Familiar as the fictional town in Midsomer Murders, Wallingford grew up in the 9th century and is little changed today.
What to see
The pretty market town on the banks of the River Thames has an ancient and chequered past. Its standout feature is the ruined castle, once one of England’s most extensive and strongest castles.
The area left today – Castle Gardens and Meadows – is a relaxing and peaceful spot in which to enjoy well-kept lawns and flowerbeds, and to explore some of the earthworks remaining from the castle.
The building of the castle began in 1067 on the instructions of William the Conqueror who had crossed the River Thames at Wallingford on his way to London to take the throne. The castle was expanded in the 13th century, waxing and waning in popularity through the years. But, on Cromwell’s orders, it was demolished during the Civil War of the 17th century.
Discover a miniature version of Wallingford’s huge royal castle and other secrets of the town at the Wallingford Museum. This intimate museum features The Wallingford Story, which takes a walk along Wallingford’s timeline from the Romans and Saxons to the Civil War. The museum also offers historical tours of both the town and castle.
Come to Wallingford on a Friday to visit the traditional Charter Market where traders sell all kinds of produce, including plants, eggs, cheese, fish, bread, clothes, fruit and vegetables, cards and gift wrap, pet food and more.
Enjoy a heritage train ride from the centre of Wallingford on the Cholsey and Wallingford Railway. This former Great Western Railway line is known affectionately as ‘The Bunk’, although no one can quite recall why.
Trains run on selected days (steam-hauled whenever possible) and a round-trip to Cholsey takes about 45 minutes. Along the way, look out for the church where Agatha Christie is buried and magnificent red kites.
Looking for a family day out? Riverside Parks and Pools in Wallingford provides watery fun for all during the summer season. There’s an outdoor heated swimming pool and a splash park for children, as well as a café, indoor changing area and even a campsite.
At the end of August, let your hair down at the annual BunkFest. Cancelled during the pandemic, plans are afoot for a bigger and better 2022, with music, dance, drink and spectacle.
Into the Countryside
She was known locally as Mrs Mallowan, but ‘Agatha Christie’ became the best-selling novelist of all time and many of her books were written here.
Wallingford Town Council has created a six-mile Agatha Christie circular walking trail, which takes you past locations prominent in her life and on to her grave in Cholsey.
Wittenham Clumps, near Dorchester, are named after the two clumps of beech trees that crown Castle Hill and Round Hill – formerly known as ‘Mother Dunch’s Buttocks’. These tree clumps have watched over much of Wallingford’s history, being around 300 years old! The hills and their panoramic views of South Oxfordshire inspired such artists as the Chilterns’ own Paul Nash (1889-1946) who loved to paint these views.
Why not use Wallingford as a base from which to start a cycle ride into the Chiltern Hills? Download details of three cycle rides, ranging from 11 to 25 miles long. All rides start at the Town Hall in Wallingford. Each route has been developed and tested by families with both novice and more experienced cyclists.
Enjoy the view from the River Thames: Salter’s Steamers operate passenger trips from Wallingford to Reading, calling at Goring, Beale Park and Mapledurham.
Film and TV locations
Wallingford is not all that it seems. This most respectable riverside town is, in fact, at the very heart of Midsomer Murders country. Wallingford is the original location of Causton, the main capital of the fictious Midsomer County and home to the original Detective Chief Inspector, Tom Barnaby, who was often seen wondering around the town’s marketplace or driving across Wallingford Bridge.
Wallingford Town Council have produced a leaflet of locations for the series to help you to follow in the footsteps of this most famous detective. There are also two driving tours available to follow through Wallingford and the surrounding countryside.
Where to stay
Choices in and around Wallingford include:
To find more places to stay, visit Wallingford Town Information Centre
Heading further afield
Brightwell Vineyard – 2 miles away
Brightwell Vineyard. This typical Chilterns vineyard produces white, rosé, red and sparkling wines, which frequently win medals. The vineyard and winery is open for sales on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, 12-6pm. Sales at other times are available from the vineyard house or online. You can also find out more by booking a tour or wine tasting event.
Dorchester Abbey – 4 miles away
Dorchester Abbey is the church of the medieval abbey that was saved (along with its guest house) when the monasteries were ‘dissolved’ by Henry VIII. See the displays in the Cloister Gallery and 16th-century Old School Room, then take tea in the Abbey Tea Room.
Ewelme Watercress Beds and Local Nature Reserve
Ewelme Watercress Beds. North-east of Wallingford, Ewelme is nestled in a green dip, with narrow lanes and pretty cottages tumbling down the hillside to the now defunct watercress beds that are fed by the Ewelme Brook. Production of watercress has sadly ceased, but these beds are managed by the Chiltern Society who organise events in the reserve.
Didcot Railway Centre – 7 miles away
Didcot Railway Centre. There’s lots to see and do at this living museum. Marvel at the imposing and unique collection of Great Western Railway steam engines, coaches, wagons, set against the backdrop of the original 1930s engine shed. The Centre has also recreated a section of Brunel’s broad-gauge railway and relocated one of Didcot’s 19th-century Transfer Sheds.
Nuffield Place – 7 miles away
Nuffield Place was acquired by the National Trust, but was once the home of Lord Nuffield, the founder of Morris Motor Cars and one of the most remarkable men of the 20th century. Explore the perfect time capsule of the house, learn about his cars and enjoy the gardens. The property has seasonal opening times.
Getting here by train
The nearest station is Cholsey, 2 miles from Wallingford. From London Paddington, the journey takes about 50 minutes at its quickest. Find train times from the Trainline.
Getting here by road
Wallingford is 50 miles from London. It is on the A4130, which can be reached from the M40 or M4 and A404.