My nan has a bus pass and has been looking for new places to travel to with it local to her. She likes to have someone with her the first few times that she visits anywhere new in case she gets lost etc so one Saturday off to Chesham we went. I have to confess that I had only vaguely heard of his little Buckinghamshire town. I hadn't otherwise been planning to go there but approached it with an open mind.
The bus ride showed me that the town is set in an attractive bit of countryside though quite hilly in places. I intend to travel back at some point once I've researched footpaths as I enjoy walking. Nan uses a walking frame so less active pleasures were needed for us on our trip.
The shops in Chesham seemed mostly to be in one shortish High Street which is pedestrianised. The shops are mostly small with some independent businesses still around. We visited on a Saturday when the High Street also hosted a market. There was a large and good quality plant stall and a delicious bakery one with cheap but enormous treats as well as other stalls. I would happily return to Chesham many times in order to go to that stall. Waistline watchers should avoid the town because there is also a good independent bakers in the High Street! We had lunch in a tiny and busy Cafe called Brown Sugar just off the High Street where the food was great. When nan returned on a second trip 3 weeks later the owner remembered exactly how she wanted her tea and side salad!
There is quite a large park in the town centre and also the Elgiva combined theatre and cinema in the town. The public loos smelt awful and there seemed little parking if you come by car. It is easy to reach from London though being on the Metropolitan line. Chesham isn't exciting but it is pleasent and I would recommend it as an easy little day escape from London especially.
The quaint town of Chesham in the heart of Buckinghamshire has changed tremendously throughout the many years of its existence (ranging back way before the 1800's) though has also managed to keep the historic monumental appearance in many parts as well as preserving the wonderful countryside found all around this town.
Chesham, which is pronounced Chessum by many older folk due to its name sake of the river chess which runs through the whole town, is situated in the valley of the Chiltern Hills in the south east of England. It is approximately 30 miles from London, though you would not believe it as it is as far away from the busy hustle and bustle that London gives as you can get.
There are many aspects of this town which I will try to cover as best as I can in the review which follows;
Chesham used to be known for the three 'B's' ; Brushes, Boots and Beer and originated as a typical farm community with countryside spreading as far as the eye could see. Now, in the year 2007, the town has gone through many changes, though has also managed to keep the beautiful countryside and many farms which were once the main focal point of the area, as well as bringing in a more modern atmosphere.
Chesham derives from the old English 'ceasteles-hamm' and means 'the hamm of the ceastel' and runs around the lovely river Chess which spans throughout the whole town. Although still beautiful, due to lack of rainfall in the more recent years, it does not flourish as it once did, though many local community members have regular meetings to clean and preserve this river keeping it as beautiful as they possibly can.
Chesham's Town Center has been brought further into the modern day times, though by walking through the mainly pedestrianised street, you get a feel of history with the cobbled side streets, the clock tower in Market square and the memorial statue in the center of the town.
The town itself is not overly big, though if it were, the whole outlook and feel would be ruined. In later years, slightly bigger shops such as Mackays and The Elgiva Theatre have been built and prove popular, as well as two average sized supermarkets at the far end of the town. Other shops include Boots, Superdrug, Book shops, card shops and many more.
There has been discussions in the past couple of years about building further shops to bring in tourists, though this has been repeatedly knocked back (which I think is great). If you want bigger shops and malls, there are some as close as 20 minutes drive away, though to change this small town would be terrible.Just off of the town, is where you can find a side street which is deemed as Chesham Old Town. This part of the town is perhaps the best preserved part with the old buildings kept in perfect old fashioned state with the narrow road and the old fashioned 'village' pub. Here you can find a couple of smaller shops and pubs, though mainly all residential now. There is also a manor house with beautiful gardens which hosts variety of events (see event category) and cobbled street up to the older church in the main Lowndes Park (see other categories).
The other side of the town you will find Broad street which hosts mainly residential houses, though many shops are dotted around such as Pizza Hut, An Opticians, DIY shop and an antique shop. This are is quite busy with traffic, and if you wish to visit a shop here, the best idea is to park in the town car park or the DIY car park if visiting this particular shop.
******Community Spirit and Events******
Chesham community is vast and as with all towns, is ever-changing and varied, though on the main brings a great atmosphere to the community. There are many events brought into the town such as community walks around the countryside for all ages from baby to old age pensioners to carnivals which bring in the whole towns spirit. Below are some of the main events over the past couple of years (though please remember that more events crop up al the time);
* Chesham Carnival - The carnival is run every year in the summer and combine both school participation as well as community spirit. There are many carnival floats created by schools themselves as well as a fete in the local park afterward with stalls, bands, activities and competitions.
* Historical Days - Such events prop up quite often taking the town back to the past. Some of these events include old bus rides, fairs, and more activities hosted in the park and town area.
* Markets - As well as the main usual Wednesday and Saturday markets, there is also many specialized markets such as farmers markets and French markets which prove quite popular
* Victorian Evenings - Hosted at the beginning of December each year to celebrate the turning on of the Christmas lights. There are many market stalls and late night shopping as well as costume parades and local entertainment.
* Shows - Many shows are run throughout the year from pantomimes to parties in the park. Prove very popular for all ages.
As mentioned above, there are many other events hosted throughout the year which provide a really fantastic town spirit. For a small town like this, these events provide a wonderful atmosphere for visitors and members of the community alike.
The main focal point of the town is the fantastic park which runs from the side of the town center up the main hill in the center of Chesham. Not only does it provide brilliant play areas split in sections for all different ages, it also provides lovely picnic areas and wooded areas as well as a large pond which spans the width of the park and is a popular area for both feeding the ducks and children sailing small boats on. The park has changed immensely over the years, though still holds a tranquil feel to it and is a popular place for a summers day. This is also where numerous events are held. It is very clean and tidy, though as with all towns and parks, there are downfalls such as the occasional rubbish littering around etc, though in the main, this is perhaps one of the most beautiful parks around, and the biggest.
Another great attraction is the Elgiva, or the theatre by the park. It has recently been moved and refurbished and hosts both films and shows throughout the year. It is quite large, though only one main room. The prices are perhaps slightly high though the feel of the place is much higher than any cinema you may visit in bigger towns. The one downfall, though, the cinema showings in the Elgiva are not the most recent shows and quite often show films months after they come out in other cinemas. The main events are the shows such as pantomimes, comedy shows, bands etc etc.
Chesham has also got its own historical museum. I have never visited this, though it proves to be a popular attraction especially to visitors. Here you can spend time learning about the vast and exciting history of the town.
Although the town is quite small, there are many pubs spreading from one side to another. If you want a quiet night out, there are a few pubs further down Chesham on the outskirts which provide great family entertainment, though if you prefer slightly louder entertainment, there are a wide range of pubs and cocktail bars which come to life at night. I would be lying if I said there was never any trouble, though this is the same with all towns and night life and Chesham has police patrolling on busy nights.
If you fancy eating out, there are a few restaurants around Chesham, such as Chinese restaurants, Italian, Indian and English as well as fast food places such as Burger Inn and other cafes. All restaurants are of reasonable price, though perhaps slightly more expensive that in bigger towns.
******Schools and Toddler Groups******
There are many schools from toddler groups to secondary schools. There are two main secondary schools but plenty of primary and combined schools around Chesham and many more out of the area.
For babies and toddlers, there are numerous pre-schools as well as mother and baby groups, all of great prices and many hosting special events for parents and children alike.
Employment opportunities in Chesham are mixed. Due to it being a small town there are not many vacancies available, though there is a local Job center to help find relevant jobs.
There are many mixtures of residential properties, from privately owned 6 bedroom houses to small council flats. There are many council properties, though no new ones being built so if you are looking to council rent, please contact the council offices. The number can be acquired from the town council (contact details below).
Privately owned houses in this area are very expensive due to Chesham being on a main transport link with London.
The one great aspect about properties in Chesham, though, is that you are surrounded by lovely countryside - you seem a million miles away from the smoke filled streets of London - a definite plus to living in this area.
There are no real hotels within Chesham, though the town next to Chesham (approximately 10 minutes drive away) has many small hotels and just a little bit further are other hotels and travel lodges. Prices vary, though hotels tend to be expensive in and around this area.
Chesham is situated on the end of the railway line, though you need to swap trains after one stop before going straight into London (which takes approximately 1 hour). The train station is quaint and has kept to the historical feel of the town, combined with the original ticket office, although this is more of scenery now as a new modernized ticket place is available. The train station is a couple of minutes walk from the main town center.
There are also many bus stops around the town, the main one being in the town center. These busses travel all around the area and provide good transport links to those who need it.
There are many taxi companies within the town, including the oldest and most popular one 'Gilberts Taxies' which will take you wherever you wish to go with a smile. There is a main taxi rank situated within the town.
Although Chesham is not typically a visitor's area, many famous and infamous people have visited the area, and also live around the area.
Due to the span of beauty, Chesham has had its fair share of filming from Dawn French in Midsummer Murders to Lenny Henry filming his own show. Also filmed here is Inspector Morse and many other filming around the Buckinghamshire area. Many of these are filmed in Chesham old town and Lowndes Park which are possibly the most popular parts of the town.
In the past, Chesham has also hosted a range of famous people who have left their mark on the town with special memorials dotted around the town and countryside. Such names include Oliver Cromwell who took shelter in Chesham during the civil war, Florence Nightingale, The Rothschilds, Sir John Mills, Steve Redgrave and many more.
All the history of the town is documented in the small Chesham Museum.
******For more information******
Chesham Town Council
Tel. 01494 774842
Fax. 01494 582908
I would not be giving a full picture of this town if I didn't mention the bad points of the town. As with all towns, there are both good and bad points. Personally, I think the good points about the town cancel out most bad points, though I feel I need to mention everything.
As you would have got from the rest of the review, Chesham is not the most cheapest town in the world, and there are limited shops around (though more than some small towns). If you do not like countryside then this town is certainly not for you either as it is based in a countryside valley. Also, with mention of the valley, during heavy rainfall, the roads can become quite flooded and many of the shops in the town have recently been flooded, though this is possibly no different to many places in the past year.
There are also, as with all towns, some trouble making teenagers and drunk adults and teens which provide a slightly unpleasant atmosphere, though this is dealt with to a good efficiency (though could be better).
Overall, I would recommend this town, though, for living and for visiting if you have nothing better to do. The walks are amazing and the historical point of view is wonderful. It has a pleasant atmosphere and quite often you can play spot the famous person!