A slow escape: Stonor out of lockdown

How many local businesses and visitor attractions will survive the current crisis? As the UK goes through multiple phases in relaxing its lockdown, opportunities are slowly opening up to re-visit some favourite places. One example is Stonor Park, just outside Henley-in-Thames in Oxfordshire, which has opened to the public since 1979 and has been in the same family for over 850 years.

The house is still closed, but Stonor’s gardens are now open between Wednesdays and Sundays (timed slots, pre-booking required, including parking). We dodged the showers to visit yesterday afternoon. Social distancing of the mandatory two-metre kind was easy, perhaps because some morning showers had put off a few other potential visitors.

Having bought pancakes from Jesseco’s vintage horsebox in the car park, we followed the one-way system arrows around the gardens, including their distinctive Japanese-style summer-house. They have been a labour of love for Elisabeth, Lady Camoys (the mother of the current owner), since the late 1970s.

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The herbaceous borders were in excellent condition, considering the challenges of lockdown, not to mention a very wet winter and an extremely warm and dry spring. We also walked around the Park, spotting a pair of deer and a few chickens crossing a road (yes, really – see below).

Such are the pervasive effects of lockdown that we couldn’t remember exactly when we last had a day out. It was good to be back at Stonor; we hope it, and the many other local visitor attractions, will soon be fully open and flourishing again.

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