Starting in Henley-on-Thames, we divert to a trio of intriguing historic properties before following the Thames once more as it winds down to Sonning on the border of Berkshire and Oxfordshire, then turns north, with the Chilterns to the east and the Cotswolds to the west. It makes for a dreamy sequence of little towns and villages, though several have experienced turbulent pasts.

Henley on Thames Chilterns by Sharad Raval Shutterstock
The first mentions of the quirky town of Henley go back to the late 12th and early 13th centuries © Sharad Raval, Shutterstock

It makes for a dreamy sequence of little towns and villages, though several have experienced turbulent pasts. 

No wonder Kenneth Grahame and Jerome K Jerome chose to spend their latter years around here and to create such seductive worlds in the adventures of Mole, Rat, Badger, Toad and the Three Men in a Boat (and Montmorency, the dog). As you move north towards the Vale of Aylesbury, there are glimpses of Slow travel that were once perceived as not so slow: a heritage railway service and, improbably, one of the world’s biggest motoring names in a barn.

You can also goggle at some of the strangest artefacts of rural life that you’re ever likely to come across, discover the world of watercress and soak up the ambience of one of the Thames’s last remaining unmanicured marshes.

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