Some of the best things to see and do in Pangbourne
PUBLISHED: 15:45 12 February 2019 | UPDATED: 12:44 12 March 2019
From its famous toll bridge and riverside pubs to independent shops and memorable meadows, the village of Pangbourne is as popular with visitors as it is with its friendly community
Shockingly, author DH Lawrence once labelled Pangbourne as “Pongbourne”.
In fact, a letter dated 1919 sent from the author, sold at auction in Edinburgh, was rather uncomplimentary about the village and its people. Had he paid a visit today he would undoubtedly offer up a much lighter review.
Bustling with busy independent shops and eateries, and with so much beautiful countryside just a walk from the village centre, it’s no surprise that so many visitors pop by, whether it’s by train, boat or even walkers calling in while traversing the Thames Path.
DH Lawrence isn’t the only literary link to the village; it’s thought that the water voles of the River Pang inspired Kenneth Grahame to put pen to paper to write the family favourite Wind in the Willows. Water voles remain a common sight as you stroll along the Thames Path; but it’s not only these small mammals taking to the water.
In fine weather, if you stroll down to the ever-popular meadows the river will be alive with motorboats, canoeists and kayakers all enjoying the water. The meadows are also the location for the village annual fete, which takes place at the beginning of June.
Pangbourne has recently become a centre for high-end sports cars with Lamborghini Pangbourne and Aston Martin Reading joining Bentley Berkshire dealership as part of the H.R Owen group.
There are also great primary schools, plus an independent school Pangbourne College. The Falkland Islands Memorial Chapel here was opened by Queen Elizabeth II, which was built to commemorate the lives of all who died during the Falklands War of 1982.
Once you’ve experienced all the village has to offer, close by you could also visit the wonderful Basildon Park, run by the National Trust. Plus for animal lovers Beale Park is a must-visit with everything from meerkats to monkeys; there’s play areas for children and a paddling pool, plus a mini train ride − and they even offer boat trips along the Thames during the summer months.
Pangbourne is brilliantly located, with easy access by rail or road, with half-hourly trains to Oxford, Reading and London, and situated just off the M4, making it a popular place for visitors and folk wanting to escape the city and move for a more peaceful way of life. Whatever your reason to visit, you’ll find everything you need right here.
Food, Glorious Food
Visitors to the village can take their pick from some lovely independent eateries, including a slice of something nice from Café St Louis, or a delicious dish in The Herd Restaurant at The Elephant Hotel. pizza and pasta are on the menu at Nino’s and during the summer months there’s no more pleasant a place to be than looking out over the River Thames while enjoying lunch at The Swan. From Indian to good old fish and chips, you’re spoiled for choice.
Local Luxury Driving
Along Station Road in the village you cannot help but notice the luxury car showrooms spilling over with quite possibly millions of pounds worth of supercars. Stephan Plant is general manager at this site, not just for Aston Martin, but also for the Bentley and Lamborghini showrooms.
“Prior to us acquiring Broughtons, who had the Bentley dealership here, there was a Mercedes dealership here in Pangbourne but when we acquired them it was then we added the Aston Martin franchise,” he says. “The demographics of this location are very good. If you drew a triangle out from London, down the M40 and down the M4, then met north of Oxford, you have a very affluent area where a lot of people commute into London. All of our staff are from the village or close by and we’re always venturing into the village for bits and pieces or to the pubs and coffee shops.
“As a local business we work alongside our brand partners, such as the Royal Berkshire Shooting School just down the road, as well as the Goring & Streatley Golf Club. Our ethos is aligned with them and we share and attend each other’s events.
“What I’ve noticed most about working here though is how friendly the people are. I actually think they enjoy the kudos of having these franchises here. However, they don’t always enjoy the noise the cars can emit, but that’s part of it,” he laughs.
If you’re visiting Pangbourne in the spring or summer and want to experience the stunning River Thames, there’s no better place to be than on it. Ultimate Canoe and Kayak can provide boats from any landing point on the river, but the point just below Whitchurch Lock means you can take in the stunning views between Pangbourne and Sonning (just over nine miles) or if you want to make a couple of days of it, you could try a weekend trip from Abingdon to Pangbourne (23 miles). There’s so much wildlife to see, great pubs to stop off at along the way and, above all, just the relaxing sound of the water moving gently beneath your boat.
“There has been a cheese shop in Pangbourne for over 13 years,” says cheesemonger Jen Grimstone-Jones. “My partner and I bought the shop just over three years ago,and in that time, we’ve expanded our range of cheeses as well as completely refurbishing the shop and storage areas. Last year, we were named the Cheese Counter of the Year at the World Cheese Awards and we have just been shortlisted as Shop of the Year.
“We’re so lucky in this area to have a lot of great local cheeses. We stock Barkham Blue from Arborfield; Waterloo, Wigmore, Spenwood and Maida Vale from just outside Wokingham; Bix from Nettlebed; and Sinodun Hill, a Shillingford goat’s cheese.
“Pangbourne is such a great place and everyone is super-friendly. There’s a real community feel and people look out for each other. It’s a traditional village and it’s a great place to work.”
The Royal Berkshire Shooting School at Hook End Lane has been welcoming lovers of country pursuits for 27 years. Based in spectacular grounds, with their own gunroom and country store, enthusiasts young and old come here to try clay shooting, plus you don’t have to be a member to have a go.
Katie Absalom has been working at the school for four years now. “I look after the events and marketing for the group, a job which is so varied that no day is ever the same,” she says. “One minute I might be organising an event for Phillip Schofield and the next I will be arranging a photoshoot for our country store.
“If I was to recommend an activity to try here at the school it would have to be a Really Wild Clay Day. These are simulated shoots that take place over the summer months at a range of stately homes in the Home Counties. They are great fun and involve a day of shooting at lots of clays followed by a shoot lunch in the dining room of a grand house or shoot lodge,” she explains. “There are lots of places to visit in and around Pangbourne too. My favourite for a spot of lunch is the Royal Oak in Yattendon and there are wonderful walks nearby.”
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