Archive for August, 2007

Swan’s Way – Day 1

Wednesday, August 29th, 2007


Today I started Swan’s Way, a long-distance bridleway that runs from just north of Milton Keynes to Goring-on-Thames, a distance of 65 miles. I’ve come across it on several of my walks before, so I’m looking forward to revisiting a few places on the route. As it’s a bridleway rather than a footpath, I expect there’ll be a bit more road walking than usual, but it should still be an interesting route.

I started in Salcey Forest, which I passed through briefly on the Milton Keynes Boundary Walk just a few weeks ago. I followed a surfaced track for about half a mile through the forest, then followed a series of bridleways beside field hedges – the fields were generally stubble or had recently been ploughed. Heard a Buzzard over a nearby wood at one point (eventually got a very distant view of it). Also saw a stoat in a field corner along here on my way back.

The route then went through an empty pasture and along a hedge-lined track, passing under the M1 to reach the village of Tathall End. Nice yellow stone houses, like the nearby villages I saw on the MKBW, and a stream running between the road and the footpath – each house’s drive had a bridge over the stream. After a short road walk, more field paths led me to Linford Wood. Beyond this I soon passed the ruins of a farm.

After a couple of linked pastures, the bridleway continued alongside the hedge of a large ploughed field, then followed a nice green lane for about half a mile – short grass, between hedges about 10 yards apart. Another shorter road walk, then a gated lane downhill to Haversham Mill and a bridge over the river Great Ouse. The lane (almost bare concrete, with just traces of tarmac left on top) continued betwen the river and Linford Lakes over to my left. It passed the ruins of St Peters church, and the walk ended by following the Grand Union Canal a few hundred yards to  a road bridge in Great Linford. 

This was a very pleasant walk that I greatly enjoyed. Nothing outstanding, and a very flat route, but there was enough variety (with the woods, river and canal, the ruined church and ruined farm) to keep it interesting.

Walk to Redbourn and back

Saturday, August 25th, 2007

We finally had a nice sunny day, and so I managed to go for a long walk again – at last! In fact it was TOO hot – I felt quite drained by the time I got home.

I did one of my regular walks from home, to Redbourn and back. The walk starts with a rather dull road walk through Kensworth for about three-quarters of a mile, then goes across fields to Markyate – I had a nice view towards the big house  of Markyate Cell, across the valley of the river Ver which carries the A5. A previous house on the site was the home of the lady highwaywoman on whom the film ‘The Wicked Lady’ was based.

From Markyate, I followed the route of the Hertfordshire Way further along the Ver Valley to Flamstead. From there, more field paths took me to a bridge across the M1 (a brand new bridge, as the old one has just been replaced because they are widening this part of the motorway). On the other side I soon came across some Musk Mallow, one of my favourite wildflowers, and then I came across a blue flower which I’ve not seen before – I think it was Blue Sow-thistle, but I haven’t really checked out its identification yet.

I walked through part of Redbourn – I hadn’t realised before that the cricket pitch on the large green actually extends across a road! I took the lane towards Flamsteadbury farm, recrossing the M1 on another new bridge, and followed a long farm track and then a quiet lane to Trowley Bottom, which adjoins Flamstead. I had my packed lunch sat on a tree trunk at the end of a bridleway. I just touched the edge of Markyate again on the way back, then took some very familiar paths towards Holywell (nice views of a Buzzard being ‘mobbed’ by what looked like a Kestrel), and then returned to Kensworth via Dovehouse Lane.

A very nice walk – again I really appreciate how lucky I am to live in such nice countryside. It was very hot though, especially after lunch when what had been a nice cool breeze disappeared – I was surprised that the forecast on the BBC web site said 23C, it felt 2 or 3 degrees hotter than that to me.

Milton Keynes

Tuesday, August 21st, 2007

Having spent several days recently doing a circular walk all around Milton Keynes, I spent most of today wandering through the new city. I had to wait while my car had a service and MOT there, so I planned on walking from the garage  to the Grand Union Canal and then walking a section of the towpath that I have not yet done. Unfortunately, today turned out to be a very wet day, so I did a somewhat shorter walk instead.

I walked on a cycle path close to a dual carriageway for half an hour or so, then walked round Willen Lakes. The southern of these two man-made lakes is used for water sports, the northern one is a bird reserve – there is a hide, which I visited, although I hadn’t taken by binoculars with me. I saw some lapwings and coots from the hide, and a heron as I walked round. I also saw some lovely Purple Loosestrife by the lakes.

There is a ‘Peace Pagoda’ by the northern lake, associated with a nearby Buddhist Monastery. I went to have a look at it, but it was in the process of being cordoned off by the Fire and Rescue services – there were a couple of Fire Engines with their blue lights flashing. I don’t know what was going on.

Having been round the lakes, I followed another hard-surfaced path alongside the river Ouzel. I was impressed by the green spaces in Milton Keynes. After a while, this path actually went through some pasture where sheep and cattle where grazing (real cows, honest, not the concrete cows MK is famous for!). I saw some Himalayan Balsam for the first time, here along the river. It is a very attractive light or dark pink flower, but is non-native and is spreading rapidly along many waterways to the detriment of native species.

I then made my way through some housing estates back to the shopping centre in Kingston, close to the garage, and had a coffee at M&S.

50 !!!

Wednesday, August 15th, 2007


Unbelievable! Today was my 50th birthday! Surely some mistake …

I celebrated (if that’s the right word!) by taking my parents out for a pub meal.

Quarry/Downs/Whipsnade/Studham walk

Monday, August 13th, 2007

I did one of my local walks from home again today. I started by walking to Church End, the old part of Kensworth where the church is, then following the long path behind Kensworth Quarry up to Dunstable Downs. I walked along the top of the Downs, where I saw Meadow Cranesbill and both Great and Dark Mullein, then followed the path along the bottom of the Downs past the gliding club. I managed to get a nice photo of a Red Admiral butterfly as I started up a path back to the top of the Downs.

I then took a bridleway towards Whipsnade, then a lane and footpaths to Studham. I had my lunch on Studham Common, and then set off again towards Markyate. But there was a very brief shower, and the skies continued to look threatening, so I cut the walk a bit short and took the quickest route back to Kensworth. I still walked for almost 5 hours, anyway.

Totternhoe again

Monday, August 13th, 2007


On Saturday morning I went to Totternhoe again, to both the Knolls and the Quarry reserves. Didn’t see much that was new, but I had a very pleasant morning there nevertheless. Parts of the quarry were almost carpeted in Clustered Bellflower – one of my books says it grows from between 3cm to 30cm high, and I saw examples throughout that range. I also saw several gentians, which I thought were autumn gentians, but people on the Wild About Britain web site think they are Chiltern gentians.


Web site updated!

Saturday, August 11th, 2007

I have updated my web site today. I have added a journal for the Milton Keynes Boundary Walk, and I have added a great number of new wildflower photographs.

Circular walk to Ivinghoe Beacon

Wednesday, August 8th, 2007

This was a really nice day for a walk, bright and sunny but not too hot. I did one of my regular walks from home, going from Kensworth to Ivinghoe Beacon and back, about 14 miles.

The route goes from Kensworth past Holywell to Studham church, then on across the Gade Valley (a very attractive Chiltern valley) to Little Gaddesden and then Ringshall. It’s then a very pleasant walk through the woods of Ashridge to Ivinghoe Beacon. I spent half an hour or so looking for wildflowers there. I hoped to see frog orchids, but was disappointed. I did see some type of gentian – I think it’s field gentian  rather than chiltern gentian, but annoyingly my camera refused to focus on them and none of my photos are any good so I can’t really tell for sure.

The walk back largely folowed the route of the Icknield Way path, and I noticed there were a whole load of new stiles and kissing gates here. I went through Dagnall, across Whipsnade golf course and then along the boundary fence of the zoo and on into Whipsnade itself. It was then just a short distance through Whipsnade Heath and back to Kensworth.

Not too many wildlife sitings, but I did see a fox and two Fallow deer.

I was again struck by how lucky I am to live here. On a sunny day like this, the views from the Beacon and from both sides of the Gade Valley were really gorgeous.

Milton Keynes Boundary Walk – Day 8

Monday, August 6th, 2007

Well, I finished the MKBW today!

It was another nice walk on a very pleasant day for walking. I started off along Weasel Lane, part of the SUSTRANS national cycle network. There was then about half a mile of nasty road walking, but then a nice bit of bridleway. Another much shorter road section, then a really nice and long bit of bridleway. Most of this I’d walked almost two years agon on the North Bucks Way – the new development of Milton Keynes has edged even closer to the path since then. There were some new houses just behind the hedge on the right of the path at one point, and I passed some more new houses being built a bit further along.

When I finally stepped left over a stile in a hedge to leave the bridleway, there was suddenly a really nice view ahead of me. The path sloped downhill through a ‘set aside’ field to a wood, with further fields beyond. The path through one of the ‘set aside’ fields was somewhat patchy, but I soon reached a cement drive and then a road. The rest of the walk was through a variety of fields – cows, sheep, hay meadows, corn fields. I again suddenly came upon a nice view at a stile, looking down over the Ouse Valley.

I’ll write my journal entry for this walk tomorrow. I’ll do a couple of local walks this week, and hope to update my web site with the MKBW journal (and loads of new wildflower stuff!) by the end of Sunday. I’ll keep you posted!

Milton Keynes Boundary Walk – Day 7

Friday, August 3rd, 2007

A very nice walk today – would have appreciated it if someone had turned the sun down a couple of degrees or so, though! It wasn’t too bad, but I wouldn’t have wanted it any warmer. I’m definitely better at walking in the cold than in hot weather.

The walk got off to a great start when I saw three Roe deer in the first field I crossed! A few minutes later I heard and then saw a Buzzard.

The route took me across the A5 and through fields to Great Brickhill, where I descended from the Greensand Ridge to the flat plain where Milton Keynes lies below (this was the only hill on the route). I soon reached a lane which took me to the Grand Union Canal. I followed the canal towpath for about half a mile, then followed a bridleway right on the edge of part of MK. A farm drive, some field paths, a lane and some more field paths took me to Newton Longville. Finally a path through some overgrown pastures and then a corn field took me to a track called Weasel Lane, where I turned round.

This was a good walk, with a variety of scenery. I passed through fields containing Bullocks, Sheep, Horses and, unusually, Goats. There were a few fields that were ‘set aside’ and several corn fields. Just before Newton Longville was an old-fashioned hay meadow, absolutely full of white and yellow flowers, including some type of Trefoil. I didn’t identify too many wildflowers today, but I did see some Musk Mallow again, with its lovely large pink flowers.

Just one more day to go – I’ll probably finish the MKBW on Monday, and then add my journal for it to my web site a few days later.