The parkland of Gayhurst House, an impressive Elizabethan mansion, provides the backdrop to this classical church, with its pleasing square tower topped by finials and a leadwork cupola. It was built in 1728 for the Wright family, who settled here in 1704, bringing to a close a turbulent period in Gayhurst’s history. One previous owner was Sir Francis Drake, who sold the former house here almost immediately after Queen Elizabeth I had given it to him; another was Sir Everard Digby, hanged as a conspirator in the Gunpowder Plot. The finely dressed, periwigged figures of Sir Nathan Wright and his son George (who commissioned the church) still preside over the airy interior from their large, rather theatrical marble monument in the squire’s pew. The classical columns and pilasters, the gilded reredos and altar rails, and the ornate plasterwork of the ceilings, all make a suitably grand and elegant setting for them.
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Buckinghamshire is a land of glorious beech trees, wide views and imposing country houses. Victorian Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli savoured the peace and tranquillity of Hughenden Manor, while generations of statesmen have entertained world leaders at Chequers, the Prime Minister’s rural retreat. Stowe and Waddesdon Manor are fine examples of even grander houses, set amid sumptuous gardens and dignified parkland.
The Vale of Aylesbury is a vast playground for leisure seekers with around 1,000 miles (1,609km) of paths and tracks to explore. Rising above it are the Chiltern Hills, a designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty covering 308sq miles (798sq km). They are best appreciated in autumn, when the leaves turn from dark green to deep brown. In the southeast corner of the Chilterns lie the woodland rides of Burnham Beeches, another haven for ramblers and wildlife lovers. Although the county’s history is long and eventful, it’s also associated with events within living memory. At Bletchley Park, more than 10,000 people worked in complete secrecy to try and bring a swift conclusion to World War II. Further south, an otherwise unremarkable stretch of railway line was made infamous by the Great Train Robbery in the summer of 1963.
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