Messing About in Millionaire-On-Thames



Where shall we go for a picnic? I asked Maddie and Felix, on one of the first free days of this balmy, unbelievable, pinch-yourself English Summer.

Henley, They said. Lets go to Henley.

This in itself was extraordinary: they usually have a lot of stringent debate, nay conflict, on issues like this; but today, apart from Maddie mooting Hampton Court wistfully at one point, the way was clear to speed across Berkshire to the very borders of Oxfordshire where Henley teeters on the River Thames.

It is ancient, but pampered, this place bought by King Henry II for the making of buildings. It has beautifully preserved wattle and daub, Jacobean, Georgian and Victorian masterpieces peppering its gorgeous little streets, and pubs in which one could while away many pints given the right circumstances. ย The Old Bell is said to date from 1325, being the oldest building in the town. The Leander Club – the world’s oldest rowing club- sits on the riverbanks in pride of place; St Mary’s Church perches next the five-arch bridge with its sixteenth century tower and ancient chantry.

The weather is positively mediterranean.One must wear a hat and sunscreen, and umbrellas seem like an unpleasant distant dream from a misty dull grey land far away. The light plays on the willows at Henley-On-Thames, on the great riverside mansions where the privileged live, and we parked by the River and Rowing Museum and walked the riverside parkland to the weir.

Dogs panted, and yearned for the water so near, yet so far away. People braved the Thames and swam, somewhere on an island in the middle of the waterway. We sweltered, but there was always a bench to sit on in the shade of the willows which are everywhere, just as they were for Toad and Ratty and Mole. The sunlight has brought us back to that elysium, ย and we are in Arcadia, a fleeting heaven where every day is dependably light and bright and warm and quite, quite glorious.

We sat and sipped ice-cold cokes and gazed at it all; the boathouses, the mansions, the riverboats and barges, the rowers.

All utterly, utterly English. And just -for this short, precious time – heavenly.

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37 thoughts on “Messing About in Millionaire-On-Thames

  1. I’m finding plenty of occasions this summer for one of my favourite Jane Austen quotes…
    “To sit in the shade on a fine day, and look upon verdure is the most perfect refreshment.”

  2. I am thrilled that you are having such a glorious summer. In the years I lived in London, I found that no-one appreciates a fine warm day more than the english. Just a breath of warm air and the men were pulling off their shirts and women kicking off their shoes. (But when I lived in Kent there was moss on All sides of the fence posts), the description of your day was wonderful..c

    1. Moss on all sides of the fence posts: that just about sums it up, Celi ๐Ÿ™‚ We had a thunderstorm last night: but it’s hot and dry again today and I’m heading for Kensington. Better wear the bikini then.

  3. You forgot to mention which day and date it was that summer fell this year Kate, ?) (says the cheeky Pommy living in the sunny Antipodes) ๐Ÿ™‚ ๐Ÿ™‚ ๐Ÿ™‚

    1. Roger, that’s just wonderful. I have heard of people who lived on the edge of the Thames, but to use it for a holiday as well- fab. And the word ‘clear’ linked with the Thames: so refreshing.

  4. I used to live there. Strange place, with shops you’d normally only see in a town 3 times its size. Then there’s the duchess who sells her home-made cards for charity outside Waitrose each Christmas, and the blokes walking along still wearing their Brakspear’s uniforms even though the brewery closed over 10 years ago. You see, there’s two Henleys. One for the millionaires, and one for those who are born there. Different shops, different pubs, different houses even. And even then it get even madder each July for regatta week… I used to steer well clear then!!!

    Changing the subject slightly, did you encounter the roadworks at the end of the Fairmile? That stretch is Britain’s first dual carriageway!

    1. I had no idea, Laurence, that’s enough to send me back on a pilgrimage in itself! You and I have a series of events to avoid in this area in the Summer season….Regatta, Ascot, Wimbledon, Wentworth….every one’s a route diversion in its own right.
      Henley: I love it, mainly because of its stories. And there are plenty of them, aren’t there!

  5. You’ve made me hopelessly nostalgic for England nowโ€ฆbother! Just as I was getting used to being a cloggie. Beautiful post and beautiful images. Kate. Thank you!

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