The ‘other’ beauties of Buckinghamshire
PUBLISHED: 16:43 03 August 2016 | UPDATED: 16:43 03 August 2016
Our landscapes and views may be a delight to the eye, but some other beauties also deserve attention, says Sandra Smith
As an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, The Chilterns boasts picture postcard scenery where chalk streams and grassland coexist alongside hills and beechwoods, this tableau all the more idyllic given the picturesque hamlets, historic villages and vibrant towns with which the area is also blessed.
But beauty comes in numerous guises. Touring the county in search of our greatest accolades soon leads to the discovery that although nature has a healthy input into surrounding vistas and countryside, some of our most attractive features include memorable art, inspiring architecture and plenty more, not least the gorgeous Giorgia Davies, recently crowned Miss Buckinghamshire 2016.
“Beauty pageants aren’t about being the most glamorous or slimmest, but being healthy and pushing yourself to be the best you can be,” explains the 24-year-old who is adamant about the part such competitions play in modern society.
“By looking after yourself you’re a role model for others. Being on stage is a chance to show your personality. I love to make people laugh, so for the Eco round which involves creating an outfit from recycled items I told everyone how I’d found a lady who had 40 VHS tapes she didn’t want. I took a hammer to five hours of tape which I then used to cover an outfit!”
With an acting degree to her credit and successfully self employed as a promotional model, Giorgia is planning to use her title to help others. “These organisations do so much for charity. I’d like to go into schools and talk to pupils about being yourself and not what others want you to be. That is what every woman should aspire to.”
Giorgia works in Milton Keynes where beauty abounds in the form of accessible art. Silbury Boulevard, for instance, is a tribute to sculptures which are immense in size whilst simultaneously embracing minute detail and emotional passion. André Wallace’s The Whisper embodies all of these characteristics. The intimate exchange of two women sharing a secret is captured in this bronze figurative statue outside the main library having been commissioned by the city’s Development Corporation after the original was exhibited at the Royal Academy. It may have been in situ for over 30 years but nevertheless still attracts admiration. A short distance further along the thoroughfare Dame Elizabeth Frink’s Black Horse stands majestic whilst the 7’ tall, intricately carved The Presentation, by Allan Sly, is a welcome sight to those approaching John Ormond House.
Another of the city’s most eye catching public artworks is located in Station Square. Made from granite, O Wert Thou in the Cauld Blast, by Ronald Rae, was inspired by one of the last poems of Robert Burns and was bought for the then New Town in 1984, the sale being arranged by Edna Read, a passionate campaigner for the Arts.
A little way south of the city, in the pretty village of Great Brickhill, two areas have been renovated to create pocket parks. Poors Acre encompasses a meandering circular path leading around woodland where visitors may also appreciate the biodiversity created by a small pond. In the secluded nearby Foxhole grasses and meadow flowers are complemented by maturing holly, birch and oak trees.
On a larger yet equally peaceful scale, Rushmere Country Park, a short drive away on the edge of the county, contains 400 acres of natural heathland, walking trails, a heronry, cycling routes together with a café and visitor centre.
Putting nature on hold for the moment, amid cobbled streets in the oldest part of Aylesbury, The Baker Room in Buckinghamshire County Museum is magnificent in its own right: ornate coving, polished wooden floor, marble fireplace and duck egg blue walls. Currently the Historic Views of Bucks exhibition showcases some of John Morgan’s finest artworks here, prints from collections of Buckinghamshire Archaeological Society revealing the county’s villages and countryside in all their glory, from Stowe to Marlow and Jordans to Chequers, townscapes, gardens and transport. Also included are cabinets displaying items belonging to the poet William Cowper, a former Olney resident.
Not too far from Aylesbury there are hidden waterside gems awaiting exploration. Weston Turville Reservoir is a haven for wildfowl and a tranquil spot for visitors. Stroll along the footpath which skirts the lake, not forgetting to stop awhile and absorb the scenery. The Wendover Arm of the Grand Union Canal is walkable from here and the dappled shade of the towpath along with birdsong provides the perfect accompaniment to a summer’s day. The arm flows through neighbouring Halton where it is worth looking out for the vibrantly painted blue bridge and its reflection in the shallow canal.
Combining the attraction of both water and architecture, All Saints Church in Marlow not only showcases an enviably charming riverside setting, it is also a stylish Victorian creation of Bath stone topped by a graceful spire. The building doesn’t limit itself to design accolades, however. Open 24 hours a day, every day, this is a place to appreciate history, listen to music or enjoy quiet contemplation.
Indeed, some of the county’s finest historic buildings include its numerous churches, others across the area similarly holding their own in the beauty stakes. During the evenings, the flint built St Mary’s in Princes Risborough is lit, acting as a beacon when approaching from the north. In the hamlet of Ilmer, once partly owned by Eton, St Peter’s can trace its history to the Norman period and contains a striking lectern of polished oak, an exact copy of the one in Eton College Chapel. Meanwhile the modest dimensions of Little Kimble’s All Saints are countered by a collection of 14th century wall paintings of elegantly posed saints and a princess supposedly plucked from death by dragon.
There are many more attractive features in The Chilterns. Take your pick from concert venues to magnificent properties and protected wildlife to secluded footpaths, not forgetting landmarks such as Coombe Hill and Willen Lake or the quaintness of our many villages. In fact, wherever you look, one thing’s guaranteed - you will find beauty.
• Historic Views of Bucks (until 2 July), Bucks County Museum, Church Street, Aylesbury, HP20 2QP, www.buckscountymuseum.org.
• Weston Turville Reservoir, Worlds End Lane, Weston Turville, www.bbowt.org.uk.
• The Grand Union Canal, www.wendoverarmtrust.co.uk.
• All Saints, The Causeway, Marlow, SL7 2AA.
• St Mary’s, Princes Risborough, HP27 9AW.
• St Peter’s, Ilmer, HP27 9RA.
• All Saints, Ellesborough Road, Little Kimble, HP17 0XR.