We love staying in traditional English villages, but not only because they offer a taste of a more gentle age.
The countryside can also be an experience all its own.
For example, our favourite village of Denham, in Buckinghamshire, also involves getting up close and personal with a world class nature reserve – the stunning 43 square mile Colne Valley Regional Park.
From Denham, you can stroll at your leisure along a network of footpaths; an ‘easy access route’; roads; bridges and ‘Bridleways’ lined in part with hedges.
In minutes, you are in an astonishing mixture of woodland, farmland and water amid the Colne, Misbourne and Fray’s rivers.
On the way, you’ll probably find the white swans which have become the symbol of Denham village.
The swans glide through the water with grace and are a photographer’s dream.
As you soak up the natural beauty of the Denham Country Park and Denham Lock Wood – important individual sections of the regional park – watch for a variety of water fowl; herons; geese; and possibly rabbits, squirrels, foxes and even deer.
Stop at the Colne Valley Park Visitor Centre, which includes car parking, a cafe, meeting rooms, toilets, educational displays and exhibitions.
The visitors centre is an invaluable community resource located with Denham Country Park, but serving the much wider Colne Valley parkland.
This centre is also the start of a ‘family explorer’ route through the parkland, as well as an orienteering trail.
Information on these routes and all aspects of the regional park is readily available from the centre staff, who include members of the Friends of the Colne Valley Park.
From there, you can meander along the well maintained and accessible paths to the Grand Union Canal and the Denham Deep Lock, which is a complete experience in itself.
Just over the canal from Denham Country Park – although not as suitable for wheelchairs – is the Fray’s River Local Nature Reserve, where lakes made from old gravel pits attract their own bird life, wildflowers abound and locals say that, in early summer, a disused railway embankment is home to glow worms.
On the same side of the canal is Denham Lock Wood, a wet woodland, which also boasts considerable birdlife, wildflowers and beetles, moths and snails.
Fray’s River runs under the Grand Union Canal just upstream from Denham Deep Lock and is a popular place to watch for herons
Not far from the lock, there’s also an aqueduct, which was apparently used to create an artificial loop in the River Colne. The loop once supplied water to six flourmills.
Colne Valley Regional Park also takes in Buckinghamshire Golf Course, although the only way general members of the public can use the course area is by public footpaths.
The circular ‘easy access route’ – which can take you from Denham’s Village Road to the banks of the Grand Union Canal – is about 1.3 miles long and is ideal for visitors with impaired mobility.
By itself, Denham offers an exceptional traditional English village experience – all within easy reach of London’s Heathrow Airport.
However, the Colne Valley Regional Park is truly the cream on the cake – a ‘must see’ for anyone visiting this picturesque part of the UK and a crucial part of a Denham holiday.
And a memorable destination indeed.