Rural edgeland wander in the rain

My friend joked that he wondered what kind of Wycombe edgelands I’d be leading him round when we met at the station. ‘Let’s head down to Wooburn instead’, I reassured him, far more scenic for his enormous dog, and the woods above the village would give us some partial cover from the persistant rain.

Wooburn Green

We climbed up the bare field above the cricket pitch at Wooburn Park where I spent all my childhood summers and admired the view from the edge of Farm Wood.

shaggy parasol mushroom

Shaggy Parasol mushroom?

There were numerous deep hollows and steep banks throughout Farm Wood and Mill Wood. Some looked as if they could be bomb craters (although I don’t think Wooburn was bombed during the war) – another you could take for an earthwork. My friend and I settled on the idea that they must have been formed either by water running down the hill towards the river at the foot of the valley, or a legacy of the glacial flows that carved this out landscape.

Whitepit Lane Wooburn

Whitepit Lane Wooburn

My friend departed back at Wooburn Green and I sat and watched the rain from Perkys Coffee House on the Green. A cafe like this was unimaginable in Wooburn when I was a kid and also when I returned from Australia with my wife 20-odd years ago.

After the surprisingly good coffee and toasted sandwich had sunk in, I felt the pull back up out of the valley, ascending Whitepit Lane with its fine views over the village.

Whitepit Lane Wooburn

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The scrubby fields blocked with concrete sentinels started to adopt an edgeland feel that I began to see wherever I looked. The caravan park where my parents had lived in the 1950’s is still there in a chalk pit near the top of the hill (Dad said lumps of chalk would regularly fall upon the roof). The field looking towards Pig Wood was protected with a large metal gate. Shipping containers sprouted from the earth at the top of Juniper Lane.

Juniper Lane, Flackwell Heath

Juniper Lane, Flackwell Heath

My Dad told me the they used to call the bottom of Juniper Lane ‘Spicer’s Crossing’ after a fella who’d been killed on the railway line there and whose ghost haunted that part of the Lane.

I moved on along Boundary Road, the rain still lashing down.

Loudwater viaduct

M40 Viaduct at Loudwater

Passing beneath the viaduct carrying the M40 overhead was always a powerful experience as a kid. We used to climb up into its interior via a service hatch – like crawling through the air vents of a space station – a terrifying experience.

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The Railko factory appears to have been demolished and with it has gone the powerful odour of burnt plastic that it puffed out into the air. My Mum worked there at one point, making circuit boards I believe. A single strip-light illuminated the first floor office of a square industrial unit at the end of a cracked concrete drive. What goes on in these places? The company appears to have connections to Qatar.

The Wheatsheaf High Wycombe

The Wheatsheaf High Wycombe

This unassuming timber-framed building, formerly The Wheatsheaf pub, has recently discovered to have been built in 1399, making it the second oldest standing building in High Wycombe after the parish church. There are now plans to fully investigate the heritage of the site and unravel its history.

The Antelope Wycombe IMG_0367

I end my wander at The Antelope pub, itself a building with a good few years under its eves, with a pint of IPA from the Rebellion Brewery in Marlow. There’s only one other punter in the pub, an old fella eating from a take-away container. Music blares out over an empty dance-floor.

2 Comments

  1. Graham L   •  

    Sounds a varied and interesting walk. Such a pity the branch railway from Bourne End to Wycombe closed in the late 60s. Nice to see that the Antelope has decent, local beer – it’s always looked an offputting place to me. Wycombe is sadly bereft of redeeming features – an historic town totally trashed by town “planners” and redevelopment. BTW yesterday I travelled on the U9 bus from Uxbridge to Harefield – another interesting journey, to a surprisingly pretty village but going past some dodgy-looking edgeland sites and an HS2 construction site with adjacent protest camp looking very forlorn in the rain.

    • JohnR   •     Author

      It was a good one Graham, and interesting to get new views of a place I knew so well. Yes the Antelope is not what it once was, in the late 80’s it was a lovely historic town centre ‘local’ – best pub in town – seems to be more of a nightclub now for the students at Bucks. You’re right that the Eden Centre has killed the town in many ways, the High Street is dead, many shops boarded up, same with the streets leading down from the Station which were once full for small businesses. We predicted this when we did our Remapping High Wycombe project in 2004-05 when the scheme was being planned but were told that Eden would revitalise the Town Centre. How wrong they were.

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