The Chilterns and the Thames Valley form a tantalising, fascinating conglomerate area north-west of London, bounded to the north-west by the Vale of Aylesbury. The area features parts of Bedfordshire, Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, Hertfordshire, Oxfordshire and even a small section of Surrey. It includes a large designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AoNB), in which you can admire rare orchids or crane your neck up at red kites as they wheel above you. Millions of people around the globe are familiar with the area, even if they have never been here, through images of Windsor Castle and Chequers or via the large and small screen, from Hammer Horror to Midsomer Murders. Literary legends such as the Shelleys, Oscar Wilde, Graham Greene, John Milton, Enid Blyton, Roald Dahl and many others lived or wrote here. In short, the Chilterns and Thames Valley offer a marvellous mixture of world-famous sites and lesser-known attractions full of quirkiness and character – a fitting subject for a travel guidebook.
Helen and Neil Matthews have lived in Prestwood, a Buckinghamshire village in the heart of the Chilterns, since 1991 and Helen is Chilterns born and bred. Neil won the ‘Best Unpublished’ prize in the Bradt / Independent on Sunday travel writing competition in 2008. His travel writing has since been published in Optima, Best of Britain, Wanderlust and other magazines, as well as in Journeys from Wimbledon Common (Palace Park Press, 2012) – a book about the places from which the Wombles took their names. Neil’s most recent book Victorians and Edwardians abroad: the beginning of the modern holiday (Pen & Sword, 2016) tells the story of the Polytechnic Touring Association, a successful 19th and 20th century travel agency. Helen was a founder member of a local conservation group and has served on the local committee of the National Trust and as a member of Chiltern District Council. Helen’s book on the illegitimate children of medieval English gentry will be published by Pen & Sword in 2019.