They may not be rioting exactly, but the citizens of Gerrards Cross are not happy. Having failed to see off a new Tesco, they now discover that High Speed 2, a “superfast” railway line from Euston to Birmingham is set to run through the Chilterns, an area of outstanding natural beauty on their doorstep.
For the residents of this wealthy corner of Buckinghamshire the plan is unthinkable. A campaign against the new line is backed by 16 councils, including South Bucks and Chiltern district councils and Buckinghamshire county council. It focuses on challenging the Government’s economic case for the new rail service. Consultation ended last month and a decision is awaited.
This part of Buckinghamshire is known as the Chalfonts, getting its name from a cluster of villages, each with Chalfont in their name. The area lies 25 miles west of central London, between the A40 and the A413, and stretches from Gerrards Cross in the south to Amersham in the north.
Property for sale in the Chalfonts
The Chalfonts is a good place to look for detached family houses from £500,000 to more than £4 million in a county that still prizes its grammar schools. Most housing stock is post-Twenties, though there are fine period houses and cottages in the villages.
Best villages and most sought-after roads
The picture-postcard village is Chalfont St Giles (left). There is a small green, a picturesque village sign, a duck pond with a large flock of mallard, some good pubs, a butcher, a village church and poet John Milton’s cottage, now a museum, where he completed Paradise Lost.
The nearby village, Jordans, played a prominent part in Quaker history. Jordans Farm was settled by Quakers in the 17th century with a famous Quaker meeting house dating from 1688 close to where William Penn, the founder of Pennsylvania, is buried. After the First World War, the Quakers built a small village in simple red brick around a green.
The Arts & Crafts apartments and terrace houses are still mainly rented and the detached houses sold only rarely. The village has the feel of a garden suburb but slap bang in the middle of the country.
Who it attracts
Most buyers are families moving out of London or trading up to larger houses. The grammar schools are a big attraction. The larger mansions attract celebrity buyers: Noel Gallagher, Ozzy Osbourne, Cilla Black, and Shane Richie are all local residents.
People stay in the area as there is plenty of scope to trade up to a bigger home or a smarter street. Camp Road in Gerrards Cross has the most expensive homes and newly built houses are on the market for about £4 million.
Big houses, both new-build and older, on Cope’s Road and Nightingales Lane between Little Chalfont and Chalfont St Giles, go for about £2 million, though one sold for almost £4.6 million in 2007.
Mentmore Homes is selling off-plan 14 three-bedroom flats at The Park (01753 899009), a gated development in landscaped gardens on Amersham Road in Gerrards Cross priced from £900,000 to £1.9 million. The more workman-like village of Chalfont St Peter is cheaper. One-bedroom flats start at around £165,000 and two-bedroom flats from about £200,000.
Buckinghamshire still has grammar schools, and many parents send their children to private prep schools in the hope they will gain a grammar school place. There are many good state primary schools, especially in the villages; for example Chalfont St Giles infants and juniors, Seer Green CofE and Jordans Schools (ages four to seven only) are all judged “outstanding” by the government education watchdog Ofsted.
Dr Challoner’s High School for Girls and Dr Challoner’s Grammar (boys) are in nearby Amersham. Gerrards Cross has a good choice of private schools: Gayhurst (co-ed ages three to 13), St Mary’s School (girls ages three to 18), Kingscote and Thorpe House (boys ages three to 16) and Maltman’s Green (girls ages three to 11).
Shopping and leisure
Gerrards Cross has a busy high street with a mix of independent shops and high street chains, cafés and restaurants. Bohemian Days is good for painted furniture; Heidi & Hudson boutique sells classic women’s clothes, and Howard Marshall is an old-fashioned toy shop.
Chalfont St Peter has a Budgens, flower shops and bookshop, but there are many charity shops. Popular gastropubs include the White Hart and the Ivy House, both at Chalfont St Giles, the Red Lion at Chenies, the Swan at Denham and the Bricklayers’ Arms in Flaunden. The best local fine dining restaurant is chef Laurie Gear’s Artichoke in Old Amersham.
There’s easy access to the beautiful hills and chalk-stream valleys of the Chilterns and the area is criss-crossed with marked walking routes such as the South Bucks Way, the Chiltern Way, the Chess Valley Walk and the Chiltern Heritage Trail.
The Chalfont Leisure Centre in Chalfont St Peter is the nearest council-owned swimming pool. There is an Odeon cinema in Gerrards Cross. Golf is popular, with two courses in Denham (Buckinghamshire and Denham) and Chalfont St Giles (Harwood Downs and Oakland Park) and one in Seer Green (Beaconsfield).
What commuters need to know
The Chalfonts are close to the M40, the M4 and M25 motorways, but the Metropolitan line offers a Tube route into the City from Chalfont & Latimer (just over an hour). Trains go to Marylebone, with a change at Harrow-on-the-Hill, and the journey takes just under an hour. Chalfont & Latimer is in Zone 9 and an annual travelcard costs £2,864. There are also trains into Marylebone from Gerrards Cross (around 38 minutes, annual season ticket £2,860) and Seer Green and Jordans (54 to 67 minutes, annual season ticket £3,220).
Conservative-controlled South Bucks district council charges Band D council tax for 2011/2012 at £1,478.85. Chiltern district council, also Tory-run, has Band D council tax for the 2011/2012 year at £1,508.24.
Photographs by Graham Hussey