Aylesbury ducking

We are off on courier run today. The recipient is in Aylesbury, so it is not far. As the deadline for delivery is midday, we don’t have to rush.

We bought our train tickets yesterday at St Pancras because the main ticket office there is very good and can sell tickets for any route. Buying early gets better prices.

Our starting point (not counting the familiar 205 bus from Angel) is the lovely Marylebone station, a favourite of John Betjeman to whom there is a blue memorial plaque in the main concourse.

The work of building Marylebone, the last of London’s mainline stations, began in 1897 and the first public services ran in 1899. The station was “future-proofed” by the inclusion of space for adding extra platforms if needed.

Marylebone Station, facade
Marylebone Station façade
Marylebone Station, arcade
Marylebone Station, showing the arcade leading to the Landmark Hotel
John Betjeman's plaque
Blue plaque to John Betjeman


We breakfasted in Etsu before catching the 9:57 Aylesbury train. The sky is overcast and there is a threat of rain, reinforced by a couple of showers. Optimistically perhaps, I am wearing my panama hat but I also have a rain jacket in my backpack! I am confident that whatever the weather we shall have fun in Aylesbury.

The train reached Aylesbury without incident and the client’s office was nearby, so, as the rain was holding off, we set out on foot. By 11:10, the job was done and the rest of the day was ours. We started our tour of the town.

Aylesbury, like many towns today, seems intent on modernizing itself. Yet it is an ancient town – archaeology has revealed a Romano-British settlement – and the new uncomfortably overlays the old. For example, there are buildings that are true monstrosities. Or we could point to the tacky shopping malls, populated by the usual suspects without any sign of novelty or imagination.

Why modern architecture has to be uniformly tasteless is beyond my powers of explanation. One would like to believe that towns like Aylesbury could be modernized in harmony with their vestiges of the past but too often what actually emerges seems to come from a kit called “Urban Blight”.

I noted one or two interesting ideas, such as the calendar fountain, but the whole is still so bitty that it is difficult to gauge how harmonious it will eventually be. On the present showing, I have my doubts.

Architectural monstrosities
Architectural monstrosities
The Square
The Square
Calendar Fountain
“Calendar Fountain” (I don’t know its real name)

This will be an “in and out day”: we go in (shops, museum, cafes) when it rains and out (streets, squares and parks) when the rain stops. The game is to avoid getting the rain jackets out.

After an initial browse around the town, we looked for somewhere to have lunch. There wasn’t must choice, as far as I could see. Maybe there is some quarter or street bursting with every kind of eatery, all begging to be sampled. If so, we were unable to find it. We ended up at the Bell Hotel. The interior was bright and clean with two nice antique wall clocks that unfortunately turned out to be reproductions.

We ordered our food and waited. In fact, we waited the best part of an hour. Eventually, the waitress came and said the chef had made a mistake and cooked the wrong dish for Tigger. Was that all right? Well, no actually, but as we had already waited long enough, we accepted it.

By now the dry intervals were decreasing in frequency until the rain became continuous. There are some towns that are as enjoyable in the rain as in the dry but Aylesbury isn’t one of them.

There was only one thing to do: go shopping! So we did. We stumbled upon a branch of Wilkinson’s where we found a lampshade for our kitchen light. As we emerged, it was raining cats and dogs, so we made a dash to the shop opposite, Roseby’s. Here we found a chandelier-type lampshade for the living-room. So our visit produced a lasting result after all, despite the disappointments.

Even so, I think it will be some time before we visit Aylesbury again, at least voluntarily.


About SilverTiger

I live in Islington with my partner, "Tigger". I blog about our life and our travels, using my own photos for illustration.
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7 Responses to Aylesbury ducking

  1. Chris says:

    What’s that big grey monstrosity: Aylesbury bus station? Hell, it looks like something out of East Germany in the Cold War!

  2. SilverTiger says:

    I don’t know what it is but it is very ugly and hangs over Aylesbury in a menacing way. If, as I suspect, it is a block of flats, then I feel sorry for anyone who lives there.

  3. Catz says:

    You know it always amazes me what cities will do to their landscape. Here in Vancouver they took down most of the interesting buildings and replaced them with glass monsters. Let’s face it you can look at and enjoy incredible 1800 – 1900 architecture for a long time, but glass is glass!
    In Montreal they have done a great job of preserving the old while still working in new buildings that blend well. Why can’t other cities be that smart?

  4. emalyse says:

    Aylesbury is alright once in a while (we used to go there approx once a year just for a mooch) but I often get the impression that it could of been so much more.A lack of identity perhaps.When I was young Aylesbury was just a place we passed through on the way to Oxford.

  5. SilverTiger says:

    To Catz: Yes, I hate to see beautiful buildings damaged or destroyed in what is after all the pursuit of profit. So many wonderful structures in London would have been lost if people had not organized and protested. St Pancras station is an example. We need more cities to follow Montreal’s example. Could it be something to do with the Gallic temperament? 😀

    To emalyse: Perhaps Aylesbury will yet find its soul and transform itself accordingly. We can but hope.

    After consulting Tigger, I wonder how many understood the pun in the title. “Aylesbury duckling” is a dish that appears on the menu of many classy restaurants.

  6. Paul Morley says:

    That tower is the Buckinghamshire County council office. I agree its one ugly buidling, but Aylesbury is being redeveloped and there are various new attractions, such as a new Theatre and so on. I am a young 23 living here, and before I spent all my life in Oxford= Thats one over rated city. Take away the Dreaming Spires and you are left with a load of very rough council estates.

    I can’t believe you say Aylesbury has nothing- Did you miss thr 700 year old Kings Head pub with beautiful Chapter house and stables? Did you not see the beautiful St Marys with its restaurant? The Museums, and the nice walks beside canals? There is so much to see here, but people just stick to the Market Square. London is very nice in places, but in others- well, I think Aylesbury would beat!

    My advice: Go to Hemel or Slough before you attack Aylesbury

  7. SilverTiger says:

    Thanks for your comment and suggestions of places to see in Aylesbury, Paul. If you are fond of Aylesbury, I can understand you not liking criticism but I can only speak honestly according to what I find. I cannot judge by what I didn’t see, only by what I did see. Concerning what I saw, you do agree that the office building is ugly, so I don’t think I have gone that far astray.

    I don’t see any relevance in comparing Aylesbury with worse places since that wouldn’t make Aylesbury better, simply show those other places to be even worse.

    We may go back to Aylesbury at some point and if I think then that the redevelopment work has produced a more attractive place, I will say so.

    Finally, I wasn’t “attacking” Aylesbury. I have no reason to do so. We went there on a visit and I described what I saw and gave my opinion of it. If you look around my blog you will see that I describe many places and say what I think of them, good or bad.

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