We Visit

Goring

The River Thames at Goring

Sitting snugly between the beautiful Chilterns and North Wessex Downs, Goring may be pilgrimage for fans of TV's Midsomer Murders but it's also a village of sylvan charm and culinary delights.

A quintessentially English village with an imposing Norman church, centuries-old cottages and no fewer than 26 listed buildings, Goring sits snugly between two Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty: the Chilterns and the North Wessex Downs.

Less than an hour by train from central London, it is so quiet that the clink of a teacup might be heard on the street; a place where even the pretty hardware shop looks like it might serve you a cup of tea and a scone.But don’t be fooled – Goring has a beating heart and a modern sensibility. And it’s a lovely spot for some foodie reconnaissance.But don’t be fooled – Goring has a beating heart and a modern sensibility. And it’s a lovely spot for some foodie reconnaissance.

The village is situated at the junction of three ancient travelling routes, the Ridgeway, the Icknield Way and the River Thames. You can’t visit without exploring the stunning countryside to which they give access; and that means provisions.

A stroll past the village’s pristine allotments in the car park pops you out on the High Street at just the right point for The Goring Grocer. Pretty as a picture and impeccably modern, this deli stocks a wealth of gorgeous treats including paper-wrapped British cheeses, home-baked savouries, hunky pork pies and local fruit and veg – a perfect find for picnic-food foragers. We especially liked the range of goodies from artisan suppliers in London’s Hackney (where owners Stuart and Caroline used to live), including handmade preserves from Newton & Pott. Cyclists note: popular bike shop Mountain Mania Cycles is just over the road.

It’s well worth dropping into the chirpy information centre near the train station to grab some maps of the area’s walking trails. While you’re there, nip round the corner to the fabulous Barbara’s, where you’ll find a treasure trove of curios and bric-a-brac. This extraordinary Aladdin’s cave is such a gem; you’ll be rooting through the boxes of dusty railway timetables before you know it. We walked away with an antique clock and a vintage teapot – at prices to make Londoners swoon.

At the foot of the bridge connecting Goring with Streatley you’ll find Pierreponts Café And Restaurant, a popular pit stop on the area’s Midsomer Murders tours. With local art on the walls and a counter groaning with home-baked tummy rumblers – check out the chilli and fennel sausage rolls – it’s a bustling local hub and a brilliant lunch or afternoon tea spot. Portions are gargantuan – try a doorstop of wholemeal toast with a heavy cargo of garlicky mushrooms and cheese. Our neighbour was delighted by the ‘best bacon sarnie’ he’d ever had. Bread is supplied by Birch Cottage, which also runs local bread-making classes, and there’s an interesting selection of loose teas, including a punchy spiced Indian chai made to a secret recipe.

From Pierreponts, stroll over the bridge connecting Goring with its charming sister village, Streatley, taking in the view of the lock and weir. In 1929, Thomas Burke said of this spot that his American friends ‘simply… stand and stare and have nothing to say’. We had a moment’s meditative quiet before taking coffee at the Boat House Deli & Café in Streatley’s 17th-century The Swan hotel, enjoying its lovely aspect to the river.

Come evening, head to The Miller of Mansfield, an 18th-century coaching inn that provides a bewitching boutique-hotel experience, complete with home-baked, treacly biscuits on arrival. Making a name for himself on the foodie circuit, The Miller’s chef Nick Galer has a creative bent, conjuring premium ingredients into elegant, deceptively simple dishes: check out slow-cooked ling in a dashi stock, with new potatoes cooked in smoked butter, or cod topped with grape must, served with carrot tops and pickled onion rings. Later in the evening, deep armchairs in front of roaring fires are made for snoozy drinks, while morning brings buttermilk pancakes for breakfast, or a triple-smoked bacon sandwich with homemade HP sauce.

For not-so-lazy Sundays, those in the know recommend an excursion to The Bell at Aldworth, one of England’s most unspoiled pubs, where local ciders and ales are served out of a panelled booth. A visit from Goring involves a good walk along the ancient Ridgeway with the prospect of the pub’s famous hot crusty rolls to keep your spirits up. Patriotic fillings such as beef of old England with pickles reward the weary walker. On warm days join the Ridgeway on Thames Road and hang a left down the Bridle Way – a short stroll leads to Rossini at The Leatherne Bottel for refined Italian food in a lush riverside spot.

On which note, buon appetito from Goring, a village full of sylvan charm and culinary pleasure.