The Goring Gap is the name given to the area where the River Thames passes through the gap between the Berkshire Downs (know politically-correctly these days as the North Wessex Downs) and the Chiltern Hills, both designated as Areas of Outstanding National Beauty.
Goring is the larger village, on the Oxfordshire (east) side of the river. Streatley is on the Berkshire side, tucked under Streatley Hill, one of England’s top-rated cycling hill climbs.
The area has long been known for its natural beauty. Less than an hour from London by train, part-way between Reading and Oxford, it’s a popular place to live for those who can afford the property prices. The growth of the villages was mainly sparked by the opening of the Great Western Railway’s Goring station on 1 June 1840. The success of the railway meant it was widened to four tracks and the station’s name was changed to Goring & Streatley on 9 November 1895.*
The name change is quite likely to have been what prompted Patrick R Chalmers to write the poem Goring and Streatley, which was published in Punch magazine.**
GORING AND STREATLEY
The Great Western Railway runs down to the West,
Conveyance, like ‘Young Lochinvar’s’ of the best;
And into the sunset it carries me fleetly,
But I never go further than Goring-and-Streatley.
You may look to fair counties that cluster and cling
round the permanent way like the pearls on a string;
But I always alight, when the dusk falls discreetly,
‘neath the star-jewelled hill-top at Goring-and-Streatley.
Though if I sat on, with my book on my knee,
I should come in due course to the silvery sea,
I can never do that; Thames contents me completely
as he silvers the valley of Goring-and-Streatley.
Did an ‘and’ ever link a more delectable pair
than the twain of my ditty? It didn’t I’ll swear;
Even strawberries-and-cream do not sound
half so sweetly to the ear of the bard as do Goring-and-Streatley.
Be December her darkest, or May at full flood,
With bluebells and fox-cubs in Elvendon Wood,
Be the fogs thick as thieves or the sun shining featly,
How dear’s the down platform at Goring-and-Streatley.
The brown-and-white coaches from Paddington run
to the ultimate sea, to the set of the sun;
But I never go further than fancy goes fleetly –
I never go further than Goring-and-Streatley;
Would one EVER go further than Goring-and-Streatley?
Patrick R. Chalmers
The coaches may no longer be brown and white, but Elvendon Wood still has bluebells, and probably also fox cubs.
*Many thanks to Steve Cooper, Historical Research Officer of the Great Western Trust at the Didcot Railway Centre for the railway history.
** Patrick Chalmers died in 1942, so the poem should be out of copyright. If you know otherwise, or have any information regarding exactly when it was published in Punch, please get in touch using the Contact form.