Let’s all live here! High Wycombe
Thinking about upping sticks? In our new regular, we snoop around a town or village in the Muddy 'hood to get the local lowdown. First up: High Wycombe in Bucks.
No sniggering at the back – the oft overlooked Bucks town, once renowned for its chair-making industry, is enjoying something of a renaissance. Wycombe native James Corden may have once described it as “the sort of shit bit between London and Oxford” and we’re not about to pretend it’s Henley or Marlow (yet?!), but if you’re pondering a move to the area – or just fancy supporting some corking local businesses – here’s the talk of the town, Muddy style.
Long overshadowed by its more chichi neighbour Marlow, High Wycombe is actually one of the best places in the UK to be a remote worker in the creative industries, according to a recent study which looked at towns’ average salaries, accessibility and affordability. It feels like the area has had a small, but welcome injection of cool in the last few years.
Following the arrival of a decent-ish shopping mall, Eden Centre, 12 years ago, Jay Blades’ supercool industrial Out of the Dark upcycled furniture initiative (until he moved and became famous on the telly) and the more recent opening of Handy Cross Hub with its shiny new leisure centre, Mint Velvet choosing HW as its office HQ and an enormo Waitrose, now the hipster indie businesses are slowly making themselves heard.
And, come the summer months (or winter, it’s open all year round), you can’t beat splash around in the cool enclosed Wycombe lido followed by a stroll or a sail around the sprawling Rye. Established bits of heritage loveliness in the area include Hughenden Manor, the family home of Disraeli, Bradenham Estate and the scenic village of Bradenham (think flint cottages, village green and cricket pitch), and the Palladian elegance of National Trust’s West Wycombe park (below).
IN LOVE WITH LOCAL
The locals can’t get enough caffeine it seems – Hatch Coffee, The Vanilla Pod Café Patisserie (above) and The Front Room all get our vote. Need something stronger? Head for the craft beer selection at Heidrun. When it comes to food, its grimy underpass location looks distinctly unpromising but Lata Lata is the real deal. This super-cool, crowd-funded restaurant was a runner-up in the Observer Food Monthly awards last year but – more importantly – the Muddy Awards Best Restaurant too. Check out their witty Insta feed for droolworthy food photos.
There’s the reinvigorated George & Dragon hotel in West Wycombe, and just down the road The Apple Orchard furniture shop – well worth a squizz, it’s way bigger inside than you might think. Pop over the road and you’ll find Hellfire Caves – 1/4 miles of underground half and flint caverns to explore – and then there’s Odds Farm Park, one the biggest kiddie catnip draws in the county. Finally, pampered pooches are well catered for in Wycombe, with Bruce’s Doggy Day Care newly opened at Studley Green Garden Centre. There’s a puppy nursery, a Tiny Town for smaller dogs and a sensory zone (seriously, I’m not even kidding). No fashion boutiques worth your time as yet, but for now just wander around John Lewis – it’s an absolute whopper.
No shortage of brilliant schools in Wycombe, with the super-high-achieving Wycombe Abbey girls boarding school on the hill approach to the town. There’s an excellent prep school in Godstowe (also handily housing a nursery and pre-prep), and there are some storming grammar schools including Royal Grammar School and John Hampden boys schools, and Wycombe High School for girls. A couple more miles down the road there’s Piper’s Corner, a fantastic girl’s offering with oodles of space and facilities.
“If you work in London and need to be by the train station then Rectory Avenue, Lucas Road, Pretoria Road & Terry Road are amongst the favourites, though you’ll need a budget of £700,000 – £1m to live here,” says Samuel Ford of local estate agent Ford & Partners. “For a young couple looking to start a family, Downley Village is a great place. The Downley School is extremely popular among the residents and when buyers move into the village, they rarely move out. Prices range for a 2 or 3 bed house from £300,000 – £500,000 and the larger detached homes from £475,000 – £1m.”
If you’re not a fan of the hustle and bustle of the town centre, then there are plenty of lovely local villages on the outskirts, including Holmer Green, Prestwood, West Wycombe Village, and Flackwell Heath, which all have an average house price of around the £500,000-£560,000 mark. Wooburn Green is around 15 minutes’ drive south east and comes in with an average house price of £475,000, while idyllic Penn is around 15 minutes east and commands an average house value of £854,000.
WHY WE LOVE IT
It’s still relatively affordable, it’s home to a diverse mix of people and professions (it’s definitely no bucolic bubble), the local facilities are underrated and improving all the time and it’s just 26 minutes on a fast train to Marylebone – which is a temptingly viable commute if you work in London. Still undeniably rough around the edges but, er, didn’t they once say that about Shoreditch and Hackney?