When Francis went to Old Thatch


The alarm clock went off at 6 o’clock and I staggered downstairs to make a cup of tea for Izzy and I. We really don’t function without large doses of tea so the thought of going a few hours without it was quite daunting!

Remembering to put my camera in the bag and filling a plastic bottle with ginger beer we marched off to the railway station in time to catch the 08:59 to Reading. The train was crowded but we found seats as a lot of people get off  (and on) at Guildford. Relaxing and dozing the journey went by quickly and we arrived at the chaos of Reading station (huge crowds of people all trying to avoid the unending platform alterations). Luckily we only had to move across to the neighbouring platform to get the train to Maidenhead  – although we had to wait for 40 minutes. Eventually the train came in from London and the driver exited and walked to the other end and we took our seats for the 15 minute journey to Maidenhead. Arriving slightly late, we ran quickly via an underpass to the train to  Marlow and Bourne End. It bumped slowly along a single track railway until after crossing the Thames we arrived.

Yachts on the Thames

Yachts on the Thames

Our initial impression of Bourne End was not too favourable as it seemed to consist of a featureless 1970s era shopping area. Luckily we soon exited the High Street turning left into Wharf Road and crossing the railway, we turned right along the Thames Pathway. The sight of the river, yachting club and river side houses was much more pleasant. We were lucky enough to see a yacht race start and the boats rapidly sailed up the Thames away from us. After an easy and interesting 15 minute walk we approached a road joining our footpath from the right and we entered and crossed the railway line again and  headed inland. In a few minutes we saw the very welcoming sight of the charming Sally. She explained that the Spade Oak was not yet open (it was about 11:20) and was going to walk to the Thames. We carried on and reached the pub in a few minutes and sat outside to rest and wait.

Outside the Spade Oak

Outside the Spade Oak

Eventually the pub opened and we entered – I turned to find that magically Stef had appeared and we ordered tea and sat outside. Quickly after that Sue (Shadow) and her two children joined us closely followed by Sally, Shelley and Pete. Meanwhile our tea had arrived and at the same time a cat who climbed onto the table. Stef leapt into action giving the cat a saucer of drink and shortly afterwards we were left in peace! A few minutes of riveting Enid talk followed which was continued as we went back into the pub for a very satisfying lunch (attended by a charming young lady who didn’t seem to have heard of Enid!) Pete and Shelly gave me an education in Enid’s works (I am only really familiar with the Famous Five and the Adventure Series!) I came to realise that I must buy and start reading the Find Outers and Mystery series and particularly The Secret Mountain  – thank you Pete.

We finally dragged ourselves away from the pub and after watching a horse and foal, went through  a thatched entrance into the magical world of Old Thatch. The delightful Jacky greeted us with the news that our fees had been paid by a mystery benefactor (shades of Great Expectations.) Who could it be – we all set our considerable investigative skills to the task but to no avail (although there were a few prime suspects named.)

Meeting Jacky

Meeting Jacky

The beautiful Old Thatch house appeared on are right and we marvelled at its timeless beauty which seemed to float before us, perfectly framed by the gorgeous planting and gardens. We wandered  along a charming path and into the delightful individual garden ‘rooms’ with their flowers and shrubs which themselves were attended by a myriad of bees and butterflies.

Old Thatch

Old Thatch

Eventually we arrived at the back of the cottage where Enid used to sit and type away all those wonderful stories that flowed so freely from her mind. A small pond and overgrown well led us on to an area of tables and seats where we could sit and talk and marvel at our surroundings. Through the adjacent door we entered a small kitchen area where a very pleasant lady dispensed a delightful selection of cakes (coffee, fruit, carrot and berries) washed down by tea.

The tea and cake garden

The tea and cake garden

After talking, eating, drinking and soaking in our surroundings we realised that time was getting on and very reluctantly we said our goodbyes. Stef had a very long and interesting chat with Jacky and stayed behind to get her sample of the marvellous food on offer.

As we wandered back home we realised how much we had enjoyed the day and that we missed it all already. Roll on the next Old Thatch day!

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This entry was posted in Bourne End, Old Thatch, Personal Experiences and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to When Francis went to Old Thatch

  1. chrissie777 says:

    Francis, you sure have a skill for writing. Your last contribution to World of Blyton was very enjoyable and so was this.
    How lovely that you were able to meet a few Blytonites in Bourne End.
    Their Blyton books recommendations include the best series, but I would like to add one more: “The Adventurous Four” (1941) and the sequel “The Adventurous Four again” (1947) which have been created, before Blyton started writing “Island of Adventure” (1944). I only discovered them a few years ago and think they are excellent. Very obviously they inspired the Adventure series (The Sea of Adventure).
    if you want to read the Adventurous Four short story, look for “Enid Blyton’s Omnibus” (1952), it contains “Off with the Adventurous Four again!”.

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  2. Francis says:

    Thank you Chrissie – I will look for those books tomorrow – I am off to Alton and there are two excellent second hand bookshops to look in!
    Regards, Francis

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  3. chrissie777 says:

    One question: is it possible to see Old Thatch from inside, like a museum? Or can people just admire the garden?

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    • Francis says:

      The only bit we went inside was where we bought the cakes and tea – this bit did look a bit like an old inn. I would love to see the rest of the house but I don’t believe it is ever open to the public (not even to us!).

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      • chrissie777 says:

        Francis, I checked all my biographies on Blyton’ life and found one that I had bought (maybe at the Ginger Pop Shop?) in 2008. I had totally forgotten that I own it.
        Tess Livingstone did write the lovely book “Old Thatch” which has many photos, color and b & w.
        I could only find one photo with Enid Blyton sitting in her living room typing, next to a fireside.

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  4. Pete says:

    A great review Francis. Who’s your ghost writer? I must use him!

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