Henley on Thames, 2023

Sunday 14th May. Hard to believe that it’s been more than six months since we were away in the motorhome. Various things have got in the way. The van needed some attention last November and was at the dealer for a few weeks, a booked trip to Chatsworth was cancelled because of bad weather. Come the new year Margaret had a cataract operation which prevented any trips away until she got new glasses. In February we had a new bathroom fitted at home which again restricted our ability to get away and on top of that various routine medical appointments that were put on hold due to COVID have started to come through thick and fast. So, at long last an opportunity came to go away for a few days a in mid-May.

For a short break away we like to keep the distance to the destination between 50 and 100 miles so Henley on Thames seemed an ideal distance. Sunday 14th May and we were ready for the off. Lucky with the weather as it seemed to be on the change to being slightly warmer and the sun was shining. We reverted to our road atlas to plan the journey as the sat nav wanted to take us down too many rabbit holes! We knew there were issues with the roads around Oxford so we decided to take the M 40 south from Bicester. The M40 is a quite attractive motorway in many parts traversing some very attractive countryside. And who can forget the bridge, at Stokenchurch, in the opening shots of the Vicar of Dibley to the strains of the Lord is my Sheppard! Before we got that far we did make a coffee stop at the Oxford Services. The only problem coming this way is that you have to navigate through Marlow and the road from there to Henley is a bit tight in places.

We had chosen to stay at Swiss Farm rather than the nearby CMC site. Price wise there was not much difference and we got a fully serviced pitch into the bargain. It is also further back from the busy road so far, less traffic noise. We have stayed here before but the last time was during the 2012 Olympics as we used it as a base for visiting the Rowing events on what later became known as super Saturday.

Monday 15th May. Rain overnight but it dawned a lovely sunny day but with a stiff northerly breeze. We think we have discovered a big potential problem! When getting a bottle of water out of the fridge we noticed it had quite a lot of ice in it. Earlier I had had a yoghurt which seemed frozen but that often happens if they are stored too near the freezing elements. What Margaret was worried about was her spare insulin which is stored in the lower section of the fridge. Although when we looked at it, it did not appear frozen there was a worry that it might have been and as such would be useless. So, first job today was to walk into Henley to visit a pharmacy. It does just highlight all this nonsense about pharmacists being able to prescribe things, because even if true, it is very limited! Boots weren’t unhelpful but we would need to phone our surgery and get them to electronically transfer a new prescription to them. The second pharmacy, smaller private, was a bit more useful as he thought that the insulin was probably OK and hadn’t been frozen, and in all probability, would be fine! He did say that without a prescription you could always buy the insulin but at £80 a pack we declined. By now you are all probably wondering why we had the problem in the first place? After all it’s not the first time that we have been away in this motorhome. Well, it transpires that when it was in for service the dealer clearly put the fridge on maximum setting to test the fridge. We failed to notice this and as a result ended up with things freezing the fridge! Hopefully a lesson learnt?

After all that excitement we did have a good wander around the town which for those that have not been is well worth a visit. Plenty of shops ,cafes and restaurants. Down by the river they are getting ready for the Regatta with all the marquees being put up. Margaret loves to look at the Estate Agents to check out the local prices. We expected the house prices to be high but what was interesting was the rent prices. Over £4000 a month in some cases, more than we paid for our first home!

Tuesday 16th May. I walked about three and a half miles yesterday which I appreciate for many is not a particularly long way but with all my knee and hip problems it is. I can only say that I suffered last night when it was difficult to get comfortable. I have taken one of my strong painkillers today so that we could go for another walk. It was only down to the river bank which is probably as far as walking into Henley. There were a few boats on the river including a trip boat and a very old cruiser which one could have imagined making the trip to Dunkerque! More evidence of them getting ready for the Regatta with pile drivers marking out the Regatta Course. On the way back to the van we stopped at the excellent café they have at Swiss Farm for lunch. It was so good I somehow doubt we will need much to eat this evening!!!

Wednesday 17th May. Our last day here before going home tomorrow. We had the intention of taking the bus into Marlow but by the time we were ready the bus service seemed to be hit by cancellations meaning a wait of about an hour for the next bus. We got as far as the site café and decided that rather than mess around with buses we would just have a coffee and a pain au chocolate. The café here does really excellent coffee so it was no hardship. We wandered back around the site including the tent field. Through the trees we could see the CMC site which just illustrates how much further back from the road Swiss Farm is. So, we have missed out on the traffic noise but unfortunately the ground staff, for all the time we have been here, have been mowing and strimming which probably is a bigger nuisance than the traffic noise we tried to avoid! Obviously had we been off site we wouldn’t have noticed? Without doubt this is a beautifully maintained site but the cost seems to be noise, so much for no mow May!

Lots of people are attracted to this area because of the free roaming Red Kites which, apparently, were reintroduced to the area some years ago and have grown in number exponentially ever since. Whilst these birds are magnificent to watch as they swirl on the air currents I just wonder if such schemes go a bit wry? As numbers grow so will the demand for food which means many other species suffer as a result. Even eating a sandwich in a park puts you in danger as I have witnessed in the past. I wonder if the people who support these schemes actually ever think about the consequences? 

Thursday 18th May. Time to head home. We decided to retrace our route back to MK as we had read lots of reports of problems and delays on the A34 around Oxford. All was going well and we stopped for a coffee at the Oxford Services. The fact that the M40 seemed quite quiet should have set alarm bells ringing. It wasn’t long before what traffic there was came to a standstill. A quick check of Google informed us that there had been an accident between junctions 9 and 10 and the motorway had been closed. All I can say is that we were glad we were in the motorhome will all facilities at hand! We worked out that we were either stationary or moving only yards at a time for just over five hours! Even when we managed to get off the motorway at junction 9 at Bicester it was chaos as the queue coming out of Oxford could not get onto the M40. Once we got moving it was slow but we were making reasonable progress. We had fully expected to be home around midday but because of the delays it was actually 6.30pm by the time we got home. In hindsight we should have checked road conditions whilst we were still in the services. If push came to shove, I am sure it would have been quicker to go to the M25 and then the M1 back to MK.