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people the Devil's Ditch. For a short distance beyond Mongewell the banks of the river are not very beautiful, but the country on each side is agreeable, and the wide spread chalk downs which now rise into full view before us, clad in the soft light of the morning sun, present a new feature in the landscape; while, if we choose to follow any of the narrow footpaths which at every hundred yards come temptingly in our way, we shall be led to some snug sheltered nook at a little distance from the stream, in which lies a cluster of straw-covered cottages embowered among fruit-trees, with a patch of flower-garden in front, a stand of bee-hives on one side, and surrounded with a protecting hedge of thorn or privet, looking many of them the very ideal of the abodes of humble industry.
As we proceed onwards, North Stoke, with its church and ferry, and little inn close beside the river, makes a pretty picture. Cholsey, which lies a short way from the opposite bank, is a wilder-looking place, and worth a visit. It once contained a monastery, which was founded by Ethelred about 986, as an atonement for the murder of his brother Edward the Martyr; it is believed to have been entirely destroyed by the Danes. Henry I. gave the manor to the Abbey of Reading, and the monks built for themselves a handsome mansion wherein to recruit their health, or enliven by change of scene the tedium of their daily routine of duties and ceremonies. The most remarkable thing the place has now to show is a very ancient and singular barn, built of stone, and said to be one of the largest in England. The church contains some portions of Anglo-Saxon architecture. And here for the first time we come upon the main line of the Great Western Railway, but which we shall see many times again. Whatever it may be hereafter, here it is no injury to the appearance of the country: the bridge which spans the river is indeed a very considerable ornament to it; it is a skew-bridge of four arches, and, like almost all the bridges and viaducts on this railway, is of bold form and very handsome proportions.
Now we are fairly away from the towns; and the villages hereabout are as good samples of thoroughly countryfied out-of-the-way places as one would wish to meet with; but they are quite polished to what they were some fifteen years ago, when the railway was not, and visitors were almost unknown. Moulsford, which lies close by the river, has a little rustic church, with a farm-house beside it, half hidden among trees ; about the banks are a great many fine trees, between which we catch glimpses of the distant downs. Opposite to it is South Stoke, from whence to Goring there is a delightful walk along the brow of the hill that overhangs the river. The . whole way affords a series of beautiful prospects; but that over Clive mill, as we approach Goring, is particularly fine. The river expands to a great width, so as to enclose a large island, or rather a chain of islands, which occupies the centre of it, and is clothed with goodly trees. On the right of the island is a lock, on the left are the mill and weir, and beyond is the grim old tower of Goring church rising from the light vapoury smoke of the little village. A few houses of different forms and sizes are scattered irregularly along the left bank; a glimpse is caught of the village of Streatley on the opposite bank, and the lofty Berkshire downs close in the distance, while all the nearer objects are repeated in the clear water. As you descend the hill, the view is more circumscribed, but still very pleasing. The chalk cliffs, which are formed by the downs, now become important objects in the landscape, and continue to be so for some distance. Goring is chiefly worthy of notice for the beauty of its situation, but is not without other interest. A small priory of Augustine nuns existed here in the time of Henry II., and some vestiges of the building may still be seen at the west end of the church. The church itself is a very curious edifice. Originally it consisted of only one lofty aisle without a chancel, but a north aisle was afterwards added, and at subsequent periods porches and other projections were stuck on. The original aisle is Norman, as is also the lower part of the massive tower; the north aisle is of the Pointed order; the other parts have been added as convenience dictated, and are of indescribable fashions: altogether it has a singularly picturesque appearance. In the interior there are several brasses and monuments that will repay inspection. Streatley, on the opposite side of the river, is even more beautifully situated than Goring, but there is not much beside the situation that is noticeable. It is said to owe its name to its position by Icknield Street, which here entered Berkshire from Oxfordshire, the river being crossed by a ford. Streatley once contained a convent of Dominicans.
All the way between Goring and Reading the river continues to .present a succession of beautiful and various prospects. Basilden, the first place we arrive at, though now a mere village, once had a weekly market, and contained two churches. The church which remains is prettily placed by the river. Basilden Park is well wooded, and the mansion which stands in the midst of it is a large and stately edifice. The fine hanging-wood is a great ornament to our river. The villages of Whitchurch and Pangbourne, which are situated a little below Basilden, and on opposite sides of the river, but united by a wooden bridge, will either of them afford a convenient resting-place to one who wishes to examine this part of the country somewhat at leisure. At both comfortable accommodation may be found, but Pangbourne has the better inns, and from being a statiou of the Great Western Railway, is perhaps the most convenient, but it is the noisier. Either is in every way preferable to Reading: and there is really sufficient to repay any one who would put up here for a few days.
Pangbourne has not much in itself to show, and Whitchurch has less; and as it is not worth while repeating of them what has been already said of so many other villages, let us leave them and look at the neighbourhood. As we are, however, to make Pangbourne our halting-place, we may as well first see what is to be seen along the river for the few miles between it and Reading, and then return. In the three miles below Pangbourne the ri ver makes a long reach, departing little from a direct line, but it has a fine bold appearance, towards which the majestic woods of Hardwick, which are directly in front, greatly contribute. Hardwick House is a very fine specimen of a manorhouse of the Tudor period. It is of dark red brick, and has the pointed gables and clustered chimneys so characteristic of the mansions of that time. Seen from the opposite side of the river, with the fine woods behind it, it looks very striking; and it will repay a close examination. But a mile or so beyond Hardwick, also on the Oxfordshire side, is another and far more magnificent manorhouse; indeed there are few in any part of England that are finer of the kind than that of MapleDurham, and few are in finer preservation. It has belonged ever since its erection to the family of the Blounts, who seem to have always retained an hereditary affection for the old mansion. It is a glorious combination of bays and oriels, projecting wings with pointed gables, tall roofs, decorated chimneyshafts, porches, and all those other concomitants of an Elizabethan mansion of the richest style, and which afford such materials for brilliancy of. effect and bold play of light and shadow. Then, if it be added that lofty firs and poplars are grouped about it, and that from the front there extends a broad avenue of magnificent elms about a mile in length, it will be felt that here is a place which it is worth walking a good many miles to see, especially as there is a fine collection of family portraits and some other pictures in the interior. But this is not all; for the river just about here, having the fine grounds of Maple-Durham on one side, and the not less beautiful grounds of Purley on the other, in each of which there are groves of noble trees extending down to the water, and the banks being much broken, and there being a number of small islands in the middle of the stream, altogether perhaps affords more scenes of a rich but quiet beauiy—those close scenes such as Hofland and Constable and Creswick have painted with so much relish—than in any other part of its course. And then there are at Maple Durham an old water-mill