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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.