AMERSHAM The old town of Amersham is anchored by a 17th-century market hall. The High Street, lanes and little courtyards offer a picturesque variety of architectural styles from timber-framed houses to Georgian brick – sometimes just façades on much older buildings. A plethora of old pubs recalls the town’s history as a staging post on the coach road from London to Aylesbury, and traffic still comes to a halt in September when the annual charter fair is held. The smallest period cottage can cost from £280,000, with substantial houses up to £1.75m. The new part of the town, Amersham-on-the-Hill, was developed in the early 1900s when the Metropolitan Railway Company brought City merchants and West End traders from Aldgate and Baker Street. As the last stop on the Underground, Amersham was considered the end of commuterland until motorways made distant villages accessible. The more modern housing includes ex-council flats from £170,000, three-bedroom semis from £280,000, and four-bedroom family houses at £450,000. There are cricket, football and hockey clubs, a swimming pool, a film society and several riding stables and pony clubs. People often move here to take advantage of the local grammar schools – Dr Challoner’s for boys in Amersham, and Dr Challoner’s High for girls in Little Chalfont. Chesham Bois (the name derives from the Boyes family, owners of the manor in 1276, rather than the surrounding woods) feels itself to be set apart from the rest. It has six schools, a well-managed common, a village shop and a powerful community heartbeat. The houses stand well apart from each other, some in an acre of land. Prices soar to £1.1m or more.
Chesham, only a short drive away, is also on the Metropolitan line. The town is beguiling, cupped by the Chiltern Hills and brushed by the River Chess which flows, with an accompanying riverside walk, through beech woods, past watercress beds and a trout farm. The shopping is good, with standard supermarkets and multiple stores, but also speciality shops, including a saddler, French baker and music shop. Sainsbury’s brought with it The Elgiva Theatre as lucrative planning gain. Many of the shops front ancient buildings, some half-timbered 16th-century, others brick-and-plaster.