Archive for the ‘Thames Valley’ Category

Along the Thames near Henley

Well, this is the first post here in a very long time. Last year just didn’t feel like the time to be posting about ‘travel’, even though we did a bit of it (but only in the UK). However my New Year’s resolutions include things about being more positive because, like so many others, I found 2021 hard to cope with; a continual see-saw of hopes and disappointments; and that therefore I should recommence writing posts here. So here goes.

Many years ago I happened to take my elder daughter down to Heathrow, and en-route we stopped somewhere along the Thames for lunch. I liked what I saw and determined that one day I’d go back. Years passed but eventually I booked a short break at the Hotel Du Vin in Henley-on-Thames for early summer 2020. Well, that didn’t happen thanks to Covid lockdown, but we rebooked for the equivalent period (end of June) in 2021.

We spent four nights at the Hotel du Vin in Henley. Like many hotels in this chain, it’s in a re-purposed old building, in this case the old Brakspears brewery. In general they do these conversions very well, and we enjoyed the hotel. Good-sized room, comfortable bed, characterful building – what’s not to like. We had three full days in the Thames Valley, plus the journey down.Sadly the weather was not on our side – it was cloudy and overcast for a lot of the stay, and rainy for part of the time.

Waddesden Manor

On the way down we visited Waddesden Manor, a National Trust site. Mainly we visited the gardens; but the house is actually owned by the Rothschild family and not surprisingly the on-site shop specialises in wine from the Rothschild family’s various vineyards. Just up our street, then… We enjoyed the visit and would like to go back.

Then on to Henley which we reached in the late afternoon. We had brief walk around the area by the hotel – it’s close to the river – then had a quick drink in the courtyard and laterhad dinner. Truthfully, this was not very inspiring; burgers and not especially great wine. Still, we were also tired after the drive and the visit to Waddesden Manor.


For our first full day we stayed local. We explored the town in the morning, and we found it attractive and busy. The best part of the day, however, was exploring the riverside. We walked upstream for a couple of miles, up past Marsh Lock and across the fields until the Thames Path (which we were on) moved inland, and when it hit suburbia we turned round and walked back. We were impressed by the river-side architecture – oh, to have the money to live like that! – but the most delightful part of the day was the visit to the Museum of Rowing and River Life, beside the river on the edge of Henley. This was interesting and quirky, but the best part was an exhibition based on The Wind in the Willows, which is of course set along the Thames. (Kenneth Grahame, the author, lived for many years at Cookham). That evening we had an excellent meal at The Giggling Squid in Henley.

Our second full day was grey and overcast, with rain later. This turned into a bit of a ‘filler’ day. We went to Ham House in Kingston-on-Thames for the morning, then walked along the river again after lunch until the rain started, and spent the afternoon in the hotel. Dinner that evening was in the hotel, an ‘English Food & Wine’ meal. For example, I had a Battered Salmon main course with a rosé sparkling wine, so basically fish & chips & fizz! Interesting, but not altogether convincing.

The third day was the best. The sun came out, and that helped, of course. We did a long riverside walk – 9 miles, from Marlow back to Henley. We got the local bus into Marlow (which is the first town downstream from Henley), loaded up with refreshments in Marlow, and set off. I had been worried there would no facilities – i.e. refreshments and toilets – en-route, but in fact I needn’t have worried. About two-and-a-bit miles from Marlow we found a little refreshment kiosk near Hurley lock where we had a cup of tea; there were also toilets there. Then after quite a few more miles, and with lunchtime approaching, we found The Flower Pot Hotel, a lovely riverside pub at Aston. We stopped here for lunch and a soft drink – if we’d started on the alcohol I don’t think we’d have been able to tear ourselves away.

During the final stretch of the walk along the river into Henley we observed a lot of boats being placed onto the river. There were a number of eights, plus lots of smaller boats. Then we noticed that all of the oarsmen were in fact oarswomen; and I later learned that this was the first preparation day for the 2021 Henley Women’s Regatta. This was first held in 1988, in response to the absence of women’s events at Henley Royal Regatta. The latter does now include women’s events, but Women’s Henley (as it’s known) has gone from strength to strength.

At the end of the 9-mile walk!

At the end of all that walking we had a glass of wine on the riverside terrace of the Angel Inn, by Henley bridge. Drinking 250ml of Malbec out of a full plastic cup was an odd experience, but enjoyable; especially with the sunshine. Dinner that evening was out of the hotel again – an excellent Italian meal at the Villa Marina. For me this was the best meal of the holiday; my main course was ‘Involutini di Pollo ai Carciofi e Spinaci’ – stuffed chicken breast with marinaded artichoke & spinach, and it was absolutely delicious. We washed it down with an excellent bottle of Pinot Grigio, which was a number of steps better than standard supermarket/pub PG.


This was our first holiday for over a year. It’s fair to say that before we went I was nervous about being out, but we avoided the dreaded virus. Overall the holiday was excellent. Not cheap, but worth it. The hotel was good as a hotel – quirky, characterful and comfortable – though perhaps a bit let-down by its restaurant. The first and third full days were very enjoyable, and the two meals away from the hotel were excellent. I preferred the Italian meal on the last night, Val probably preferred the Thai curry a couple of nights earlier, but both were very good.


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