Archive for September, 2007

Swan’s Way – Day 9

Wednesday, September 26th, 2007

I completed Swan’s Way today! I did this final section ‘backwards’, parking in Goring and first walking back to Grim’s Ditch where I finished the previous walk, then turning round and heading back to Goring. 

It took almost an hour and a half to drive to Goring, including stopping for petrol – this is just about the longest drive for any of my walks. It was much colder today, with a stiff NE wind – I wore a warm shirt, but also had to put on my waterproof jacket because the wind was so cold.

From Grim’s Ditch, the ancient earthwork, I followed a lane a short distance, then continued on a bridleway. This ran through an almost imperceptible valley called Drunken Bottom (!) and continued onwards in the same southerly direction, running paralle to the line of the Chiltern Hills. I crossed a couple of lanes and eventually reached a main road – the route so far was shown on the map as being that of the ancient Icknield Way.

Just after the main road I turned right on a pleasant bridleway that went around or over a couple of hillocks, Watch Folly and White Hill. I could see Didcot Power Station in the Oxfordshire Plain, and across the Thames to the Wessex Downs. I next turned left along a road – rather busy, I had to step onto a rough uneven verge whenever a car came by – and after half a mile went right, down a lane into the village of South Stoke.

I’d been here before, last summer on the first day of my Berks-Essex Walk. It’s an attractive village, with a very large number of old houses and cottages of different styles. A path led on from there, soon becoming  a private drive which ran through the gardens of some smart residences with the Thames a short distance to my right. The drive ended at a lane that led down to a riverside pub, and I continued on  a bridleway, eventually reaching Cleve Road in Goring, the end of Swan’s Way.

This was a shorter walk than normal, only about 4 hours in total. A very pleasant an enjoyable walk, with some nice views to the Chilterns, over the Oxfordshir Plain, and across the Thames to the Wessex Downs. I timed it just right – it started raining as I drove out of Goring.

Milton Keynes walk

Monday, September 24th, 2007

Today I had to take my car in for some work at the Volvo garage in Milton Keynes, so while it was there I went for another long walk. I first went to the nearby shopping centre in Kingston, getting something for my lunch at Tescos then having a cappuccino and a muffin at M&S. I looked at some hiking boots at Blacks (my boots will need replacing very soon), but they didn’t have the boots I was interested in in my size.

It had been raining heavily on the way to Milton Keynes, but had now stopped (as forecast) so I started walking about 10.10am. I followed a main road to Willen Lakes again, and went about two-thirds of the way round them to the Peace Pagoda – I was able to go up to it this time, when I was here a few weeks ago it was cordoned off by the Fire & Rescue service. A short distance further on I reached the Grand Union Canal. I turned right and followed the tow path north.

I walked along the canal for several miles, eventually reaching the old railway bridge where I’d turned off the canal on Swan’s Way a couple of weeks or so ago. I crossed the bridge, and started to make my wy back along the other side of the canal – there was seldom a towpath alongside the canal, but it was easy to find paths that ran close and parallel to the canal. I went through Great Linford park, where I saw the church, Almshouses and the Manor House, with some interesting information boards about their history. Further on I passed some old brickkilns, again with an interesting information board.

After a while I crossed a bridge back over the canal, and followed the towpath a lot further south than where I’d started by the Peace Pagoda. I passed Milton Keynes Marina, and about a mile farther on left the canal and headed north east to eventually get back to the garage about 3.10pm.

I’d been walking for the best part of five hours, with a 10-minute lunch break and a few brief stops to look at the places of interest, so I probably walked about 13 miles. I’d had to walk on cycle paths close to main roads at the start and at the end of the walk, but most of it was surprisingly pleasant walking, either along the canal towpath or through a park alongside the canal. The brickkilns and the old buildings at Great Linford were an unexpected bonus, and I’d be quite happy to do the walk again.

Local walk – Nettleden, Hudnall (again!)

Saturday, September 22nd, 2007

My car needs a bit of work doing to it, so rather than drive to Goring and finish Swan’s Way I did a local walk today – my favourite one to Nettleden and Hudnall.

Early on, as I was walking near Holywell and Oldhill Wood I heard and saw a pair of Ravens – there are only a few pairs of these birds in the Chilterns, so I was very lucky. The walk took on me on round the outskirts of Studham to Clements End and Jockey End (Gaddesden Row), then on a very pleasant path to Great Gaddesden. I went past the Buddhist monastery here, and on to the edge of Nettleden.

I then followed a path that runs along a valley bottom for over a mile, not even passing so nuch as a hedgerow let alone a building – most unusual for this part of the country. That took me to Little Gaddesden – I found some orange Fox-and-Cubs growing just before I reached the village.

I had lunch in the usual place, on a log in a wood between Little Gaddesden and Hudnall. From Hudnall I recrossed the wide and deep Gade valley, where I saw a distant Buzzard. I climbed steadily up the other side and crossed a field to reach Studham. Then it was a very familiar route back to Kensworth, following the boundary fence of the zoo and along a former lane to Whipsnade, then across Whipsnade Heath and a couple of fields back to Kensworth.

Swan’s Way – Day 8

Thursday, September 20th, 2007


This walk took me from Watlington to the ancient earth work of Grim’s Ditch, near Nuffield. Same as the previous walk, it was just following the foot of the Chiltern escarpment. although this time it had to use a few roads and lanes rather than stick to one long track.

I chose to walk even though the forecast was for showers, and it rained slightly during most of the drive to Watlington. I wore my Paramo waterproof trousers, rather than have to keep stopping to put on or take off waterproof overtrousers, and I kept my waterproof jacket on throughout the walk.

The first couple of miles was along a continuation of the chalky track I’d walked last time – this was familiar to me as it was still part of the Ridgeway which I walked last summer on my Berks-Essex walk. Where the Ridgeway turned left to go over Swyncombe Down, I continued on the track as it wound round and passed a wood at the foot of that hill.

After a hundred yards or so on a lane, I followed a nice bridleway over an undulating landscape of chalky fields,  either ploughed or stubble. I turned right onto another bridleway, which ran gently uphill between hedges. It brought me to Potter’s Farm, Ewelme, which I know well from the Chiltern Way – it’s the only point on that walk that I visited three times as it’s where the southern extension rejoins the original route, so two of my CW walks ended there and a third one started there.

I followed Potter’s Lane, a bridleway between hedges and part of the Chiltern Way, with views to Swyncombe Down to my right and to Didcot Power Station and Wittenham Clumps to my left. I was then faced with about two and a quarter miles of lane and road walking – I wasn’t looking forward to this (especially as I’d be turning round and immediately doing it again in the opposite direction) but in fact it wasn’t too bad and went quicker than I’d expected.

The walk ended where Grim’s Ditch crossed a lane – I was on part of the southern extension of the Chiltern Way at this point, and the ancient earthwork of Grim’s Ditch here carried the Ridgeway, so again I was on familiar territory.

The skies were dark and threatened rain throughout the walk, but I was lucky and just had a couple of very brief and ligh showers. Just one more walk now to complete Swan’s Way!

Swan’s Way – Day 7

Monday, September 17th, 2007

Today I continued along Swan’s Way, walking from Bledlow to Watlington.

It was generally a grey and overcast day, though it brightened briefly just as I started walking and also again very briefly around 1.30pm. But by the time I got back to my car about 2.35pm it was very dark and I was glad I’d avoided any heavy showers.

I followed a bridleway out of Bledlow, turning right at a junction onto another bridleway. After about half a mile this brought me to a complicated junction of bridleways where I joined the Ridgeway, a long-distance path that follows the route of an ancient track along the edge of the Chilterns. I would follow the Ridgeway for the rest of today’s walk, and will follow it off and on to the end of Swan’s Way at Goring.

I followed a broad chalky track, passing close to Chinnor. Across a road, the track passed between large chalk quarries on either side, close to an old cement works. The chalky track continued on for several miles, with the steep tree-covered escarpment of the Chilterns a short distance to my left. Eventually I crossed the A40, and a short distance further went under the M40. I crossed a lane and finally reached a road on the edge of Watlington. It had taken two hours and 20 minutes to walk about 7.5 miles, which was quite quick by my standards – probably because the route was so straightforward I didn’t spend any time navigating.

I must have seen at least 20 Red Kites, including one over Bledlow as I set off. Several butterflies too, including a Red Admiral and a Speckled Wood.

Swan’s Way – Day 6

Saturday, September 15th, 2007

Very nice day today, weather-wise. Sunny with puffy white clouds and a pleasant temperature of 19-20C. The walk took me from near the small village of Kimble Wick to Bledlow, at the foot of the Chilterns. I actually did the walk ‘backwards’, parking in Bledlow and walking back to Kimble Wick, because I wasn’t sure if I could park in Kimble Wick.

From the end of the last walk, I continued on a good hard-surfaced track that soon became a lane as it passed the few scattered residences of Kimble Wick – I’d walked this bit before on both the North Bucks Way and the Aylesbury Ring. I turned right at a crossroads and followed a lane for almost a mile to a junction, where I turned right. I soon went left at the next junction, and shortly after took a bridleway going left – I was now on the aptly named ‘Green Lane’, a decent path running between hedges, with occasional glimpses to the Chilterns to my left.

At the end of the path I crossed a main road and followed a lane to the village of Ilmer – just a few scattered large residences on a dead-end lane. I took a short detour to photograph the church, which had an unusual shingle spire that was restored in 1979. I then followed a bridleway heading south-east towards the long escarpment of the Chilterns. I soon reached a couple of ploughed fields – well, the second much larger field was in the process of being ploughed. Here I saw about 14 Red Kites and one Buzzard. Several Kites were flying low over the field, looking for worms and so on exposed by the plough, the rest of the birds seemed to be drifting higher on a thermal.

I turned right at path junction – the bridlway now ran between hedges or fences, and had a broken asphalt surface. I passed what must have been a  Watermill (remains of a large waterwheel in the garden!) as the path became a lane. I turned left at a junction and followed the lane through Pitch Green – I saw a WWII bomber and two fighters fly overhead here.

I then crossed the main road that runs along just north of the Chiltern escarpment, and continud along a road opposite to reach Bledlow, where I turned right into Church End. Before reaching my car, parked outside the church, I spent a few minutes exploring The Lyde Gardens on the right – The Lyde is a small gorge where springs form a small stream, now turned into an attractive garden with paths and a boardwalk.

A slightly shorter walk than usual – very flat and the vast majority on hard surfaces. But I enjoyed it nevertheless, the highlight being the sight of all those wonderful Red Kites!

Web site update !!!

Friday, September 14th, 2007

I have just updated my web site today.

The main change is that I’ve just added a small section containing photos taken on a few walks in the Lake District. Nothing too great, I’m afraid, as my last few holidays in the Lake District have been rather wet, so there weren’t too many opportunities for taking photos.

I’ve also added a couple more wildflowers, and a nice photo of a Red Admiral. All the other minor changes are listed on the ‘Site History’ page, if you’re interested.

Swan’s Way – Day 5

Monday, September 10th, 2007

Another very grey day to start with, but it gradually brightened up and by lunchtime it was nice and sunny. But it also became quite windy and I seemed to be walking into the wind all the way back to my car. First time for a very long time that I can remember being aware of walking against a strong wind.

I parked in a layby near Waddesdon, and had to go about a third of a mile to a road junction to pick up the route of Swan’s Way. I then had to go about three quarters of a mile along another road to reach where I finished my last walk, and then of course had to turn round and walk back the same way – I was glad to get this road walking over and done with!

I followed a path round two sides of  a very large ploughed field and then went up Waddesdon Hill, spotting a nearby Buzzard as I did so. Like Quainton Hill on the last walk, Waddesdon Hill isn’t very high, but has some quite extensive views. I could see northwards back to Quainton and Quainton Hill, while to the south I could see the line of the Chiltern Hills extending from Dunstable Downs to near Stokenchurch.

The next half-mile or so I’d walked before on the Aylesbury Ring, North Bucks Way and Bernwood Jubilee Way, but I then followed a slightly different route through Eythrope Park (which gave me a chance to see the house for the first time). I passed the waymark post that shows that no less than six long-distance routes go through here, then crossed the bridge over the river Thame and followed the drive from the estate to the village of Stone.

There was now a fairly lengthy road walk through Stone. Just before I turned off the road, I got a good close-up view of a Red Kite, the first I’ve seen for a while. I now followed  a bridleway round various field ages, seeing another Kite, then crossed a large sheep pasture to reach a farm. More field-side bridleways took me to a path junction about half a mile from the village of Kimble Wick, where I turned and started to make my way back to the car.

This was a nice walk, despite the large amount of road walking. Any walk where I see a Red Kite is a good walk as far as I’m concerned! (I saw another one close-up in Eythrope Park on the way back). It was also nice to be walking in bright sunshine again, as the last few walks have generally been on grey and gloomy days.

Swan’s Way – Day 4

Saturday, September 8th, 2007

Today I continued my walk along the Swan’s Way long-distance bridleway. I parked about a mile further on from where I ended my last walk, so started today’s walk by heading back there then turning round.

I followed the green lane I’d been on last time for about a 100 yards, then followed the edge of a maize field to reach a road. On the other side, I followed another green lane, which turned right to reach a lane. I followed this to the left for about a quarter of a mile, before turning left (almost opposite where I’d parked). A bridleway now took me through a sequence of fields, mainly hay meadows, to a farm, where I followed the farm drive for over half a mile to reach the attractive village of North Marston (a cyclist stopped and chatted for a while about my walk as I followed the farm drive).

Next came a long road walk, at least a mile and a half – but it was along a quiet minor road then a very quiet lane, so it wasn’t too bad. Now came a bit of a climb (well, just a few hundred feet!) as I went up Quainton Hill, a long green eminence rising from the Vale of Aylesbury. Chatted to a birdwatcher here, who’d seen Common Redstarts, Ravens and a Peregrine Falcon. Apparently I’d just missed seing a Raven – it’s good news that they’re spreading into this area, like the Buzzards and Red Kites that are doing so well.

There were good views in most directions from the top of Quainton Hill, but it was another grey and gloomy day so the views weren’t as extensive as they might have been. I could see the Chiltern’s to the south, as far eastwards as Ivinghoe Beacon. I walked straight down the other side of the hill, noticing the windmill at Quainton. I passed a couple of very old farms (one moated), and followed a long drive to another farm. Across a couple of sheep pastures I reached a road – annoyingly, Swan’s Way now followed roads round two sides of a square, when there was a perfectly feasible bridleway going round the other two sides! Even more annoyingly, when I reached the point where that bridleway joined the road I’d walked, there was a sign now indicating that Swan’s Way had been rerouted and did indeed follow the bridleway! I would have been spared over half a mile of unpleasant and occasionally dangerous road walking if there’d been such a sign at the other end.

I followed the road a little further, to reach a railway bridge where I turned and headed back to my car (obviously I used the bridleway rather than the road on the way back!). I stopped for my lunch on top of Quainton Hill, admiring the views over the Vale of Aylesbury.

This was another pleasant walk, though there was quite a bit of road walking. It was very flat, with the obvious exception of Quainton Hill. This was definitely the best part of the walk, with some really good views over the lower-lying land round about. North Marston was an attractive village with many old houses, and the people were very friendly – apart from the cyclist, two other people greeted me as I walked by.

Anglesey Abbey

Friday, September 7th, 2007

Today I took my parents to Anglesey Abbey, a National Trust property in Cambridgeshire. We got there about 12.45pm, had some lunch in the restaurant and then took a look round the house.

There wasn’t too much of the original priory (it was never actually an abbey) buildings left, except  a room that was used as the Dining Room, which had original stone pillars and a vaulted roof. A couple of rooms had oak panelling, but it been brought from elsewhere and only put up in the 20th century. So the house was more interesting for its contents than its fabric. There was a good collection of paintings (Gainsborough, Constable, Landseer, Claude, etc.) and some fine furniture, including some very elaborate clocks. But I definitely got the impression that it was all designed to show off the former owners collections, rather than a house with an interesting history and a ‘lived-in’ feel. So I was a little disappointed.

The gardens looked very good, but we didn’t have too much time to spend exploring them. There was a whole area dedicated to Dahlias.

We had an icecream in the restaurant before we left, and got home about 5pm.