The Chilterns

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Sep 7th, 2011, 08:49 AM
  #1
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The Chilterns

When I was England this past July I met a number of people(British) who spoke very highly of The Chilterns. We did not travel to that part of England, but are wondering if this is an area worth visiting on our next trip to the UK(2 years away so this is a bit premature). I've tried looking at older posts in these forums to read more about it but can't seem to find anything. Same with TA. Is this an area that, like The Cotswolds, is abundant with beautiful little villages and a pastoral, rolling landscape? Any information or recommendations would be appreciated--as I thoroughly enjoy reading about and discovering new areas of England with which to plan as part of a journey. The few pics I have found show villages of a pretty red brick and flint construction.
Thanks!
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Sep 7th, 2011, 09:24 AM
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Spending 3 or 4 days exploring the Chilterns and nearby Thames-side villages would make a nice addition to a wider UK trip.

John Milton's house, Greys Court, Hughenden Manor (Disraeli), Stonor house/garden are all in the Chilterns area. Waddesdon Manor is close by.

There are several nice villages - Hambledon, West Wycombe, a few others. Not "in" the Chiltern hills - but essentially adjacent are all the riverside towns/villages (Henley, Marlow, Goring, etc.)
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Sep 7th, 2011, 09:30 AM
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Thanks, Janisj. I just found a AA book of the area on Amazon and ordered it. But why is there so little info on it? Is it sort of a weekend escape place for Londoners ? There's literally nothing here on the Fodors site.
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Sep 7th, 2011, 10:28 AM
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"Is it sort of a weekend escape place for Londoners ? "

Not really. More of a slightly rural commuter belt (Chiltern Railways is by far England's best railway operator), cum useful repository of pleasant country paths

It rolls a bit, and has a few very impressive stately homes (like Waddesdon)as well as the Prime Minister's official country house, across whose garden there's a pedestrian right of way (the most precisely defined and marked footpath in Britain: veer one inch off it and watch what happens, pausing only to notice that not all British police are unarmed).

But, by the standards of the Cotswolds, it's got a widespread suburban feel, relatively high population density and a disconcerting amount of that residential sprawl which is Britain's least appealing feature: High Wycombe, Amersham and Beaconsfield are unashamed suburbs (except that there are bits of High Wycombe that are out and out horrid).

The AONB site (www.chilternsaonb.org/map3.html) is helpful. I'd say it's not really an area to explore (and most hotels are more geared to the offsite awayday seminar market than to cosy rural treats): more a handy source of one-off country walks.

But pleasant enough.
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Sep 7th, 2011, 08:07 PM
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"...but pleasant enough." ha! Thanks for the description, Flanner. Suburban sprawl is what I loathe here in the US, so any mention of that is an instant turn off. At least it must be a protected sprawl, considering it's an aonb.

I suppose I was kind of hoping it was another Cotswolds type of region--where footpaths would lead us from one beautiful village to another. It's quite obvious how much I loved the area where you and Janisj reside--and I am now curious if there is any other part of England where one can find a concentration of beautiful little villages like you have in The Cotswolds? Of course they don't have to be honey colored stone, just cute, quaint, places with a pub or two just like Snowshill which I favored. If not the Chilterns, then Suffolk? Dorset?

I have a desperate need to start planning my next trip soon. Writing the damn trip report has not only made it worse!
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Sep 7th, 2011, 10:33 PM
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1. England's got over 100,000 miles of footpaths: they're probably denser in the Chilterns than in the Cotswolds.

2. Sprawl. AONB status (a relatively recent innovation in England's battery of anti-development legislation) can't eliminate pre-existing houses. English sprawl's very different from American: strip malls, totem-pole store ID and billboards are banned virtually everywhere, and the sprawl problem is about lowish-density housing. The Cotswolds were in economic decline (thanks to unfair competition from unpaid slave-picked cotton and convict-herded sheep) while the rest of England was building suburbs: by the time the area recovered, new building was almost a capital offence. So you can walk from Stow on the Wold to Moreton in Marsh without having to go through a lengthy picket line of tasteful, relatively unintrusive, but tedious 1930s semi-detached houses: you can't do that in the Chilterns (or in much of the rest of the country).

Incidentally, the fact that not one post on forums like this from visitors has ever mentioned English sprawl implies to me that Americans and Australians just aren't perturbed by the miles of boring houses Britain's scarred with - probably because sprawl's so much less strident here than in the New World.

3. The history and topography of Suffolk and North Yorkshire are roughly similar to the Cotswolds (a lengthy period of medieval affluence before the economic collapse is important too, to encourage expansive churches and the houses around them), though much of North Yorks was a bit too close to the 19th century boom and attracted undesirables like church "restorers". It can involve more, and steeper, hills too. Dorset's quite different, but North Devon works in a similar way. Shropshire, in parts, lets you do similar things. As an indicator: though it's slightly more densely populated than the Cotswolds, it's got just about the lowest levels of light pollution in England.
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Sep 8th, 2011, 08:00 AM
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"I loved the area where you and Janisj reside-"

OOPS --

Flanner definitely lives there, but I'm a California girl 8-)

(Long ago I did live in the area for 5 years and try to get back frequently)
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Sep 8th, 2011, 08:06 AM
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Flanner, your honesty is often refreshing but blaming the decline and fall of the Cotswolds on a bunch of slave owners in Natchez is kinda absurd IMO. And this is especially ironic considering the number of slave owner descendants who now flock to the Cotswolds to spend their money.
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Sep 8th, 2011, 08:39 AM
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janisj----no, you're mistaken! You CAN'T possibly live here in the U.S.! Are you quite certain?

As you can see, I have never viewed anyone's profile(until just now). With all of your knowledge of the area I always just assumed...

Well, now you may be hearing from me in the future on these boards because I will be inquiring about Olympic Nat. Park further north!

Anyway thanks again.

flanner--one of our longer drives accidentally led us into Birmingham--we were lost in the city--and at first we were critical of how unattractive it was, but then we both realized it was only an unpleasant looking place in comparison to most of the other places we had been. Had it been located here in Ohio, we wouldn't have even made an observation about it's appearance, so yes--your 'uglier' cities aren't really that bad. You're just so used to beauty in your surroundings on a daily basis.

shropshire was nice--pleasant countryside--and shrewsbury was great--but it was not that Cotswoldian type of region I'm referring to. There was not a concentration of beautiful villages.

Yorkshire was fantastic--but maybe the slate gray villages don't move me in the same way.

pics online make parts of Dorset look really nice. Also, didn't mention this in my trip report--but we encountered many MANY English people who disliked the people from Bath(our favorite city by a long shot). Particularly the people from the north. Their descriptions of "bathians"(what are they called?) were pretty severe. Snotty, "soft"(whatever that means?), weak, etc. We did not observe any of these qualities. We were treated wonderfully and just truly loved the city and it's people.

I realize this is off topic--but didn't want to start a thread called "why do the northerners hate the bathians?".

.
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Sep 8th, 2011, 09:12 AM
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Some northerners seem to dislike anyone or anything which is not also from the north. They will make unfavourable comparisons between the north and anywhere else.

Having said that, Bath and Bath people do have certain characteristics that are well known to Bristolians and anyone else from the area around Bath. This is that the situation in Bath is always "different" for some reason, and that things which work quite well elsewhere are, for some reason, unacceptable in Bath. I would not expect northerners, or anyone living further afield, to know about that.

I think the word for people from Bath is "Bathonian".

My mother was born in Portsmouth and spent most of her life there. For her, anywhere north of Oxford, and maybe even Winchester, was "the north". For those who know the Portsmouth area, the villages "over the hill" were considered a bit foreign by her.
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Sep 8th, 2011, 10:05 AM
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"why do the northerners hate the bathians?"

Speaking as a northerner, we don't.

But the North does breed a certain kind of obsessive whingeing Southophobic (EVERYTHING's the fault of the South), and there's a short list of Southern buzz words that get them going especially. Oxford, Bath, the Cotswolds, the few bits of London they can name are especially high on the list. Tennis is another, oddly enough.

The OP seems not to read profiles - but I'll lay odds all the rabbiting on about the "crowded" Cotswolds actually comes from Britons, not Americans. One minor part of the Great Northern Whinge is that there are millions of parts of Real England that are a lot nicer than all that effete Southern countryside, but that part of the Southerners' conspiracy is to get everyone going to those wimpy thatched cottage villages when, if they'd been given the facts, they'd all be climbing Welsh mountains.

This ISN'T some kind of rivalry. It's more like listening to some African kleptocrat endlessly whining on about how his country was ruined by the wicked colonists and the ports, trains and honest policemen they imposed on his ancestors.

Southerners just ignore the Northern rant. Much as they do Mugabe or that "Ah'm a dinner jacket" wally who runs Persia.
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Sep 8th, 2011, 10:42 AM
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I wonder if some, at least, of the people ancestralvoices talks about had their tongues slightly in their cheeks - "soft southern jessie" and similar stereotypes. Though I suppose if they started discussing Bath with people who came from there and made a habit of replying "Bahth, actually", then I can see things getting a bit tense.

But then, you should hear what people say about Scousers.......
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Sep 8th, 2011, 05:55 PM
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What's a scouser?

One thing that we noticed--and appreciated--was the very willing nature of the locals to advise us on many of the attributes, or negatives, of a certain place. Especially at the pubs, and I looked upon all of the opinions given about this or that as a way for them to get their voice heard. They liked it. They wanted to give their opinions. I allowed it by continuing to listen, and it made them feel a little bit special. Nothing wrong with that. This is human nature, and though I don't want to sound patronizing, some of the things that were said may have been encouraged by me. Here in the midwest there are people who may poke fun at a southern accent, or stereotype anyone who is from New York, etc. I wanted to find out as best I could what the general mindset was of people from each region--who their scapegoats were, their prejudices, their excuses. We found that there seemed to be a general adoration of Cornwall and Devon as places to visit(but again, not from the north). We never heard any negativity about the north from the south, and we heard quite a lot of negativity about the south(mainly Cotswolds area, Oxford, and especially Bath) from the north. Not always said with tongue in cheek, I might add.

Every country has this regional poking. I just like to try and find out why. Flanner always responds with an answer that makes a person think, and sometimes makes me want to ask more questions---and rarely have his posts confused me until now----but TENNIS? I'm not sure I understand what TENNIS has to do with anything--let alone a region?

Flanner--when I originally posted questions about my itinerary back in the Spring(both here and on TA)--and mentioned the Cotswolds--those negative responses were from Americans. I did check them out because I wanted to know where they were coming from before I responded.
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Sep 8th, 2011, 06:20 PM
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Oh, and there was another thing. The proper pronunciation of Shrewsbury seemed to be of the utmost importance to so many people. I had always pronounced it as Shrew(shroo--like the carnivorous rodent) but we were advised often to say it as Shrow. This we did---and of course we were then told that that was wrong, a bit uppity, and went back to saying shroo. This became laughable as we were constantly being corrected---even in the laundrette! A stranger instructed me to say it as shroo. I finally decided to simply call it sooo very!
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Sep 9th, 2011, 12:46 AM
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Scouser - someone from Liverpool and round about, like a certain poster on this thread... (I'm teasing, of course).

North/south/tennis: We've had a very long period of economic change with the decline of the major manufacturing and processing industries, largely in the north, to the perceived benefit of the better off, finance and office based, middle and upper middle classes of London and the South/South East. Whether it's the closure of coal mines, collapse of Lancashire cotton, Yorkshire woollens, shipbuilding on Merseyside and the North East, it hurt. Tennis is seen as the ultimate comfy middle-class game. This is very simplified, and of course there is poverty in the south and wealth in the north, but that's probably what you met. And there are people who like to wallow in it a bit - from 09:25 in this clip:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N1kkEax-axs
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Sep 9th, 2011, 01:25 AM
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One thing that does get me is the whinging from people in the SE complaining how everything is expensive / too crowded when the main reason is that companies insist on having their business based in London when most of their functionality could easily be done elsewhere in the country at a lower cost - then they whine again when some company does exactly that and people are "forced" to move to uneducated hell holes like Manchester.
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Sep 9th, 2011, 02:13 AM
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I used to live in the Chilterns and it DOES have a selection of incredibly picturesque villages sandwiched amongst rolling fields and woodland. But it doesn't have the star attractions that guidebooks like to talk about so doesn't get much of a mention.

Londoners don't just visit, they often live there, as it's an easy commute. It's relatively popular for weekend walks so would be a good option for visitors to London who want to escape the city for a night.

I don't know if TV programmes the Vicar of Dibley or Midsommer Murders ever air in the States, but if they do, the village that features is Turville, a jaw droppingly cute village smack in the middle of the chilterns. It also has the original windmill from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang on the hill overlooking the village. Nearby is another gorgeous village call Fingest (great names!).

Fodors skips great swathes of the UK in their guidebooks. Aside from Stratford, the midlands area is bypassed completely. Heck, the UK's second largest city doesn't even get mentioned in passing (moans this Brummy!).
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Sep 9th, 2011, 02:16 AM
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>>Heck, the UK's second largest city doesn't even get mentioned in passing (moans this Brummy!).<<

They probably got lost on Spaghetti Junction.
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Sep 9th, 2011, 06:18 AM
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Kate---thanks for the information! and yes, I have seen many episodes of Midsomer Murders. Have not seen The Vicar of Dibley, though. Besides Turville(which I had in my head as an Art Gallery in Sandsend--turned out to be Turnstone), I've tried to find info on other picturesque villages in The Chilterns and it looks like Hambleden and The Lee are also nice little places worth exploring. Still more research to do--and I certainly have time as I won't be returning to England for 2 years! Just finding it difficult to "let go"!

Patrick--thanks for the Scouser description!
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Sep 9th, 2011, 07:22 AM
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There are Vicar of Dibley clips on Youtube (and if you think it's far-fetched, my ordained brother works with a number of churches in Chiltern villages, and he says the characters are all too realistic).
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