This pretty village between Maidenhead and Marlow would be just another well-heeled Thames-side backwater if it hadn't also been the home and often the inspiration for one of the great 20th-century British painters: Stanley Spencer. Born here in 1891, Spencer was so besotted with this 'village in Heaven' that 'Cookham' became his nickname, and many of his paintings depict his neighbours in religious settings. Over 100 of his works are displayed in the gallery devoted to him here, which alone makes the village worth visiting. But Cookham also has a handsome, all-embracing gastropub, the Kings Arms, some enticing independent shops and restaurants, and a lovely setting on a bend in the river (Wind in the Willows author Kenneth Grahame grew up nearby), making it a great base for walks. Head east along the towpath for a three-mile stroll to Maidenhead, and loop back across Cookham Moor and Widbrook Common on the Green Way path for a satisfying two-hour round-trip. The train station at Cookham Rise, half a mile from the village high street, connects to London Paddington.
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