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Time out: The Dame’s home town

12 June 2012

by Jane Harris-Matthews




ON THE River Thames in Oxford­shire, Wallingford is midway be­tween Oxford and Reading, and can be reached by car from either in less than an hour, or by bus. There are frequent buses, too, from the nearest railway station, Didcot Parkway.


Wallingford is a delightful historic market-town, with the added attrac­tion of walks along the Thames tow­path, an Agatha Christie trail, and castle ruins.

What to do

Start your visit at the tourist in­formation centre in the town hall, where you can find leaflets to help you explore the narrow lanes and historic buildings.

Wander around Castle Meadows and spot the red kites soaring above. The castle buildings were torn down in 1652 by Oliver Cromwell, but you can still get a good idea of the scale of the castle built by William the Con­queror in 1066. Wallingford Museum, in the high street, has more in­formation.

Walk across the bridge over the Thames. At 300 metres long, it is only five metres shorter than the old London Bridge.

Wander along the Thames Path National Trail, or take a boat trip in the summer months from Riverside Park. The royal swan-upping census of the swan population (above) takes place in Wallingford on 19 July this year. This historic ceremony dates from the 12th century, when the Crown claimed ownership of all mute swans, and swans were regarded as a dish to be eaten at banquets and feasts.

Follow the Dame Agatha Christie Trail, and see where the novelist lived for more than 20 years, then walk across fields to her grave in the churchyard of St Mary’s, Cholsey. Flowers, and a rain-battered copy of one of her novels, had been placed there by devotees when we visited it.

Wallingford still has a good range of specialist shops, including, in St Mary’s Street, those that sell art and craft materials, and antiquarian and secondhand books. Pettits depart­ment store was established in 1856.

Where to eat

I particularly like the converted 1936 Old Post Office bar and restaurant. It is open all day, and is very child-friendly.

Near by

The Cholsey and Wallingford Rail­way runs a five-mile round trip about 35 days per year. Visit the Island Farm Donkey Sanctuary in Brightwell-cum-Sotwell, just three miles west of Wallingford.


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