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. 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, 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.
37 thoughts on “Messing About in Millionaire-On-Thames”
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.”
It is heavenly, isn’t it, Jan? Al fresco dining, strolls in the forest, paddling pools…
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
Moss on all sides of the fence posts: that just about sums it up, Celi 🙂 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.
It does look like a perfectly heavenly spot and day.
The perfect picnic scenario 🙂
What an ideal setting to refresh the soul.
I would have yearned for something I could float around in, though!
I did, Col, I did. In fact, everyone on the banks, human and otherwise, just wanted to be out on that river.
I can well imagine. The Ratty and Mole syndrome is inbred.
What a day for straw boaters, parasols and a steam launch…lovely photographs!
Thanks Helen 🙂 It was wonderful. It so rarely is!
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) 🙂 🙂 🙂
Ha! A Wednesday, if I recall, Brian, sometime in July….and now for next year.
Ah, how better to savour a perfect (English) summer’s day than in such a romantically English location! Bless you all and your enjoyment 🙂
Thank you Wanderlust; this is how we work. A little like the desert and the rain, only in reverse.
Sounds like a day to swap out your umbrellas for parasols! Wonderful.
Nancy, it was fun. But Ice creams were compulsory.
Sounds, and from the pictures, looks idyllic.
It was gorgeous. But Hot. But gorgeous. Hope Summer in the Big Apple is shaping up…
Oh, to be able to visit that place, and possibly get a glimpse of Toad, Mole, or Ratty under the willows (I’ve GOT to read Wind in the Willows again). And, then, there’s this, which sprang immediately to mind: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kw4gpy1BweM What can I say, I also love Mary Poppins!! 🙂
Karen, you hit the nail on the head! Although just the thought of wearing that many clothes in that heat gives me the vapours.
I have such good memories of the river. As a child, we lived on the river at Hampton Wick and used to go up river for summer holidays. I clearly remember swimming in the clear Thames at Sonning…1952:)
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.
Try the Cheltenham Cricket Festival next year Kate – sun, beautiful setting, cricket and a great big 99 dripping down your cornet!
I shall make a special note, Jim. Cornet and all.
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!
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!
What great pics. makes me want to go down to the harbour in town today and just lollygag all day.
I hope you did, Lou. Everyone’s got to lollygag sometimes.
What a beautiful place for summer, or any other season.
Although torrential rain can dampen the lightest spirit, Kathy….
Here I am, hiding from the heat in the house. 🙂 Thanks for taking me outside, Kate.
Whoops! Heat is such a novelty here, Andra. We sometimes forget how relentless it can be in other places.
It really does sound like one of those dreamy English summer days. 🙂
You’ve made me hopelessly nostalgic for England now…bother! Just as I was getting used to being a cloggie. Beautiful post and beautiful images. Kate. Thank you!