Picture of the week: 25/10/21

ONCE again, this week’s picture choice focuses on that extraordinary stretch of the river bordering the famous Cliveden Estate.

Back in 1939, the river-loving Astors owned a varied collection of river craft here, ranging from skiffs and canoes to punts and even an electric canoe. 

In 1908 the river had been brought to life in Kenneth Grahame’s well-loved children’s classic, The Wind in the Willows. 

A regular visitor to Cliveden, it is believed Grahame was inspired to write the book by spending time on Cliveden Reach – as well as providing a place of sanctuary and escape from the harsher realities of life.

Grahame’s experiences living at Cookham Dean were not always happy ones, but his legacy has encouraged hundreds of families to mess about in boats like Ratty and Mole once did.

And today, just as they did in past centuries, visitors are as keen as ever to take to the water during the summer months, when Boating at Cliveden offers daily skippered cruises and self-hire vessels between April and the end of October.

Picture of the week: 18/10/21

OUR belated post this week pays tribute to Cliveden Reach and a famous stretch of the Thames that has featured from time to time in these pages.

Renowned as one of the prettiest spots on the Thames, this is a glorious section of the river that runs alongside the famous Cliveden Estate, nowadays owned by the National Trust.

Set high above the Thames with far-reaching views, Cliveden’s impressive gardens and majestic woodlands capture the grandeur of a bygone age, and past articles have focused on the outlook enjoyed by the late Duke of Sutherland from his lofty perch among the trees at Cliveden and the peaceful war cemetery to be found in the grounds.

While visitors to the estate can wander in the footsteps of dukes, earls and royalty, in the summer months guests can venture out onto the water and view the estate in the way that so many past generations have seen it.

Boating on the Thames was a late Victorian and Edwardian craze in most social classes. And sitting on one of the prettiest stretches of the river, Cliveden Reach had the heaviest traffic of any up-river lock: on one single day in 1894, a record 129 launches and nearly 1,000 smaller craft passed through it.

Today that view of Cliveden House is every bit as spectacular. But more about that next week in the second of our series focused on this extraordinary stretch of the Thames.

Twins tell the long story of the Thames

GORING and Streatley are twin villages which face each other across the Thames, nestled in the gap that the river has carved between two chalk hillsides.

And it’s here that Chilterns travel blogger Mary Tebje sets off on another of her local sojourns, this time exploring the picturesque countryside around the Goring Gap.

RIVERSIDE SETTING: this stretch of the Thames boasts spectacular views PICTURE: Mary Tebje

As glorious views go, the backdrop of the two villages clustered around the Goring weir is the stuff of jigsaws and chocolate boxes, and the perfect starting point for a ramble around a stretch of the Oxfordshire-Berkshire border which is sandwiched between two areas of outstanding natural beauty.

Mary explores the long history of the villages and how the river, along with turnpikes and railways, shaped their fortunes.

Whether by boat, foot or on horseback, it’s not hard to imagine the bustle of the boats, soldiers and drovers who once converged on this lovely spot, and even today the Thames Path, Ridgeway or Icknield Way can tempt visitors onto trails which have been trodden for centuries.

Famous faces associated with the area range from Oscar Wilde to Sir Arthur (Bomber) Harris, and George Michael fans still make a pilgrimage to leave flowers and light candles near his former home.

The article is one of the many entries in Mary’s “quiet exploration” of the Chilterns which shares the stories of the people and places that have shaped the region. See more of her adventures here.