The Ocean Cruising Club held its AGM and Annual Awards Dinner in Henley-on-Thames this year. In previous years it had been held in London, the last two aboard the HQS Wellington -- a very nice venue. But this year, instead of just a one-day affair, it was stretched into a weekend event. People started arriving throughout the day on Friday in time for an informal Sea Shanty supper.
To set the stage, Henley-on-Thames is an ancient town about half way between Oxford and London. It is historically important for commerce and best known for one thing: rowing. The Henley Regatta is the place where rowers in skulls of varying lengths vie against each other in collegiate challenge.
The place where our event was being held was, however, not in the center of Henley but outside of town on the grounds of the Henley Business School of the University of Reading occupying Greenlands, the estate built by Thomas Chaucer, son of the author Geoffrey Chaucer who penned Canterbury Tales. Situated right on the banks of the Thames, its location was strategically important and involved historically significant events. The House was inhabited by many famous and politically important figures over the centuries. You can almost feel their presence in the studies of original paintings gracing the walls.
The grounds are magnificent. Grazed by sheep and lambs this time of year, and picked clean by huge flocks of geese, the lawns are punctuated by the most impressive stately old trees. Walking along the flint-fortified garden paths, one could easily slip into another era. The hotel part of it is basic, more dormitory style. But it's fine. The beds are comfortable and bathrooms clean. WiFi is free as it should be.
The river was very high due to rainfall in the preceding week. By the boathouse lay a beautiful vessel named Sabrina, David & Angie Jeffs' Dutch barge. It was great to see an OCC House Flag flying at the venue. We missed getting a tour of her. Maybe next year.
We gathered for cocktails in the bar and the noise level was deafening. We then moved into the dining room and the buffet dinner. Despite running out of chicken curry, the chefs punted and cooked up lamb and other meats to feed the hungry crowd without much delay.
Finally, it was time for the entertainment. Jim Mageean and Graeme Knights boomed out sea shantys, with everyone in the room singing along in short order. I'll have to link in a video of them doing an interesting donkey song. What a fun evening! We were off to a good start.
Notes on Travel to Henley:
- Heathrow is the closest airport
- There is a train to Reading from Heathrow but you have to change trains. It takes just over an hour or so depending on the time and costs anywhere between £20 pp/each way and £73.70 pp/each way depending on class and time of travel. A direct line is planned.
- There is a RailAir bus from Healthrow to Reading and costs £25 pp return. The bus runs every 20 minutes and makes stops at Terminal 2 and Terminal 5. The bus terminal in Reading has a loo. There is a taxi stand right there.
- Reading is only about 10 miles from Henley and Greenlands is another 2 miles beyond Henley but it took us more than an hour and cost more than £35 on a Friday afternoon. Traffic! The return trip by Taxi was only 20 minutes and cost £20. The same taxi has an arrangement with the Henley Business School to deliver people to and from Heathrow for £40 plus the cost of parking at Heathrow.