What object would you choose to symbolise Buckinghamshire and the Chilterns? Buckinghamshire Culture has launched a public, county-wide search for the 100 Objects that best define Buckinghamshire and celebrate its story. There is such a rich collection of artefacts dating back over 300,000 years held in Museums, stores, archives, National Trust properties, stately homes, landscapes and gardens across the county. We are spoilt for choice!
Chilterns Conservation Board member Paul Mainds has nominated “The Chilterns” as his Object for inclusion in the Bucks 100, symbolised by an iconic London Transport poster “The country now”. This evocative poster was designed by Buckinghamshire based artist and illustrator Clare Leighton in 1938 to promote weekend walks in the Chilterns. It is appealing from an artistic point of view and, characteristic of Leighton’s work, it captures rural life and working scenes at a time when the world around her was becoming increasingly urban.
But it is also representative of the Chilterns’ relationship with Buckinghamshire. More than half the Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty is within the County.
The distinctive landscape of rolling hills and beechwoods defines the southern part of the County and its timeless beauty is one of the key attractions both for residents and visitors. Yet it is much more than a leisure amenity. The working woodmen remind us of the historic importance of the beech woods, which supplied the wood for the once-flourishing furniture making industry in High Wycombe, the largest in the country. This was, and still is, a working landscape, as well as one enjoyed and cherished by many for a range of leisure pursuits!
The Chess Valley is specifically named in the poster. Just half an hour from London on the Metropolitan line, it was then, as it is now, a popular destination for leisure walks along the River Chess with its lush green meadows, flanked by wooded hills and dotted with historic villages and country houses. Yet how many people know that these chalk streams are a globally rare habitat, home to some of our most threatened plants and animals, such as the water vole and brown trout? These fragile habitats face multiple pressures from climate change to over-abstraction. We face a struggle to preserve and restore them and to convey their specialness.
Paul’s choice was inspired by a childhood move to the Chilterns:
“I have lived in The Chilterns for over sixty years coming here as a small boy when my father began a new job in London and therefore commuting from the “Metroland” that is the Amersham area. Ever since the Chilterns have been a constant backdrop for my life and an unfailing source of joy and inspiration”.
The commissioning of this and similar posters by the Metropolitan Line is significant. It is a reminder that the Chilterns is on London’s doorstep and provides a landscape of great beauty for relaxation and recreation just a short journey away. A place to unwind and re-charge body and soul. But this accessibility brings its own pressures too, requiring careful management and protection to safeguard it for future generations.
For further information about the Bucks in 100 Objects see here