Country houses for sale

A mini-estate by the water in the stretch of the Thames that inspired ‘The Wind in the Willows’

Kenneth Grahame learned to row a boat in the waters around this gorgeous property, which is on the market for the first time in almost half a century.

The Islands at Cookham Dean, Berkshire is something else. This idyllic waterside haven — for sale through Hamptons International at £4.5m — is at the upstream end of an ancient royal fishery dating back to Tudor times.

For sale (and reluctantly so) for the first time since the 1970s, this mini estate on the Thames comprises the original part of the house built by Sydney Pitt in 1898, a cottage and more than five acres of land and islands. The area it sits in is known as ‘The Wind in the Willows backwater’, located about a mile downstream from Marlow. At the top is Kenneth Grahame’s boathouse, where the author was introduced to the river and boating by his uncle, the curate at Cookham Dean Church.

The approach to the house via a pair of wrought-iron gates is a step back in time, as is the main entrance, set beneath a turret with heavy double doors opening onto the oak-panelled reception hall with its open fireplace, stained-glass window and panelled ceiling reminiscent of a Victorian hunting lodge.

The hall opens onto the main ground-floor rooms, some of which are set at quirky angles that enhance the originality of its design.

The drawing room and dining room, interconnected by a pair of double doors, have magnificent large bays with leaded light windows, offering magical views across the balcony and river, edged with water lilies, to the steps onto the first island.

Next to the dining room is the library, where an outside spiral staircase leads down to the original wet boathouse below. Also on the ground floor is a split-level kitchen/breakfast room and a study overlooking the river, with the master suite and three more bedrooms on the first floor.

A timber footbridge over the river leads to the two islands from which the property takes its name, the larger of which, at 4.5 acres, was laid out as spectacular pleasure ground when Mr Pitt bought the original boathouse and land to create an unusual private house with fishing and boating facilities.

Other amenities include a croquet lawn, a heated swimming pool and a dry boathouse with a winch and slipway.

The Islands at Cookham Dean is for sale at £4.5m via Hamptons International — see more pictures and details.