Sunday, 30 March 2014

Stoke Row

This little village is probably the friendliest, nicest place I have had the privilege of visiting so far. It is very small - a hamlet really - but has much to offer. I confess I am biased; much of my family are from Stoke Row and some remain. My great, great aunt was, according to my grandad, the keeper of the Majaraja of Benares' well (photo below) and we have many family photos of little old people sitting outside this lovely shaped building.

Stoke Row is the highest village in the Chilterns. It has its own primary school , garage, post office, shop, cherry orchard (open to the public), two pubs, and of course, a park. 

The easiest way of arriving is from the A4074 - the Reading Road from the Crowmarsh roundabout - travelling towards Reading. Turn off on your right towards Checkendon, well signposted - and follow the directions through the village towards Stoke Row. There is a sign for Checkendon post office and shop but don't turn right. It's a couple of miles through lovely countryside. 

Find this park on the google map I made for you. 

When you arrive you will see there is available parking for visitors behind the 'well loved' hall. The village shop is on the same side of the road as the car park and the park is directly opposite.

This shop and post office is the repository for lost property and the 'go to' place for children who become distressed in the park. The ladies who work in here are truly lovely. 
There is an actual bakery in the shop - where bread is made fresh. Pretty impressive. 

Stoke Row garage - petrol served at the pump.

Friendliest garage owner I've ever met. You don't get this service from Esso!

The park is directly opposite the shop.  A variety of equipment for different ages. 

I really like the look of this little mound - looks like a fun place to play. 

The important thing for me about this sign is that it acknowledges people's right to pick the fruit, albeit at their own risk.

There are two pubs in Stoke Row. This is the Cherry Tree Inn. The Crooked Billet is harder to find and you may feel you are becoming lost trying to follow it. According to the garage owner, the Crocked Billet was the first 'gastro pub' in the country, so well worth a visit if you like that sort of thing. Details to follow. 

Maharaja's Well, and Keeper's Cottage - now privately owned. Initially I took my son here because he was obsessed with the 'Fireman Sam' episode where Naughty Norman gets trapped down a well. 

Nearby parks

Also nearby, if you have NT membership or are willing to pay: Greys Court, Rotherfield Greys.

Stoke Row has a geocache.

Saturday, 29 March 2014

Gallowstree Common/ Kidmore End

The park is off on your right as you drive into Gallowstree Common. As you are coming from Crowmarsh along the A4074 towards Reading keep a look out for the sign to Gallowstree Common, on your left hand side. Turn left, follow the road until you get to Gallowstree Common. 

Find this park on the google map I made for you. 

You will find the park at the first bend in this road:

However, as is the case with most recreation grounds, they can be found near the school - so just look out for a sign for the primary school

The sign doesn't do the park justice. It also says you are in 'Kidmore End'. Don't let that confuse you. Gallowstree Common is a hamlet and is 'attached' to Kidmore End in the parish council sense. 

There's a track which goes behind the park and plenty of room to for you car. 

When I arrived a local resident was cleaning up the park. She was very chatty and informed me that there is, in fact, a wooded area where children are able to build dens - proper old skool! It was a bit damp today so I didn't investigate but I fully intend to take my children there as soon as it's warm. 

This park is packed! It has much equipment and it is also suitable for children of all ages (up to 12 years). 

My daughter is desperate to use this! It is as big as it looks. You may wish to steer your very little ones away from this.

...and perhaps towards this:

more equipment suitable for older children...

A lovely little sheltered area for smaller children.

 And baby swings

These balance beams are always popular...

The aforenamed friendly resident tidying up:) 

This little hut is being removed shortly. 

Perhaps there are many visitors to this playground...there are very many places to sit.

Nearby parks: 

Stoke Row, Sonning Common (still to visit), South Stoke, Woodcote, Checkendon, Ipsden, Ewelme, Nettlebed

Other things: 

Gallowstree Common is also the home of the 'Reformation' pub. It has a pirates' ship in the garden for children to play on, and also welcomes dogs.

This pub will shortly appear on my 'Pubs with Playgrounds' blog. If you happen to visit the pub, please mention how you came by it. Whereas there are many playgrounds around, the same cannot be said about pubs with playgrounds. I cannot travel long distances to these pubs, and hence let everyone know about them, without some form of financial compensation. 

Other info

Yes, Gallowstree Common was used as a public gallows. These extracts are from the 'Oxfordshire Villages' wesbite: 

"Gallowstree Common is named after on oak tree that used to stand away from other trees and was used, as its name implies, as a gallows. It is thought that the last hanging was in 1825 for sheep stealing. The tree no longer stands and its stump was removed at the time of the village enclosure".

"Gallowstree Common also has its well and the wellhouse is a listed building with low red brick and flint-panelled walls. One side of the wellhouse is completely open for access to the well and its iron winding gear. There are two listed buildings in Gallowstree Common, the other one being The Orchards, which is a Grade II brick and timber framed house with parts of it dating from the C17".

Kidmore End - just down the road:

There is also a pub here, called the New Inn. It is lovely, with a fire, a fantastic garden and some bit of play equipment. As above, I shall be revisiting this pub to take photos. If you do happen to visit, please do mention where you heard about them. 

This is the third well I have discovered gallivanting around. The other two are in  Highmoor Cross and Stoke Row. Stoke Row's well is called the Maharaja's Well because the Maharaja of Benares paid for its installation. I find it interesting because we have plenty of family photos of it. My great grandparents were from there and used the well when growing up).

There are other wells in Gallowstree Common and Ipsden. I shall hunt them down!

Sounds like the hard work it probably was - imagine hauling up water in freezing temperatures. Yikes!

Lovely view from the churchyard (the church was locked and the windows looked like they were covered in plastic. 

I could be wrong but I believe ponds were where villagers collected their water before the wells were drilled.

There are geocaches in both villages. 

They are both truly picturesque. 

Friday, 28 March 2014


Chilton park was our first destination when the sun finally decided to come out. It wasn't a disappointing choice and was extremely easy to find. 

You can get to Chilton from the A34, from Wantage and from the Reading/ London Road.

As you drive into the village you will see the church almost in front of you. Take the road to the right of the church. You will see a large car park and village hall in front of you, and the recreation ground immediately in front. Here is a simpler sketched village map.

Find this park on the google map I made for you. 

There are two play areas. The first contains this cube. My son had a lovely time playing on this, for an impossible length of time! 

This balancing equipment can also be found inside the enclosed area. 

Another piece of climbing equipment:

A very fast slide 
We last visited a couple of years ago during August, then the sandpit enabled a lot of fun. I was glad to see it has been looked after really well:

Zip wire. According to my son it's a bit slow. 

I had a go on this. You hang on, lift your feet up and whizz around!

Standard basket swing:

I don't know what this is called but it was excellent fun. You have to sit one either side, like a see saw, and spin in circles. It goes on forever!

Very large playing ground surrounded by woods, if you'd rather go for a walk!

Other things

Other very close parks, east from the Rowstock Roundabout, in order: Harwell, Upton, Blewbury, Aston Tirrold

West of the Rowstock Roundabout towards Wantage: East Hendred, West Hendred and Ardington

If the outdoors is your thing you are also in luck, for Chilton is on the Rigdeway. Phenomenal views of South Oxfordshire are you reward. There are also two geocaches in Chilton, too.

Chilton's Village Fair is being held on 7th June this year. This page has some more details.

There is a pub, the Rose and Crown. It's a typical village pub. Here is their Face Book page

There are some shops nearby, at the Harwell Innovation Centre. Whatever you do though, DON'T drive to Harwell village. The Innovation Centre is actually right next door to Chilton and you can find the map here. It's just a couple of minutes away.

There is also a garden centre which has a restaurant. It is visible from the A34. 

There is, of course, a church in Chilton too, right next door to the park. The school is not right in the heart of the village. It is very popular, with people travelling miles to get there. 


Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Britwell Salome

Britwell Salome  is between Watlington and Benson. It's a really small village but it has all the necessaries for a few hours of fun. The park and recreation ground are really easy to find, they are just before the The Red Lion pub on  the B4009, on the right hand side as you are coming from Benson. There's no public loo but staying long enough might mean you're tempted into the pub! I find that usually publicans are kind about this sort of thing when little ones are involved. 

Find this park on the google map I made for you. 


 Lovely slide.

Skeletal shade...let's hope it fills out soon enough.


 'Assault course' style park. 

There's no fireman's pole or zip wire, but these are just the preoccupations in our household. 

I would say the park is not ideal for very small children, but the swing may be fine. 

There is a farm shop, also called the Red Lion, here. It is on the other side of the pub and is well sign posted.  There are loads of parking spaces.  When we went in there were three lovely assistants, who let me take a picture of this stand, which for obvious reasons impressed me: 

They were all very keen to promote local businesses and there are many business cards on their counter.

If you carry all the way down along Red Lion Farm road you will come to a little triangular area at the intersection of three roads, which looks out on an amazing view across the Chilterns. People have knocked down bedroom walls and replaced them with huge glass windows in order to get a better view. I can't really blame them! 

Britwell Salome is also on the Ridgeway. It was a cricket club but no school. 

Of course, there is a church in Britwell Salome, on the left hand side of the village as you drive towards Watlington. It is fairly obvious where it is. However, there is not much room for parking outside and it is right next door to a working farm.