WHERE IS TOAD HALL?

Countryfile Magazine - - Christmas Gifts -

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”.

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