The Chilterns are best visited in the crisp autumn and winter months when the sky is a deep blue against the green rolling hills. The region stretches from Henley-on-Thames and then north-east to Marlow, Amersham, Berkhamsted, leapfrogs over Luton and finishes in Hitchin. A drive in the countryside will take you through traditional brick and flint cottages like Turville, where the Vicar of Dibley was filmed. If you visit one of the village pubs expect roaring fires, a dog or two and a pile of muddy boots by the door.
With its wealth of character and close proximity to London, the area is highly sought after, with property in Henley-on-Thames and Beaconsfield the top two most expensive places in the UK to live outside London, according to a recent survey by a leading building society. These two historic towns are a good base from which to explore the local footpaths and courses. The towns have clung to their character, holding out against shopping malls, hypermarkets and a swathe of starter homes on the outskirts – a reality of many towns today. But despite the expense of land and property, if you know where to play green fees do not have to be extortionate.
Of good value is the heavily wooded Chiltern Forest near Aylebury. Little Hay, a fifteen minute drive from Berkhamsted, is an incredibly popular municipal course in good shape and has a challenging variety of holes. Booking a tee time at the weekend is a must as it gets very busy. On the same road, Boxmoor, is a tough nine hole layout with an 80 foot drop from the tee to green on the 9th.
If you want to push the boat out Ashridge, in the heart of the National Trust estate is particularly beautiful. The deer dash across the dense wooded fairways in herds, probably startled by a golf ball flying above their ears. Last year the course was an Open qualifier, but if you manage to stay out of the woods, you can score well. The 14th has a wickedly sloping green, with a lipped bunker placed directly behind, so make sure your second shot isn’t over zealous.
If you find that bunkers have that annoying habit of ruining what should have been a perfectly honorable score, book a tee time at Berkhamsted Golf Club, a short drive from Ashridge. The course doesn’t have any bunkers but you do need to be confident off the tee to make the carry over gorse. Don’t bother trying to find your ball if you don’t quite make the fairway- it is like trying to find a needle in a haystack. The 18th isn’t for the faint hearted either, as it requires a carry over a road.
If you follow the canal south of Berkhamsted you’ll pass through The Grove, which is one of the greatest new courses to be built in the past decade. You will need to keep your cool on the greens on which the ball will glide over like ice. The course, designed by Kyle Phillips of Kingsbarns fame, is in immaculate condition and is long and challenging. The hotel has outstanding facilities including a luxury spa. In nearby Watford Top Golf is worth a visit. More than just a driving range your ball is micro-chipped so distance can be measured if you hit the target.
In the Southern Chilterns bird lovers will enjoy Harleyford and Temple near Marlow where Red Kites soar above the fairway. Part of the beautiful Harleyford Estate, Harleyford is a Donald Steel designed course meanders through parkland, featuring large greens. Look out for the temple by the 15th tee, and finish your round with a drink in the bar, which has an interesting mediaeval theme.
Close to Cliveden, The Lambourne is a modern parkland course which is warm and welcoming to visitors. Burnham Beeches, the oldest club in Buckinghamshire, is particularly stunning in the Autumn when the leaves turn russet and the period clubhouse is exactly the sort of place Inspector Barnaby would frequent.
Where to Stay
The Grove is a new hotel with a stunning spa and excellent restaurants. Rooms from £240. For Marlow the best hotel is the Compleat Angler (0870 400 8100) golf breaks from £395 for two including breakfast, one round and dinner.
Where to play
Visit the official Chilterns website to plan your visit and find out details of tourist attractions, events and walks. For a downloadable driving map of the Midsomer Murder locations visit the Bucks Tourism Website.