For our walk this month we head to the Buckinghamshire village of Penn with its attractive village pond – Widmer Pond – shared with neighbouring Tylers Green, just to the east of High Wycombe.
The village has a history stretching back over a thousand years or more. By the 12th century the manor was held by the de la Penne family who continued to hold the manor until the death of Roger Penn, the last male heir, in 1731. The manor then passed by marriage to the Curzon family, they in turn took the title of Earl Howe and the estate is now held by the 7th Earl Howe.
Underlying the surrounding fields are deposits of clay and the village became noted for producing both floor and roof tiles; the first written evidence of tile making in the area was in the early 13th century. Penn Tiles have been used in a number of important buildings including Westminster Palace, the Tower of London, and especially in Windsor Castle, where a complete floor in the Aerary (or Treasury) still survives.
From Penn the walk heads east through a lovely mix of fields and woods passing close to Penn House, home to Earl Howe, before heading back through Penn Bottom to arrive at 12th-century Holy Trinity Church.
Call in to see the rare 15th-century painting of the Last Judgement (or ‘Doom’) on wooden panels hanging above the chancel arch. In the family vault lie the remains of six grandchildren of William Penn, the Quaker and founder of Pennsylvania in America. The churchyard is the final resting place of the British diplomat, Donald Maclean, who, along with Guy Burgess, Kim Philby and Anthony Blunt, was a member of the notorious Cambridge Spy Ring that betrayed Britain’s military secrets to the Soviet Union during and shortly after the Second World War. Maclean defected in 1951, however, following his death in 1983, his ashes were returned to Penn and scattered near his parent’s grave.
The final leg of the walk takes a meandering route through the village to arrive back at the pond; a shorter walk of 2.5 miles is also described; published in Berkshire and Buckinghamshire Life, July 2017.