Friday 1 February 2008

Vale of Aylesbury

‘Tis the Far Famous Vale: National Influences on the Vale of Aylesbury

Ken and Margaret Morley
The Book Castle, Dunstable, 2007 £25.00

If you stand on the Chiltern Hills at Dunstable Downs, you will be looking across the Vale of Aylesbury. The boundary between Buckinghamshire and Bedfordshire can be traced quite easily by the lines of willows beside the Ouzel river and, in fact, some Bedfordshire villages are a part of the Vale.

We live in a very small county but we have much to learn if we look across our borders. As the fly leaf to this book states, `there is an increasing realisation that local history cannot be fully appreciated unless national factors are taken into account`.

Probably the first thing to strike anyone who looks at this book is the enormous amount of detail. It is truly remarkable and, if a book could be found to give a concise history of what was happening in this country during the last few millennia, this could well be it. The list of contents leaves very few subjects untouched, from early settlers to life in a medieval village, through religious conflict to the opening up of the countryside by canals, roads and rail, to the demise of cottage industries and the establishment of new industries and education for all. The text is supported by diagrams, maps, personal recollections, pictures, many of them in colour, references and tables.

The present and future are not neglected. The last chapter is devoted to threats to the Vale. In 1969, the Roskill Commission proposed the siting of a third London airport at Cublington. Fortunately this damaging plan was rejected but now there are plans to flood the area with greenfield-brownfield housing. Again, the authors have provided considerable detail on this topical subject.

Information is provided about places to visit and the rights and wrongs of accessing the countryside and, at the front of the book, is a list of places which are `well worth a visit`. Some of these, such as Stockwood Park and Wardown Park Museum are in Bedfordshire. There is indeed a great deal to learn from looking across the county boundary.

Reviewed by Anne Allsopp

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