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My favourite places: novelist Rachel Edwards

Novelist and seriously switched-on lady Rachel Edwards shares her favourite haunts in Bucks, Oxon and beyond. Where shall we go first?

Rachel Edwards

We’ve been a fan of Rachel’s since discovering her debut novel Darling (hailed in the press as the ‘first Brexit thriller’), and as she’s been an Oxfordshire gal for over two decades, she’s full of ideas on cool places to go. We’re all ears Rachel…

The Crooked Billet, Stoke Row

We had our wedding reception at The Crooked Billet and our guests still talk about it, years later. I love it all year round (it’s glorious in the summer and beautifully inviting and cosy in the winter) and the food is completely gorgeous. A truly magical place for us. 

Danesfield House Spa, Marlow

danesfield house white building hedges shaped into mass and tall shapes

I love my home beauty rituals, but on a rare occasion when I’m neither reading nor writing, I will head back to Danesfield House Spa. It’s not too huge, yet spacious enough to feel like a safe, relaxing space and to offer a wide range of top treatments. When I go to a spa, I don’t want to rush in and out of an anonymous brick box within a couple of hours, I want to feel like I’ve completely escaped for at least a day, and Danesfield is perfect for that.

Swish, Marlow

Whenever I visit Marlow, I like to pop into this little boutique, tucked away in Liston Court. Diane von Furstenberg has been my go-to designer for the past decade, especially for jumpsuits, along with Halston and a splash of D&G, but Swish offers something a little different. I’ve always received a friendly welcome there and tend to leave, more often than not, with some piece of sartorial treasure!

Wallingford Bookshop, Wallingford

This is just the BEST independent bookshop! Ali is such a dedicated and inspired bookseller and her shop offers a wonderful selection of books, plus a full ordering service, gift subscriptions, a book club, author talks and more. I loved giving a talk about Darling to her book club – they were a fantastic group (despite one lady of advanced years who took umbridge at my characters’ fates).

Nana International, Didcot

Tiny gem of a shop where I pick up plantain, saltfish, okra and other Caribbean food that I fancy from time to time. I write about Jamaican food as mother-food: nurturing, nourishing, fiery, comforting. Whenever I want to cook it, I now come here – after years of searching Waitrose in vain! It’s well-stocked (although favourites sell out fast), unshowy and a real find. 

The Regal Picturehouse, Henley-on-Thames

My husband and I absolutely love this cinema – it’s just the right size. I remember first going there on a date night almost two decades ago and thinking, “They serve wine that you can enjoy with the film – how bloody civilised, how Henley!” I hope they are doing okay through lockdown and can wait until the covid guidelines permit us to visit them again.

The river at Benson Lock, Oxon

Image by Suzanne Hamilton

We have been walking stretches of the Thames in south Oxfordshire since our children were young, and there are enchanting little ‘beaches’ along the way, where anglers sit, or dogs nose at the water. I’m no champion swimmer, but I’ve been known to take a dip on the hottest days. Rivers are old magic.

Benson Library, Oxon

I’m the Ambassador of Benson Library, a position I am delighted to hold. Libraries are incredibly important to communities and matter now, more than ever, and Benson Library is a wonderfully inviting and welcoming place. As a child I used to walk to the library in my village at least once a week, maxing out on books each time, feeling a thrill as I carted my literary discoveries home. Without my childhood library I can’t be sure I would have become an author.

Scarfes Bar, London

Simply the best bar in London, in my book. Nestled in the Rosewood hotel, it boasts gorgeous décor, wood panelling and Gerald Scarfe’s caricatures everywhere, low lighting, discreet tables and… books. Heaven! I’ve held celebratory drinks parties here, or simply whiled away a couple of hours writing while sipping one of their extraordinarily imaginative cocktails. I was introduced to it by another author friend and, ever since, I find it almost impossible to visit London without dropping in. It’s what every bar should be, but I’m glad there is only one Scarfes.

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