High Wycombe, pronounced "wick'um," is a town in the southern part of the
county of Buckinghamshire, in England, with a population of
around 75,000 denizens. It's a largeish industrial market town
most known for the manufacture of furniture (there is one street
called Parker Knoll Way) and for the RAF's Strike Command
headquarters. However, nowadays the
furniture manufacturing is long gone, and apart from the above
mentioned side street, the only other reminder of the town's
heritage is the local football team, Wycombe Wanderers, who are
colloquially named "the Chairboys." Nowadays the town is, well,
another dull, fairly large urban dribble somewhere in the Home
Counties, devoid of character or much of great interest.
The town's name derives from the fact that it's on the river
Wye - hence "Wye-cwm" which later became Wycombe. According to Albert Herring, "Wye" is a back-formation from the name of the town (it was just the Hambledon bourne until sometime in the 19th century,) which is actually just made of the usual elements "wick ham", a place with a farm in it, or something like that. Though
nowadays you'd struggle to find the river anywhere; the most I've
ever seen of it is a small streak of muddy waters which sometimes
appear after a spot of rain towards Hughenden on one side of the
town, which recedes to a damp patch in a drought. As such, there's
several rather steep hills on all sides of the town, both in the
direction of Amersham and Chesham, and opposite that, towards
Marlow and the Thames. The hills also neatly stratify the town;
the nicest areas of town to live in are high up, while the less
salubrious parts are in the valley (other than the town centre).
However, despite all this, property prices are still crushing,
even more so in the outlying villages such as Prestwood, Great
Missenden, Hazlemere, and similar. This is mainly due to the
desirability of the place for commuters, and not because of
anything of great note.
Points of Interest.
Well, there's Benjamin Disraeli's former home, and the
Hellfire Caves nearby, and a dry ski slope, but that's about it
really. Every town that sort of size has at least one or two minor
tourist points of interest to its name as well, so that's no real
The town centre is also spectacularly dull and just like the
town centres of every other town of its size; provincial and
mundane shopping centres and a characterless, common-or-garden
high street. The "Octagon" as it's known, is the main shopping
mall in the town, and other than a rather nice café in the upper
floor, the rest of it is unremarkable. It's even less well
endowed, in fact, than neighbouring towns, as there are no real
department stores other than the ubiquitous Marks and
Spencer and a John Lewis up towards Marlow.
There's a large out-of-town retail park nearby at Wycombe
Marsh, and at the other end of the town there's a multiplex
cinema operated by Odeon I believe, or so JoeBaldwin tells
me. Last I remember it was as a UCI Filmworks but which UCI claim
not to exist (don't ask.) There's also yet another development in
the town centre near Tesco's; what will be placed here is stil to
be seen but I cannot imagine it being anything at all of great
interest. Independent and local shops are on the decline; Scorpion
Records, an indie record store which specialised in vinyl and
rarities has closed this month after 29 years, which leaves only an alternative/head shop type place called the Ruby Moon, and a few independent computer hardware places in Desborough as the last remaining independent shops.
Education, Education, Education.
Wycombe, and all of South Buckinghamshire for that matter, is one of the last preserves of the grammar school
and selective state education
in the UK along with parts of Kent
, North Yorkshire
, and Northern Ireland
. There are several single-sex grammar schools, alongside some "secondary modern" schools as well, several of which are known for consistently high placing in public examinations
. There's also Wycombe Abbey
, a fantastically expensive - and fantastically good - private school
for girls, both day pupils and boarders, which is sneeringly and colloquially known as "Scabby Abbey" or "Virgin Megastore."
Another school of note, my old alma mater the Royal Grammar School, is noted amongst the people of Wycombe for never being far from the headlines, be it for exam results, the rugby squad, the incompetence of the LEA in refusing to allow a former American university professor from teaching physics on the grounds that he had no maths GCSE, or the headmaster, one Tim Dingle and his propensity for engaging in coke-fuelled orgies with multiple women not his wife while wearing a red dress. The school is also less well reputed for the drunken cuntitude of some of its pupils, who, every Friday afternoon, descend from atop Amersham Hill onto the town in a flotilla of navy blue and maroon, where they will stand round the town centre in clumps and sneer quietly at passers by and try to hump the tights-clad legs of the girls' grammar pupils, mostly unsuccessfully. Let us just say that many shops in the town centre have rules about people in school uniform not being welcome in groups, especially the above mentioned Ruby Moon, whose staff are probably sick and tired of being asked for skunk seeds and other "hydroponics" by these drongoes.
(Yes, I was one of said sad acts. But then everyone is at fourteen or fifteen years old.)
There's a large immigrant population in Wycombe, mainly of Pakistani and Bangladeshi origin, which resides primarily in the area known as Desborough, which mainly consists of cheap and not-too-salubrious housing which I believe was built just after the war and is a bit stuffed in rather. The immigrant population does seem rather insular at times, I must admit, and to me there's some racial tension within the town, with lurid tales (some real, some exaggerated) of certain parts of the urban sprawl being "no go" areas for people of specific ethnicities.
There's also a smattering of gang warfare in Wycombe; a former work colleague of mine once mentioned how in certain parts of Desborough there was a heated gang rivalry between different groups of people over the drugs business there. As ReiToei once put it, "My mum and I were in McDonalds one day and two gangs of Asian kids started killing each other. It was fucked up. I hate the place."
Oh dear. Oh dear oh dear oh dear.
There is no real night life. Wycombe has but one nightclub, which has recently rebranded itself "Pure & Obsession" because as "Time" and "Club Eden" before it, it had a reputation for violence, plastic glasses, drugs, and bouncers to keep out the over 18s. Erm... I've never actually been to this club either, and I wouldn't want to as I've had quite enough hospital visits for this decade. Though I'm reliably informed it's a meat market which plays the worst possible lowest common denominator trash like funky house and the latest flippant R&B misandry to grace the charts, and the selection of drinks is limited to Stella Artois and similar badger urine.
Pubs include the Litten Tree, a student/twentysomething themed chain pub, Toad at the Emporium (now Butler's) which has a reputation for violence, the White Horse, which sometimes has live music and strippers (not on the same night) and a reputation for violence, the Flint Cottage, which has "exotic dancers," is opposite the railway station, and has a reputation for violence (are we seeing a pattern here?), the Antelope, which is run by some short-arsed little hitler called Shane MacDougal and has a reputation for violence - which it attempts to capitalise on using the slogan, "Wycombe's liveliest pub," and the Hobgoblin, which is the only drinking pit worthy of the name, with its inexpensive beers and real ale. The outlying villages have some really nice country pubs which serve some excellent food, though.
There is absolutely no "alternative" scene in Wycombe, not even mallternative. Any and all barracking I have had about my chosen taste in music and dress has been in Wycombe. Unless I'm completely missing out on something here, in which case you are invited to /msg me.
Wycombe is on a Chiltern Railways line which goes from London Marylebone to Birmingham Snow Hill. It's fairly regular and maintains some semblance of being on time. The buses, are a different matter. They're operated by Arriva to Amersham, Chesham, the Chalfonts, Slough, Lane End, and Marlow. Frequently they're late and the buses themselves are pretty foulsome, especially those used on the school run, which are covered in graffiti and suchlike (one of which even had "JoeBaldwin is a Sex God" scrawled on the back of a seat...) There's also a slightly better service provided by Carousel which goes to Amersham, Chesham, Lane End, etc.
The town itself is on the A40, and the M40 goes past it on the southern side. For some reason, Wycombe District Council have a bit of an obsession with mini roundabouts and put them all round the town indiscriminately even where they're not really needed.
Wycombe is rather unremarkable, as we have seen, and not exactly the nicest place to live, as its population consist of middle-aged commuters, and people who have just left school and are waiting to do something with themselves, and this shows in the general ambience of the town. In short, if you live in Wycombe, look for the safest way out.
Sources: Living there since June of 1999.