Whether you’re looking to move to the area or you’re a long-standing resident, there’s no doubt that the countryside in and around Henley is breath taking – and the beautiful surroundings certainly add value to properties in the vicinity. In a recent survey produced by Halifax, South Oxfordshire has topped a list of the best places to live in the UK countryside, suggesting living standards are highest in rural areas close to the capital.
After an over-indulgent festive season, what better excuse do you need to walk off some of those mince pies and stroll the rolling Chiltern hills on our doorstep? Up to 50,000 Londoners will quit the city this year to become countryside commuters and if you are considering joining their ranks, exploring Henley on foot is the best way to get to know the area.
Here are our top 3 reasons to dust off your walking boots, wrap up warm and leave the house this weekend.
The wildlife of the River Thames is well known for providing the inspiration for Kenneth Grahame’s ‘The Wind in the Willows’. The idyllic riverside is home to many rare species of plant and while you may not spot Ratty, Toad and Badger on your walk – some may be lucky enough to see a water vole, a cormorant or a pair of Mandarin ducks.
With plentiful nesting areas in and around Henley, most walkers will be able to spot Red Kites circling the skies around the Chilterns all year round. These magnificent birds of prey were saved from national extinction by one of the world’s longest running protection programs, and have now been successfully re-introduced to England and Scotland. Walks in Checkendon, Turville and Stonor are best for Red Kite spotting. (image source – chilternsaonb.org)
Henley has famously been the backdrop to many TV series’ and even Hollywood movies. Cobstone Windmill that sits on top of a Turville Hill has featured in Little Britain, Goodnight Mr. Tom, Midsomer Murders and most famously, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. A favourite walk for local ramblers that crosses three counties and three pubs across the villages of Skirmett, Turville and Fingest is the best way to enjoy the views and to see the famous windmill. The map of the walk can be found here http://fancyfreewalks.org/Chilterns/Chiltern3Pubs.pdf
The villages of Hambleden and Wargrave have also featured in many TV series, and offer many walking routes and bridleways for those wanting to explore the area.
The Maharaja’s Well in Stoke Row is one of the most unexpected sights on your local countryside walk. A gift from an Indian Prince to local squire Edward Reade to thank him for his hard work in Beneres, North India, the 368-foot deep well is decorated with a gilded elephant under the domed canopy, made in a foundry in Wallingford and was officially opened in 1864 on Queen Victoria’s birthday.
Henley is home to some of the best pubs and restaurants in the country, with many dotted along popular walking routes, offering traditional pub grub to Michelin star cuisine. What better way enjoy the Great British countryside and to work up an appetite?
The Olde Bell on Bell Street in the town centre is the oldest building in Henley and is a great place to begin if you’re kick-starting your social ramble with a local ale. Follow the street to the Fairmile and once on the Lower Assendon Road you’re spoilt for choice with 4 award winning pubs on the route to Christmas Common.
The Flower Pot in Aston is a popular place with families to stop after following the Thames downstream to Hambleden Lock. If you’re walking in the opposite direction and following the river upstream, The Baskerville in Shiplake is another popular watering hole for ramblers and families alike.
Which is your favourite pub walk? Let us know if we’ve missed out your favourite and we will feature it in our next blog.