Have Your Say – Regatta Towpath Re-Routing by Upper Thames

As I walked along the tow path back from the Henley Regatta start towards the finish this morning I was appalled to see that the towpath has been blocked in front of the land which adjoins Upper Thames Rowing Club where they have their boat house. The public footpath has been rerouted around the back of a number of trade stands that are now blocking the footpath and covering the majority of that piece of ground. The re-routed footpath is badly uneven with loose rubble stones which I think is an accident waiting to happen. When I asked security there guarding the enclosure I was told that it was within the land owners right to block the path and that as the council had done nothing to repair the path in the past 7 years they no longer had control of the land or footpath. I was also told that the footpath was rerouted in the interest of health and safety. In reality, has it been done as part of a money making operation?

The sign on the fence (above) does not look official.  Surely it should be on Wokingham District Council headed notepaper?

David Murray

Upper Thames Rowing Club Statement on their website:

In recent years bottlenecks on the towpath during HRR have made the towpath dangerous at peak times, to the extent that people have ended up in the river and tempers have frayed. In hot weather people have passed out and the delays, which can last for up to two hours, have made the towpath unpleasant. The emergency services have become increasingly concerned by congestion caused by picnickers sitting on the towpath, effectively blocking the route.

It is in this context that UTRC are trialling a new, wider pedestrian pathway across its land that will re-route pedestrians twenty metres back from the river along a hundred metre stretch and back onto the towpath before Old Blades. No one is being directed onto Remenham Lane.

UTRC incur costs in excess of £30,000 as a result of Health and Safety provision that has to be provided during HRR regardless, including footpath lighting, lifeguards, safety boats, First Aid, security and marshalling. These costs are compulsory. The police and EA are supportive of anything that improves safety and makes their job easier. We all want the safest possible regatta and daily meetings take place during HRR between licensees and statutory bodies to ensure the event run smoothly.

Towpath 4 runs from Henley Bridge to Old Blades. Bye-laws created in the 1950s allow for pedestrians to be re-routed along Towpath 4, which is the basis for the enclosures further upstream.

UTRC continues to do its best to make HRR run as safely as possible for the greatest number of people and makes every effort to contribute to the success of the regatta. Here’s to a safe and enjoyable HRR.


Hotel du Vin Website
  1. David Nimmo Smith says:

    This is the first time the towpath outside Upper Thames Rowing Club has been closed. Whilst they have the right – and I am amazed that they have been given it – to close the footpath I don’t think it is anything to do with H&S issues as there are more crowded parts of the towpath. Like between the Henley/Stewards Enclosure and the Remenham Club. This is a public event. Which should be enjoyed by the public and UTRC alike.

    Who has had the “serious safety concerns”? Surely a matter for Wokingham Borough Council, Thames Valley Police and the Magistrates, not UTRC?

  2. Dave Murray says:

    Note that to enter this area that has been established in the interest of health and safety the fee is £20. It is now called “The Henley Champagne and Cocktail Club”. The £20 merely gains you entry!!!

  3. Alex says:

    UTRC’s reason for re-routing the towpath is for Health and Safety but, rather than widen the walkway, would prefer to try make more money by turning the area in to an enclosure. I’m sure it would be more profitable to have the footfall that comprises towpath traffic. I concur about the loose rubble path – not easy for those who are not so steady on their feet, in sandals or lighter footwear. UTRC going for a money-spinner, but working against the spirit of the Regatta, and all who like to use the towpath. I recognise that Henley Stewards have done the same over the years, but they do fund the Regatta. Come on UTRC, please re-consider.

  4. Ken Arlett says:

    Why do residents have the right to close the tow path. The only reason it is closed for is ‘money’. If it is dangerous then why is all the tow path not closed?

  5. Dominic says:

    I feel the “Safety” reason was a complete sham, it was corporate exploitation pure and simple. As already pointed out on this series of posts there are more congested parts of the towpath.
    Having been coming to the event for thirty years I honestly felt more unsafe on this diversion than the normal towpath route.
    The diversion left people to walk on a very rocky uneven path, I saw people stumble on two occasions on differing days .. Several women in our group complained to the security staff about the toilets and people using them being on full display. I’m very disappointed that the club in question who I admire for their Rowing and Results, plus general good spirit to the event in the past , went too far. Many a person has left Henley annoyed over exploitation. I know of several who said it was there last year at the event because of commercial greed. It sets the tone for other to follow this example. HRR is a truly world class event. Something very special to be treasured. Most of us come to see the rowing, each and every race in it’s glory. To deny access to another part of the river bank negates from the event. Forgive the pun but this is one path the Regatta and those that make decisions like this should not venture down.

  6. Christine Jordan says:

    I attempted to walk the towpath as we do every year and found the changes dangerous and intrusive. The re routed rubble path is completely unsuitable for wheelchair users, those unsteady on their feet ( through infirmity or high heeled shoes!) and those attempting to push a child’s buggy.
    Upper Thames have not acted in the spirit of HRR but their actions have destroyed the common right of access to enjoy the river at this wonderful event. Shame on the Club for banning the public and forcing them onto an unsuitable alternative – all to ensure the Club and its members enjoy their privileged perch.

  7. Tony Gavin says:

    At Henley Royal Regatta (HRR) on Thursday 29th June 2017 I was appalled to see that the towpath has been blocked in front of the land which adjoins Upper Thames Rowing Club. The public footpath had been rerouted around the back of a number of trade stands and a ‘Champagne Bar’, which are now blocking the footpath and covering the majority of that piece of ground.
    This is a further example of the march of the commercialisation of a once great regatta.
    I have been attending HRR for decades, and the gradual creep of commerce and the pursuit of filthy lucre are turning what was once a shining example of everything that was great about British sportsmanship, into a ‘blood-lust’ feeding frenzy of commercial enterprises exploiting the knowledgeable and unsuspecting alike.
    More and more of the riverbank is disappearing under a deluge of private enterprise, leaving little enough space for the genuine rowing fan. If the path is dangerously overcrowded as claim UTRC, then they and the other landowners and clubs along the bank are most certainly the prime cause.
    I do not believe the plea by UTRC that this was solely done for H&S reasons, as – a) in all my time at HRR I have not witnessed any greater danger at this spot on the tow path than any other spot along the tow path – is the plan to fence off the entire bank from start to finish!?; b) the uneven rubble strewn casually across the surface of the diversion was of greater danger to pedestrians than the claimed danger on the main path; c) the sheer audacity of the move to close a public right of way must have forced up the average blood pressure of every genuine rowing fan encountering the same.
    Also UTRC claim the HRR cost them in excess of £30,000, just by virtue of their very presence on said tow path, how sad for them, they don’t look particularly strapped for cash, and judging by the small army of burly, intimidating “guards” they had employed to “protect” the naïve childlike innocents that are the hoi poloi (sorry – general public) whose only wish is a fun day out, I think most of that £30,000 went to the G4 Security or whoever else it was provided this garrison of bouncers.
    I have to say that I am seriously disappointed at the way this once magnificent regatta is moving away from an event for the ‘Everyman’, and back toward the reserve of the privileged classes. – so much for British Rowing’s attempt to bring rowing to the masses, and so much for Henley Town, Remenham, UTRC and HRR itself, shame on you all for allowing this to happen.

  8. Amanda says:

    This is a fuss over nothing. I cycle to Henley from Hurley daily going along the lane & returning along the towpath. I adore HRR and as I pass around 7am when it’s preparing for the day ahead, I’m impressed at what a slick event it is. The closed section of path is of no concern whatsoever, I simply take the slight detour both on my bike early in the day & later on when attending the event itself. I’m proud to live in a town which hosts such an event. Just a pity that we as a nation always have to focus on some minute piece of trivia and try to build it into something of importance. What a complete waste of everybody’s time to suggest involving the council, magistrates etc.

    • Dominic says:

      I think you miss the point that it detracts from the event by taking people away from being able to see it other than from having to pay to go into specialist pay per view hospitality area.. Imagine going to any live public event and then finding 100 metres of it blocked off from being seen by the public What happens in successive years as other parties take the same view and before long the event isnt open to the public but a niche of pay areas just looking to milk maximum profits.

  9. Paul mew says:

    I have been coming to HRR as a competitor and socially for over 30 years.
    This closure annoyed me and spoiled my walk down to the start.
    I do not accept the safety reason given by Upper Thames RC.
    It is sad that they have done this shameful closure. I would not have thought it of them. If more follow the whole atmosphere will be ruined
    If it is to continue next year I might skip Henley
    Paul mew vesta / Thames and remenham clubs member


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