Stoke Row

Stoke Row, Oxfordshire.

This quiet Chilterns hamlet has two unlikely claims to fame: a Victorian well donated by an Indian prince, and a gastropub favoured by celebrities. With its vermilion cupola and gilded elephant, the former is wonderfully incongruous but – when it was built in 1864 – eminently practical. It was donated by the Maharajah of Benares (now Varanasi) after he heard of the periodic droughts affecting the Chilterns from the local squire, Edward Reade, who spent many years working in India. Reade had sunk wells for villagers in India, and the Maharajah decided to return the favour. The result was an elaborate borehole over 100m deep, dug by two men in a year, with a well keeper's cottage and cherry orchard alongside. It provided drinking water to Stoke Row's inhabitants for nearly a century. The village is surrounded by woodlands: Busgrove Wood and Ipsden Wood, in particular, are both alive with bluebells in springtime. And just to the north is the energetically-run Crooked Billet pub – favoured by luminaries including Kate Winslet and Paul Weller.

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