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Things to do in Henley, West Sussex

The cobbled path leading to the Duke's front door © John Trueman
The cobbled path leading to the Duke's front door © John Trueman

Henley is a small hamlet with 16 houses, one of which is the Duke of Cumberland Public House and another a converted mission hall.

Henley, in the middle of the 15,000 acre Cowdray Estate, is well known for its idyllic setting on the side of a north-eastward facing sandstone hill; and the Duke of Cumberland - still largely as it was two hundred years ago - draws people from far and wide who appreciate its unusual rural setting amid levadas and watercourses sourced from a prolific local spring which never dries up, even in the hottest, driest summer.

Up until after the second world war most houses in Henley were estate cottages belonging to Cowdray, and sported their tell-tale mustard-yellow paint-work. Only two cottages remain in the ownership of the estate. Over half the buildings are Grade 2 Listed and date back to 1575 or before, which makes the hamlet a heritage site.

The Duke - as it is affectionately called - has several acres of woodland gardens with ponds, streams, rushets, sinks and troughs - with trout swimming in them - and a cobbled path which leads to the front door. It's difficult to imagine this, but up until the early 1950's the whole lane was made up of huge, pillow-shaped cobbles the origin of which is still believed to be Roman, though there is no evidence of the road pre-dating 1550.

There is still gas lighting in the pub, and modern electric fitments too; and long wooden tables surround a small bar. The pub is tiny and full of character with old framed deeds on the walls and other icons from a line of tenant publicans with fishing and other country interests.

Long distance and local walkers flock to the pub as do mountain bikers. Public paths fan out from the hamlet in all directions; and there is a RUPP (Road Used as a Public Path) which bikers use to access routes which can take you as far as Chichester in the South, Arundel in the South-East, Haslemere and beyond to the North is Petersfield, in the West Petworth to the East and Midhurst just 2 miles or so down the dip slope to the South.

There are well advertised mountain bike routes on the internet for Fernhurst, Midhurst, Linchmere, Blackdown and Cocking.

For people who love ye-olde-worlde cottages Henley is a wonderful place to live and property is expensive. There is still a sense of community, and many folk meet up for a Christmas party.

Description by John Trueman

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