London - A lovely spot for a day out from London, the pretty Berkshire village of Cookham 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, often in dramatic poses and various states of undress.
Around a hundred of his works are displayed in the gallery devoted to him here that alone makes the village worth visiting.
They have declared the 13 months from April 2016 to May 2017 the “Year of Stanley Spencer”, with not only events at the Cookham gallery but also major exhibitions at the Hepworth in Wakefield and the reopening of the muralled Sandham Memorial Chapel in Hampshire.
Once you're done with Stanley, Cookham has a handsome, all-embracing gastropub, the Kings Arms, for lunch, and some enticing independent shops and restaurants as well as a lovely setting on a bend in the river that makes it a great base for walks - Wind in the Willows author Kenneth Grahame also grew up nearby.
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.
* Cool Places is a website from the creators of Rough Guides and Cool Camping, suggesting the best places to stay, eat, drink and shop in Britain (coolplaces.co.uk).