Fifty fantastic family adventures

FROM stately homes to steam railways and spooky caves, from wildlife sanctuaries to woodland walks, The Beyonder’s What’s On pages have been updated to include more than 50 of the Chilterns’ top attractions.

The at-a-glance array of picture buttons offers ideas for days out that range from free museums and rural rambles to palaces and zoos across four counties.

The buttons link directly to the websites and Facebook pages run by various organisations from the National Trust to town museums.

Attractions for animal lovers range from the Living Rainforest or Beale Park in Berkshire to Whipsnade Zoo and Woburn Safari Park in Bedfordshire.

If rescued hedgehogs are of more interest than lions and tigers, there’s always the Tiggywinkles Wildlife Hsopital in Haddenham, and youngsters wanting to get up close and personal with lambs and baby goats can visit Odds Farm or even foxes and ferrets at the Green Dragon Eco Farm.

History lovers aren’t forgotten, either – from stately homes like those at Stonor Park, Waddesdon or Hughenden, not to mention the majestic delights of Blenheim Palace or Hampton Court.

Museums include those in Amersham, Stevenage, St Albans, Tring and High Wycombe, while those preferring a steam trip can venture out to Chinnor or the Bucks Railway Centre at Quainton Road.

If youngsters need to escape from their smartphones and get the wind in their hair, they can always connect with nature at one of the country parks scattered across the region – or blow away the cobwebs with a walk in Wendover Woods, Penn or Burnham Beeches.

For something that little bit different, there’s always the model village at Bekonscot in Beaconsfield, the gloriumptious Roald Dahl museum at Great Missenden, the mysterious Hellfire Caves at West Wycombe or the exotic attractions of Kew Gardens.

Or what about stepping back in time at the Chiltern Open Air Museum, finding out more about science at the Look Out Discovery Centre or discovering more about the lives of writers like John Milton or CS Lewis by visiting their homes in Chalfont St Giles and Headington, Oxford.

Many of the websites featured offer a regular programme of special one-off events, displays and attractions too, so there’s always more to discover – with further buttons linking to the National Trust, English Heritage, Wildlife Trusts, Chiltern Society and National Garden Scheme for more ideas about places to visit and things to do.

With a host of additional events listed in the monthly What’s On pages too, there’s something for everyone who loves the great outdoors. For more information, click on What’s On whenever you need a little inspiration about how to make the most of your free time.

The website has also launched a “Where to go” section on its Further afield pages, which in the past have featured attractions which might involve Chilterns readers driving just a little further afield, to London, Surrey and Sussex.

The first half-dozen attractions listed include Winston Churchill’s family home at Chartwell, nearby Hever Castle in Kent which was the childhood home of Anne Boleyn and the steam railway centre at Didcot, much loved by railway enthusiasts.

Feeling left out? If we have inadvertently missed an attraction out of our listings, get in touch.

Kids just love to go wild

WHEREVER you live in the Chilterns, kids love to get outside and let off steam whatever the weather.

That’s why we will be including more free events in our What’s On pages, starting with a monthly reminder about the plethora of woodland walks on the doorstep.

LETTING OFF STEAM: take the family on a woodland walk PICTURE: National Trust / Chris Lacey

Or between now and July, why not make a really early start, pack a picnic and go out to discover the beauty of the dawn chorus?

In the winter months it’s only too easy to stay glued to the TV, computer or smartphone on dull days where the threat of rain is heavy in the air.

But it’s surprising how quickly the clouds lift when you get outdoors and get the wind in your hair. Youngsters love to get their wellies and bobble hats on for a good old stamp around in the puddles.

BUG HUNT: hunting for insects PICTURE: National Trust / Chris Lacey

There’s always plenty to see and do, but in case you are short of inspiration, the local BBOWT wildlife trusts have produced a great downloadable Go Wild Guide for the kids to add an element of adventure to the outing.

The free guide includes a scavenger hunt, puzzles, advice on how to make your own bird feeder or insect hotel and an I-Spy Challenge with two dozen birds and insects to look out for in a local park or on the way to school.

National Trust members are spoilt for choice with a wide array of historic estates on the doorstep, including Cliveden, Hughenden and Waddesdon.

SPOILT FOR CHOICE: a spring walk at Cliveden PICTURE: National Trust / Chris Lacey

But the country parks are all worth a visit too, from the tree-lined pathways of Black Park to the sprawling deer park at Langley – and free to enter apart from the cost of parking.

Why not plan a walk in the Colne Valley Regional Park or a longer trail to explore the River Colne and the Grand Union Canal towpath, stopping off for a coffee or bite to eat, enjoying a mix of wildlife, industrial buildings and narrowboats, depending on your route.

Across the Chilterns from Dunstable Downs and Ivinghoe Beacon to Wendover Woods, Winter Hill and the Thames, there’s no shortage of places for that perfect ramble, come wind, rain or shine.

And a number of organisations offer special events and trails to coincide with half-term and other school holidays, including local councils, the National Trust, widllife trusts and museums – check out our What’s On pages month by month for the latest organised events for young people.

Four go wild in the Highlands

BBC’s Winterwatch team return to the Cairngorms next week for another four nights of chilly wildlife watching.

Chris Packham, Michaela Strachan, Gillian Burke and Iolo Williams host the eighth series of the live show from the Scottish Highlands, starting on Tuesday January 28 at 8pm.

Winterwatch 2020 comes from the programme’s new, year-round home in the Cairngorms National Park, which covers more than 1700 square miles and was established in 2003 by the Scottish parliament.

Chris Packham and Michaela Strachan join forces again to renew a partnership forged more than 25 years ago on the Really Wild Show.

The children’s wildlife programme ran for 20 years from 1986, although the pair were only co-presenters for a couple of years in the 1990s before Chris moved on to other work.

They were reunited on Winterwatch and its sister programmes in 2009 and joined by Gillian Burke in 2017.

Gillian has long been involved with nature TV programming after studying biology at Bristol University. Welsh nature observer and TV presenter Iolo Williams became a regular member of the team in 2019.

Winterwatch runs from Tuesday to Friday next week.

Classy refuge on the Chess

VISITORS TO the stunning Chess Valley are getting the chance to stay in brand new self-catering accommodation this year, with the opening of a new holiday cottage at Watercress Farm in Sarratt.

The farm is home to the Tyler family, who have worked the land alongside the River Chess for more than a century. In fact this is now the only working farm of its type in the whole of the Chilterns, one of 19 which once existed between Sarratt and Chesham.

Jon Tyler’s great grandfather set up the business in 1896 and Jon recalls how in previous generations the men would travel by steam train from Chorleywood to London to sell bunches at Covent Garden Market.

Now Jon and his wife Sarah have launched a new business venture, offering high-end self-catering holiday accommodation at the farm in a converted barn originally used for watercress seed drying.

Sarah announced this week on the Chiltern Tourism Network’s facebook page that they are now taking bookings via their new website.

Costs range from £250 for a two-night weekend break to £700 for a week’s stay from Friday to Friday, complete with welcome pack and fuel for the wood-fired hot tub.

The cottage provides a perfect base to relax, walk, cycle, birdwatch and fly fish brown trout in the River Chess or carp in the farm’s private lake. It’s only half an hour from Harry Potter world and easily accessible from London for those wanting an escape from the city.

From here there are stunning walks along the Chess Valley to neighbouring villages. Sarratt itself boasts a range of good pubs, a small village shop for groceries and a stunning 12th Century church, the Holy Cross, one of the locations used in the Hugh Grant film Four Weddings and a Funeral.

Watercress is one of the oldest green vegetables known to man and the peppery green leaves have been recognised as highly nutritious since Victorian times when they were eaten to help kept scurvy at bay. The River Chess, with its clean mineral-rich spring water, is still ideal for growing the cress, in gravel beds bathed in the flow of pure spring water .

Visitors to Crestyl Cottage can do their own basking in fresh spring water too, with a soothing soak in the wood-burning hot tub after a wintry walk up the valley.

Jon took over the farm when his father Terry died in 2014 and runs it with the help of his sister Suzanne Burr and his nephew Henry Cooper. But though you won’t find watercress any fresher than buying it at the farm gate, the business has its own red tape challenges at the moment, says Sarah.

“The holiday let is a diversification to support the business at the moment,” she says.

Final weekend on the history trail

DOZENS of venues across the Chilterns have been throwing open their doors this month as part of the country’s largest free celebration of history and culture – and there’s a last chance this weekend to join in the fun.

The annual nationwide event boasts a dynamic programme of more than 5,000 events where public, private and community spaces host tours, talks and open days.

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From open churches to family fun days, doors are flung open at some of the country’s best-known tourist venues, as well as monuments and buildings which do not normally allow visits.

Attractions range from churches, country houses, museums and gardens to theatres, wildlife reserves, distilleries and even recycling centres.

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To celebrate the festival’s 25th anniversary, 25 new venues are opening their doors. “It’s always exciting when new places join Heritage Open Days,” said national manager Annabelle Thorpe. “I can’t think of a better way to celebrate than by sharing it with these iconic places.”

Behind-the-scenes visits include theatres, bell towers and sports stadia, with a full searchable list of all 5,000 atractions available at the main Heritage Open Days website.

Other popular options include National Trust properties opening their doors free for the day and local churches, museums and other venues staffed by thousands of volunteers eager to share their knowledge of local heritage.

This year’s event runs until September 22 and local highlights across the Chilterns are listed on our What’s On pages.

Established in 1994, Heritage Open Days is England’s contribution to European Heritage Days – launched in 1991 – and has grown into the country’s largest heritage festival.

Exotic sights in St Albans

VISITORS get a last chance to savour some spectacular floral displays and exotic butterflies this weekend as Aylett Nurseries’ “autumn festival” draws to a close.

The Hertfordshire family nursery has long been associated with cultivating dahlias, and has won awards for decades for its stunning displays of the bushy perennials which first arrived in Britain from their native Mexico more than 200 years ago.

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A marquee in the main nursery contains a magnificent splash of colour with its array of home-grown dahlias on the travel theme of “The Way To Go”, while the Celebration Garden and dahlia field where the plants are grown are also open for charity as part of the National Garden Scheme.

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Dahlias were a great passion of the late Roger Aylett, who started the business on the same 7½ acres of land at the age of 21 and was soon dispatching the stunning plants to all corners of the country.

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Inside the marquee this year are more than 55 dahlia varieties freshly cut from the dahlia field, where visitors can use ribbons to pick out their favourites.

The “flagship” of the nursery for over 60 years, since 1961 Aylett displays have picked up 55 gold medals at Royal Horticultural Society annual shows – and it’s not hard to see why.

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Declared the national flower of Mexico in 1963 and grown as a food crop by the Aztecs, there are 42 species of dahlia, with hybrids commonly grown as garden plants.

The official RHS classification lists 14 different groups and there are more than 57,000 cultivars providing an extraordinarily diverse array of colours and shapes.

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For younger visitors less overwhelmed by the displays in the dahlia marquee, there is a last chance to visit “Butterfly Corner”, an enclosed area housing an array of tropical plants and exotic butterflies.

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These include the postman, flambeau and stunning blue morpho, one of the largest in the world. Guests can learn about the fascinating life cycle of the butterfly and watch butterflies feed and fly.

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There is a puparium where new butterflies emerge and younger gardeners can enjoy spotting the different species, caterpillars and butterfly eggs. The butterflies, eggs, caterpillars and plants will be relocated to the Butterfly House at Whipsnade Zoo when the exhibition closes this weekend.

Visitors to the nursery this weekend also get the chance to vote in the Around the World Crate Competition where individuals, schools, clubs and associations were invited to compete for £100 of gift vouchers.

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The competition focuses on the theme of transport and travel and entrants were encouraged to create a miniature world inside a wooden crate which could be displayed during the festival.

Winners will be decided by public vote, with the winner announced on Monday.

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Communities answer call to arms

LITTER-PICKERS across the Chilterns have been rallying local communities to help clean up local neighbourhoods this month.

Within minutes of the launch last week of The Beyonder’s “ripple effect” campaign, local groups had been in touch about their activities.

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In Chalfont St Peter, Jodie Burridge organised a clean-up day in the village, with another planned for October 5.

In Wycombe Marsh, Jean Peasley was in touch about the Wycombe Marsh Environment Group, which organises a monthly litter pick around the area (below), as well as gardening and planting on small uncared-for patches of land.

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In Beaconsfield, the Considerate Beaconsfield group organised a litter pick in August and have another planned for the New Year, while Wooburn Green residents also have a litter-pick planned for September.

Nationally, dozens of such like-minded groups have been keeping in touch via the UK Litterpicking Groups page on Facebook, which has more than 2,000 members.

There are also dozens of similar local initiatives, including the two-minute beach clean movement, the zero plastic lobby and national climate change protests.

The Beyonder’s “ripple effect” campaign was designed to unite the hundreds of like-minded local organisations already doing their bit to keep their neighbourhood clean and spread the word about what more can be done locally to tackle the problem.

The campaign coincided with another international call from action from the Pope on the World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation, ahead of the United Nations Climate Action Summit in New York.

Pope Francis has made many calls for environmental protection and has clashed over climate change with sceptical world leaders such as US President Donald Trump, who has taken the United States out of the Paris accord.

At a local level, his call may resonate with church communities across the Chilterns, many of whom can also organise small-scale local events from litter-picking to education in schools.

This week sees hard-hitting TV anti-litter advocate Jeremy Paxman addressing a two-day conference in Birmingham attended by thousands of recycling and waste business and local authority professionals.

Paxman is patron of the Clean Up Britain campaign, a national campaign specialising in changing anti-social environmental behaviour like littering and fly-tipping, and will be delivering a keynote speech on what he sees as the “national embarassment” of how filthy and run-down Britain looks.

He will tell his audience: “There’s only one sustainable solution, and that’s changing the behaviour of people who do litter. Government-supported initiatives have failed – we need a new joined-up, courageous and innovative approach to win the War on Waste.”

Another national campaigner has also called more a more proactive approach. On Twitter, Quentin Brodie Cooper of Zilch UK has spent the past five years building up a network of more than 12,000 followers working together to eliminate littering.

But he expressed disappointment that the Beyonder campaign focused “entirely on picking up litter rather than trying to do more to prevent it”.

His website lists a number of actions which he believes can make a positive and incremental contribution to the war against littering, including encouraging people to act as human camera-traps in car parks and other places where they can witness and report littering from vehicles.

But Beyonder editor Andrew Knight responded: “We do welcome all contributions to the debate and actively work to promote the work of those campaigners who are co-ordinating the fight.

“But we believe that communities working together can make a real difference in changing attitudes towards this problem. It’s not always safe for members of the public to confront litterers or try to prevent anti-social behaviour themselves, for example.

“However working together communities can help spread the word that littering is unacceptable, and Jeremy Paxman is right about the scale of the problem nationwide.

“It’s not just picking up a few bits of litter that makes the difference, but about thousands of local people spreading the word about how much they genuinely care about the local environment and about leading by example.

“Every week on the UK Litterpicking Groups web pages there are heartwarming stories of small triumphs that show many people do care and want to do their bit to help.”

Locally the National Trust rangers’ team based at Cliveden are still looking for more local litterpickers to help keep paths and car parks clean across 843 acres of land at Maidenhead and Cookham commons.

Campaign issues a call to arms

THE Beyonder has launched a “ripple effect” campaign calling on communities across the Chilterns to join forces in a local war on litter and fly-tipping.

The move follows months of research into existing initiatives, speaking to campaign groups, rangers, councils and enforcement teams.

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“It’s clear to anyone driving around our area that there is a major problem with littering,” says Beyonder editor Andrew Knight. “It’s becoming an epidemic on our back roads and roundabouts and it has become a national scandal. It’s the same problem we see on bank holiday beaches and people leaving their tents and camping equipment at festivals.

“A significant minority of selfish individuals are acting with complete disregard for our countryside. It’s costing a fortune to clean up, it’s killing our wildlife and it’s leaving us knee-deep in plastic which eventually ends up in our oceans.

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“Thankfully the tide is really turning in terms of people’s awareness, but there’s still a long way to go.”

He points to the impact of programmes like David Attenborough’s Blue Planet series and praised teenage campaigners like Greta Thunberg for pushing environmental concerns higher up the political agenda.

“It’s easy for people to get angry or disheartened about the sheer scale of the problem, but during the past year we’ve been impressed with the positive news stories from all over the country,” he says.

“From joggers to dog walkers, community groups all over the UK are getting together to clean up public spaces near their homes. It might start with their own garden and spread to their street, estate or village.

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“And that shared sense of achievement is very infectious – there are dozens of such groups on Facebook and sharing their experiences helps them cope with the negative things. It keeps people fit, it gets young and old and families out doing something good for the community and the cleaner an area is, the less likely people are to drop litter – the effect really does spread….”

The “ripple” campaign is based on the same principle, he explains, because dotted across the Chilterns are dozens of places where the tough clear-up work is already being done – in country parks and National Trust properties, by scores of parish and town councils, by ordinary farmers and landowners.

“Where property is owned by the Woodland Trust or local wildlife trusts, rangers and volunteers are already on the case, with local families, ramblers and dog walkers all doing their bit to help,” he says.

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“The big problem is that the minute you go outside Black Park or Cliveden or a remote footpath and reach a main road, you are confronted with all sorts of rubbish just being chucked out of passing cars,” he says.

“We can’t change people’s habits overnight, but we think the “ripple effect” campaign can make a real difference once the word gets out. We have to get the message out there that this type of behaviour is unacceptable, anti-social and criminal.

“But if most people in the community are behind it and want to keep their town, village or street clean, it will make life a whole lot harder for those few selfish souls who don’t understand or don’t care what they are doing to the planet.”

Enforcement is part of the package too, as the magazine explored in an interview last year with enforcement officers like David Rounding (below) and his colleagues at Buckinghamshire County Council.

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The online magazine encourages people to get involved in the campaign in any way they can, whether than means picking up a few items of litter when walking the dog, organising a community clean-up or taking steps to reduce the amount of plastic they buy and use at home.

“We hope people will want to get involved and tell us what they are up to,” says Andrew. “We know this will take time and determination and that nothing will change overnight, but our countryside is under siege and igoring the problem is simply not an option.”

For full details of the campaign, and how to get involved, follow the link.

Residents fight Green Belt attack

RESIDENTS across two counties are stepping up their protests over plans to build new motorway service areas and thousands of new homes on Green Belt land.

The upsurge in activity in Buckinghamshire and Hertfordshire coincides with deadlines passing for local people to voice their concerns with local councils about their draft plans which will shape housing development in the area over the next 20 years.

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Various protest groups are now raising funds for legal representation to proceed with their campaigns. The Beaconsfield Society Save our Green Belt Campaign has been vociferous it its efforts to fight the “biggest threat for a generation” to the local Green Belt, with plans for 1600 new homes, offices and travellers’ sites around the town, which the society claims would lead to a massive increase in congestion and pollution.

The society has slammed both Beaconsfield Town and South Bucks councils for a lack of communication over the blueprint for thousands of homes in the area and argue that the growing housing crisis is not an acceptable reason to build on the protected land.

In the plans, a total of 5,200 homes are proposed across the area from Iver to Chesham, and other groups have raised similar concerns.

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In Little Chalfont, which has been zoned for 700 homes, the parish council and community association joined forces to respond to the proposals, while campaigners in Bourne End have also fought to protect Green Belt land.

Meanwhile Thames Valley Police has joined local residents in raising concerns about a £150m motorway service area proposed near Chalfont St Peter.

Extra Motorway Services wants to build a hotel, petrol station and a building containing 12 retail and restaurant units on the 147-acre site between junctions 16 and 17 of the M25, close to the M25 exit for Denham/Maple Cross.

Police objected to the plans because of fears about the impact of a new service area on police resources and the safety of staff and customers, pointing out that Beaconsfield Services at Junction 2 of the M40 currently represented “one of the biggest crime hotspots” in the local policing area, with numerous calls relating to crime and anti-social behaviour.

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Residents were also worried about the impact of the development on the local community and about pollution and congestion.

But similar fears have also been raised about another massive motorway service station mooted on green belt land in Hertfordshire will could threaten the very existence of Kings Langley.

Gary Ansell, chairman of Kings Langley & District Residents Association (KLDRA), said in April: “We are extremely concerned the village of Kings Langley will be surrounded by development. And the site is close to a church and primary school which would both be affected by high levels of diesel fumes and noise pollution.”

Moto Hospitality has submitted a planning application for a new service station at junction 20 off the M25 near Kings Langley with an 80-bed lodge, range of shops, parking spaces and other facilities.

See the highlighted links above for more detail about the different protest groups’  campaigns.

Open doors to our heritage

DOZENS of venues across the Chilterns throw open their doors next month as part of the country’s largest free celebration of history and culture.

The annual nationwide event boasts a dynamic programme of more than 5,000 events where public, private and community spaces host tours, talks and open days.

bradwell

From open churches to family fun days, doors are flung open at some of the country’s best-known tourist venues, as well as monuments and buildings which do not normally allow visits.

Attractions range from churches, country houses, museums and gardens to theatres, wildlife reserves, distilleries and even recycling centres.

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To celebrate the festival’s 25th anniversary, 25 new venues are opening their doors. “It’s always exciting when new places join Heritage Open Days,” said national manager Annabelle Thorpe. “I can’t think of a better way to celebrate than by sharing it with these iconic places.”

Behind-the-scenes visits include theatres, bell towers and sports stadia, with a full searchable list of all 5,000 atractions available at the main Heritage Open Days website.

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Other popular options include National Trust properties opening their doors free for the day and local churches, museums and other venues staffed by thousands of volunteers eager to share their knowledge of local heritage.

This year’s event runs from September 13-22 and local highlights across the Chilterns are listed on our What’s On pages.

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Established in 1994, Heritage Open Days is England’s contribution to European Heritage Days – launched in 1991 – and has grown into the country’s largest heritage festival.