Charming Chesham; BYLN:Rosalind Russell

The Evening Standard (London, England), June 25, 2008 | Go to article overview

Charming Chesham; BYLN:Rosalind Russell


Byline: Rosalind Russell

(1) St Mary's Church in Chesham was built in the 12th century(2) Chesham's old bustling main street is now pedestrianised(3) Barbecues divert shoppers in a road off the main street(4) Lowndes Park in the centre of Chesham provides 36 acres of open space and a lake for cyclists and walkers. Cattle were still grazing here in 1959(5) Nicky Jones and her daughters, Bella, two, and Rosie, four(6) Quirky old buildings with uneven roofs line Cheshams back streets. With its still thriving traditional shops the market town is a great place to explore

LOOKING down into the Chess valley towards the market town of Chesham,it is easy to see why Buckinghamshire scores so highly in quality-of-lifesurveys. Transport in to London is excellent, crime is low and the grammarschool system is thriving. The people in Bucks also live longer and earn morethan other Home Counties.

Chesham is the fourth largest town in the county. Twenty-five miles north-westof London at the end of the Metropolitan Tube line, it has been considered apoor relation to its neighbour, affluent Amersham.

Chesham has its share of ugly redbrick modern development but the survivingconservation area, with quirky old buildings, wavy roof lines and unexpectedcorners, is delightful.

Although encircled by busy roads, the pedestrianised main street is vibrant andyet reassuringly old fashioned, with a traditional butcher, a Stead & Simpsonshoe shop, a saddler, two bookshops and a large hardware shop. However, it isnot entirely a Fifties time-warp as it also has small town-centre branches ofSainsbury's and Waitrose, plus the ubiquitous Starbucks.

There are twice-weekly markets, where among the stalls selling pots, pans,pears and potatoes are those selling Asian delicacies.

Chesham has a sizeable Asian community and its own mosque. There is also amonthly French market. Each December you can buy your Christmas tree at thefarm it grew on, hauled in from the field on a cart pulled by shire horses.

Buyers moving out from London, with children in tow and equity in pocket, donot always buy in Chesham itself. They head for the surrounding hills and someof the most drop-dead-gorgeous villages to be found in the Chilterns.

Simon Lambert of Savills says more than 50 per cent of his buyers are movingout from London, attracted by the space, the lifestyle and the schools.

The villages that attract most interest include Asheridge, Hawridge, Cholesbury(which has the 17th century Full Moon pub), Pednor and Swan Bottom.

Lee Common, with period houses around a village green and the Cock & Rabbitpub, is picture-postcard material. Chartridge, a few minutes' drive fromChesham, has some serious-money barn conversions, while Ley Hill and BallingerCommon also have traditional English pubs: the Swan at Ley Hill overlooks thecricket pitch. The Shop at the Lee Parish Hall is a gem: a profit-makingcommunity store in a cabin, with one fulltime employee and a rota of 20volunteers, open every day except Christmas. It stocks locally made items suchas ice cream, bacon, sausages, bread and milk and even (though obviously notlocal) frozen sea bass.

Only a handful of properties in these villages come up for sale in any oneyear, says Simon Lambert.

FACTFILE

Local councils: Chiltern District Council (01494 729000; www.chiltern.gov.uk)and Buckinghamshire County Council (0845 370 8090; www.buckscc.gov.uk).

Council tax: in Chesham, band D is [pounds sterling]1,242.12 and band G is [pounds sterling]2,328.98. InChartridge, band D is [pounds sterling]1,320.92 and band G is [pounds sterling]2.021.53.

Schools: Not many state schools have their own pony club but Chesham High, amixed grammar, does.

Students wear a uniform, do homework, learn at least two languages and sit ninesubjects at GCSE. Voluntary contributions are invited from families at thestart of the school year. …

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