Why we love our village

PUBLISHED: 13:32 09 May 2012 | UPDATED: 21:22 20 February 2013

Alvin Michaels

Alvin Michaels

On the edge of the Chiltern Hills in a landscape sculpted by the River Chess, the villages of Flaunden, Chenies and Sarratt...

Alvin Michaels, Flaunden

Sitting high on a gentle slope overlooking the Chess valley, Flaunden is characterised by its brick and flint buildings familiar to millions from the Midsomer Murders ITV series.

The village is a regular award winner, voted Best Small Village in Herts in 2009.

Alvin Michaels has run the 18th-century Bricklayers Arms pub and restaurant with his wife Sally and son Adam for the past eight years, and says the villagers are justifiably proud of Flaundens mix of old and new buildings and its beautiful surrounding countryside.

The Bricklayers Arms has just won an AA rosette for culinary excellence and was also awarded The Foodie Guides Restaurant of the Year 2012. It is also recommended in the Michelin Guide.

With just 279 people at the last electoral count, the village is a traditional quiet village but has a vibrant social scene throughout the year, the 51-year-old says.

The May flower show at St Mary Magdalene Church, films, music and theatre at the village hall, the lovely cottages and beautiful walks in woodlands with wonderful views of the Chess Valley are all part of its attractions. And Spring is one of the best times to visit, he says.

You can walk amongst a sea of daffodils along the Chess Valley from Chenies up to Sarratt. Along the way you can enjoy a pint and bite to eat in some of our country pubs and take in the watercress flats from one of the oldest family owned watercress beds in the country.

If you fancy making a weekend of it, a good base with many activities is the nearby five star Grove Hotel, which has hosted the World Golf Championship. It has an indoor and outdoor pool, archery, clay pigeon shooting, a spa and lots of other activities for kids. And just a couple of miles walk outside the village, Latimer Place Hotel also provides much-deserved pampering at its spa.

David Allsop, Chenies

MANY hundreds of visitors come to Chenies every year to visit the manor house and gardens and the pretty church in the grounds that overlook the Chess Valley.

Rector of St Michaels David Allsop describes the church, which dates back to the Norman period, as having a very special atmosphere.

Pevsner described the church as ordinary. Of course, everybody who comes along on a Sunday disagrees with that comment. The church itself is not only beautiful, warm, well lit and well maintained but it is also a peaceful and holy place, what Celtic theology would describe as a thin place where heaven touches earth.

Chenies Manor and its award-winning gardens opened to the public from April 4.

The 63-year-old adds that people come to see Chenies Manor, a fairytale Tudor manor house, and then spot the church.

They visit Chenies Manor which is exceptional throughout the year and famous at tulip time and then come to visit the church as well. They come for the architecture but many people just end up sitting in the church and soaking up the atmosphere or perhaps lighting a candle and saying a prayer.

The village has been selected as a site for one of the official beacons that will be lit across the country on June 4 to mark the Queens diamond jubilee.

The rector says the village is also a lovely place to live, close to beautiful walks along the Chess Valley, to Flaunden, and Amersham to Seer Green and many others, as well as having good travel links via the nearby M25 and to the tube into London. It is also a friendly village with a mix of old and young families and a good social life, he adds.

There is a tremendous pub, The Red Lion look out for the famous Chenies Pie, and a superb hotel, The Bedford Arms. The cricket club is flourishing, as is the Baptist Chapel next to the Red Lion, and Im looking forward to our jubilee celebrations which promise to be quite exciting.

Why not come and have a church tea one summer Sunday afternoon, enjoy Chenies and stop long enough to have a good chat as well as see the sights?

Grainger Biggs, Sarratt

WITH its three traditional pubs, village store, post office and duck pond surrounded by daffodils in spring, Sarratt has managed to retain many of the elements of village life that have been threatened by modern living and the economic downturn.

Retaining a vibrant local economy has not been without hard work however, and this was epitomised when villagers rallied together to put up the money to buy the village shop last year.

Eighty-five families joined forces when the Biggs family who owned Sarratt Post Office Store for 23 years put up the For Sale sign, and it is now successfully run as a community concern with volunteers putting in shifts.

Grainger Biggs, who was kept on to run the store as well as his sister Jane Watson who manages the post office, says the shop is at the centre of the village geographically and socially.

It is a true village store, which sells everything from fresh bread and vegetables to shoe laces and dry cleaning. We also have a prescription service from the local doctors surgery, the 45-year-old says.

We have a volunteer rota and the volunteers work behind the counter and stock up. It works very well we are a happy team. Many village shops have closed due to the economic climate. We are proud to still have a shop and post office in the village.

He adds that Sarratt retains a real sense of community with many clubs and societies and people look out for one another.

It is a very friendly village. Everybody knows everybody and in illness we all help each other out.

The beauty and traditional aspect of Sarratt, with its village green, duck pond, small but beautiful Holy Cross Church, lovingly tended gardens and many ancient buildings, attract not only visitors but also film crews working on period movies and TV programmes.

It is a truly lovely place to live and visit, Grainger says.


The renowned annual Sarratt Festival of Music takes place in the village hall over the last two weekends in September.

Great Sarratt Hall and other private gardens are opened up to the public as part of the National Gardens Scheme. The four-acre Great Sarratt Hall gardens are open on May 29.

The WI has produced a walking guide to the area with circular routes, which is available at Sarratt stores.

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