1908 – Along the River Thames
AT A GLANCE
“Believe me, my young friend, there is nothing – absolutely nothing – half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats.” ― Kenneth Grahame, The Wind in the Willows
We couldn't agree more and, after too long an absence, we've dusted down this splendid tour and rejuvenated it for the forthcoming season. It's an excellent tour on so many levels – very little driving, two locations, close to London and Oxford, and comprising an interesting selection of gardens from the vast acres of Kew to the modest size of the private gardens. As always, all at our own unhurried pace.
The tour covers the length of River Thames from just southeast of Oxford, in the west, to Richmond upon Thames, a London Borough some 8 miles from central London, in the east – and touching upon the counties of Oxfordshire, Buckinghamshire, Berkshire and Surrey. And, although distances between locations on this tour are not great, we have divided the tour into two equal parts, each of three nights, to ease our daily journeys through this part of busy England.
The River Thames
From Thames Head, its source in Gloucestershire, to the North Sea the River Thames is some 346 km/215 miles long and the longest river entirely in England. It flows through Oxford, where it is called the Isis, Reading, Henley-on-Thames, Windsor to Teddington, from where it is tidal, and through London to the North Sea. Along its course are 45 navigation locks, with accompanying weirs, over 80 islands and it is fed by 38 named tributaries.
Its unique position, geographically, and its use as major maritime route since earliest times, places the River Thames at the centre of many events in British history.
We visit a wide range of gardens, from modest private gardens, the scale of which we will understand, to grand, historic and internationally-renowned gardens like Hampton Court Palace and the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.
It is worth saying that the three private gardens we plan to visit are all gardens which open by arrangement and give the proceeds to charity under the auspices of the National Garden Scheme (NGS). The NGS is a charity, founded in 1927 to support district nurses, now administering access to over 3,500 private gardens in England and Wales, and raising impressive amounts of money for nursing and health charities.
Film & TV Locations
Whilst I may regret writing this, it is as well to know that we will touch upon areas famous for its Film and TV locations, everything from the windmill in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and the village in the Vicar of Dibley to serial Midsomer Murder locations and, more recently, locations in Killing Eve. The village of Turville is a particular culprit, and we shall call by if time and desire permit.
Sleeping & Eating
We spend the first three nights of the tour at The Chequers Inn, a lovely popular pub, where we stayed three years ago, and the second three nights at The Petersham Hotel, a wonderful hotel in Richmond upon Thames, where we base our Chelsea Flower Show tours. They couldn't be more different in character, but both establishments are family-owned, independent, comfortable and friendly – and both serve very good food!
We will 'dine-in' on the first and last evening at both establishments, dine out at The Crooked Billet – a particular favourite of ours – on the second evening at the Chequers and, on the evening of Saturday, 29 June you will be at leisure to do as you please. Dinner for this evening is not included in the price of the tour – and our suggestions are either A Cena, an impeccable Italian Restaurant, or La Buvette, an excellent French Restaurant, both of which being a ten minute walk from the hotel.
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25 June-1 July 2019 | 7 days
Gardens = GREEN Hotels & Restaurants = RED Transport = BLUE Other Attractions = ORANGE
DAY 1 – TUE 25 JUN
Tim will collect you from either Stansted Airport or from the Sheraton Heathrow Hotel, immediately north of Terminal 5, Heathrow Airport and, once we are all together, we drive west for lunch and the afternoon at Waterperry Gardens (pictured), beautiful gardens which began life as a horticultural school for women, run by the redoubtable Beatrix Havergal with her partner Avice Sanders.
Beatrix Havergal took on Waterperry House in September 1932 and spent the first five years felling and clearing trees, building glasshouses and improving the soil for production. Then, with the outbreak of war, turned it into a market garden, producing much-needed food, and Land Army girls gave ‘Dig For Victory Demonstrations’ to teach people how to grow their own food. The school closed in 1971, when the estate was sold to the School of Economic Science, the current owners.
We are not too far from The Chequers Inn, at Wooburn Common, where we will arrive in good time to check-in, relax and enjoy a drink before dinner at the hotel.
Today's driving is about 150 miles/240 km, setting off from Stansted, or about 80 miles/130 km, setting off from Heathrow
DAY 2 – WED 26 JUN
We start the day with a two-hour river cruise along the River Thames from Caversham Pier, in Reading, to Goring-on-Thames, courtesy of Thames Rivercruise, where we will have time for lunch and a brief exploration of this charming riverside town.
From Goring we drive to nearby Stonor Park (pictured), home to the Stonor family for over 850 years, to visit the delightful 17th-century Italianate Pleasure Garden, with its ancient yews and clipped box hedges, and the Old Kitchen Garden, a romantic, beautifully planned garden, with peonies and roses in full bloom at this time of the year.
We cross the river to Dorchester-on-Thames, for a private visit to the Manor House, a 2 acre garden in beautiful setting surrounding a Georgian house and medieval abbey. Its spacious lawn leading to a riverside copse of towering poplars with fine views of Dorchester Abbey.
Late in the afternoon we drive onto the Chiltern Hills, through some beautiful countryside, to the village of Stoke Row, for dinner at The Crooked Billet. It's about a 40 minute drive home from Stoke Row.
Today's driving is about 80 miles/130 kms
DAY 3 – THU 27 JUN
Our day starts in neighbouring Cookham, a popular Thameside village, with a brief visit to the Stanley Spencer Gallery, one of the greatest British painters of the 20th century, before a private visit to St Timothee (pictured), a garden renowned locally for its colour-themed borders, and its wide range of attractive grasses and perennials.
We drive into nearby Marlow for lunch in this vibrant Georgian market town, famous – amongst other things – for its literary residents Jerome K. Jerome, T.S. Eliot and Mary Shelley, who completed Frankenstein whilst resident in the town, and cross the Thames to visit Burrow Farm, a Tudor house, extended in Elizabethan times, with glorious views over pasture and woodland across the Chilterns. The extensive grounds include a formal box parterre, a rose and vegetable garden, cottage gardens, an arboretum and a 300ft well!
Our final visit is to Danesfield House, a riverside Edwardian family home, famous as the wartime HQ of the RAF's Reconnaissance and Photography Section, and now a luxury hotel. It's gardens were restored in 1989 and feature waterfalls created from Pulhamite, an artificial rock invented by Pulham and Sons around 1830.
We return to The Chequers Inn for dinner.
Today's driving is about 35 miles/55 kms
DAY 4 – FRI 28 JUN
We leave The Chequers Inn to spend the morning at neighbouring Cliveden (pictured), a stunning property – now a luxury hotel – with commanding views over the River Thames. The current house was designed by Sir Charles Barry for the Duke and Duchess of Sutherland in the 1850s, and replaces two houses, the first dating to the 1660s, when the 2nd Duke of Buckingham built Cliveden for his mistress, the Countess of Shrewsbury! Famous for its lavish hospitality and glamorous guests, Cliveden has long been the centre of political and social life, and never more so when the Astors made it their home, indeed it was an Astor party which led to the now infamous 1963 Profumo affair.
After lunch we drive to Windsor, to spend the afternoon at Windsor Castle. Founded by William the Conqueror, in the 11th century, Windsor Castle is the oldest and largest occupied castle in the world and has been the home of 39 monarchs.
Today, The Queen spends most of her private weekends at the Castle.
From Windsor we drive to The Petersham Hotel, one of our favourite establishments, in time to check in and enjoy dinner and a leisurely evening at The Petersham.
Today's driving is about 40 miles/65 kms
DAY 5 – SAT 29 JUN
Our day begins with a short drive to Hampton Court Palace (pictured), the fabulous Tudor palace built by Cardinal Wolsey, but taken from him by Henry VIII. The riverside palace later became the preferred royal residence of King William & Queen Mary, who had vast modifications made to the palace by Christopher Wren, and a Privy Garden laid out for them in 1702, and it is this recently restored garden which is one of the many joys of this enormous place.
In the mid-afternoon we meet up to return to Richmond, but not by road, but by Thames riverboat. The river between Hampton Court and Richmond is a particularly fine stretch of the Thames and it is, in any case, a thoroughly pleasurable way of whiling away an hour or two, on a late-June afternoon.
The boat brings you to Richmond Bridge, a short walk from the hotel, from where – unusually for us – you will have the evening at your leisure, free to dine at the hotel or, more casually, at any number of good-to-excellent eateries in Richmond. Dinner for this evening is not included in the price of the tour – and our suggestions are either A Cena, an impeccable Italian Restaurant, or La Buvette, an excellent French Restaurant, both a ten minute walk from the hotel.
Today's driving is about 20 miles/30 kms and this evening's dinner is not included in the tour price
DAY 6 – SUN 30 JUN
We start the day with a walk across Petersham Meadows, to Petersham Nurseries, and then along the River Thames to Ham House – one of only a few 17th century gardens to survive, and the recent reconstruction of the garden is based upon the original 1671 proposals for the garden.
Later in the morning, we drive to the other side of Richmond, for lunch and the rest of the day at the world-renowned Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. Your ticket will provide access to all of Kew's many delights, including its famous glasshouses – the stunning Temperate House (pictured) reopened last year after a several-year renovation – Kew Palace and the 18-metre high treetop walk!
We return to The Petersham for a grand end-of-tour dinner overlooking the River Thames.
Today's driving is about 10 miles/16 kms
DAY 7 – MON 1 JUL
The final morning of our tour is spent at The Savill Garden (pictured), one of Britain’s greatest ornamental gardens. Developed with the support of George V and VI in the 1930s by the then Deputy Ranger of The Park, Sir Eric Savill, the 35 acres/14 ha gardens comprise a series of contemporary and classically designed interlocking gardens and exotic woodland.
After lunch, at The Savill Garden, it is a short drive to the nearby Sheraton Heathrow Hotel where the tour ends and where we will be in good time for your late-afternoon or evening flight home. For those of you staying on in Britain, and not wanting to return to either Heathrow Airport or Stansted Airport, we will assist you in getting to your next destination.
Today's driving is about 30 miles/50 kms
During our tours we endeavour to be as faithful to our itineraries as possible, but sometimes changes do occur, either necessarily or unavoidably.