"Come with us to Metro-land" – thus ran the slogan of the Metropolitan Railway, the world's first underground railway, whose Extension Line from Baker Street via Amersham first opened up the pleasures of the Buckinghamshire Chilterns to day-trippers from London. Walkers fleeing London still hop on the Metropolitan Line to Chesham, a Walkers are Welcome Chiltern valley town. Before walking off, fuel to the finish in a choice of some 16 eating places, ranging from the picturesque Queens Head in Church Street to Rumbles Pantry, just off the Market Square, where scrumptious breakfasts are served until 3pm.
What to see in Chesham
Chesham Museum – in the Market Square, displays images and artefacts illustrating the story of the town and its more quirky characters, such as Roger Crab, the 'Mad Hatter' of Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland or the wealthy Lowndes family of The Bury, rivals of the Skottowes who owned the mansion next door. When the Skottowes lost the game of cards that was to determine who should have the upper hand, the Lowndes duly bought their house and pulled it down. The site is now Chesham's Lowndes Park.
Chesham's Local Produce Market – has been voted Britain's Greenest Market. It operates in the Market Square on the fourth Saturday of each month, selling an enticing range of farm fresh produce, fruit juice, preserves, cakes and savouries, plants and more besides.
The Elgiva stages an excellent programme of professional live entertainment, which includes all kinds of music, ballet, drama and pantomime.
In the countryside
To help walkers make their choice, leaflets give details of six walking routes around Chesham. Each leaflet contains a map and description of the route, points of interest and historical facts, along with attractive photographs and historical pictures of the route. There is also guidance on how to get to Chesham to start your walks.
Walk 1: is a 2 mile walk mainly around the town on the Chesham Heritage Trail. Walk 2: is a 7½ mile walk (it can be shortened) which takes in the lovely Pednor Vale – and four pubs. Walk 3: is a 5 mile walk up to Ley Hill and its two pubs, the Crown and the Swan. Walk 4: is a gentle 4 mile stroll without stiles towards Chesham Bois and its beech woods. Walk 5: is an 8 mile walk through the hills and vales between Chesham and Chartridge, finishing via Lowndes Park. Walk 6: the Ashley Green 'Farms, Forts and Fighters' Walk is an 8½ mile walk into history, passing an iron age fort and the Second World War airfield where USAF pilots took off on their bombing raids encouraged by such visiting celebrities including Glenn Miller, Clark Gable and James Stewart.
The Chess Valley Walk – is a station-to-station, 10 mile (or shorter) linear walk following the valley of the little River Chess from Chesham to Rickmansworth, touching the villages of Latimer, Chenies (and Chenies Manor) and Sarratt. The landscape is rich in wildlife: keep an eye out for kingfishers, water voles, brown trout and dragonflies.
For cyclists: National Cycle Network Route 57 links Chesham with Thame via quiet lanes, with some off-road sections. It is signposted throughout. Part of the route (the Phoenix Trail section between Thame and Princes Risborough) offers traffic-free cycling along a disused railway – ideal for families.
What to head for further afield
Amersham – 2 miles from Chesham.
Roald Dahl Museum and Story Centre at Great Missenden – 4.4 miles from Chesham. Established in Roald Dahl's home village, the centre inspires young visitors (aged 6–12) with hands-on story-telling activities and the story of Dahl's own life and work. As well as the interactive Story Centre, there are two fun-filled, fact-packed galleries, plus a new gallery which includes Roald Dahl's original Writing Hut. There are more rooms for craft activities and story telling sessions – and Café Twit.
Chenies Manor – 5.8 miles from Chesham. This charming Tudor manor house was visited on more than one occasion by both Henry VIII and Elizabeth I. Once part of the Duke of Bedford's estates, it was rescued and restored by Alistair and Elizabeth MacLeod Matthews as their family home. The award-winning gardens add events and seasonal displays to ever popular features which including the yew maze, turf maze and tea room.
Berkhamsted Castle – 5 miles from Chesham. A towering motte and some bailey walls are impressive reminders of this once-mighty Norman castle. This town has a special place in our history: following the Saxon defeat at the Battle of Hastings, it was at Berkhamsted that the bishops and noblemen formally offered William the Conqueror the crown.
The National Trust's Ashridge Estate – 9.7 miles from Chesham. More magnificent and varied countryside, this time mainly open downland and woods on the main ridge of the Chilterns straddling the Hertfordshire/Buckinghamshire border. The 5,000 acres of woodlands, commons and chalk downland support a rich variety of wildlife and provide splendid walks through outstanding scenery. The focal point is the Bridgewater Monument, erected in 1832 to the Duke of Bridgewater in recognition of his pioneering canal development. Walks take in Ivinghoe Beacon, at the end of the ancient Ridgeway. The panoramic hilltop at the Beacon gives wonderful views of the surrounding countryside, including Whipsnade and the Chiltern Gateway Centre.