WHERE IS TOAD HALL?
As we have seen, by the end of his life, even Kenneth Grahame himself was vague about the locations that inspired his much-loved novel. The main setting is almost certainly a stretch of the Thames, centred on Cookham Dean, that runs from Marlow to Pangbourne, with the deity Pan, in the chapter entitled ‘The Piper at the Gates of Dawn’, pictured at Hurley backwater, close to Marlow.
The Wild Wood is based on Quarry Wood above Cookham Dean, which Grahame knew from the years spent at The Mount. By contrast, the watermill where Rat picnics seems more likely to have been based on Golant on the River Fowey in Cornwall.
A number of houses have been suggested as models for Toad Hall, including Mapledurham House, Harleyford Manor, Hardwick Hall near Whitchurch-on-Thames, and Cliveden (pictured), which is visible above the riverbank beyond Cookham Lock.
Grahame returned to Cookham Dean as an adult, but was disappointed by new building, which he felt had shattered its rural peace. Instead, he and Elspeth bought a house in Blewbury, which he labelled “a little grey old-world Berkshire village, in King Alfred’s country”. Later, he described it as “only about 54 miles from London, but 5,400 years remote from it in every way”.