WATERSIDE - The Islands represents a truly idyllic riverside retreat at the upstream end of an ancient royal fishery dating back to Tudor times. The estate sits in what is known as “The Wind in the Willows Backwater” about a mile downstream from Marlow. Kenneth Grahame’s boathouse is at the top of the backwater; he lived in Cookham Dean whilst writing “The Wind in the Willows”. Seldom does such an unusual and unique property come to market; the current owners have been there since the late 1970s.
Nowadays, The Islands estate comprises the original part of the house, a cottage, and more than five acres of land and its own private island. Reportedly the largest private island on the Thames.
The driveway is approached via a pair of wrought iron gates and as one descends towards the house, the imagination is set alight as one steps back in time to another world of calm, tranquillity and languid afternoons relaxing in or on the water.
The entrance to the house is set beneath a turret and heavy double doors open to the reception hall which is oak-panelled with an open fireplace, a stained glass window and panelled ceiling, somewhat reminiscent of a Scottish hunting lodge, evoking the Victorian period. The reception hall opens onto the principal ground floor rooms, some of which are set at quirky angles contributing to the originality of the house. The drawing room and dining room are in the oldest part of the house. Both have open fireplaces and are inter-connected by a pair of oak-faced double doors in perfect keeping with the pillars, exposed beams and attractive cornicing. The true joy of these two rooms lies in the magnificent large bays with leaded light windows. Wide doors are set into the drawing room bay and they open inwards encapsulating the thought and attention to detail that has gone into every aspect of this property as it has grown over the years. The view from this spot is quite magical as the eye is drawn across the balcony and river, edged with water lilies, to the boating steps onto the island, giving a flavour of what might lie beyond. A library is located next to the dining room with an external spiral staircase descending to the original boathouse beneath. Today, this is still a wet dock with a terrace at the water’s edge. Terracing runs along the front of the house both at the water’s edge and on the ground floor, offering plenty of alternatives for al fresco dining. However, the pleasure of picnicking whilst afloat or on the island surely cannot be beaten.
Ground floor accommodation includes the split level kitchen and breakfast room. The larder is conveniently located with a service passage leading to the rear of the house. The study overlooks the river, from the right of the front door, lit by a large picture window, glazed side door and overhead skylight.
Rising to the first floor, there are four bedrooms including the master bedroom suite with a balcony off the dressing room; the perfect elevated vantage point from which to savour the river view with a cup of coffee or sundowners. The master bedroom retains hints of Art Deco with a carved wooden fireplace and marble hearth. One of the other bedrooms has an en suite shower room and another has a vanity unit set into the turret on the corner. Thanks to large bay windows, the rooms on the river side of the house are often filled with natural light. A large family bathroom completes the first floor accommodation.
A cottage in the grounds currently comprises a double garage with an adjoining studio/store room and a sitting room with double doors to a terrace overlooking the river. There are two bedrooms and a bathroom on the first floor. Subject to the normal planning consents, this could be converted into additional accommodation with a kitchen and modern amenities, making it perfectly suited for guests or staff.
This property is featured by our Waterside department.
Cookham Dean is set south of the river from Marlow and north of Maidenhead. The location provides convenient access to both towns with Marlow having many shops, bars and restaurants. When it comes to dining there is the highly renowned, Michelin two star restaurant, Hand and Flowers, and further options include The Botanist and The Ivy Marlow Garden.
Cookham is a short drive for day-to-day amenities and a wide range of restaurants including Malik’s, The Spice Merchant, The Bell and Dragon and The White Oak. Cliveden House also offers dining options within the hotel and, as part of the National Trust, the gardens and grounds are open to the public.
The local railway station in Cookham links at Maidenhead to Paddington with Crossrail expected in 2021.
With the stunning Chiltern Hills on your doorstep, the great outdoors is your playground. You can explore wild woodland trails, stroll along the river on the Thames Path to Marlow, Hurley and Henley, stopping for a bite of lunch at the Frog Inn at Skirmett. The enchanting countryside surrounding West Wycombe Park is also within easy reach. You can wander through the grounds of this 18th century mansion, which has featured on various television programmes including Downton Abbey or perhaps head further afield to Henley-on-Thames, Eton or central London. There is a wide selection of highly-regarded schools in the vicinity including several primary schools in Cookham Dean and Sir William Borlase’s Grammar School in Marlow. There are also many noteworthy independent schools in the area.
Landscaped Gardens and Grounds
It is only when one takes the bespoke cantilevered footbridge across the river to the island that one can fully appreciate the true splendour and joy of this estate. Looking back at the house, the larch-clad façade, decorative ridge tiles and finials are quite striking. The island measures 4.5 acres and is beautifully landscaped and maintained to create a visual feast at every twist and turn. It is apparent that work started on the grounds well over a hundred years ago, as evidenced by the numerous mature trees including copper beech and yew. An alley of horse chestnuts (Chestnut Walk) was planted in the 1930s and a liriodendron, walnut trees, fruit trees and fragrant rose arbours complete the scene together with vast expanses of lawn, a large vegetable garden, a cutting flower garden and greenhouses. Leisure pursuits were clearly in mind when the island was landscaped and improvements have been made over the years. There is a croquet lawn and heated swimming pool with its own pool house, as well as a dry boat house with a winch and slipway.
The Islands came into being in 1890 as a boathouse with a room above, when it was acquired by a member of the Pitt family who
brought together the land for a fishing lodge, the fishery and private island, creating a private residence and pleasure grounds with fishing and boating facilities. Additional building started in the
Victorian era and was completed with guest accommodation during Edwardian times, subsequently divided into two residences .
In more recent years, the cottage, garage and bridge to the islands were built, resulting in today’s utterly delightful waterside haven. Anne of Cleves, one of Henry VIII’s wives is reputed to have lived slightly downstream. At one stage there were eel butts in the fishery. They were harvested and sent to Billingsgate Fish Market in London. The Islands originally owned the riverbed down to Bourne End and awarded a grant to the Upper Thames Sailing Club.
Four Reception Rooms
Boat Terrace and Mooring
Three Bedroom Detached Cottage
Landscaped Gardens and Grounds including Private 4.5 acre Island
Swimming Pool and Boathouse
In all around 6851 sq ft on 5.1 Acres