The South Oxfordshire market town of Wallingford was the destination of one of our February half-term days trips. Visually appealing, set by the river Thames, the town oozes history, from iron age earthworks to castle ruins and the huge number of attractive historic buildings. The style of the town immediately reminded us of Thame, a larger Oxfordshire market town located 16 miles away, which we visited in 2010. Both feature a distinctive market place with a town hall at its centre, and flanked by the main shopping streets.
We arrived in Wallingford late in the day, too late to visit sights such as the castle gardens that close at 3pm, although we glimpsed some of the castle ruins from the Thames path. The riverside area is quiet and largely undeveloped, unlike in larger towns, and following the path takes you quickly into countryside. The Thames Path also offers fine views of the Wallingford’s bridge. A stroll over the bridge itself gives some idea of the size of the Thames at this point, which while much narrower than in London, remains impressive.
The shopping and entertainment in the town seems reasonably good for a town of Wallingford’s size and includes theatre and cinema in the Old Corn Exchange, some good looking hostelries including the swanky Old Post Office, and a selection of both high street and more boutique shops with a speciality in antiques shops.
There doesn’t seem to be a particularly quick way of reaching Wallingford from the M40, as both routes, one a B road and the other optimistically graded an A road, take around 20 minutes. From the east it’s necessary to cross the Thames, which is possible at Wallingford Bridge. Roadworks hampered our leaving the town by this route, however alternative bridges are available a few miles to the north or south of the town.
All in all Wallingford makes for a good fair weather day-trip destination and several hours can be happily spent pottering around its historic sights, attractive streets and interesting shops, with plenty of option on hand for refreshment.