How can that cherished dream of experiencing English village life ever come true when you only have two weeks or less – and you’re currently on the other side of the world.
The prospect of getting off a plane tired and jetlagged only to drive a car or drag bags onto a coach, can seem all too hard to consider for a short stay.
The long trip to the UK from all corners of the globe can leave the traveller exhausted and reluctant to seek out that village experience.
Relax … an answer is at hand.
The picturesque English centre of Denham, located in southern Buckinghamshire, fits anyone’s definition of a village that time forgot.
Listed in the Domesday Book of 1086, Denham is a picture postcard village of red brick buildings draped in colourful wisteria.
The name Denham is derived from the Saxon meaning of settlement in a valley. Much of the village centre has changed remarkably little since the early 20th Century.
There’s a tranquil Village Green, running streams and Saint Mary’s Church of England has a flint stone Norman tower built in the early 12th Century, a Chancel dating from the 13th Century and a Nave that was built in the 15th Century.
But, the real secret is that Denham is only about 15 to 20 minutes drive from Heathrow Airport – a ‘traditional’ English village without the need for exhausting travel.
In fact, Denham shares a boundary with the London Borough of Hillingdon (formerly Middlesex) – and it is possible to get a car and driver from the Heathrow Airport to the village for about 20 Great British pounds.
And once at Denham, there’s no shortage of quaint yet high quality accommodation.
How about the Falcon Inn, a former 16th century Inn converted into a lovely old bed and breakfast, with attic rooms featuring exposed beams and a view over the Denham Village Green.
The amenities at the Falcon Inn are first class, with superb food and every opportunity to mingle with the locals and feel part of the village atmosphere.
At Denham, you can meander along the local ‘Bridleways’ – and an ‘easy access route – to the Colne, Misborne and Fray’s rivers and take a short stroll to the Grand Union Canal that passes close to the village.
Part of the extensive network of canals constructed across England and Wales in the late 18th Century, the waterway allows visitors to soak up a gentler pace of life and watch sleek and colourful narrow boats as they negotiate the Denham Deep Lock.
With a fall of almost 3.5 metres, the Denham lock is said to be the deepest on the Grand Union Canal and is fascinating to watch in action.
You can get ringside seats at Fran’s Tea Garden, which is located in part of the eye-catching Lock Keeper’s House. Here, it’s possible to sit back with a cuppa and marvel at the boats passing almost within reach.
The teahouse, which is literally surrounded by water and wildlife, is clearly marked with a novelty weather vane that features a teapot and a cup.
Denham Deep Lock is a highlight of the Colne Valley Regional Park, a magnet for wildlife lovers, walkers and others exploring one of England’s environmental jewells.
In our next post, we’ll ramble down the many paths, bridges and walkways that make up this wonderful park and discover the swans, waterbirds and the impressive community effort that keeps the area open for our enjoyment.
Just along from the lock there is an aquaduct, used to create an artificial river loop. Locals say the loop once supplied water to six flourmills.
Back in Denham village, you can explore the grounds of Saint Mary’s church, which includes the graves of well known British actor, Sir John Mills CBE and his wife , the writer Mary Hayley Bell.
In the heart of the village is a walkway called The Pyghtle, a quaint Anglo Saxon word meaning a small enclosure of land.
The tarmac footpath on The Pyghtle links the village with nearby Denham railway station which, in turn, has direct services to London Marylebone station – another example of the village’s convenient location.
If you are so inclined, a stay at Denham can coincide with another phenomenon, the ‘roundabout’ carboot market.
Each Saturday between March and November (weather permitting) buyers and sellers from a wide area of southern England gather at a nearby roundabout on the A40. Although far from a traditional village experience, this unorthodox market is certainly an experience just the same.
And, when your time at Denham comes to a close, you can farewell the locals satisfied that the English village dream has come true within a relatively tight schedule and without driving you to exhaustion.
Although Denham has largely stood still since the early 20th century, its location on the edge of London and close to Heathrow Airport opens the door to an English village experience, with the minimum of stress and the maximum of enjoyment.
Denham is truly a memorable destination.