Continuing the break

In my previous post, ‘A break from the norm‘, I tell the story of Mrs E and her badly broken arm, which resulted in us having to spend several weeks around the area of Reading, in the UK, whilst she began recovering from her injuries. The journey continues ….

Base 3 – Checkendon

After our two weeks at the relaxing California Country Park, we moved on to a small cottage located towards the north of Reading, in the tiny village of Checkendon. Although only 9 miles from The Royal Berkshire Hospital, at which we continued to have regular appointments, Checkendon is located across the county line in South Oxfordshire.

We’d found the cottage via Airbnb, and whilst having very little experience with this method of booking, we felt that the cottage would offer the ideal base for the next 10 days, somewhere quiet to continue Mel’s recovery, but close enough to the Hospital.

The cottage is a Grade 2 listed building, and really well maintained; it was once part of the larger village foundry. A master bedroom was located as part of the spacious, extended ground floor, and a second bedroom accessed via a narrow flight of stairs, into the roof area, complete with an en-suite bathroom. As is typical of this style of cottage, dark wooden beams featured throughout, with low ceilings causing even yours truly to have to duck at times!

Neighbouring properties added to the charm of the village, as did the 12th century church of St. Peter & St. Paul, located directly opposite our cottage.

Saturday afternoons bought cricket to the village green, although the clubhouse looked as though it had seen better days
Checkendon’s stylish post box

Being located in the heart of the English countryside, we took the opportunity to explore the surrounding areas, and what better way to experience the local culture than to visit that most English of places, the village pub! Whilst my ability to sample the local ales was severely restricted due to the need to drive, we did enjoy lunches and dinners in wonderful venues such as The Tally Ho at Eversley, The Cherry Tree Inn at Stoke Row, The New Inn at Kidmore End, and The Highwayman Inn, in our own village of Checkendon. None of these places disappointed, each offered a very warm welcome, and served delicious food. We also noticed throughout this time that once people saw Melanie’s arm, complete with the scaffolding, curiosity often lead to a friendly introduction and conversation; a definite silver lining to our situation.

Slightly different to a village pub, but offering equally delicious food was South Hill Park, in nearby Bracknell. We met there with my cousin Ann and her family one Sunday lunchtime for a traditional Sunday roast; it was fun to get together with cousins that I had never met before.

After a sumptuous lunch, with excellent conversation, we decided to work off the food by exploring the grounds of this 18th Century mansion house. We very much enjoyed the woodlands and gardens of the property, it is definitely an excellent asset to the local area.

Very near Checkendon, in the village of Stoke Row sits the wonderfully titled ‘Maharajah’s Well’. A 370 foot deep well, constructed in 1864, and paid by the Maharajah of Benares.

The wonderful story of the well can be found at https://www.routeyou.com/en-gb/location/view/47462235/the-maharajah-s-well

The local area governor, who was from Stoke Row, had told the story of a boy in the village who had been beaten by his mother after drinking the last of the water in the house during a drought.

At that time in the nineteenth century to replenish the supply meant a several-mile round trip to fetch and carry the water by hand. The Maharajah was so touched by the story that he financed the digging of the well, along with a keeper’s cottage and a cherry orchard to provide for the upkeep of the well.

The well fell into disuse but was renovated in the 1950s and can still draw water. The keeper’s cottage is still alongside but the cherry orchard is now an ornamental garden.

Another highlight of our time in Checkendon was a visit we made to Henley-on-Thames, the Oxfordshire town synonymous with the famous Royal Regatta.

Henley is a great place to discover, especially on foot; the smart shopping streets, combined with stunning riverside vistas provide a very enjoyable few hours.

Henley Bridge

The area around the local church of St. Mary the Virgin was particularly striking, as the grounds include the stunning Chantry House, a grade 1 listed building, dating back some 500 years.

The grounds of the church are also home to the gravesite of British songstress Dusty Springfield, who died in Henley in 1999.

Our stay in Checkendon came to a close after 10 days, due to the limited availability of the cottage, so again it was time to move on, this time to another Airbnb property, in Reading’s Kennet Island estate.

Base 4 – Kennet Island

Kennet Island offered a very different proposition to the previous bases we had enjoyed, although it ticked the most important box of having easy access to the hospital.

The estate currently comprises some 1350 houses and apartments, and began development back in 2005. It offers easy access to both Reading town centre, and the major motorway, the M4, so is ideal for those working locally, or along the M4 corridor alike.

The apartment that we rented was a modern, 2nd floor 2 bedroom property, which included underground parking, and an extensive balcony.

One unexpected treat that the apartment gave us was the regular opportunity to watch a pair of deer, who enjoyed playing in the marshland that surrounds the area. The view of the deer from our balcony was delightful.

The area offers easy access to the town centre, including walking and cycling tracks, offering many opportunities for those enjoying outdoor pursuits.

The 8 day stay at Kennet Island was more quiet for us than other periods of our time in Reading, but we did fit in a trip down to my home town of Crawley to catch up with family and friends, which included a fantastic bbq, hosted by my son and daughter in law, Jamie & Rachel .

However, this period culminated with Melanie having her 3rd round of surgery, which involved the removal of the scaffolding / external-fixator that had been holding her shattered bones together for some 6 weeks. During our regular visits to the hospital, we came to learn that some breaks, particularly in legs, can require external fixators to be in place for a year or more, so we counted ourselves lucky that Melanie only had to endure 6 weeks. We had jokingly come to refer to the ex-fix as Rod, and whilst we were very grateful for the role Rod had played in repairing the break, we were quite happy to be saying goodbye!

This surgery was thankfully successful, and as our time at Kennet Island came to a close, we took this picture, showing Melanie smiling as always, the day after the surgery.

The final phase of our ‘break from the norm’ shifts attention to some serious physio, and a short road-trip before heading back to Dubai; coming soon ….

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