The historic market town of Chesham in Buckinghamshire is a small treasure. Known for its lace-making, brush-making and brewing industries, it has lovely old streets and plenty of green spaces – notably the 36-acre Lowndes Park, with its elegant avenues and scented gardens.
Chesham is also the location of our newest store and, being on the fringes of London, it’s well placed for city dwellers seeking to escape the capital for a day. The town itself is quiet (if you need to stop for a good coffee and cake, locals love The Tavern at 96 The Broadway), but the cluster of small towns and villages around it are also ripe for exploring. What’s more, Chesham sits on the edge of the Chilterns, an idyllic 300-mile stretch of countryside with rolling hills and unspoilt woodland.
Wherever you’re coming from, we suggest travelling by car and taking a tour of the area after you come to see us. These are some of the places we’ve enjoyed the most.
The Roald Dahl Museum
Children’s author Roald Dahl lived in the village of Great Missenden for 36 years and it’s now home to his archive of manuscripts, letters and photos, housed in an old coaching inn converted by architects Hawkins Brown. The village – which is five miles west of Chesham – appears in many of his stories, including Matilda and The BFG. Both adults and children will find something rewarding at the museum – as well as interactive displays, it also showcases Dahl’s collection of quirky mementos and the famous hut where he wrote his books.
Drive 12 miles north-west of Chesham, through the scenic Chilterns, and you’ll find this large and beautiful woodland, which has something to see all year round – whether it’s bluebells in spring, picnics in summer or, if you’re lucky, the wild deer and birds that live here. There are plenty of trails to help you navigate the woods – the Firecrest Trail, for instance, might help you spot this rare bird – but we also suggest climbing the Highest Point, the loftiest hill in the Chilterns, for its spectacular views. Weary walkers can refuel at the Café in the Woods, which serves sandwiches and ploughman’s lunches amid the trees.
The village of Chalfont St Giles, seven miles south of Chesham, is worth a visit for its pretty Norman church and the ancient Hodgemoor Wood, which sits on its outskirts. The main attraction, however, is the 16th-century cottage lived in by poet John Milton, where he wrote Paradise Lost in the 1660s. As well as old editions of his works inside the atmospheric house, there’s a beautiful garden filled with flowers and plants referenced in his writings. It has the distinction of being the only cottage garden in the Chilterns awarded a Grade II listing by English Heritage.
Frogmore Paper Mill
Opened in 1803, Frogmore Paper Mill lies eight miles east of Chesham and is the birthplace of the modern paper industry: the paper-making machine patented by founders Henry and Sealy Fourdrinier is the origin of all kinds of affordable paper products we use today, from postcards to printing paper. One of the old machines is still at work, powered by a steam engine and manufacturing 100% recycled paper. Visitors can take tours of the mill, try their hand at paper-making and buy pretty hand-made papers to take home.
The Grocer Shops
Great bacon sandwiches, homemade soups and toasted banana bread are among the breakfast and brunch offerings at The Grocer at 91, in the sleepy Old Town of Amersham (Chesham’s nearest neighbour). There’s also a sister branch, The Grocer at 15, with a similar menu – the emphasis is on quality Italian ingredients. In the afternoons, head to either address for good coffee and cakes. The décor is simple and fresh, just like the food.
A ten-minute journey north takes you to Chesham’s neighbour Berkhamsted, where you’ll find Porters, which serves wholesome, hearty lunches. The restaurant opened just two years ago after moving from its old premises in Covent Garden; its light, airy interior is influenced by mid-century design, with stylish geometric floor tiles. Food-wise, Porters is known for English fare with a twist, including a variety of homemade pies.
Located in a former bank, this wood-panelled, parquet-floored restaurant makes for an elegant evening dining experience. The Tring venue – one of five Lussmans restaurants in the Home Counties – is the closest to Chesham, a 15-minute drive northwards. The owners pride themselves on their local, sustainably sourced menu, which has been given the seal of approval by restaurant critic Giles Coren. Try the house fishcakes followed by the single-origin chocolate cheesecake.
The house hot chocolate and cakes at Rumsey’s in Wendover are impossible to resist – and while you’re at your table, you can ponder which of its handmade chocolates to take home with you (view a selection online before you visit). Founder Richard Rumsey used to be a pastry chef at New College, Oxford, and only started making his chocolates on a casual basis for friends. They proved so popular that he’s since opened two shops: the Wendover branch, a few miles up the road from Chesham, and another in Thame.
Antiques at Wendover
This isn’t your average antiques shop: it’s set in a Grade II-listed Tudor mansion, complete with 16th-century wall paintings, open fireplaces and a resident ghost. There’s an endless variety of treasures for sale, from jewellery to books, furniture and ceramics. In the courtyard, you’ll find gardenalia, a tea shop and an art gallery.
Around ten minutes’ drive from Chesham, in Great Missenden, is this beautifully curated shop run by sisters Kim White and Karen Sheehy. Karen loves all things related to the home, while Kim is a keen gardener, and their boutique reflects these twin passions: hand-printed English linens, wooden chopping boards and craft pottery are on sale, alongside traditional garden tools. Stock changes constantly, so there’s always something new to discover.
And while you’re in town, we’d love you to stop by.