The River Thames at Lechlade
Access to the river Thames is gained by crossing the Halfpenny Bridge, to the south bank of the river and joining the Thames Path, or by using the Seven Stiles walk to the west of town through pastureland to the Round House, a notable Thames-side feature. Also, at this point the disused Thames and Severn Canal joins the Thames along with the river Coln. The wooden footbridge marks the limit of navigation for powered vessels. From here the Thames may be followed back towards the town through the Riverside Park giving some of the most spectacular vistas of the Thames and Lechlade. The spire of St. Lawrence church forming the backdrop to Halfpenny Bridge built in 1792 is perhaps the most popular view. A toll was levied at the bridge until 1839, and it now carries the busy A361 south to Highworth and Swindon.Small craft may be launched at the slipway at the bottom of Bell Lane, the site of the ancient Tidford ford adjacent to the pretty Riverside Pub. Larger craft may be launched at Lechlade Marina or further downstream at the Trout Inn.
Swimmers beware; the depth of water is variable with many undertows along the reach above Halfpenny Bridge. Temporary moorings are available on the south bank below the Halfpenny Bridge. Further downstream is St John’s lock, the highest on the Thames, providing a visitors’ centre, refuse collection, and pump-out facility for boats. The well kept gardens of the lock feature a miniature hamlet and an imposing statue of Father Thames complete with Trident.
St. John’s Bridge dates from 1229 and was originally made of wood. The current bridge dates from the 13th century and was once a toll bridge, not very well managed by the monks of St. John’s priory and has been maintained by various grants in 1388 and 1626, and in 1725 the Farringdon to Cirencester road was turnpiked and tolls once again collected at St. John’s Bridge.
The delightful Trout Inn nestles at the north end of the bridge and retains the priory fishing rights dating back to the reign of King John.
There are many stunning views in this short section of the Thames through Lechlade with a wide variety of flora and fauna to be seen.
The river is well stocked and a productive day’s fishing may be enjoyed. Picnics may also be taken on the banks of the Thames, but please dispose of your litter responsibly. From the Trout Inn a footpath through the flood meadows on the north bank may be employed to return to the town of Lechlade-on-Thames.