Buckinghamshire area guide
Area size: 1,874 km2
Average house price (based on 3-bed semi): £348,080 (Source: Zoopla)
Key towns: Aylesbury, Milton Keynes, High Wycombe, Marlow, Princes Risborough, Amersham, Buckingham
Buckinghamshire is located in the south east of England within easy commute of London and neighbouring counties. The county is well known for the ‘new’ town of Milton Keynes and the Chiltern Hills area of outstanding natural beauty. It offers the best of country life with convenient access to vibrant towns and cities.
Transport links are excellent and the schools are said to collectively boast the strongest performance in the UK. Sports and leisure activities are catered for throughout the county and opportunities for retail therapy are plentiful. Key Buckinghamshire towns consistently appear in surveys that highlight the best places to live in the UK.
Buckinghamshire’s top five
- Transport links: Wherever you live in Buckinghamshire, you’re within easy commute of London, Oxford, Cambridge and Birmingham by train. You’re also close to major motorways; the M40, M1, M25 and M4 and there are bus services throughout the region. Heading out of the UK? Heathrow, Stanstead, Luton and Gatwick are on your doorstep too.
- Entrepreneurial spirit: Buckinghamshire has the UK’s highest enterprise rate and stands third in the country for its share of the working population with degree level qualifications or above. It ranks sixth for the level of patents per 100,000 residents and attracts some major international businesses to the region.
- Time out: With attractions such as Pinewood Studios, Waddesdon Manor, Xscape, the Roald Dahl Trail, Go Ape and Silverstone, Buckinghamshire has plenty of offer for days out and activities.
- Parks and spaces: Over one third of Buckinghamshire is covered by the government designated Chilterns Area of Outstanding Beauty and Metropolitan Greenbelt, which means that the stunning views are protected from further development.
- Education opportunities: Buckinghamshire schools collectively boast the strongest performance in the UK. There are a number of outstanding state and independent schools in the region, as well as grammar schools, prep and boarding schools. Higher education is well represented in the county.
Buckinghamshire’s transport provision has been shaped by the fact that most routes between the UK’s two largest cities, London and Birmingham, pass through it. Major railway lines and motorway connections were also first developed in the region thanks to the busy canals and their associated industries.
These days, there are convenient rail links to and from Buckinghamshire’s major towns; these are run by three main train operators: Chiltern Railways, First Great Western and London Midland.
Many of Buckinghamshire’s trains arrive in the capital at London Marylebone and there are regular services to and from Amersham, High Wycombe (travel time approx. 28 minutes), Marlow and Princes Risborough. Chiltern Railways’ trains from London Marylebone to Aylesbury and Birmingham also serve a number of key stations in Buckinghamshire.
The London Underground’s Metropolitan Line runs from central London to Chalfont & Latimer, Amersham and Chesham.
The East-West Rail Project is currently under development in Buckinghamshire and will provide better access to Oxford, Milton Keynes, Cambridge and Birmingham.
Living or working in Buckinghamshire will give you access to some of the UK’s biggest motorways. The M40 and M1 pass through the county – notably High Wycombe and Milton Keynes are on their routes from London to the north. Junction 16 of the M25 and Junction 7 of the M4 also sit just within Buckinghamshire’s borders.
The A41 that connects Oxfordshire to London runs through Buckinghamshire, while the A413, A418, A41 and A4010 all converge on Aylesbury, making this a well-connected town. It’s worth noting that, as these roads are all single carriageways at the point they enter Aylesbury, traffic congestion can be a problem during peak hours.
Milton Keynes is famous for its pre-planned grid road system, and is linked to Leighton Buzzard and Aylesbury by the A4146 dual carriageway. Milton Keynes is also within easy reach of Northampton, Bedford, Buckingham and Banbury.
Other major A roads serving the county are the A5, A40 and A4.
Buckinghamshire offers convenient opportunities for international travel and business, as London Heathrow, Luton, Gatwick and Stanstead are all within an hour of the county.
There are comprehensive bus services in the region, including a number of park and ride services designed to minimise single occupancy car journeys.
Points of interest
Buckinghamshire’s rich history pre-dates even the Anglo-Saxon landowner from which its name originates, as it existed as a subdivision of the kingdom of Mercia as far back as 585 AD.
Famous people associated with the county include Anne Boleyn (in fact, it is said that King Henry VIII made Aylesbury the county town because Anne Boleyn’s father owned property there and Henry was a regular visitor); literary greats past and present such as Percy Bysshe Shelley, John Milton, T.S. Eliot, Roald Dahl, Enid Blyton and Terry Pratchett; and celebrities, actors and sports personalities including James Corden, Cilla Black, the late Lynda Bellingham, Noel Gallagher, Tess Daly, Sir David Jason, Ozzy Osbourne, John Mills and Hayley Mills, the Rothschild Family, Steve Redgrave and Jackie Stewart to name but a few.
Because of its proximity to London, Buckinghamshire has been home to a number of European politicians and statesmen over the years, especially during World War 2. The county’s notable political residents have included President Edvard Benes of Czechoslovakia, Wladyslaw Sikorski, King Zog of Albania, King Louis XVIII of France, Nancy Astor, Frederick, Prince of Wales, Benjamin Disraeli, Archibald Primrose and John Archdale. Buckinghamshire is also home to the UK Prime Minister’s official residence at Chequers.
Buckinghamshire is packed full of things to do and see. These days, it is part of the Metropolitan Green Belt, which means that many of its open spaces are protected from future developments.
Places of interest include Pinewood Studios, Dorney Lake – privately owned by Eton College and a purpose-built rowing lake used for the 2012 Olympics, Milton Keynes, the popular Roald Dahl trail, Claydon, Hughenden and Ascott House, Silverstone, Go Ape, Waddesdon Manor, Chinnor and Princes Risborough Railway, Cliveden Gardens and many more.
Living in Buckinghamshire
Picturesque Chiltern ranked the fifth best place to live in the UK in the 2014 Halifax’s Quality of Life annual survey; that’s a jump of ten places from 2013. The biggest reason for this climb was that adults reported that they are more satisfied, happy and less anxious because of where they live.
According to the latest Family Friendly Hotspots report by Family Investments, Long Crendon in Buckinghamshire ranks as the 18th most family-friendly town in the UK and the highest ranking in the county. The report describes Long Crendon – which was the backdrop for episodes of the ITV series, Midsomer Murders – as ‘a picture perfect English village’ where children in the one primary school score above the Key Stage 2 national average and there is a wide range of sports and leisure clubs for children. The report also highlights family-friendly pubs and restaurants, a low crime rate and ideal village living.
Country Life says that Amersham, Long Crendon and Haddenham are the best towns to live in Buckinghamshire. It describes Amersham as “firmly in commuter-belt territory” but says that the schools are good and that the town offers “excellent access to some of the prettiest countryside in southern England”. Other desirable towns include Great Missenden, Chalfont St Giles, Chalfont St Latimer, and Chenies.
Shopping in Buckinghamshire
Buckinghamshire offers an appealing mix of lively urban centres, picturesque market towns, traditional high street names and individual shops. High Wycombe, for example, is a thriving market town and is also home to the Eden Centre, which boasts high street names, exclusive brands, beauty hubs, a cinema, bowling, cafes and restaurants. Aylesbury is also a popular destination for shoppers as it offers shopping centres, specialist shops and a busy market.
Other popular towns with shoppers in Buckinghamshire include Amersham, Beaconsfield, Buckingham, Chesham, Marlow, Princes Risborough, Wendover and Winslow. As well as high street clothing and shoe stores, Buckinghamshire has a rich collection of antique and gift shops, traditional street and farmers’ markets, as well as farmers’ shops where shoppers can buy local produce.
One of the biggest shopping centres in Buckinghamshire is thecentre:mk in Milton Keynes where people can spend an entire day enjoying shopping and leisure facilities.
Working in Buckinghamshire
Buckinghamshire’s close proximity to London, as well as easy access to Heathrow airport and export links provided by the M4 have all helped consolidate the county’s position as one of the most desirable places in the UK for business. The county is viewed by many as ‘the entrepreneurial heart of Britain’.
According to Buckinghamshire Business First, the county has the UK’s highest enterprise rate, boasting 70 enterprises per 10,000 residents; it also stands third in the country for its share of the working population with the equivalent of degree level qualifications or above, and ranks sixth in the UK for the highest level of patents per 100,000 residents.
Major international businesses in the region include GE Healthcare (formerly Amersham PLC), Buckingham Group, Computers in Personnel, Ercol, Rank Hovis, InterContinental Hotels Group, M&J Seafood, The Perfume Shop, Racelogic, and SGX Sensortech.
Buckingham itself is home to a number of industrial estates and technology parks, many of which are associated with pharmaceutical, electronic, food and composite materials companies.
The Silverstone Circuit forms the heart of Motorsport Valley®, which attracts a number of high profile companies that supply the cutting-edge technology used in Formula One. Healthcare is also prominent in the region, especially in connection with Stoke Mandeville Hospital.
Of course, no mention of Buckinghamshire’s economy would be complete without the world-famous Pinewood Studios, which is arguably at the heart of the UK’s creative and media sector. More than 300 businesses in the region service the studios.
Buckinghamshire is also known for its dairy farming.
Education in Buckinghamshire
According to Buckinghamshire Business First, Buckinghamshire schools collectively boast the strongest performance in the UK, which will appeal to parents.
Outstanding state primary schools in the region include Spinfield School, Bourton Meadows Primary School, The Gerrards Cross CofE School, St. Bernadette’s Catholic Primary School, Howe Park School and the Downley School. There are also plenty of state secondary schools or academies rated outstanding, including Aylesbury High School, Wycombe High School, Oakgrove School, Dr. Challoner’s High School for girls, and Sir William Borlase’s Grammar School.
Buckinghamshire is home to a number of respected independent, boarding and prep schools, including Caldicott School, Stowe School, St. Mary’s School (for girls) and Davenies School (preparatory school for boys). The Good Schools Guide and Ofsted reports provide excellent starting points for more information.
In addition, the presence of several grammar schools in the region means that children are able to take the 11+ exam to establish whether a secondary school or grammar school would best meet your child’s needs.
Two schools currently run the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme for 16- to 19-year-olds. These are the Sir Henry Floyd Grammar School in Aylesbury and The Hazeley Academy in Milton Keynes.
Higher education also has a high profile in Buckinghamshire with students coming from around the world to study at the University of Buckinghamshire, Buckinghamshire New University, the Open University, The International School of Creative Arts, and University Campus Milton Keynes. The county is also within easy reach of world-renowned universities in Oxford, Cambridge and London.
Sports and leisure in Buckinghamshire
Popular sports teams in the region include the MK Dons FC, Wycombe Wanderers FC and London Wasps (rugby union). Keen golfers flock to the county’s golf courses – of which Buckinghamshire has the highest concentration in the UK – including world-class venues such as Stoke Park Club.
For people who prefer the fast lane, Silverstone draws massive crowds as the home to British Motorsport and the F1 British Grand Prix.
The redeveloped Stoke Mandeville Stadium is known as the home of wheelchair sport and the ‘birthplace’ of the Paralympic Games. It is now a state-of-the-art leisure complex.
One of the county’s big leisure attractions is Xscape in Milton Keynes, which houses Snozone for all-year round snow sports, Airkik indoor skydiving and Ellis Brigham Trek and Climb climbing walls. In addition, you can find Go Ape high wire adventure parks in Wendover and Black Park.
Buckinghamshire is also known for its good food. Renowned Michelin-starred pubs and restaurants include The Hand and Flowers at Marlow, The Sir Charles Napier at Chinnor, Danesfield House near Marlow, The Jolly Cricketers at Seer Green and The Kings Arms in Cookham. ‘Celebrity’ chef, Heston Blumenthal, owns three restaurants in Bray – the three Michelin stars for The Fat Duck make it a popular place to dine.
Vineyards, microbreweries, chocolatiers, farm shops and farmers’ markets also offer ways for people in Buckinghamshire to fill their leisure time.
Places to visit
Buckinghamshire is the most filmed county in the UK. As well as providing the backdrop for ITV’s Midsomer Murders, Lark Rise to Candleford and Inspector Morse, it was also where films such as Skyfall and Tomb Raider were filmed. Buckinghamshire is also home to the iconic Pinewood Studios, which has welcomed A-Listers and the film-making elite through its doors since it became a film studio in 1935.
Home to the most National Trust properties of any county in Britain, popular tourist attractions include Waddesdon Manor, Claydon House, Hughenden Manor and Ascott House.
For people who enjoy art, history and culture, Buckinghamshire has lots to offer. The Aylesbury Waterside Theatre attracts performances of West End and touring productions, operas and ballets, as well as a Christmas pantomime. Other popular tourist destinations include The Chinnor and Princes Risborough Railway, the Chiltern Open Air Museum and the Roald Dahl trail, including museums in Aylesbury and Great Missenden.
Over a third of Buckinghamshire is covered by the government designated Chilterns Area of Outstanding Beauty, so there are plenty of acclaimed gardens, green parks and nature reserves throughout the county, including over 2,500 miles of public rights of way.
In fact, Buckinghamshire is the perfect place to live or work if you want a taste of country life. There are a variety of stunning green spaces, many of which have a rich history. Check out the internationally renowned Stowe Landscape Gardens, Cliveden, the Old Thatch or Tiggywinkles Wildlife Hospital.
Buckinghamshire offers a good mix of property types from quaint 17th century cottages, country properties and handsome Georgian townhouses to more modern detached family and executive housing.
Halifax’s 2014 Quality of Life Survey found that Chiltern and South Buckinghamshire are both have the biggest homes in the UK, averaging 6.4 habitable rooms per property against the UK average of 5.5 habitable rooms.
The average price for a three-bed semi-detached property is currently £348,080, a value that has risen by £30,823 over the past 12 months. The average monthly rent for a similar size property is currently £1,363 pcm (Source: Zoopla).
Again, according to Zoopla, the highest value towns in Buckinghamshire for property are Beaconsfield, Chalfont St. Giles, Gerrards Cross, Great Missenden and Amersham.
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