I am not sure if anyone will notice if I disappear for a week but we're off boating on the River Thames. We set out from Wargrave (in whose churchyard Madame Tussaud is buried) and potter westwards to Lechlade where the Thames is first navigable. It's an open boat with canvas dodgers and, I confess, a diesel engine. I wish we were repeating our Three Men In A Boat style rowing adventure of a decade ago.
We shall pass gorgeous Cliveden House at Taplow which sits atop a 200ft cliff, its Italianate tower visible through the trees. Famous for entertaining the raffish 'Cliveden set' of the 20s and 30s and political heavyweights like Roosevelt and Churchill, it is probably best known as one of the settings for the Profumo Affair. Government Minister John Profumo, Call Girl Christine Keeler, Stephen Ward a society osteopath and Captain Ivanov a Soviet spy are all said to have frolicked in Bill Astor's swimming pool in the early 1960s ooh!! Cliveden is now a recherché hotel and we probably won't be, we definitely won't be smart enough to pop in.
There is a much quieter house almost at our destination which I can't wait to visit. It's Kelmscott Manor, chosen by William Morris as his summer home in 1871, signing a joint lease with pre- Raphaelite painter Dante Gabriel Rosetti. Now owned by The Society of Antiquaries, the house promises an outstanding collection of furniture, metalwork,textiles and ceramics associated with Morris and his contemporaries. There are "quaint garrets amongst great timbers of the roof where of old times the tillers and herdsmen slept"; also, beautiful gardens, with barns, dovecote, a meadow and stream.
KELMSCOTT MANOR. Watercolor [ca. 1905?] by Marie Spartali Stillman here
My illustration top © Rosie West