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Commuter Castle

We’ve all had this problem… Working in the big smoke; live a long way away; how to shorten the daily grind of commuting? Get a base in town, perhaps – or just outside town.

Which brings us to Richard, earl of Cornwall, brother of Henry III.  Duty at the royal court in London often called, so Henry granted his brother Berkhamsted Castle in 1225.  Richard got his staff to bring the accounts from his earldom to Berkhamsted, and turned the Castle into a luxurious palace complex – a definite upgrade from its Norman motte-and-bailey origins.  Richard used the Castle until his death in 1272, making him a far more durable resident than Thomas Becket, who had held it for nine years until, in 1164, his quarrel with Henry II led to disgrace.  Edward, the Black Prince, would enjoy the Castle, as would five subsequent queens.

The past 500 years have not been so distinguished, with the Castle slowly falling into ruin. Today you can pick your way round its remains, keeping an eye on the demob-happy schoolchildren as they cavort around the ruins. Beckett, Richard or Edward might all have appreciated the fast train which passes within a javelin’s throw of the Castle, taking today’s London workers to Euston within 40 minutes, up to four times an hour.  From here it’s a short walk up Castle Street (helpful name) into Berkhamsted proper.

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News, views, thoughts and impressions from this wonderful part of Britain…

In this section we’ll be posting thoughts from around the Chilterns and the Thames Valley as we explore it for Slow Travel. In the meantime…

Why the Chilterns and Thames Valley?

Despite the number of people who live here, work here, visit the area or travel through it, the Chilterns and Thames Valley are not well-served by existing guidebooks.  There are many excellent walking guides, for the Chilterns in particular, but no general guidebook.  In larger guidebooks covering England, Britain or the UK, the Chilterns and Thames Valley barely merit a mention.  Given the area’s many charms and attractions, it’s about time that someone corrected this oversight!

Where is the Chilterns and Thames Valley in any case?

For the Slow Travel guidebook, we are defining it as: the area covered by the Chiltern Society, the area’s largest environmental group, across parts of Bedfordshire, Buckinghamshire, Hertfordshire and Oxfordshire, along with the Vale of Aylesbury; plus the Thames Valley area to the south, from Runnymede in the east to Reading in the West.  We include the Vale of Aylesbury as its landscape, wildlife and heritage is impossible to separate from that of the rest of Buckinghamshire.