What it’s like to housesit in “Bucks”
We spent a lot of time in England over the past two summers (2022 and 2023). As many of you know, we travel through housesitting. Purely because of the concentration of people in London and the surrounding counties, a LOT of sits pop up in Buckinghamshire, Berkshire, Bedfordshire, and Oxfordshire. So we have spent a lot of time exploring Buckinghamshire.
Buckinghamshire, or Bucks to the locals, is an amazing place to land a housesit. There are quite a few larger and more affluent homes in the county. And you can find yourself in one of them, incredibly close to London, amazing rail transport links, and a multitude of amazing things to do within easy reach. There are lots of larger cities also, so you have access to grocery stores, cinemas, and shopping malls nearby.
Here is a small sample of things we have thoroughly enjoyed while exploring Buckinghamshire.
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Discover England’s Pubs
One of the real joys of living like a local in England is visiting amazing pubs. So many of them are like just out of a story book. This is especially true outside of the large cities. There are so many villages with amazing historic pubs, scattered around the county!
The Royal Standard of England
On one of our housesits last year, the pet parents very kindly left us a list of pubs they recommended in the local area. One of those was The Royal Standard of England, in Beaconsfield. It is the oldest free house pub in the country, and has been serving customers for over 900 years. It has been the hiding place of kings in trouble and a good hideaway for trysts with lovers and mistresses.
When we went on a spectacularly sunny and warm Saturday afternoon, it was packed. There were groups of cyclists, families, dog walkers, and all manner of other people thoroughly enjoying both the indoor rooms and the many outdoor seating places in the garden. We only went for an afternoon drink. If you are planning on trying their pub meals or Sunday roasts, it is probably a very good idea to book ahead!
The White Horse
The White Horse is a completely different affair. It was once the village pub in the little village of Forest Hill, easy to find, just off a major motorway, the A40. Now it is a Thai restaurant. We discovered it last year, by merely searching for “Thai nearby” after visiting Waterperry Gardens (see below). And we liked it so much that we came back this year.
The setting is incredibly cute, they have a great wine list, and the food is very nice! We highly recommend it as a stop for a meal while exploring Buckinghamshire.
Exploring Bucks’s Amazing National Trust Properties
There are so many amazing National Trust properties in this area of England. If you are planning on staying for a week or more exploring Buckinghamshire, we highly recommend checking out a National Trust Membership (see our post on this). We have visited many, but these are some we visited:
Whipsnade Tree Cathedral
This is rather different National Trust visit. Someone planted trees in the shape of a large cathedral. They’re all grown now, and it’s incredibly impressive and peaceful. We were, miraculously, the only people visiting on the day. Even the only people in the car park. I think it must be the only NT property we have been to where there weren’t lots of other cars in the car park!
We really enjoyed the respite and peace in the tree cathedral.
One of the reasons we visited the Cliveden Estate was for the chance to go boating on the Thames! The estate rents out boats by the hour. We rented a self driven boat. Of course it bucketed down with rain the day that we booked our boat for! Luckily the boat has a cover. We drove the boat from one lock on the Thames, then turned around and went the other way.
To be honest, we probably would have enjoyed the experience a lot more on a sunny day. We might have even have had some bubbly and some nibbles on the boat, watching all the lovely greenery go by. The experience was still pretty cool though. Seeing where guests in the past would have arrived at Cliveden made it really very special.
Another National Trust property we recommend checking out when in Buckinghamshire is Hughenden. This is the former home of Benjamin Disraeli, Britain’s only jewish prime minister.
It is a gorgous old home, and I particularly enjoyed the gardens. There’s a wonderful walled garden and a fabulous formal garden. We spent a lot of time wandering amongst the borders and I took far too many flower pictures to add to the giant collection on my phone! We also had a good look in the second hand bookstore while we waited for the house to open. National Trust properties very often have a great little second hand bookstores really worth having a look at.
Once the house opened (an hour after the gardens open), we discovered another super interesting thing at Hughenden. In World War II, the entire home was requisitioned to make room for a massive and secret map making operation.
All the furniture was put into storage (and now miraculously put back). The map making that went on here was extremely top secret and made maps for bombing operations over continental Europe during the war. There are incredibly interesting exhibits here, and we ended up spending way more time at the property than we normally do.
Hughenden Park is certainly not the only place to do some World War II history exploring. One of the absolute must sees for WWII history buffs is Bletchley Park.
Have you seen The Imitation Game with Benedict Cumberbatch? It’s about the code breaking that was going on right there at Bletchley Park. This is where they built the Enigma Machine and were able to break code of the German messages. It is hard to overestimate the importance of this place on the outcome of the war.
Similarly, it is almost impossible to overstate how amazing the Bletchley Park experience is today. You should plan on spending several hours here when exploring Buckinghamshire. Admission is £25.50 for adults, and we found it totally worth it.
The entire complex is left almost exactly like it was left at the end of the war. All the huts with their serious secrecy have been preserved exactly as people left their desks and bulletin boards etc.
And the enigma machine itself! You can see exactly how it works. I’m heartbroken that I cannot find any pictures from our visit there. I did find a very good blog post about someone else’s experience from there though. You can find it here.
There is also a very highly rated day tour to Bletchley Park available on TripAdvisor, the private Battle for Britain experience.
The Hellfire Caves
And now for something a little different! Long before Stranger Things’s Hellfire Club, there were the Hellfire Caves and the original 18th Hellfire Club. These are also known as the West Wycombe Caves.
While housesitting nearby, a pet parent told us this was an absolute must see, and she was not wrong!
The caves were excavated by the 11th Baron le Descpencer, the founder of the Hellfire Club, between 1748 and 1752. Benjamin Franklin was a close friend of the baron and frequently visited the club’s meetings in the caves. We got a distinct Eyes Wide Shut feel as we learned of meetings and masked parties in the chalk caves below the hill. The fabulous people of the upper classes came up on the Thames to party in the chalk caves.
It’s a fabulously surreal experience!
If you are not arranging your accommodation through TrustedHousesitters, we recommend checking Booking.com for great rates on a range of accommodation options.
One of my favorite non-RHS gardens to visit while exploring Buckingham is Waterperry Gardens. It was first established in the 1920s by Beatrix Havergal and her partner to create a horticultural boarding school for women. It’s an incredibly fascinating story, andthegarden with amazing borders. Really worth it for garden lovers!
Watch the Red Kites
Red kites. What are they? They are not things children run around with attached to string! They are amazing birds of prey that you will see constantly while exploring Bucks! A few decades ago, they had completely disappeared from the area. But they were reintroduced in the 1990s, and now they are flourishing!
Just about everywhere in Buckinghamshire, particularly in the Chiltern Hills, you can see these scavengers circling high above. We’ve seen one up close, and they are pretty big and scary looking!
Apparently, you should be careful when enjoying your picnic in the Chiltern. These birds of prey are getting brave, and they will happily try to steal human food. Seagulls on the beaches, red kites in the hills! Guard your food from the skies!
We have absolutely loved our two summers exploring Britain, and the sits we have had in Buckinghamshire have been magnificent. We highly recommend applying to one of the many glorious housesits here and taking time to enjoy the area.
Let us know in the comments if you have been, plan on going, or just wish you could!
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