Author Gill Hornby
Gill Hornby lives in Kintbury, Berkshire with her husband, the author Robert Harris, with whom she has four children. Sister to Nick Hornby, she enjoyed critical success earlier this year with the publication of her first book, ‘The Hive’, a sharply observed novel focusing on playground politics. Gill Hornby is talking at the Henley Literary Festival tomorrow (2nd Oct). These are her favourite places in Oxon, Bucks and beyond.
My husband and I were married here, 25 years ago in July. I grew up in Maidenhead and when it came to finding somewhere to get married, having not gone to church for a while, we were told to go to talk to the Reverend at Hambleden and he’d marr you! His one condition to anyone marrying at his church was that the couple would come for marriage guidance for six weeks first. That sort of thing wasn’t ‘us’ at all but of course we went to them with various other couples and it was brilliant and useful and fascinating. There was a really funny bit where were given pen and paper and asked to write down what we didn’t like about our partner. Robert was too frightened to write anything and I distinctly remember putting my hand up for another piece of paper as I’d run out of room.
Stonor Park, Stonor, Nr Henley
We had our wedding reception here, just at the beginning of the time the house and grounds started to be hired out. I remember organizing the reception and imagining us coming up to the house in this golden summer afternoon with the deer meeting us – but it turned out rather drisly.
The Sweet Olive, Aston Tirrold, South Oxon
This is our favourite pub, friends of ours run it, a couple of French guys near Didcot. The food is amazing but it does still feel like a proper pub. My husband goes there a lot more than I do, it’s referred to as his office, but it’s sensational, the nicest pub we know round and about.
The Thames Path
I do a walking holiday every year with girlfriends – unlike in The Hive, my book about school playground politics, there is no queen bee in my little gang! We’re very happy, without any misery and I’ve known some of them more than 30 years, from my Brasenose days at Oxford. This year we’re about to do the South Downs but before that we did the Thames path from Gloucestershire through to Oxford and it was sensational. We started on Saturday morning and got to the end on Tuesday with rucksacks on our backs, and pub stays along the way.
It’s so unspoilt and extraordinary, and you get a real sense of the river and how important it was. You walk via Lechlade, Cricklade, all these little villages. We stopped at William Morris’s house along the way, it’s right on the river. He used to row down from Chiswick, which seems quite extraordinary to me but it gives you a real sense of the river as the thoroughfare it was.
Burford Garden Company
I love it! It’s a sign of age when you get excited about a garden centre, but it is superior, with amazing food and furniture and tasteful Christmas decorations. It’s the only place on earth my husband will shop so it makes it a very distinctive retail experience! only paceon earth where my husband will shop, so it makes it a very distinctive retail experience.
Hurley island, Hurley, Berkshire
When I was a girl, I’d bunk off school with my friends, go to Maidenhead bus stop and go over to Hurley. There was an island there near the lock and we used to swim in the Thames in our knickers! I’ve no idea if it even exists now but it was great fun at the time.