97 miles (156 kilometres)
London (Putney Bridge) - Windsor - Maidenhead - Reading - Didcot - Oxford
Order a map on-line from Sustrans
The perfect escape from London is to cycle away on a quiet, safe and largely traffic-free route; the Thames Valley Cycle Route. From the hubbub of Putney Bridge the route first winds its way up to the unique landscape of Richmond Park and its red and roe deer. Rejoining the Thames at Teddington Lock, the route follows riverside tracks past Hampton Court Palace, one of Britain's great historic palaces.
Leaving London now, the route slowly winds along the Thames, away from the roar of traffic, through Weybridge to the ferry at Shepperton. After Staines there's a climb up Coopers Hill - leaving your bike in the enclosure at the RAF War Memorial you can climb the tower for a view of Runnymeade, where the Magna Carta was signed.
Entering through Bishopsgate, you travel on through to Windsor Great Park, with tremendous views of Windsor Castle, before dropping down into Windsor itself on a newly built traffic-free section. Crossing the river, the route heads westwards towards Maidenhead and Reading.
From Reading, it's along the rural roads of the chalk Chilterns and then at Stoke Row anunusual landmark - the Maharajah's Well at (the 365 ft deep shaft was built by the Maharajah of Benares in a kind attempt to alleviate drought on the high Chilterns). From there you pass quiet country pubs and ancient beechwoods before descending into the clay Vale of the White Horse. Here is the historic town of Wallingford, once one of the most influential towns in England at the junction of two medieval trade routes.
Now you are among gently rolling hills, passing by Whittenham Clumps - here you can discover amazing views over the Thames Valley and the Chilterns. To the east a classic English landscape, to the west rise the cooling towers of Didcot Power Station, the so-called 'Cathedral of the Vale'. The route goes straight through Didcot and continues to Sutton Courtenay, an historic village once of monastic importance.
Abingdon was the capital of Berkshire before it moved to Oxfordshire, and is claimed to be the oldest inhabited town in England. Finally, its on to Radley and Kennington and then Oxford, like York a most cycle-friendly of cities.
The Thames Valley route is not long or particularly difficult to cycle, so you could make it a round trip and enjoy the route in the other direction, down the Thames Valley to Hampton Court, with the serene sense of arriving in London away from the stress of the traffic that cycling affords.
The award-winning official maps of the route, based on Ordnance Survey data, are available from Sustrans, book and cycle shops.