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CHESHAM (Metropolitan Line) 

There are many reasons for visiting Chesham and the last part of the journey itself is one of them. The train climbs up the hill through glorious scenery for 3.89 miles  -  the longest distance between stations on the Underground system.   You can easily imagine the steam engines that puffed along the single track when Chesham Station was opened in 1889.  It still has its signal box and water tower as well as an interesting collection of  photographs in the waiting room. As you can see from the above website, trains are only 2 an hour, so do check the timesOn leaving the station take the road on the left to reach the pedestrianised High Street. Sadly, the 18th century town hall was demolished in 1965 but you can find ancient alleyways or ‘yards’ and many of the shops have seventeenth century origins, so Chesham still has a countrified air. You can investigate its interesting past at the free museum in Market Square. There is also a signed trail. Inevitably my own explorations covered some of the same route, but no two people view a place quite the same.  So, once at the High Street go to the right to have a look at the impressive chimneys of the Misty Moon public house (1625),  once a post office. Return and walk left down the High Street, noting the War Memorial which has a particularly good statue of a WW1 soldier.  Don't miss the huge sign at The George and Dragon - a reminder of coaching days. 

Near the end of the High Street turn left into an alley for cobbled Francis Yard where there is a restaurant in a timber-framed house. At the end, cross East Street towards rambling Botley House. This was built in the 17th century and altered later, resulting in a somewhat haphazard appearance. Turn right and you will soon be at Townfield. The building near the bend used to be a British School. You will learn from the plaque that children sharpened their slate pencils on the bricks, but as these have been painted over, the scratch marks have almost disappeared (sad).

When you get to Red Lion Street go left.  On the corner of Punch Bowl Lane is Forelands, an attractive 17th/18th century house.  Notice the chequered brickwork - you'll see a lot of this around the town.  Proceed up the left fork, Waterside. Peep through the wrought iron gate of the delightful flint faced Weedon's Almshouses founded in 1624. Waterside was a poor area, at one time classified as a separate hamlet or settlement. Chesham was known for making boots and brushes and many of the workers involved in these trades lived in Waterside - indeed, if you walk further up you will discover a Victorian boot and shoe factory, now private business premises. Retrace your steps as far as the junction. Meades water gardens, formerly a mill pond and then watercress bed, are opposite.  Cross the road carefully at the island to potter by the River Chess. The shallow, fast-running stream is very clear - typical of the chalk streams of the Chiltern Hills.  Follow the path by the water as it goes parallel to Red Lion Street. 

At the end you will be in Germain Street, a fascinating, architecturally unspoilt spot. Turn left over the grandly named Town Bridge (in fact it looks rather insignificant). Passing the handsome Georgian house at No. 32, continue down the road to see on the other side of the road an interesting pair of buildings, The Old School House and Weylands House (once the Workhouse).  At the end of the street, opposite a row of whitewashed cottages, are allotments. These were once the workhouse gardens.

Enter ‘New Footpath’ by the side of a school. Here you will come to an intriguing huddle of cottages,  one bearing the name ‘The Old Poor House’. In the early 1700's it could not contain enough people and Weylands (described above) was used instead. Further on are some Victorian dwellings (flint again).  Go back and continue up to Fullers Hill. Here are more cottages (and some modern development, Fullers Grove which harmonizes well with its ancient neighbours). Proceed as far as the higgedly-piggledy Germains Lodge and Germains House (partly medieval). Now pop back on the side of the road where there is a pavement. Cross at the pinch point before King Street and turn right for Water Lane. As its name implies, a stream (known as the Bury Brook, though still really the Chess) runs alongside. This leads to a green, once the site of a sawmill and tannery. Take the left hand path and pass over the bridge to Wey Lane.  walk right at The Queens Head to reach Church Street. Do not attempt to cross here, as it is on a bend, but wait the pavement drops (by an archway) then turn left to Pednor Road. There is no pavement here, so be cautious and keep an eye open for traffic exiting Pednor Road.

After passing the pretty Toll House there is the opportunity of a brief excursion into the countryside. If this appeals, continue up the lane to Drydell Lane - less than ten minutes. (Be wary of traffic.) On the way admire The Bury Farm, a large Georgian farmhouse. At the junction is a panorama of the beautiful Pednor Valley - but the great number of sharp flints in the fields must make it difficult  to work. Warning: the lane may flood in very wet weather.  

Return to Church Street, which is a gem, apart from the unfortunate row of houses on the north side. Believe it or not, until the beginning of the nineteenth century this was Chesham’s main shopping and commercial area. No's 54 and 56 were originally one house dating from the 14th century - some of the ancient window tracery can be seen above the curved bracing of No.54. 

The pavement stops just past The Bury (1716 with later extensions), so either cross to the other side or take the slope into St Mary’s church. Parts of the present building are 12th century, but it has undergone many alterations, though happily the 15th century priest's room above the south porch has survived. When you are ready to leave, find the path behind the east end (a continuation of the one you came in on) and go through a gate in the wall to Bury Lane and Lowndes Parkonce the grounds of The Bury. Having explored the lake etc, drift back to Bury Lane which becomes an alleyway leading down to Church Street past picturesque cottages.  On the right is a section missed out by visiting the church. Having done that, walk down the hill until you reach the quirky corner containing Ebenezer Cottages (1834). From the plaque you will learn that there was a holy well here.

To return to the Tube station, head for the lower end of Church Street. Cross to the right with care and then over St. Mary's Way via the zebras. Once on the other side turn left and take the cut-through on the right (a continuation of Church Street) where there are more old buildings, mostly in commercial use. You will now be in Market Square.  The enormous clock tower was erected in 1992 on the site of the destroyed Town Hall, the archways echoing the traditional market area under the offices. In 2014 the bell from the old hall was hung in the tower - it has a lovely mellow sound. The similar Market Hall in Amersham still exists. Turn left for the station - enjoy the train journey back down the hill. 

If you are staying in the area you might be interested in this list of walks suitable for those who like rambling around the countryside.

The route I have suggested is reasonably buggy-friendly, but the lack of pavement in parts of Church Street might create problems for wheelchair users. The slopes to the churchyard might also be difficult and the cobbles in Francis Yard are very rough. (To avoid, go to end of High Street and turn left).

Photos (click to enlarge)
Cottages and allotments, Germain Street

George & Dragon, High Street/'The Old Poor House', New Footpath
Boot and shoe factory, Waterside
No.32 Germain Street/'Old School House'
Flint cottages, New Footpath/cottages, Fullers Hill

View from Drydell Lane
Church Street, showing Nos. 54-56/The Bury
St. Mary's Church
Ebenezer Cottages/signal box

This is just one route from the many to be found at London Tube Rambles. There are architectural gems, beautiful country views, historic places and quirky buildings even in the most unpromising areas covered by the outer London Underground stations. Usually the discoveries are within a mile of the Tube - often only five minutes walk away. If you reached this as an individual page via a search engine, you might like to click on the above link and see the other destinations explored. You'll be amazed at what's out there!
© DR