On Wednesday 21st June, Hawthorn travelled to Henley-on-Thames, which at this time of year was replete with its characteristic blue and white striped tents, impeccably erected beside the river in anticipation of the famous Regatta, due to begin next week. We ‘Wowed’ suitably, from our minibus, on our journey through the town.
Upon arriving at the River and Rowing Museum, we were greeted by the genial and accommodating staff, who welcomed us cheerily and set about rescheduling our activities and ensuring that we settled beneath a generously laden willow tree, to eat lunch. Our lunch boxes were packed with what we (in the words of Ratty when referring to his picnic) ‘always take on these little excursions’ and this suited us very well indeed. Despite the absence of cold tongue, pickled gherkins, cress sandwiches and the like, we were amply fed and watered, in readiness for the following stage of our visit.
The children were enthralled by the Wind in the Willows exhibition, comprised of quaint models of the creatures at various points in the story, along with dioramas and interactive elements. The experience was made even more immersive through the use of audio-guides which summarised the plot as the children progressed through the exhibit. Clearly, Hawthorn has developed a deep understanding of and affinity with the classic tale, since the year began, as they thoroughly enjoyed their literary adventure.
A lively tour guide then escorted us on a river walk. This began with a hearty rendition of ‘Uptails All,’ which highlighted Hawthorn’s talent for performing duck impressions and did an excellent job of getting their full attention for the duration of the activity. Our guide explained that the author, Kenneth Grahame, grew up near to Henley and was therefore directly influenced by its flora, fauna, and river features, which we were able to observe and discuss. We found out that contrary to the characterisations in the book, water voles are not friendly, but badgers are!
Our next activity was a workshop, during which the children handled objects from the time of Kenneth Grahame, deciding which character would have owned each (David took a particular shine to a rather ‘fancy’ pocket watch). They were also introduced to further examples of river creatures and their habitats, before completing some shared writing of a poem, with our guide; the theme was ‘friendship,’ which again, was a respectful nod to one of the themes of the classic tale.
Finally, we explored the rowing museum. Here, the children had the opportunity to dress up in some rather wonderfulblazers and hats, before perusing the boats and such dressed as ladies and gents attending the Henley regatta.
All in all, we had a thoroughly enchanting time: blessed by the weather, the surroundings, and the sight of the ‘lazy’ river, meandering through the town (adjective: ‘lazy’ provided by Alexander – what a brilliant idea!)