With the Chilterns Tourism Net­work


Buckinghamshire Advertiser - - WHAT’S ON THIS WEEKEND -

AD­JA­CENT to the neo-clas­si­cal land­scaped West Wy­combe gar­dens, cob­bled coach­ing inns arch­ways and the sweet­est of tra­di­tional sweet shops, West Wy­combe vil­lage sits above a net­work of chalk caves renowned for de­bauch­ery and mys­te­ri­ous rit­u­als led by Sir Fran­cis Dash­wood and his 18th-cen­tury Hell-Fire Club.

Uniquely, the vil­lage of West Wy­combe is owned and main­tained by the Na­tional Trust, no­tice­able by the well-pre­served fac­ings of orig­i­nal 16th- to 18th-cen­tury build­ings lin­ing the High Street. The Tra­di­tional Sweet Shop is a popular fix­ture among the lo­cal shops, along with The Ap­ple Or­chard for its one-of-a-kind gifts and home­wares.

The Church Loft is the old­est re­main­ing me­dieval struc­ture in the vil­lage; within its bell tur­ret, the orig­i­nal clock mech­a­nism dates back to 1668 chimes.

Some of the orig­i­nal tim­ber fram­ing, sourced from lo­cal Chiltern wood­land, can be seen along this im­por­tant coach­ing stop on the his­toric route to Ox­ford. No fewer than seven inns and ale­houses thrived in a vil­lage that had only 67 houses!

To­day there are three, and no­tably The George and Dragon of­fers good ales and pub meals to weary vis­i­tors. They might also tell you a ghost story if you didn’t get your fill at the caves.

Rake and repro­bate Sir Fran­cis, 2nd baronet of the Dash­wood fam­ily, puts the mod­ern ‘gap year’ to shame, hav­ing re­turned from his grand tour of con­ti­nen­tal Europe with an in­sa­tiable taste for ex­pen­sive art, sump­tu­ous ar­chi­tec­ture and mys­te­ri­ous drink­ing rit­u­als.

Reg­u­larly used as a lo­ca­tion for lav­ish pe­riod films and TV pro­duc­tions, in­clud­ing Downton Abbey, West Wy­combe Park and its Pal­la­dian man­sion be­long­ing to the Dash­woods are of­ten de­scribed as one of the most the­atri­cal es­tates in Eng­land.

Both the park and house are man­aged by the Na­tional Trust. Ad­mire the neo-clas­si­cal style of the house with its strik­ing por­tico, fine mar­ble in­te­rior, and Borg­nis fres­coes. Al­ter­na­tively, choose the ‘grounds only’ ticket and me­an­der through the per­fectly pre­served ro­coco gar­dens to spot an as­sort­ment of stone tem­ples, fol­lies and stat­ues and watch swans glide across the or­na­men­tal lake. Go to www.na­tion­al­trust.org.uk/west-wycombepark-vil­lage-and-hill/

“A tem­ple built aloft in air, that serves for show and not for prayer.” (Charles Churchill), on the im­pos­ing Church Hill, junc­tion of the Wye and Saun­der­ton val­leys and once home to an Iron Age set­tle­ment, stands the strik­ing if not flam­boy­ant Dash­wood Mau­soleum and Golden Ball.

The im­pres­sive hexag­o­nal struc­ture of the mau­soleum is open to the skies and its de­sign was based on the Con­stan­tine Arch in Rome.

For more ideas and au­tumn in­spi­ra­tion on what to see and ex­plore nearby, visit www.vis­itchilterns.co.uk.

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