My husband and I braved the frozen fields yesterday to bike the 18-mile round trip trek to England's oldest continuously live-in town (so the locals claim), Abingdon.
In doing so, we discovered two great trails: the Thames River Footpath, which apparently follows the Thames for 180 miles, and the "5" bike path.
The fastest way to catch the Thames River Footpath is to take Cornmarket down past Christchurch to the little bridge over the Thames, and turn left on to the path immediately past the bridge. This path follows (as the name implies) the Thames, and is mostly bike-able until on gets to a very large field immediately after Ifley (sp?) locks. There, you should turn right through the path-ish (paths in fields here aren't really paths - they are more like worn down grass with no dirt showing). Then follow signs for the "5," which follows the road a bit, but then turns right into fields and woods as one approaches Abingdon.
If one was to stay on the Thames River footpath, be warned: it's not very bike friendly for 1.5 miles through frozen mud. We tried this on the way back, and made it through with only one casualty: my foot slipped into the freezing Thames while my husband attempted to clean mud off of my bike.
Other than the mud, this trek was truly lovely. One gets to see quaint cottages that dot the Thames, England's lush green fields lined with trees and old fences, and, occasionally, a view of what looks like Hobbit-land. Especially on a clear day like yesterday.
Abingdon, however, was a bit of a dissapointment. It was bigger than I anticipated, and no where could I find the legendary mayor throwing hotcross buns off of the town hall as he is wont to do on high holidays. Yet I was charmed by the 14th Century Abby and the intelligent, friendly man who showed us the way to the White Horse pub for lunch.