English villages: what on earth is a pyghtle?

When you spend time in the countryside of England, you come across some amazing sights among the villages and towns.

From ancient burial cairns and standing stones to ruined castles and relics of the Vikings, Romans, Saxons, Normans – and even pirates.

The sights are many, varied – and just keep astonishing.


But, the ‘Pyghtle’ completely stumped us.

We first heard of the word while visiting one of our favourite ‘picture-postcard’ villages, Denham in Buckinghamshire.

Our curiosity was piqued by a sign on a wall adjoining the village green, so we asked villagers about the ‘pyghtle’.

It was, they told us, an old English term for a small section of land.

And they were correct. Google tells us that the word ‘Pyghtle’ – sometimes spelt ‘Pightle – is actually an Anglo Saxon term for a small ‘croft’ or enclosure of land.

Apparently a ‘Pyghtle’ can be a block of land on which there is a building; a vacant area; or even – as in the case at Denham – a public footpath.

Denham’s ‘Pyghtle’ is a well-used link between the village and the railway station – and is itself enclosed by high brick walls at one end.

Another equally endearing term that you regularly find in the English countryside is ‘bridle path’ or ‘bridleway’.


This is a path, trail or thoroughfare that can be used by people riding horses.

The way it was explained to us, these often meandering trails, in most cases, were originally created for horses, but have now been opened up to hikers and cyclists – but not motorised vehicles.

Bridleways are often quite narrow, but – as shown here – they often take you into bushland, wetlands, conservation and natural areas that might be missed otherwise.

Of course, they exist in many countries of the world – not only England – and are not only for leisure.

In many areas, they are important transport links.

Denham UK village life

A village experience tinged with history

Travellers to Denham for an English village experience follow a well worn path.

Although Denham Village remains a largely unspoiled and tranquil collection of historic English buildings, the area has roots back to Saxon times – and even earlier Roman ruins have also been found nearby.

The first written record of Denham was in the 11th century. It’s understood that land was given to the Abbot and convent of Westminster in 1299.

Later, King Henry III granted the village a weekly market and an annual three-day fair.

Denham fair continued until the 1870s.

The stately buildings that are part of Denham’s appeal as a perfect getaway location for travellers from around the globe, began to be noticed  near the end of the 17th century.


A fine brick mansion known as Denham Place, for example, was built around that time and is said to be noted for its friezes, ceilings and chapel.

Another outstanding old building, Denham Court, stands at the end of an avenue of lime trees.

Part of a 14th-century hall still survives at another house, Savay Farm.

Located in southern Buckinghamshire, Denham is ideal for an English village experience.


A stunning area of red brick buildings draped in wisteria, Denham is only about 15 to 20 minutes journey by hire car and driver from Heathrow Airport – a ‘traditional’ English village without the need for exhausting travel.



English villages: Denham ticks the boxes

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.

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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.

The Falcon Inn, Denham UK

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.

Village rambling

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.

Denham Features UK village life