Our personal guide to things to see and do within easy reach of Caversham. Also check out the 'Web Links' page in our 'Find Out More' section, which provides additional suggestions.
Latest Update: River & Rowing Museum added.
West of Caversham
Not as you might think in Aldermaston but just off the A4 on the A340. Once upon a time this was a significant place because of the Kennet and Avon Canal trade; now it's for pleasure boats and visitors. There's a little museum there and a lock as well as the bridge which has to be raised whenever a boat wants to go through.
Basildon Park is a National Trust Property and so it's worth checking opening times, but it is worth taking the trouble to visit. The property is well located up on a hill looking over the river and the not huge but interesting 18th century house has pleasant grounds (and a good tea room). It featured in the 2004 film version of 'Pride and Prejudice'. There's also an NT shop here. They do fireworks and concerts in the summer which are good fun if the weather's kind. To be found on the A329 road between Pangbourne and Goring.Beale Park is a great place to take children - lots of animals for them to see, pet and so on. Also on the A329 between Pangbourne and Goring.
The powers-that-be have not been kind to Didcot ... the power station may or may not strike you as impressive, but easy-on-the-eye it's not and it's ruined many a good view from surrounding hills. The rest of the town isn't exactly much to behold either. However, the steam railway museum certainly does make for an interesting visit.
Mapledurham is the kind of place that's quite easily overlooked - a pity, as it's well worth a visit. It's only 'up the road' from Caversham and in fact it's a decent walk there along the river - you just carry along from The Warren (next to St Peter's Church) until you arrive.
Mapledurham House and its associated water mill are open to the public at weekends from Easter to the end of September. It's worth a visit - originally built in 1423, the mill is the last to still operate on the Thames. In passing, it is the Mapledurham mill that features prominently on the cover of the first album by Black Sabbath(!), released back in 1970.
The origins of the fine Anglican church in Mapledurham, St. Margaret's, date back to Norman times, and the church was featured in the 1976 film of 'The Eagle has Landed'.
The downside of the Mapledurham is that sadly there's no longer a village pub or shop (as with so many small places these days) - so take some refreshments with you! If you're feeling lazy and want to go by car, it's a case of head out on the Woodcote Road, take the first left opposite the pub and then left again, a little way along that lane.
Pangbourne is nice enough but not in itself much to write home about; Whitchurch over the other side of the river is similarly OK. The privately owned river bridge is a little unusual to look at and they still collect a toll for using it - twenty pence for cars, the last time we used it. (The tension this princely sum causes between the residents of Whitchurch and the bridge owners has even made the national press.) The main reason for mentioning Pangbourne here is that the walk along the river, heading back towards Reading, is a good one. It is an option to get a train out from Reading to Pangbourne and walk back (the path and views deteriorate when you get close to Reading and it's a fair old way, but it's good to do if you're feeling in the mood.) Incidentally, Pangbourne was the home of Kenneth Grahame, the author of 'The Wind in the Willows'.
Living in Caversham, it is easy to not bother with the attractions on the other side of town. We didn't go to see the Roman-era remains of Silchester until quite recently despite living here for years - and the trip proved worthwhile. The Calleva museum is well done, (there are also lots of Romain remains from this area in Reading museum), and if it takes your fancy you can check out when the Roman ghosts are most likely to be visible and plan a return visit ... Signposted off to your left as you head south on the A340, itself a left turn off the A4 as you head West out of Reading.
Like Basildon Park, the Vyne is another National Trust property and again, an enjoyable visit. The mainly Tudor house has some curiosities, the long oak gallery and the 16th century chapel are particularly memorable, and the lake in the grounds is good for a stroll around. There's a tea shop too. Also signposted off to your left as you head south on the A340, itself a left turn off the A4 as you head West out of Reading.
East of Caversham
Christmas Common is a National Trust owned mixture of woodland and open hillside with superb views over the surrounding countryside. There's a little car park at the top. There are long-ish or shorter walks to be had around here. Apparently the triangular chalk-cut on the lower part of the hillside lines up with a church tower in Watlington down below - if viewed from the right place far enough away. It something to do with giving the church the appearance of having a steeple... in turn something to do with a bet.
Signposted from Marlow and Maidenhead, Cliveden is a National Trust house, built in 1850-1. It is for the most part a (very expensive) hotel and the public has very limited access. However, even if you never get to go inside, the grounds are wonderful. The house and the more formal gardens are high above the Thames; there are fountains, statues, garden buildings, walks of all lengths, (and of course a tea room and NT shop). Unusually for NT properties, the grounds are open virtually all year, at least in part.
Greys Court lies in the hills above Henley between the B481 and the A321. This National Trust property is the handiest for anyone living in Caversham and worthwhile visiting more than once. The largely Tudor house is interesting, the 14th century ruins in the gardens are too, there's a tea-room in the old stables, the gardens are superb and include a modern maze and a 200 feet deep well, and there are some longer woodland walks to be had circling around the estate.
Maidenhead isn't much different from so many other towns these days in terms of shops and all the other things you'd expect to find in a medium-sized place. However, it's Thames-side area is quite well looked after (if a bit busy) and the railway bridge over the river is the largest single-span brick-arch you are ever going to see in the entire world. (Not many people know that ...)
Marlow is a fiendishly expensive place to live, but a good little town for a mooch, with some good eateries too. We quite often end up there on a Sunday lunchtime. The river there is attractive, with a waterfront church and good lock and weir (footpath from the side of the church), and the suspension bridge is unusual - not least because of the way it shakes when cars go over it!
Going up river from the bridge, you can walk along to Hurley - a good stroll in good weather. There's a lock/weir complex there, and the very high footbridge you go over on the way was one of last things to be put in place to complete the tow-path walk from the Thames' source to the sea. (There's a village shop in Hurley, just a few hundred yards up the street that leads away from the lock.)
We thought the River and Rowing Museum in Henley (down by the river) to be well worth a visit, with good displays about the Thames and related matters, a reasonable enough museum shop, a decent coffee shop and exhibitions that change over the course of the year. The ticket that we bought let you re-visit over the following year too, which struck us as good value. Their website will tell you all you need to know.
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