Henley on Thames via Wargrave
WARGRAVE lies on a charming stretch of the Thames, and its narrow streets, trees and Georgian timber-framed houses on the river make it a rather prestigious place to live, though be aware that flooding can be a problem here. Paul Daniels has a mansion nearby. But flooding is a hazard here – the 2007 regatta was cancelled because of it. You could get something with three bedrooms on a modern estate for between £325,000 and £450,000, but good secluded houses start at £650,000 and go well over the £1m mark. Shiplake is similarly expensive and exclusive. It has a number of new developments on which four- to five-bedroom detached houses cost from £750,000 to £1m.
The rowing regatta, held during the first week in July, has put Henley on the map. The first inter-university boat race was held there in 1829, and by 1839 it had become a recognised annual event, the story of which is told in the River and Rowing Museum. Hordes of people come to drink Pimms in the pink-and-white marquees and give the town an annual seizure. Though it remains pretty and rural, straddling the river by way of a lovely stone bridge, it has been affected by the influx of money. Two supermarkets have joined the good mix of small shops already here. The battle to keep the old cinema (complete with organ rising up out of the floor) was lost and it is now a three-screen complex. The organ moved to the Town Hall where it is used for concerts. Two-bedroom Victorian cottages sell for around £275,000; larger terrace houses with no parking sell for around £350,000. Anything large with a river frontage would have a starting price of over £1m. Commuters often opt for flats with views of the river – two bedrooms might cost £400,000.
Hambledon, four miles away, is also worth looking at, if only to admire the cluster of houses around the huge chestnut tree with the village pump beneath. Film location hunters love it. The village has a church, general store and post office, cobbled pavements and a pretty little stream running through. Properties rarely come on the market. A small cottage with no rear garden or parking might be picked up for £350,000.