The towpath of the Grand Union Canal as it passes through Denham is a quintessentially English sort of place: a small clutch of fishermen brave the weather, a narrow boat queues to make its way through the lock, and the beginnings of spring leaves are budding on the trees all around.
It is hard to imagine Elizabeth Taylor, all furs and diamonds and bouffant hair, sweeping into the village, past ivy-clad cottages, to play the role of a possibly-murderous movie star in 1980’s crime melodrama The Mirror Crack’d. But she did, following in the footsteps of Hollywood legends like Lawrence Olivier, Vivienne Leigh, and Jean Simmons, who all spent time at the village while working at its film studios.
Were it not for Alexander Korda and his dream of recreating the Hollywood Hills in suburban Buckinghamshire, Denham would be just another commuter retreat for affluent families. In fact a move to Denham is not exactly a great leap away from the capital, as it sits within the M25 and 20 miles from central London. Despite that it is a green and pleasant place sort of place, set in the middle of the 43 square mile Colne Valley Regional Park and just on the eastern fringes of the Chilterns.
Communications are excellent. Denham is minutes from the M40 and train services to Marylebone take from 24 minutes. Since it is in Zone 6 commuters can buy a travel card rather than a season ticket, allowing full use of the tube network, for £2,432.
Denham is an ancient village, mentioned in the Domesday Book, and it is still a sweet little place lined with 16th and 17th century cottages. Larger, grander houses are placed discreetly on private roads around the fringes of the village and have long been popular with primetime TV stars from the late Cilla Black to the late magician Paul Daniels. Sir Roger Moore and actor Shane Richie have also lived in the area.
Denham village has a more contemporary annexe, Denham Garden Village, built after the Second World War, and more modern housing known as “New Denham”. The station sits between old and new Denham, and there are a few useful shops and neighbourhood restaurants around it. Alternatively Gerrards Cross is three miles away for a more comprehensive selection. But beating heart of the village is the Swan Inn, a traditional Georgian coaching house recommended by Michelin, where locals go after a game at one of its two golf clubs, a long walk through the surrounding country, or after stepping off the London train.
Like all popular villages there is a school – Denham Village Infant School is rated “good” by Ofsted. Given all this it is unsurprising that while Denham isn’t bargain property territory. One of its six or seven bedroom country piles, often with enough acreage to keep a pony or two, would cost around £2.5m, and even four bedroom executive homes are priced at £800,000 to north of £1m.
There are also a few modern developments including King’s Island, built on a natural peninsula in the River Colne, where a two bedroom flat is currently on the market for £450,000. The best value is to be found in the distinctly suburban-looking New Denham, where a three bedroom semi could be yours from around £420,000 to £440,000.