The Chiltern Hills present their heritage very well, but it’s the quirky, unusual establishments that tell the real story. Let the crowds and tourists squeeze and sweat their way around the august national institutions. Leave the small, rural establishments for those of use who don’t notice the dust and enjoy odd or old-fashioned exhibits. It’s the best way to enjoy the weird and wonderful, that are a part of celebrating the quirky Chilterns heritage.
These are the places I have visited so far, which does not represent all there is to see. My list is long however, and time as ever short, suggestions for additions to this list most welcome!
British School Museum
One master, three books, 300 boys and 30 monitors, this is the humbling story of one man’s vision to provide basic education to the children of Hitchin at the British School Museum in Hitchin.
Created in the 1920’s by local resident Roland Callingham (1881–1961), with the help of his gardener, cook, maid and chauffeur, he created a world of what was local and familiar to him – a miniature Chilterns, which he named Bekonscot, after Beaconsfield and Ascot, where he had previously lived.
Piccotts End is a dot on the Chilterns landscape; somewhere you wouldn’t even pass through as the busy Leighton Buzzard road now bypasses the village. Yet this tiny settlement has one of the most remarkable and historically important features, tucked away inside a Grade I Listed 15th century cottage at No.132 Piccotts End.
The Quirky Natural History Museum Tring
The historic market town of Tring is a busy, growing commuter town within easy reach of London. Located on the original Akeman Street – a major Roman road in England that linked Watling Street with the Fosse Way, the quirky Natural History Museum Tring that was built in 1889 to house one of the finest zoological collections in private hands.
The Dinton Hermit
Things then take a weird turn with a handmade shoe that once belonged to John Bigg, the ‘Dinton Hermit‘, a man of reasonable means and former clerk to Simon Mayne. He may have been one of the hooded executioners of King Charles l.
The Maharajah’s Well
Described on TripAdvisor as ‘fresh as paint’ I was interested to see the restored Maharajah’s Well in Stoke Row and discover why a 19th century Maharajah felt compelled to make such an extraordinary gesture to ensure a free, clean water supply to a small Chilterns community.