James’ ride is the perfect route for those looking for a mix of spectacular views over South Oxfordshire. It passes the exquisite villages of Stokes Row, Sonning Eye and heads into Henley-on-Thames for the best boating and lunch spots by the Thames.
This is a route I used to do regularly when training as a junior and still take regularly. The ride mostly takes you down some really quiet roads in the Chilterns, climbing up and down the ridgeway with the lovely views thrown in for good measure. Although the best roads are north of Henley, this ride starts and ends in Twyford for one reason: Bia Cycling Café. This has only been around a year or two but it is ideal for a pre-ride coffee and/or post-ride snack.
The ride heads out from Twyford towards the picturesque village of Sonning Eye. You’ll have to cross a busy roundabout on the way, so be careful, even if you’re an experienced rider. As you go through Sonning Eye, you’ll cross the River Thames, and it’s a particularly appealing place to stop if you are having an easy day. Spare a thought for tidiness, though – plastic pollution is a persistent problem along the lngth of the river.
After Sonning, you head up a steep climb before a fast run down into Henley. There are plenty of cafes if you fancy a stop at this point. And there’s also another chance to sit by the river and watch the rowers and boats pass by (you can do this now or as you loop back at towards the end of your ride).
Coming out of Henley, you head to the ridgeway up Stonor Valley. Now the landscape gets really great. I tend to take a right turn part-way up for a more interesting climb. This way takes you on a quieter road and on to Christmas Common. If you’re in need of a drink at this point, there’s the Fox and Hounds pub just at the top, if you turn left at the T-junction. If you carry on in that direction, you pass along the top of the ridgeway before dropping back down towards Nettlebed.
If you’re after more of a climb though, and a steep one too, take a right at the T-junction and and then an immediate left. This will drop you down into Watlington. Here, you’ll climb back up to the top of the ridgeway where there’s a fast, undulating descent to Nettlebed with no sharp corners. Taking a right turn at Highmoor Cross towards Stoke Row sends you on quieter roads again - although there’s a steep climb coming into Stoke Row.
As you enter Stoke Row, you turn left and head down to Sonning Common and out the other side, where you descend down Devil’s Hill into Henley. Careful – this is quite a steep descent! After leaving Henley there’s an immediate right and you’re not far from home. You pass through Wargrave and then on to Twyford for a well-earned cafe stop.