Pocket Britain

A village on the river Thames famous for its bridge and mill

Sonning is a village on the Thames, not far east from Reading. In the past, it was a stop-off point for traders and travellers. The settlement might well have existed since the Roman times, but by the age of the Saxons, Sonning was most definitely established.
The village is gathered around Sonning Bridge, a beautiful structure made from brick arches, and surrounded by green trees. It has been the subject of hundreds and thousands of paintings, photographs, and postcards. The north half of the bridge is actually in Oxfordshire, while Sonning itself lies in Berkshire. A stone marker at the very centre of the bridge marks the exact point where this change occurs.
Between the two banks, Sonning Bridge crosses an island in the middle of the Thames. There is an old watermill here, which produced flour in the 19th and 20th centuries. In more recent years, it has been converted into a cosy theatre and dinner venue called The Mill at Sonning having a maximum capacity of only 215. It's known as being a welcoming place, with a strong line-up of performances. Its previous casts have included stars like Dame Judi Dench.
As well as The Mill, Sonning has several other interesting spots, on or around the waterside. Just next to Sonning Bridge is the Great House, an attractive hotel and restaurant. It has a riverside garden, and mooring space for passing boats. On the opposite side of the Thames, in Oxfordshire, there's a similar venue called the French Horn, whose speciality is spit-roasted duck.
Sonning also has other inns and taverns that aren't on the water, which still offer a great traditional experience. The Bull Inn, for example, is a quintessential English pub. It's housed inside a building that's nearly 500 years old.
Another place with a few years under its belt is St. Andrew's Church, which forms part of the village's best view, looking south towards Sonning Bridge. The Deanery is also an interesting building. It was built a century ago for the founder of Country Life magazine, as a show home; the building and its gardens were then featured in the publication. The Deanery is now owned by Led Zeppelin's Jimmy Page, and is unfortunately not open to the public.
Despite once featuring in a magazine about the countryside, Sonning isn't actually very far from Reading town centre at all. In fact, it's just half a dozen kilometres from Reading train station.

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