an expensive restaurant that turned away walkers