13th century cottages as we leave St Andrew's Church
... and walk up Thames Street
... walking alongside the16th c boundary wall of the Deanery
Edward Hudson, the founder of the life style magazine Country Life bought a walled orchard (the Deanery Gardens) in Sonning in the 1890s and employed Edwin Lutyens to design a house and garden. Lutyens employed Gertrude Jekyll to plan and build the garden. The house and garden were completed in 1901.
The Deanery house and garden was sold by Eward Hudson in 1907 and subsequently changed hands several time and remains in private ownership. Since 1998 it's been owned by Jimmy Page the founder and guitarist of Led Zeppelin and former member of The Yardbirds (those of you of a particular era may remember the Yardbirds!)
We continued to follow the wall to the junction of Thames Street and High Street
... and turn right down the High Street
Robert Palmer Esq. (1793-1872) Tory MP lived at Holme Park, (now the home of the Reading Blue Coat School) who was a great benefactor of Sonning and built almshouses in Pearson Road for six elderly or infirm former employees of Holme Park as well as this hand water pump for the use of the inhabitants of Sonning in 1846.
We eventually reached The Bull pub and decided it was time to eat ...
This 16th century public house was at that time a guest house for pilgrims visiting the relics of the mysterious St Sarik at St Andrew's Church.
Jerome K Jerome of Three Men in a Boat fame, commented on The Bull as ...
"A veritable picture of an old country inn, with green, square courtyard in front, where, on seats beneath the trees, the old men group of an evening to drink their ale and gossip over village politics; with low, quaint rooms and latticed windows, with awkward stairs and winding passages."
The Bull is, and always has been, owned by the church (St Andrew's) but is now rented to Fullers.
Never done this before!
We both ordered pan fried lambs liver and crispy local bacon served with bubble and squeak and a boat of tasty gravy.
It was absolutely delicious!
Back to the Thames on Sonning Bridge which has Oxfordshire on one side and Berkshire on the other
We've cruised under this bridge on many occasions ... it needs concentration
... to get safely through to the other side.
... where we look for George Clooney's new home ... Aberlash House, a Georgian Mansion on Sonning Eye (island) ... those are the gates to the property on the left
Aberlash House stands next to The Mill, a flour mill mentioned in the Doomsday Book in 1086
Up until 1950 the mill had its own fleet of barges which brought wheat from London right up to its door. In 1962, when the business was taken over by Associated British Foods Ltd., they remodelled yet again and introduced electric engines although the main source of power was still produced by the wheels. When the mill closed in 1969, it was one of the last flour mills on the Thames driven by wheels. The new port mill at Tilbury had opened and Sonning, being much smaller could not compete economically. Also, one of Sonning's major customers, Huntley and Palmers, had stopped making biscuits in Reading.
The mill remained empty until 1977, and then the owners, Tim and Frank Richards, began converting The Mill to the building we see today, from an idea by Eileen Richards. 'The Mill at Sonning' Theatre opened on July 22nd 198 and continues to go from strength to strength thanks to its ever loyal staff and audience, having produced an abundance of plays and musicals. In 1984, The Mill At Sonning was given a conservation award by The Times newspaper and The Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors for the design, restoration and conversion of the derelict mill into a dinner theatre, and recently was nominated Most Welcoming Theatre by the Theatre Managers Association.
Back to the bridge ...
... we can see just a glimpse of the Clooney's house
... and call into the lock cafe for an ice-cream and a sit down.
And the best way to round off a fantastic day is always a stunning sunset.