. An early 7th-century manuscript bewailed the solitude and desolation of the Chiltern Hills which comprise much of the county, and whose steep contours were for many centuries a barrier to communication, but the seemingly inexorable expansion of London has drastically changed all that.
. in the north and east of the county lie a series of gently rising sandy hills, below which is the fertile Vale of Aylesbury (famous for the intensive rearing of the local ducks).
. To the south is the long, chalk ridge of the heavily wooded Chiltern Hills, leading to the noted stretch of woodland known as Burnham Beeches in the extreme south.
. The River Thames forms the southern boundary of the county with Berkshire and the River Colne forming the border on the south-east with Middlesex. To the east are Hertfordshire and Bedfordshire. Northamptonshire lies to the north, and Oxfordshire to the west.
Origin of name: The farm of Bucca's people. Name first recorded: 1016 as Buccinghamscir. Motto: Vestigia nulla retrorsum ("No backward step").
AYLESBURY Has a lovely I cobbled Market Square dominated by a Victorian clock tower. Home to the famed
BEACONSFIELO: Although much developed recently, has kept its red-brick Georgian high street buildings, but is better known for Bekonscot, the oldest model village in the world.
BUCKINGHAM: Once created the county town by Alfred in 886, this is a delight to wander through with its steep narrow streets.
BURNHAM: its claim to fame is the forest of Burnham Beeches - a famous beauty spot.
CHALPONT ST GILES: Pretty village with a John Milton museum.
ETON: Has the famous ivy-covered buildings of Eton College - the second oldest public school in the country, founded in 14-40.
CRENDON UNDERWOOD: Village with Shakespeare associations.
HIGH WYCOMBE: Has paper- and postage stamp- making heritage.
JORDANS: Long associated with early Quakers. Grave of William Penn of Pennsylvania fame.
MARLOW: Charming Thames-side town boasts a suspension bridge built in 1831 by the same architect who linked Buda to Pest in Hungary!
PRINCES RISBOROUGH: Olde-worlde town with gabled and herringbone houses.
SLOUGH: High-rise offices dominate this industrial centre. Sir William Hershel gained his first view of Uranus from his garden on the town's outskirts.
. Chalfont St Peter . Chesham . Colnbrook (shared with Middlesex) . Datchet . Farnham Royal. Gerrard's Cross . Linslade . Wraysbury
Ouse, Ray, Thames, Colne, Chess, Wyte,
Coombe Hill, Wendover at 852 feet.
. Shrove Tuesday: Pancake Day Race - OIney. One of Britain's oldest, dating back to 1445. Only ladies residing permanently in the town and wearing aprons, skirts and scarves are eligible to enter.
. May: Mayor's Weighing-in Ceremony - High Wycombe. Marks the appointment of the new mayor and mayoress.
. Sunday nearest St. Peter's Day: Hay Strewing Ceremony - St. Peter's Church, Wingrave. Hay is strewn in the aisles.
. November 11 : Firing The Poppers - Fenny Stratford.
. February: Festival of the Arts - Milton Keynes.
. 4th week in July: Festival of Flowers - Hartwell House, Aylesbury.
. May/July: Wavendon Festival - Wavendon.
. September: Woburn Festival.
. End of September: High Wycombe Fair.
. November: Chesham Arts Festival.
. November: Buckingham Festival of Music, Arts & Drama.
. August/September: Buckinghamshire County Show -Aylesbury (September)
. Mid-June: Marlow Regatta.
. 3rd week in August: Lavingdon Show.
. The countryside around Stoke Poges provided the inspiration for Thomas Gray's Elegy In A Country Churchyard while he was spending a summer at his mother's home there.
. The father of the poet John Milton retired to live at Hoi- ton in 1632, and his son spent six years there after leaving Cambridge, during which time he produced a number of works. When the Great Plague of London struck in 1666, he went to reside at Chalfont St Giles to escape possible infection.
. The 19th-century prime minister Benjamin Disraeli grew up at Bradenham Manor. Later in life, he and his wife purchased Hughenden Manor near High Wycombe, where he lived until his death.
. Hugh Grant and Andie MacDowell had their first night of passion at the Crown Hotel, Amersham, in the film Four Weddings And A Funeral.
. The jazz bandleader, composer and saxophonist John Dankworth and his wife, singer Cleo Laine, live at Wavendon where they have established an arts centre in the Stables adjoining their home. A number of major musical events and concerts are held throughout the year.
. Sir John and Lady Mills live at Denham.
Buckinghamshire's local government; A two tier system with a Buckinghamshire County Council for part of the county and four districts of Aylesbury Vale, Chiltern, South Buckinghamshire and Wycombe. The County is topped and tailed by two single unitary authorities - Milton Keynes District in the north and Slough District in the South. Buckinghamshire's Eton, Datchet, Horton and Wraysbury are ruled by the Berkshire based unitary authority of Windsor & Maidenhead. Linslade is administered by two-tier Bedfordshire County and South Bedfordshire District Councils. Caversfield is detached Buckinghamshire in Oxfordshire governed by Oxfordshire County Council and Cherwell District Council.
EXPLORING LOVELY LITTLE villages around Princes Risborough, browsing round the antique shops of Amersham or spending a day out under the leafy canopy of beautiful Burnham Beeches, you think Buckinghamshire is everything an English county should be. Yet this is not just the day-out county from the 'burbs - it's also where many west Middlesex folk settle. The south side of the county below Aylesbury is archetypal home counties exuding prosperity and richness. Mind you, it is also the site of Slough, subject of John Betjeman's biting "Come friendly bombs, and/all on Slough It isn't fit for humans now, There isn't grass to graze a cow ..." and now there is Milton Keynes in the north which is fascinating because the cows are concrete and the towns that make up the modern planned city - Wolverton, Stony Stratford, Bletchley, Newport Pagnell et al - are ferocious in their local identities. This is the home of the Open University, where those who cannot spare the time or the finance for full-time study can gain a degree. At the top of the county in the north, at Olney with its famous Shrove Tuesday pancake race, is where Buckinghamshire becomes a Midland county.
The otherwise sleepy former county town of Buckingham, with its higgledy-piggledy streets ext- ending around a Georgian town hall, exhibits a lively atmosphere partly thanks to the presence of the students from the University of Buckingham, the country's only private university. In contrast Aylesbury, now the county town, has seen much of its previous historic character swamped by modern industrial development and insensitive concrete structures, although some of its half- timbered houses and the large market square still survive. Wendover, near the high point (852 feet) of the Chilterns, has also retained some similar buildings but the two most architecturally satisfying towns are Amersham and WestWycombe. The high street of the former boasts a number of handsome 17th-and 18th-century houses, almshouses, a market and a graceful town hall. The latter, situated in a narrow valley, has a parish church dating back to the 13thcentury, an imposing Guildhall and Market hall of the 18th century, and an art gallery and museum whose contents reflect the importance of the furniture-making industry of the area. This was based on the abundant supplies of good timber from the famous beech woods which are a feature of the area. The town itself, which dates from the 15th to the 18th century is now owned by the National Trust which has undertaken to preserve its character,
The new town of Milton Keynes incorporates 13 former villages and now extends over nearly 50 square miles. Intended as a high-tech 20th-century metropolis, and designed for the convenience of motorists, with pedestrians and cyclists separated from the cars by a network of footpaths and subways, it has yet to live up to its original promise. A third of the city still awaits development and only the central shopping area displays the original noble intentions of gridform streets andcleanliness.
Life in the small town of Eton revolves around the College - that world-famous establishment for the education of princes, future politicians and pop stars' sons. Visit during term-time and you will find the town awash with boys in tail coats and stiff Eton collars. The school chapel is noted for its exquisite fan-vaulted roof.
The two major film studios established at Pinewood, Iver Heath, and Denham have both had a major impact on the county, with many famous films being made within their facilities and at nearby locations, such as the roads around Pinewood, which doubled for the Sussex roads in the venerable comedy Genevieve. The Black Park country park near Pinewood, with its exotic plants and foliage, served as a discreet replacement for authentic South American scenery in the film The Mission. The popular children's film Chitty Chitty Bang Bang was filmed on location at Turville, near High Wycombe, and at Iver.
Prior to the Roman invasion, the region was inhabited by the Catuvellauni tribe, and in AD571 was part of the kingdom of Wessex. Its people were converted to Christianity by Saint Birin. By the ninth century, the area was part of the Danelaw, but in the early 10th century the Danes were defeated by Edward the Elder at Bledlow Hill. During the Civil War, Buckinghamshire strongly supported the Parliamentary cause, and 30 of the men associated with the trial and execution of Charles I were connected with the county. Buckinghamshire boasts some splendid mansions and manor houses, some of which date back to Tudor times. The latter include the pink brick Dorney Court, whose gardens are claimed to have produced the first pineapple ever grown in the country. Chenies Manor, which has been owned by the Russell family since the 16th century, incorporates one wing built to accommodate Henry VIII and his court. A contemporary building is Claydon House, where Florence Nightingale was a frequent visitor.
More imposing are the mansion and landscaped gardens at Stowe, built for the dukes of Buckinghamshire during the 17th and 18th century, and where the skills of Vanbrugh, Robert Adam, Grinling Gibbons and William Kent were given full scope. The rakish activities of the notorious Hell-Fire Club, founded by Sir Francis Dashwood, were conducted in the Palladian setting of West Wycombe Park, which was built during the same century. Overlooking the Thames at Cookham Reach is Cliveden, the former country home of the Astor family and now an hotel, which in the 1930s was a centre for political intrigue, and three decades later the scene of a notorious preliminary encounter in what was to become known as the Profumo scandal which subsequently resulted in the collapse of the Conservative government.Waddesdon Manor is a 19th-century French- style mansion, built for Baron de Rothschild, and now housing a superb collection of Sevres porcelain, together with furniture and paintings of the period. The building featured in the British television series Howard's Way. Finally, tucked away near Kimble lies Chequers - the manor house that was given to the nation after World War I for the benefit of the prime ministers of the United Kingdom.