A small county, merely 27 miles across east to west at its widest point and 50 miles in length, Buckinghamshire is nevertheless full of charm and beauty. Its numerous rivers such as the Thames and the Great Ouse, river valleys and hills, the Chilterns and picturesque villages, make for a wonderful place to tour, particularly on foot.
Originating as an administrative "shire" in the 10 th century, it acquired its first inhabitants during the Iron Age. Since then Buckinghamshire has developed both agriculture and trade, its fertile chalk soils and warm climate made it a very hospitable place for human colonisation.
The first significant rulers of Buckinghamshire were the Belgae tribe during the Iron Age, which came over northeast Europe. Evidence of Belgic occupation has been discovered at Bulstrode Park, Gerrards Cross, the largest Iron Age fort in the county. The Romans arrived in Buckinghamshire in the first century AD and much evidence of their stay over four centuries remains - camps, forts, roads. Many of the county's Roman roads in fact remain to this very day, most notably Watling Street, which is now the A5 and Akeman Street, which is now the A41.
Following the departure of the Romans from Britain in the 4 th century, Germanic tribes, broadly known as Saxons from the European mainland, began to raid the British coast, but by the 5 th century began to establish permanent settlements. Over the next two centuries the local Britons were steadily defeated and by the 7 th century the area, now part of the Saxon kingdom of Mercia, was largely cleared of its ancient British influences. Because early Saxon constructions were of wood, little remains of the era. Not until the return of Christianity to the area, which had first arrived during Roman times, did Saxons begin to build stone constructions and as such several Saxon churches stand to this very day. The shortage of solid building material like stone, also accounts for the lack of great buildings like Cathedrals of the type found in other parts of Britain.
The Normans, who came to the area after their invasion of England in 1066, left a greater mark. Remains of several manor houses and churches can be seen all over the county. The younger the churches the more Norman features they contain such as the baptismal fonts at St James's in Bierton, St. Nicholas's at Great Kimble and St Mary's at Hambleden to name but a few. At Chantry Chapel in Buckingham there is a well-preserved Norman doorway. At West Turville and also at Wing there are remains of wood and earth type motte and castles and somewhat unusual for Buckinghamshire, at Whitechurch, there is Bolebec Castle, a stone construction.
Because Buckinghamshire lacked any major raw materials, its industry has been largely small-scale with the exception of its brick-making industry, which has exploited the county's abundance of clay soils. Its diversification into alternative industries saw it develop a very successful lace-making industry, thought to have been introduced into England by Catherine of Aragon, King Henry VIII first wife, in the early 16 th century and a furniture making industry.
For centuries Buckinghamshire had been largely isolated form the hustle and bustle of London by its natural barrier, the Chiltern Hills. However, during the 19 th century, this barrier was breached by the construction of railways and canals and in the 20 th century, by the extension of the London underground rail system, the tube. Nothing indicates the county's modernisation more than the building during the 1960s in the north of the town of Milton Keynes. Nevertheless, Buckinghamshire has preserved its peaceful atmosphere better than many other counties and the fact that it is served by such good transport links enables the visitor to explore the county with relative ease.