My Favourite Places
William Stonor's family have owned stately home, Stonor Park, near Henley, for a whopping 850 years, so it's fair to say they have a fair bit of local knowledge! Here are the places he loves most
William Stonor’s family have owned stately home, Stonor Park, near Henley-on-Thames for a whopping 850 years, so it’s fair to say they have a fair bit of local knowledge. He still spends a lot of time in China running his business, but when he’s off-duty he loves being in this verdant corner of the Chilterns where he lives with his wife Ailsa, a landscape designer, and their three children. Here are his Favourite Places.
Hobbs of Henley, Oxon
You can hire all sorts of boats, including beautiful Edwardian launchers, or book a day cruise on the river. It makes for a dreamy day out on a sunny weekend. We like to pack a picnic, hire a boat, and head down the river out of Henley, towards Hambleden Lock. It’s such a lovely stretch – you very quickly get out of the town and then there are fields all around. After a few hours, we’ll tie up on the side of the river and eat. You get a different perspective on the area when you’re on the water.
The Field Kitchen, Nettlebed, Oxon
This café does the most delicious food. It’s a great midweek pitstop for a light lunch or a sneaky slice of cake. There’s a little deli attached that does fantastic cheese made in the local Nettlebed Creamery, including my favourite, the award-winning Bix.
The John Piper gallery at the River & Rowing Museum, Henley, Oxon
I could spend all afternoon in here, it’s just heaven. It’s a permanent exhibition of the artist John Piper’s work, and there’s a personal connection as the Stonor and Piper families have been close for three generations. It’s a really thoughtfully put-together space – a series of rooms with a varied selection of his works. Piper was prolific and so much more than a painter – there are tapestries, ceramics and photographs here too.
The Five Horseshoes, Maidensgrove, Oxon
I’ve been coming here on and off for about 25 years. One of my locals, it’s a 16th century country pub on the crest of a hill, and from the beer garden there are glorious views over the Warburg nature reserve. They do classic British pub food extremely well – I often pop in on the weekends for lunch with my wife and children.
The walk from Stonor Park to Warburg nature reserve
This nine-mile loop, which runs along the Chiltern Way, is my favourite walk. I start at home, cross the hill that faces the main house, where you get a lovely view of the building, park and deer, before heading west to Maidensgrove Common and then into the valley and Warburg nature reserve, which has its own microclimate and is renowned for birds (David Attenborough is a big fan!). The Shakespeare Way also runs through Stonor – it’s a 200 mile pathway that runs from his birthplace Stratford-upon-Avon to the Globe theatre in London.
The Bell Bookshop, Henley, Oxon
This independent bookshop is a lovely place to go and browse – I can happily while away half an hour in here. I head for the non-fiction, ideally history or politics.
My Watlington grocery shopping trail
I make a beeline for Calnan Brothers butcher for my meat but also they source squid ink for me – I like it with pasta. The Granary is just opposite – this little café/deli has a great selection of cheese. Then there’s The Undercroft, an outdoor local fruit and veg seller underneath the town hall, a building which was built by Thomas Stonor in 1664.
Kimmeridge Bay, Isle of Purbeck, Dorset
This is not actually an island but part of the Jurassic coast, near Wareham, that sticks out on a limb. It’s where one of my aunts lives, and I have great memories of visiting during the summer holidays as a boy. I still take my family down today. It’s a beautiful place to swim, walk, go fishing and unwind.
The Great Antique and Vintage Car Boot Fair is at Stonor Park, Sun 28 May