The centre of Bucks is occupied by the Vale of Aylesbury, one of the richest and most fertile valleys in England, with corn-fields and meadows, and cherry orchards and pastures, about which are scattered scores of handsome cows. Bucks is a great dairy county, in which enormous quantities of butter are made and sent both to Oxford and to the London market. Sheep and oxen, hogs, ducks and geese, are also reared in great numbers.
Aylesbury, the county town, is a good-sized market-town, where lace-making is carried on. Lace-making is a common cottage employment in Bucks, and is carried on largely in the four towns upon the Ouse, Buckingham, Stony Stratford, Newport Pagnell, and Olney.
The Great Ouse has a very winding course in this county, amongst flags and reeds. Cowper, the gentle poet, whose house at Olney is still shown, tells us how he took a walk with his dog Beau, when—
"The noon was shady, and soft airs
Swept Ouse's silent tide;"
and while the poet walked, Beau—
"Now wantoned lost in flags and reeds,
Now starting into sight,
Pursued the swallow o'er the meads
With scarce a slower flight.
"It was the time when Ouse displayed
His lilies newly blown;
Their beauties I intent surveyed,
And one I wish'd my own."
Beau, seeing his master's desire, plunged into the river, broke off a lily, and brought it to the poet's feet.
Cowper speaks of "the meads," for Ouse is bordered with broad meadows; the Ouse Valley is also a fertile corn-growing district.
Buckingham is an old town with a long history; Stowe, the grand seat of the Dukes of Buckingham, is near the town. The making of straw plait is carried on here and in many towns and villages on the Hertford border.
Paper is made in some towns at the foot of the Chilterns—High Wycombe, Chesham, and some others. About five miles south of Chesham is the village of Chalfont St. Giles, where Milton, the blind poet, stayed while the plague raged in London; here he revised his. great poem, 'Paradise Lost,' and wrote the story of 'Paradise Regained.'
The Chilterns, which cross the county, were once= clothed with a vast forest of beech and oak; many of them are now cultivated to the top, or are divided into pasture fields.