We went to the Ray Mill Island after our visit to BCA Zoo, to make a full day out of it. As soon as I told Ay, we will be going to an island, his face perked up. He was expecting to find pirates and a treasure (diamonds to be particular) but I did not want to burst his bubble 🙂
There is no parking on the Island itself. We parked at Boulter Lock car park. Access to Ray Mill Island is from across the road bridge at Boulters Lock. Its a small lovely walk and depending on the time of day, you can watch the lock lift and lower boats as the boats travel through it.
How can it be an adventure if we don’t get lost! Now, its quite an easy path. You cross the road bridge over the lock, move past the restaurant (which looks very posh!), cross the second bridge and you will see a board saying “welcome to Ray Mill Island” on the left side. Common sense would say turn to the left! Well, I saw another pretty bridge on the right side, so I thought thats probably the way to the island and set off in that direction. DO NOT DO THAT, unless, you want a longer walk. That side is the Taplow river walk and will take you through a residential area (btw those houses must cost an arm and a leg!!).
Anyways, we re-traced our steps and came back to the “actual island”. There is a Kisosk selling ice cream and basic sandwiches etc just near the entrance. You can also buy a pack of duck food here (for 1£). The toilets are next to the cafe, which you may like to use before you set off but the Island is pretty small, so you can always run back to it if you need to.
The Island is quite idyllic actually but note that there are no barriers along the river edge except near the weir, so please be careful if you have young children. There are plenty of picnic benches dotted around, or you can also sit down on the green grass by the lock to have a picnic. There are lots of pigeons and squirrels around, who must be quite used to having visitors. The squirrels actually came quite close to us much to Ay’s delight. There are boards requesting visitors not to feed them, but, one of them actually stole a piece of our muffin (not our fault!). The board also said they can bite, so please beware. There were lots of children on scooties. We just sat on the ground and soaked the atmosphere in.
There is no play area as such (unless you count the small climbing structure by the kiosk), but there are plenty of little wooden sculptures to climb. In the centre of the Field, there is a shining tree sculpture. We went close to find out it was the Berkshire Sands baby memorial tree, dedicated to the memory of the children who left too soon. Each of the hanging shiny leaf had a child name engraved on it 🙁
If you move past it, you will come across some lovely cascades and a small waterfall for children to play. There is also a wobbly bridge in the middle of nowhere, which also leads to nowhere. You can hear the chirping lorikeets from the aviary in the background. There are also some lovely guinea pigs in the cages.
Keep moving and you will come to the stunning Boulter’s weir, which is actually pretty impressive. The Weir is only one of around 50 remaining on the River Thames. The weirs maintain water levels so that boats can pass through the adjacent lock, control land drainage and ensure that water is available for public consumption. There are fences around it but I would still hold on to my children if I were you!
On the other side of the weir is the river water with lots of beautiful ducks, swans, geese, Canada geese and very cute mandarin ducks. You can also admire more pretty houses with private boat mooring.
The magnificent Boutler’s weir, beautiful riverside walk, small waterfalls, chirping birds and naughty squirrels all make for a chilled relaxing day out. I would recommend getting here early or later in the day, as I am sure this place would be very popular during peak hours. The place is not huge, but you can easily make a day out of it by combining it with BCA Zoo near Maidenhead (open only on certain days, so please check the website), Higginson Park in Marlow (which has a huge pirate boat) or Cliveden (NT property)
Trivia: The Island’s name dates from when the Ray family managed a flourmill here. The site was acquired by Maidenhead Borough Council in 1950 from the Conservators of the River Thames
Address:7-15 Lower Cookham Rd, Maidenhead SL6 8JN, United Kingdom
There is no parking at the Island itself. Boulters Lock Car Park is a short walk away (1.7£ for 2 hours)
Toilets and baby facilities
Limited Refreshments on site but a big restaurant
Support and guide dogs welcome with harness