Henley-on-Thames is a pretty riverside market town on one of the most beautiful stretches of the River Thames, in gently wooded, rolling countryside. It is an hour west of London making it ideal for a short side-trip or a long weekend away from the madding crowd. With a population of some 10,000 it supports the many small, attractive villages in the countryside around. The town's prosperity goes back to the 12th century as river trade developed because of the town's position. Today there is a comfortable mix of architectural styles spanning the centuries with many interesting features for the historian, some of which are [conveniently] hidden in the church and local pubs. The Tourist Information Centre itself is a fine example of painstaking restoration to preserve the details of one of Henley's older buildings.
There are many excellent reference books on the town and its history, but today's appeal is the backdrop of history and natural tranquility to an outstanding variety of specialist shops for the serious browser. Make it part of your trip itinerary wherever you come from - Copenhagen or Caracas, Lisbon or Los Angeles, Tokyo or Turin, or just on a spontaneous away-day from London.
There are delightful small villages and country houses hidden in the folds of the surrounding hills, yet easily accessible by car if you are mildly adventurous. You might get pleasantly lost, but only until the track you've found meets up with a more obvious lane or road with signposts. Villages locally are used for major films and TV productions, and you may recognise a fleeting image here and there. The local pub will usually have press clippings on the wall to remind people.
There are many peaceful scenic spots for a quiet stroll or picnic: it's hard to realise that you're so near London.
In summer months there are boat services up and down river to Marlow and Reading, which is a wonderful way to see the back gardens of some of the discerning rich and famous, or just to marvel at the scenery.
So, check out names like Stonor, Hambledon, the Assendens, Greys, Nuffield Place, Shiplake, Wargrave, Fawley, Sonning, Remenham and Ewelme. That's why you need a weekend or several return trips to do justice to the town itself and the pleasures around it.
Henley is a year-round destination enjoying the temperate climate associated with the London region and the Thames valley.
Spring is a fresh, crisp season, with leaves and flowers beginning to show, and late frosts sparkling on the trees and grass. It's the time for invigorating walks and warming refreshment wherever you choose. Sunshine, showers and brisk breezes alternate in this very English scene. Bluebells form vast carpets of colour in the neighbouring woodland for a couple of weeks.
Summer is high season, for rowing and fashion alike. Usually warm but not humid or oppressive.
Autumn sees the days shortening a little but generally warm and mellow, stretching that summer feeling. The beech woods around Henley are ablaze with colour as the leaves turn to their deep browns and golds.
Winter does bring icy roads and even snow, but not for more than a day or so at a time. The Thames, carrying the winter rainfall from the upper river to the sea, is an impressive sight in full flow when few boats venture out.