THAMES RIVER – AND THE BIRTH OF A BOOK.

A HOUSE BY THE THAMES

In 1996 my husband Rob and I bought a holiday house on an 18th century estate called Harleyford, by the banks of the River Thames in Buckinghamshire. For the next fifteen years we divided our time between England and Australia.

Our lodge at Harleyford

Our lodge at Harleyford under a rare fall of snow.

Originally we were considering properties in the  regenerated docklands area of London, but  were  seduced  by Harleyford’s quintessentially English setting. There was  even an 18th century  manor house, which we overlooked from our deck.

Harleyford Manor

Harleyford Manor, on the banks of the Thames

 

My imagination was captured by  the estate’s  bluebell wood,  ‘secret’ tunnel,  and folly.

The bluebell wood at Harleyford.

The bluebell wood at Harleyford.

As a writer, I was also enchanted by the area’s literary associations.  The manor is said to have been the inspiration for Toad Hall in Kenneth Graeme’s Wind in the Willows, and one of the holes on the adjoining golf course is whimsically named Ratty’s Retreat.

A  path across the old sheep paddock leads to Marlow, where Mary Shelley created   Frankenstein.  Nearby at Bourne End  is Old Thatch, where  Enid Blyton  wrote many of her  children’s stories.  The books may have appalled literary critics and librarians, but  children all over the world  loved them , including me.

The home of Enid Blyton

Old Thatch, once the  home of Enid Blyton

A fellow Tasmanian, the author Peter Conrad , wrote;

‘Once I began to read, I discovered somewhere else to live; the Noddyland……..or secret garden of English books.’ ….. ‘Thus I became unassuageably homesick for a place I had never seen which existed only in writing. That fantasy was my home.’

I could certainly relate to Conrad.  Harleyford  was my ‘secret garden’.  I remain convinced that the magic faraway tree  still grows somewhere in the surrounding beech woods.

A wooden footbridge crosses the Thames on the downriver boundary of the estate.

It was built as the  final link on the Thames Path, replacing a long vanished ferry. The daily sight of that bridge inspired Rob and I to walk the Path, beginning at the river’s source in a Gloucestershire field and ending at the Thames estuary, where the river flows into the North Sea.

I guess it was inevitable that my journey would result in a book. It was published in London in 2013 as All Along the River; Tales From the Thames. It is intended as a companion volume to more formal Thames Path guides. To my great pleasure the book was launched at Marlow Library  by the town’s delightful mayor, Suzanne Brown.  She certainly dressed for the occasion, complete with her chain of office and that spectacular hat!

Balm to an author's heart!

Balm to an author’s heart!

Mayor Suzanne Brown and the author.

Mayor Suzanne Brown and the somewhat   overshadowed author.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

WHAT ARE YOUR EXPERIENCES OF THE THAMES? FEEL FREE TO LEAVE A COMMENT IN THE BOX BELOW.

6 Comments
  1. Pauline, I love the photo of you and the Lady Mayor. Her hat is gorgeous. Any female who wears pink is a friend of mine. Your photo of the River Thames looks so romantic with canal and other motor boats moored along its banks. We lived in U.K. for just over nine years before returning to Australia. It was in a small village outside of Haywards Heath in Sussex. The Downs was a place we often wandered over. We had bluebells in some woods close to our house, too. I remember trudging through the moist, soggy fallen leaves trying to dodge the bluebells so we wouldn’t crush them, almost an impossible task. I guess the manor house of Harleyford was lived in. At one stage in our English experience we lived in the gatehouse of a manor house. It was a beautiful, quaint dark brick cottage with a small bell tower because there was a secondary purpose for being there as it acted as the schoolhouse for the Manor. The manor and cottage was more like the Tudor period style dwellings with lovely triangular leadlight windows and heavy oak doors with large hinges.

    • Pauline

      Hi Heather
      The Manor House is unoccupied right now, a bit sad really. Every city should have a mayor who wears pink hats! I envy you having lived in a gatehouse, they have such charm. Harleyford had East Lodge and West Lodge. P. x

  2. What a beautiful spot – and with all that history to hand. No wonder you were inspired!

    • Pauline

      It was so lovely Ann, all my childhood dreams of England come true!

  3. I was thinking of you constantly over the past few days dear Pauline. I traveled twice through Tunbridge Wells last week where your friend Errol lives; I was telling my friend Jane about your book and subsequent book launch at the library as we drove through Marlow on our way to walk up the MIDDLE of the Thames at Hambleden; I mentioned you again as we went past Harleyford on our journey; and I was staying at my friend Jane’s whose house you visited when you and Dr Bob were staying in Maidenhead.
    And to think, we’d never have met if it hadn’t been for Facebook!

    • Pauline

      I agree Marcia. lots of good things came out of that awful writing group! Hahahaha Meeting you was definitely one of them. xxx

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