Tranquillity and charm abound on this lovely route along the Thames in Berkshire.


In Three Men in a Boat (1889), Jerome K Jerome describes this section as “unbroken loveliness, this is, perhaps, the sweetest stretch of all the river…” and despite more than a century passing since, this tribute remains true today.

Park at Boulters Lock Car Park and launch across the road, on a thin side channel of the Thames. Paddle upstream along to the wider open river, passing walkers on the left bank and the occasional fellow paddleboarders and canoeists heading the opposite direction.

Maria Hodson begins her paddleboarding journey along the Thames with a silly grin looking back at the camera
The cruise begins.

Canal boats adds pops of colour, before you paddle into the wilder reaches, where weeping willows pour down to the glassy surface and fat oaks shade the banksides. Several small islets dot the river, thick with trees, and the National Trust’ Cliveden House rises majestically on the wooded slopes in the distance. Look out for herons, grebes and kingfishers gracing the water.

Although this is a popular stretch of the river, it is surprisingly serene. Even the odd pleasure craft dashing past does not detract from the peace, though it may take more effort to stay stable as the wash rocks the board.

Maria Hodson paddleboarding on the Thames river at Cliveden in Berkshire
Heading off on a serene journey.

Eventually, the distinctive black-and-white Tudor-style Spring Cottage appears on the right. This summer house was built for the Countess of Orkney in 1813 and is famed for playing a role in the Profumo Affair; it is now offers three-bedroom accommodation in the grounds of the Cliveden Estate. This is as good place as any to turn back and make your return journey to Boulters Lock.

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If you have come prepared, pull up at one of the charming wooded islets for a picnic lunch before returning downriver. Alternatively, enjoy refreshments at The Boathouse at Boulters Lock.


Main image credit: Spring Cottage at Cliveden House, Berkshire./Credit: Haykal/Getty Images


Maria Hodson is production editor at BBC Countryfile Magazine, alongside Margaret Bartlett. Since moving to Bristol in 2014, Maria has made every effort to escape into nature and loves all things wild and watery, from surfing and swimming to paddle-boarding and kayaking. Her adventure highlight in recent years was sea kayaking around remote St Kilda, off the coast north-west Scotland, in 2016. Most weekends, however, are spent exploring the great outdoors with her small child and doing accessible walks. Favourite family adventures are bird-watching at Slimbridge Wetland Centre and exploring the Forest of Dean, as well as an annual pilgrimage to see the starling murmuration on the Somerset Levels.