We’d heard great reports about Swiss Farm Touring & Camping, within easy walking distance of Henley-on-Thames.

The site is a regular in Practical Motorhome’s Top 100 Sites Guide, where the best motorhome sites are revealed, so we decided to try it out, making it our base for a four-night stay

Henley has an excellent train link to the village of Taplow and Swiss Farm is a campsite with good public transport links – there are bus stops at the entrance to the site, one service going towards Reading and the other in the opposite direction to Marlow, which fitted our travel requirements perfectly.

Swiss Farm Touring & Camping
Swiss Farm Touring & Camping

Celebrities and regattas

Following a restful first night at this peaceful site, we decided to explore the historic town of Henley-on-Thames, with its many independent shops and great choice of cafés and restaurants.

After enjoying a little retail therapy, we took to the Thames Path National Trail, which has views of the Grade I listed, five-arched Henley Bridge, built in 1786. The riverside was packed with moored leisure craft, with many other boats cruising gently along the river.

Next stop was a pleasant lunch at The Chocolate Café, after which, we walked along the Thames Path to Hambleden Mill, a historic watermill at Mill End on the Buckinghamshire side of the Thames. All the time, we had wonderful views of red kites swooping overhead.

Unbeknown to us, at the Upper Thames Rowing Club, not far from the start of our walk, they were filming The Boys in the Boat, directed by George Clooney, a film about the 1936 US Olympic gold medal winning rowing team.

Upper Thames Rowing Club
Upper Thames Rowing Club, in Henley-on-Thames, an ideal film location – image: Sue Taylor

We managed to walk past the film set (but sadly, without seeing George) and soon came across Temple Island. Set amid some delightful watermeadows and surrounded by wooded hills on one of the most picturesque stretches of the Thames, this is the starting point for the famous Henley Regatta.

On the island, you can see Fawley Temple, an elegant folly built in 1771 by architect James Wyatt for the Freeman family, as a fishing lodge for nearby Fawley Court. These days, the island is available for private hire and makes a hugely popular wedding venue.

Fawley Temple
Fawley Temple, an elegant folly, dates back to 1771 – image: Sue Taylor

Lock and watermill

Following the Thames Path, we eventually reached Hambleden Lock, a pound lock built in 1773. Caleb Gould, the lock-keeper from 1777, died aged 91 and is buried in the nearby Remenham churchyard. He was also a baker, who apparently sold his bread to the passing Thames bargees – the remains of his ovens were not discovered until 1975.

Hambleden Lock
Hambleden Lock, originally built in 1773 – image: Sue Taylor

We watched river cruisers passing through the lock, as well as a double canoe paddled by a group of energetic young people. Passing the lock, we had a good view of Hambleden Mill, on the opposite bank in Buckinghamshire.

Hambleden Mill was built in the 18th century and Grade II listed in 1955, and has now been converted into flats. Alongside the mill is the Hambleden Marina, which occupies two islands. Further along the riverfront are the remains of a fine Roman villa.

Hambleden Mill
The 18th-century Hambleden Mill building has been converted into flats – image: Sue Taylor

We continued along the Berkshire bank of the Thames Path, which joins the Berkshire Loop of the Wokingham Way. As time was getting on, we retraced our steps and again made our way through the fascinating film set, before reaching Henley-on-Thames and stopping for a welcome cup of tea in The Chocolate Café.

Island life

Next day, we headed into Henley-on-Thames to catch the train to Maidenhead. We had to change trains at Taplow, but there was little delay. Once there, we were soon back on the Thames Path, heading for Boulter’s Lock.

The lock was very busy indeed, with plenty of river cruisers and narrowboats travelling up and down the Thames. The current lock was built in 1912, replacing the 1772 construction established by the Thames Navigation Commission.

A short distance upriver from there is a weir, which has been modified to allow kayakers to go through without disrupting other river traffic, and is now one of the most popular white-water kayaking areas on the Thames.

The Boathouse restaurant, reached by a road bridge to Boulter’s Lock Island, is a very popular place for fine dining. Further along, a footbridge over the old millstream accesses Ray Mill Island.

The island is named after the local Ray family, who once operated a thriving flour mill here. This was constructed in 1726, on the site of an even older mill, and continued to produce flour until well into the 1920s.

Now this delightful island is a charming park, administered by the Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead and hosting a number of interesting statues, such as the ‘Vintage Boys’ by Lydia Karpinska, ‘The Companions’ and ‘Maiden with Swans’ by Eunice Goodman, and the Berkshire Sands Memorial Tree.

It also has an aviary and a guinea pig enclosure, wooden animals dotted around the park, family picnic tables and a pleasant café.

The adventure playground is very popular with children, and all in all, this is a quiet spot to relax and well worth a visit.

Having walked around the park, we went back to the railway station for the return trip to the campsite. While we were waiting for our train, we were lucky enough to see one of the new Elizabeth Line trains drawing into the station on its way from Reading across London – and a very impressive sight it was, too.

Magical Marlow

On the final full day of our trip, we decided that we would catch the bus to Marlow, a lovely town in Buckinghamshire in a picturesque location on the Thames, near the Chiltern Hills.

This vibrant Georgian market town has plenty to entertain visitors, with its historic streets home to a fine selection of interesting independent shops, restaurants, cafés and bistros.

We walked down the High Street, stopping at Fego Café for morning coffee. Later, we saw the town’s most famous landmark, Marlow Suspension Bridge, spanning the Thames between Berkshire and Buckinghamshire.

The bridge, opened in 1832, was designed by civil engineer William Tierney Clark. On the Berkshire side is the four-star Macdonald Compleat Angler Hotel, which is named after Izaak Walton’s renowned book.

Many famous people have lived in Marlow, including the great poets TS Eliot and Percy Bysshe Shelley, and authors such as Jerome K Jerome and Mary Shelley – who completed her iconic gothic novel, Frankenstein, while she was a resident in the town.

Sporting excellence

Marlow Rowing Club, meanwhile, produced Olympic gold medallist Sir Steve Redgrave, whose statue stands in Higginson Park.

A campaign to paint the High Street postbox gold in celebration of his success sadly failed, but it was eventually painted to honour the achievements of Paralympian Naomi Riches, another gold medal winner who trained with Marlow Rowing Club.

During our walk, we stayed on the Marlow side of the river, heading towards Marlow Lock on the Thames Path, affording a splendid view to the Suspension Bridge, before we stopped to observe the river traffic making its way through the lock.

Marlow Lock
Peaceful views from Marlow Lock – image: Sue Taylor

It was so peaceful just sitting there in the sunshine, watching the leisure craft moving serenely along the Thames.

A lock
The lock was busy with narrowboats and leisure craft – image: Sue Taylor

When it was time for lunch, we walked the short distance to The Two Brewers, a historic pub in St Peter’s Street, where we enjoyed a delicious snack in the sunny beer garden, before heading back to the site to prepare for our departure.

Find out more

Food and drink in Henley-on-Thames

Where we stayed in Henley-on-Thames

Swiss Farm Touring & Camping 

Marlow Road, Henley-on-Thames RG9 2HY, 01491 573 419

This charming and peaceful campsite, which is just a short walk away from Henley-on-Thames, provides a range of pitches and accommodation. 

The spacious pitches are set in lush landscaped grounds, and the site’s popular Farm Kitchen Restaurant & Café serves a selection of meals daily.

Dogs are welcome, and there’s a dog walk and a dog-washing facility. 

The on-site swimming pool is open during the summer months.

There are also modern facilities blocks and a dish-washing area. 

Lead image: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Head to our Best of British: Touring Adventures category to find more great travel ideas and inspiration.

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