Hot Spot: High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire

It's just middle-England spread - The mayor of High Wycombe had better watch his diet. The town's annual weighing-in of public dignitaries aims to determine whether they're living off the fat of the land
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The Independent Online

Low down

Low down

To learn a thing or two about the pressures of office, new mayors could do worse than consult the mayor of High Wycombe. "I don't know if he is worried, but he has cause to be," says Melanie Morgan, secretary to Councillor Peter Cartwright, the mayor of the Buckinghamshire town. "He's been to so many functions over the past year where food has been served - and he really does like his food."

Next Thursday High Wycombe holds its annual centuries-old Weighing-in ceremony at which the mayor, 24 charter trustees and honorary burgesses step on the scales in full public glare and one by one, their current and last year's weights are compared.

Roughly equidistant between London and Oxford, High Wycombe is on the River Wye and, for all practical residential purposes, has no riverside housing. Nearby Maidenhead is on the Thames, has highly sought after waterside homes, and prices to match. High Wycombe has cheaper but rising prices.

High Wycombe has been providing Britain with postage stamps, cigarettes and especially furniture for a long time. The town's local history museum incorporates a chair museum, and later this month, an arch of 200 chairs will be erected on the high street. This event commemorates the first chair arch erected for, and supposedly admired by, Queen Victoria in 1877.

Robert Lomas, of estate agents Aitchisons, says: "The grammar school system here is a big draw. Our schools are very highly regarded, and because they are state schools, parents don't have to pay fees. High Wycombe is also convenient for the M40, M4 and M25."

Some parts of High Wycombe are rough, warns Mr Lomas, but other pockets "had hefty price rises last year, between 15 and 25 per cent depending on area. Certain areas now have similar prices to the popular villages." He cites Flackwell Heath, Penn, Tyler's Green, Radnage, Great Kingshill, Little Kingshill and Great Missenden. "Houses in these villages usually get a good countryside view."

Jonathan Crellin, of Lane Fox, says: "In an endless balance between countryside and convenience, buyers are moving to villages around High Wycombe further from London. Commuters came down the Metropolitan Line to London, and you could judge a man's career - it was only men in those days - by how quickly they moved to Amersham. But now these areas have had a lot of development and materially lost their character."

Great Hampden, Princes Risborough and Lacey Green are among the still-green villages, says Mr Crellin: "Great Hampden was a large private estate and, having remained in the same family for so long, it had very little by way of development. It is completely unspoiled, in an ancient forest."

He also earmarks Chinnor, 15 miles from High Wycombe, as the area's next hotspot because of the closing of the cement works. "It has been undervalued in the past because of those works," he says.

The Low-Down

Transport

The M40 is close by. Rail to London is 30-45 minutes, with an annual season ticket costing around £2,000. There are half-hourly trains to Warwick, Stratford-upon-Avon and Birmingham, and coaches serving Oxford.

And then some

The Mayor-Making ceremony on 18 May starts at 5.30pm at the Mayor's Parlour in Queen Victoria Road and moves to the Guildhall. It is followed by the Weigh-in, with "and some more" shouted out for any weight gains. The jeering of, and in the past tomato-throwing at, those who gain weight stems from the belief that any gains were at public expense. In 1960 a councillor weighed in at 20st 5lbs, a Wycombe record.

Prices

Prices start at £75,000 to £80,000 for one bedroom and £85,000 to £120,000 for two. Two-bed houses start at £95,000 to £120,000, and three-bed semis from £100,000.

Downley, Booker, Loudwater

Taywood is building homes in three "smart and up-and-coming areas": Downley, Booker and Loudwater.

Hazlemere

Two miles from High Wycombe in Hazlemere, Berkeley is redeveloping the former headquarters of AXA Equity and Law Insurance. The 24-acre Kingswood site will have more than 200 homes. Prices for the first release of 16 terraced homes and 21 town houses, start at £235,000.

Copyground Mews

Westbury Homes has a new development of 39 homes on the western side of High Wycombe costing from £113,000 for a two-bed terrace and £142,500 for a three-bed.

Fun Wycombe

The Rye is a park containing a fishing and sailing lake and large outdoor swimming pools. East of the Rye is Summit Ski Centre, at more than 300m the country's largest dry-ski run.

Cultured Wycombe

There is a theatre, the Wycombe Swan, and UCI cinema with six screens. Benjamin Disraeli's home, Hughenden Manor, is 1.5 miles north, and the area also boasts the Blue Max Museum of historic flying machines, West Wycombe House and West Wycombe Caves.

Tomorrow

New government housing figures could make Buckinghamshire "look more like an extension of west London," warns the county council, which says the area can accommodate 64,340 homes over the next two decades but is being asked to consider a total of 83,000.

Contacts

Aitchisons, 01494 450 871; Berkeley, 01494 530691; Lane Fox, 01844 342 571; Taywood 01869 238260; Westbury, 01494 473677.

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