I am so thankful that the weather was no-where near as dire as predicted for my Henley walk on 15th July. We all assembled at Henley station (seventeen of us) via bus, car, the Liz line and GWR. I gave a short talk and then we set off over the bridge and then along the east side of the Thames. Most of the grandstands and hospitality tents and general what-not were still there after the annual regatta a couple of weeks before and were slowly being dismantled. Inwardly I am conflicted between feelings of resentment because I don’t belong to the privileged social class that goes to the regatta and the fact it looks like it was a lot of fun. Anyway it’s a lovely walk by the river, which is very beautiful and is surrounded by green fields. We pass swans fishing for breakfast and Canadian geese all in a line like we are! The weather is fresh and invigorating. We got to Hambleden Lock more quickly than I expected and after a group photo crossed over the river. This section of the river is very different, no longer gliding serenely along but roaring loudly as it rushes through the weir with us on the bridge a few feet above it. Ducks and geese are feeding happily in the midst of the rushing water. I love this sort of thing, it’s exciting!
Then moving away from the river we traverse two long fields and arrive in the village of Hambleden nestling in a wooded valley. It’s time for lunch, but we are earlier than I planned. Some have picnics by the Post office and Church and the rest of us go to the Stag and Huntsman pub (well it’s more of a restaurant come hotel really). Although I had booked tables outside we were seated indoors. I had really worried the night before about us being outside in the howling wind and rain that had been predicted, trying to eat soggy food while soup bowls were filling with rain water! The reality was different, the food was good and everyone seemed happy. After lunch we set off up the first steep hill, quite hard going on a full stomach! We climbed up through woods and there was a view of the Thames from the top of the hill. Then down and back up a steeper hill into the Great Wood. The wind is quite lively now and makes a lovely sound in the tree tops. There’s a name for that sound which my sister knows but I have forgotten. We emerge from the woods near Roundhouse farm with its round tower and then walk down a quiet country road through Fawley. There’s another short shower of rain (there have been a few) which has us racing to put on our waterproof jackets. But it soon stops and the sun is shining again. Leaving the road we walk for quite a while and then pass Henley Park house and we begin gradually descending into the valley through the deer park. There are some lovely views but there are no deer to be seen today. Then we are back in Henley about an hour earlier than expected. Half the party head off home and the rest of us go for tea and cake before catching the train back to London. It was a good day out, everyone tells me, which is just great to hear!
Chris. Photos by Stuart and Hilary