diamond geezer

 Monday, May 13, 2024

As unexpected street names go, this is right up there.

Stanley Kubrick Road is in Denham in Buckinghamshire.
And there are more where that came from.

n.b. there are four Denhams.
• Denham, the historic posh village just off the A40
• Denham Green, the newer commuter bit near the station
• New Denham, several new streets just north of Uxbridge
• Higher Denham, the separate slice beside the golf club

Specifically Stanley Kubrick Road is in Denham Green.

Three things to see in Denham Green

1) Denham Film Studios

Hungarian-born film director Alexander Korda opened his film studios just north of Denham in 1935. Some of the films made here include Blithe Spirit, In Which We Serve, Goodbye Mr Chips and Brief Encounter (in the latter case, just the interior of the refreshment room). In 1946 a large sound stage opened capable of accommodating the largest of orchestras, and this continued to be popular even after films stopped being made in 1952. Soundtracks recorded here include Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Alien, GoldenEye and the first two Star Wars films (before they were renamed with Roman numerals). Much of the site became a business park in 1981 and this is currently home to Bosch's UK HQ. But the Art Deco main building remained in use until 2014, and has since been converted (and this will not surprise you) into luxury flats.

It never used to say The Denham Film Studios on the front, indeed being old and local I remember when it said Rank Xerox instead. The frontage also never used to have little sun terraces and tiny gardenettes, and although there was always a cinema at the far end it wasn't previously for the exclusive use of residents. In the 2018 sales brochure the flats carved from the interior were given names like The Olivier, The Hamill and The Brosnan, the largest being The Andress and The Shaw. But this is not where the developers made the majority of their money, they also packed the surrounding lot with 100 flats (The Weaver, The Blanchett, The Cruise) and 70 incredibly boxy houses with the blandest of rectangular back gardens (The Lucas, The Spielberg, The Winner).

Being a private development they don't encourage walk-ins, but no signs anywhere said don't so I did. I sat on a bench in the Celluloid Garden, a stark raised area overlooked by stills from Full Metal Jacket and 2001 A Space Odyssey. I then walked round the side of the estate dodging a parcel courier and a reversing resident. And at the back I found Fame Square, a pristine lawn surrounded by umpteen brass plaques inlaid in the pavement each with the name of a locally produced film. Every time I read one I thought 'blimey, seriously, here?', be that Vertigo, ET, The Great Escape or Alien, although I suspect most of these were just a bit of sound production. Supposedly you can check all the backstories on the Weston Homes app, but that seemed an impractical faff so I didn't bother. In a more significant flaw, a lot of residents park their cars on these stripes of paving so Tomorrow Never Dies was mostly hidden under a BMW and The Empire Strikes Back entirely covered by a white van.

But I was really here for the cluster of street names I'd seen on a map, having tasted gold with Ruby Tuesday Drive last week. First up was Stanley Kubrick Road, a name chiselled into the gateposts along with the postcode UB9, as befits the main road which curls round three sides of the development. Only by venturing further off the main road could I catalogue the sideroads and confirm that they exist. First up was Albert Broccoli Road, a square loop where everyone lives in a five bedder, followed by the slightly briefer Celia Johnson Close. Fame Square is to be found in the middle of Noel Coward Avenue, not that I think he'd have been impressed, and up the far end is the slightly less prestigious Greer Garson Road.

If you've ever wanted to pay a premium to live in a brick box close to where they once made part of something you really enjoyed watching, you know where to come.

2) Northmoor Hill Wood Nature Reserve

This is a much less artificial attraction, a remnant of ancient forest to delight those with a love of nature and geology. It's signposted from the A412, first a mile up Denham Green Road then turn right along the lane past Denham Aerodrome. This private airfield was ridiculously busy on Sunday morning with light planes and helicopters taking off at Heathrow-like intervals, and suddenly it made perfect sense why Cilla Black might have chosen to live in a big house up Tilehouse Lane for commuting reasons. But for all the jetset's comings and goings the car park at Northmoor Hill was entirely empty so it looked like I was going to have the woods all to myself. This way for the Rock Route, said the semi-legible information board.

What's special here is the change in soil across a very small area. The Rock Route circuit starts off on boggy clay (with alders) then crosses a timber boardwalk onto better drained sand (with oak and beech). At the foot of the first set of steps is a tiny chalk streamlet which a few feet further on disappears into a swallow hole and excitingly creates a 'blind valley'. And beyond that is a disused quarry, now covered in vegetation, once used for digging out flint for buildings and chalk for use as mortar. These days its multitude of slopes are ideal for trial bikes, hence when I turned up various members of the Hillingdon and Uxbridge Motor Club (or HUX for short) were using it for practice. What with the roar of their engines and the planes taking off overhead it was all less idyllic than it might have been, but still more of a treat than street signs on a housing estate.

3) HS2 Colne Valley Viaduct

The two mile Colne Valley Viaduct will be the longest railway bridge in the UK when it's completed, and crossed by HS2 trains in 40 seconds flat. The controversial lake-skimming section is entirely in London and the massive scar where the bridge touches down is in Hertfordshire, but the intermediate bit's in Buckinghamshire, thus technically in Denham. After crossing the River Colne the viaduct spends much of its time shadowing the A412, then crossing it, where previously would have been nothing but trees and watermeadow.

It looks pretty elegant to be fair, the pre-cast concrete sections gently curved and the piers low to the ground, but it's still a massive visual and environmental imposition. A lot of this unwanted impact is due to the scale of the adjacent worksites, a necessary evil now so that the finished span can be as incongruous as possible later. But it's also made walking the Colne Valley somewhat of a trial, for example at the precise boundary between Bucks and Herts where Old Shire Lane has been transformed from a public bridleway into an inaccessible sculpted gash. If you've not been out this way recently you may not realise how mega the mega-engineering in this project is, nor why HS2 won't be opening for years, but to see is to believe.

Three more things to see in Denham Green

4) Denham Garden Village is a large but compact retirement hideaway, originally opened when the Licensed Victuallers Asylum relocated from the Old Kent Road in the 1950s. Then in 2008 they rebuilt it all again, now with a central restaurant/library/gym complex, the only surviving feature from the original being the statue of Prince Albert on the front lawn.
5) Denham station's nowhere near as special architecturally as Denham Golf Club, but it does have a spooky exit which leads down into a brick arch beneath the platforms where a rural footpath leads off to Denham proper, should commuters want to risk it.
6) Savay Farm is a large timber-framed 12th century farmhouse backing onto the Colne, but terribly private as you'd expect from somewhere Oswald Mosley used to live so don't go looking specially.

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