Archive for October, 2007

Christmas Common and Ibstone

Monday, October 29th, 2007

Wonderful walk today, in an area of the Chilterns spread across the Oxfordshire/Buckinghamshire county boundary southwest of Stokenchurch. Just driving to the walk, I could see the trees were more advanced into their autumn colours, with some brilliant yellows and golds, with occasional reds for variety.

I parked at Cowleaze Wood, where there is a sculpture trail which I’d see on my way back. The walk got off to a great start when I saw two Red Kites as I crossed the first field of the day. I then followed a fairly steep path down the escarpment of the Chilterns, with Didcot Power Station straight ahead in the distance, out in the Oxfordshire plain. The path went left along the foot of the wooded hills – a third of a mile away across the ploughed fields was a section of the Ridgeway path that I walked recently on my Swan’s Way walk. I saw three Fallow deer as I walked along here.

I turned left on a private road – this was part of the Oxfordshire Way, a long-distance path I’ve come across before but not walked myself (most of it is too far from my home). At the end of the road I continued on the Oxfordshire Way, going quite steeply back up the escarpment (I saw another eight Fallow deer here) and then across a couple of small sheep pastures to a road in the quaintly named Christmas Common. I followed the Oxfordshire Way through the village, passing the attractive old Fox and Hounds pub. I took a slight detour to see the church (marked on the map), but it has been converted into a private home (with gravestones in the garden!).

I went through a small wood, along another drive, and then onto a bridleway going through a wood. I followed the bridleway for about two miles, sometimes in quite a large wood, sometimes in a fairly narrow belt of trees – it was always a delight, with the trees in their gorgeous atumn foliage. Eventualy the bridleway left the trees and soon passed a farm in a pleasant valley, then continued alongside a hedgerow. A farmer was ploughing a large field to my left, with woods on the far side. I noticed one or two Red Kites here, then suddenly there were about 10 of them!

I turned left on a path going uphill between ploughed fields. There were good views to my left back along the valley I’d just walked down, and further up even better views to my right along the Stonor valley – I could see where I’d crossed that valley on the Chiltern Way earlier this year. I saw a buzzard fly out of a tree here. I then followed a path to Turville Heath, from where I took a bridleway downhill through another beech wood. Across a lane, I went downhill across a meadow with good views all around of a lovely wooded valley. The path went quite steeply up the opposite slope, joining a bridleway that became a tarmac lane leading into Ibstone.

I followed the edge of the large common here, detouring to look at a large stone in the middle of the long grass (there was no plaque or anything saying what it was for) and had my lunch on a bench by the cricket pitch. I then went back into the trees, briefly following part of the Chiltern Way as I descended a long way into the Wormsley valley. Here I saw the cricket pitch where the late Paul Getty used to arrange matches when he owned the Wormsley estate. I followed a bridleway that started as a track between hedges, then joined the drive through the estate.

There was quite a commotion in the sky above me as I followed the drive past a tall and colourful beech tree – rooks, jackdaws and pigeons were flying about, and then I saw two buzzards come out of the tree and start circling. Just beyond a farm, I turned left on a bridleway that went steadily uphill into more woods -again this was a really colourful and attractive part of the walk. At a path crossroads I went left, quite steeply downhill, emerging from the trees to cross a small meadow down to another farm.

It was then a long climb back up the other side of the valley, through a large empty sheep pasture. Near the top of the slope I re-entered Cowleaze Wood, and followed the path back to the car park, passing one or two ‘interesting’ sculptures on the way.

My feeble description hardly does the walk justice – it was one of the best I’ve ever done in the south of England, probably even better than my recent walk at Little and Great Hampden although it didn’t have the sites of historic interest that that walk had. It was a lovely day today, cool but not cold, with several large white and grey clouds in the sky but generally bright. The walk was very up and down, lots of it through delightful woodland, there were some very nice views, and I enjoyed every single section of the walk.

Web site updated !!!

Sunday, October 28th, 2007

I’ve updatede my web site this morning!

The main change is a new ‘Chiltern Hills’ section with photos from four walks (including my ‘local’ walk round Ashridge). I’ve renamed the ‘My journals’ page to ‘Long-distance paths’, and done some general tidying up that I’ve been meaning to do for some time.

Nettleden, Hudnall again

Thursday, October 25th, 2007

Today’s walk was probably a mistake. I’ve decided to add some of the walks I’ve been doing in the Chilterns to my web site, and thought I should also include some of my ‘local’ walks. So I did this walk today, despite having done it just a couple of weeks ago, with the intent of taking lots of photos to put on the web. Unfortunately, today was a grey and dank day, a bit misty at times, and so although I took 95 photos, the weather conditions mean they don’t do the walk justice. All the views are severely restricted. So I’m not sure whether to add them to the site or not – I probably will, and then replace the photos if I do the walk again in better conditions.

Nothing really to add about the walk, having described the route already just recently. There were no wildlife sitings to report, which was most unusual. There were the usual phasants, rabbits and squirrels which I don’t normally mention as I almost always see them. I did see a Green Woodpecker in Whipsnade churchyard, but again that is not an unusual bird for me to see on a walk.

Buckland Common, Cholesbury and Chartridge

Tuesday, October 23rd, 2007

Today I continued my tour of Iron-age hill forts … well, that’s what it seems like! Having recently seen various Iron-age forts in different states of preservation at Ivinghoe Beacon, Pulpit Hill and Boddington Hill, today I chose to do a walk that would enable me to revisit Cholesbury Camp. I went there on my Chiltern Heritage Trail walk, and it is the most impressive fort I know in this area.

I started the walk at Buckland Common, where I started my penultimate walk on the Chiltern Way this spring. In fact, for the early part of the walk I followed the Chiltern Way northwards, soon passing an Alpaca farm (fewer Alpacas than usual, and no sign of the two pigs I met on the path when I was last here). I passed through Drayton Wood, crossed Shire Lane and soon reached the ancient earthwork of Grim’s Ditch, which I’d followed for about four miles on my last walk.  This time I just followed it a few hundred yards northwest, before heading southeast on a broad track between hedges (it’s not named on the map, but the Chiltern Way guide says the track is called Brown Lane).

The track soon entered High Scrubs Wood. It was very pleasant walking through the trees, with the bright sunlight filtering through the leaves. After about half a mile I turned left and followed a hedgerow across a grass field with showjumping fences. I crossed a road and took a path on the other side, then turned left crossing a couple of paddocks and passing through a small wood to arrive at Cholesbury Camp.

I followed the path that goes all round the oval-shaped prehistoric enclosure. The southwest part of the oval has been encroached upon by the village, and the path passed through the churchyard of St Laurence’s church (13-14th century, but largely restored in the 1870’s). Here I got talking to the church warden, who kindly showed me the grave of a sailor who’d fought at Trafalgar. He lived to the age of 99, but was in great poverty towards the end of his life until the vicar appoached the Admiralty on his behalf and he was awarded a pension. There was a lot of poverty here in the 1800’s, and Cholesbury became the first parish in the country to go bankrupt, because it could not afford to support the poor of the parish.

I continued south from Cholesbury, then went southeast, now following the route of the Chiltern Heritage Trail which I walked a year ago. I walked along the valley of White Hawridge Bottom for about two miles – I had to change my route slightly, because the track past the Ostrich pens was impassably muddy (Alpacas and Ostriches on the same walk – I really must set up a Chiltern Safari company!). I went west through Ramscott wood on a good bridleway, then south on a path between paddocks on my left and garden fences on my right.

Across a road and down a farm drive, I crossed a grass field and passed through another wood. There was then a nice view north along a steep-sided valley. I followed  a hedgerow down and up the other side of this valley, heading west. After walking right a couple of hundred yards on a road, I turned left and repeated the process, descending another steep-sided and attractive valley and rising up the other side to reach the village of Chartidge.

I followed the road to the right for about half a mile, then turned left. I had my lunch on a seat by a playing field, then continued west on a bridleway. There was soon another good view of a green and attractive valley – I think this is one of the most scenic parts of the Chilterns that I have come across. I then had a nice lengthy stretch of woodland walking, before crossing a couple of empty pastures to a road. I followed it to the right for quarter of a mile to a T-junction, where I carried on northwards on a footpath – here I saw my first Red Kite of the day! The path went down into a small valley, and rose up the other side with a wood on my left. Again the scenery here was very charming, with rolling hills and valleys and lots of woods, part green and part gold in their early autumn foliage.

I crossed Arrewig Lane (it’s name goes back to the Saxons, if I remember the Chiltern Way guide book correctly) and continued northwards on pleasant field paths, to reach a road leading me back to my car in Buckland Common. The walk had taken about 4.5 hours plus stops (lunch and talking to the very helpful and informative church warden at Cholesbury). It had remained a gloriously sunny day throughout, and it had been a real pleasure to walk through this charming countryside.

Wendover Woods, Wigginton and Aston Hill

Saturday, October 20th, 2007

Very good walk again today, on a delightfully sunny autumn day.

I parked at the car park in Wendover Woods, and took a track heading south through the woods to Boddington Hill, where I passed the site of another Iron-age hillfort. There were occasional good views out through the trees to my right, over Wendover and the flat expanse of the Vale of Aylesbury. I continued on the track, descending Boddington Hill, turning sharp right when it came to a junction, and reached Hale Lane. I followed this to the right for about half a mile, reaching the edge of Wendover, then turned left and then left again along Hogtrough Lane. 

I’d walked here before on a couple of long-distance paths. There were good views over the valley of The Hale on my left, with Boddington Hill prominent. Just past a farm, I turned left as The Ridgeway path started climbing steadily through Barn Wood. Near the top of the long slope I turned right on a short path, then left on a track, still in part of Barn Wood. Just after crossing another path, I turned left. This new path soon left the wood, and continued through a belt of trees with small ploughed fields either side.

For about the next four miles I roughly followed the line of Grim’s Ditch, an ancient earthwork. At first this was apparent as a raised bank, elseweher it was a larged ditch. I started following it through woodland, then along a short section of lane a few yards to the right of the earthwork. A footpath then followed the line of the earthwork through a field, a small wood and another smaller field. Then I followed a bridleway on the line of the earthwork, which was not at all evident here. The bridleway was on a farm drive that was also the county boundary, so I walked along the centre of the drive, imagining my left leg to be in Hertfordshire and my right in Buckinghamshire! Much of the rest of this section I’d walked before on the Chiltern Way, following Grim’s Ditch mainly along a thin belt of trees, eventually reaching the village of Wigginton.

I turned left to go through the village, stopping to have my lunch by a small playing field. On the far side of the village I turned left into Tring Park and followed King Charles Ride, a long level track above the steep slopes of the Chiltern Escarpment, named after Charles I who stayed at the grand house of Tring Park. On the far side of the park I followed some lanes through Hastoe, before turning right on a byway (curiously there are four connected byways here – Id be interested to know why they are all byways rather than bridleways). After passing a couple of houses it descended quite steeply through Grove Wood.

At the bottom of the slope, the byway continued as a track between hedges, with mainly paddocks either side. At a T-junction I turned right onto another similar byway. This passed a couple of houses, then continued on the other side of a lane. I turned left onto a path, now with the wooded slopes of Aston Hill ahead of me, and the slopes of Grove Wood and Pavis Wood over to my left. The path followed a hedgerow through two fields to a lane.

A little to the right I took another path, rising just inside the edge of a wood towards the top of Aston Hill. Initially there was a field to mt right, so occasionally there were good views out over the Vale of Aylesbury. Beyond the field, the path fully entered the wood and reached the top of Aston Hill. I then followed a fram drive to reach a road. on the other side, I followed a fairly level path that took me to the drive to the car park where I started.

This was a really good walk on a fantastic day. Lots of good sections through woods, interspersed with a few field paths. The remains of the Hillfort and Grim’s Ditch added historic interest. There were some good views out over the Vale of Aylesbury in a couple of places, and nice views elsewhere too, though the trees are not yet at there autumn best, being mainly still green.

I’m going to add photos of some of these Chiltern Walks I’ve been doing to the web site soon – they’ll do the walks more justice than my feeble descriptions!

West Wycombe and Hughenden Manor

Thursday, October 18th, 2007

Today I did a circular walk starting from West Wycombe (which is just west of High Wycombe, curiously enough!) and passing through the grounds of Hughenden Manor, once the home of Benjamin Disraeli and now run by the National Trust.

I started about 10am at the car park in West Wycombe, and took the permissive path climbing West Wycombe Hill to the Mausoleum. This was created for the Dashwood family in 1764-5 and is still used by them today. Behind the Mausoleum, I passed St Lawrence’s church, which stands within the boundaries of an iron-age hillfort.

I then followed a nice clear path heading north, generally through woodland, following the top of a long hill with valleys either side. At Nobles Farm the path joined the tarmac farm drive and continued northwards. There were two or three Red Kites around a pasture on the left (I’d seen my first Kite of the day at the car park!). The drive eventually descended to a lane, where I continued on a path on the other side which rose steadily to the top of Slough Hill.

Here I turned sharply right, crossing a field of stubble on a path where I saw some lovely Common Toadflax. I soon reached the lane I’d just crossed, and followed it into the village of Saunderton, passing the station on my left. I crossed a main road and continued eastwards along a narrow lane. I turned right at a farm, and now headed south, walking beside the edge of Park Wood – I was now on the far side of the valley that had been on my right earlier.

When the wood eventually turned left, I continued ahead along a hedgerow across two fields, then crossed a narrow empty pasture to reach Bradenham. This is a very attractive village, dating back to the Domesday Book. Around the large almost triangular village green was a church, the manor house (owned by the National Trust but rented out), another large house called the White House and several othe attractive cottages and houses.

From Bradenham, I took a bridleway back up the hillside into the woodlands of Naphill Common. This was a pleasant part of the walk, but there were so many paths and bridleways, which didn’t always seem to correspond with those shown on the map, that it was rather confusing and for sometime I wasn’t sure exactly where I was. I was never really lost, and knew generally which direction to go when I came to  a path juncton, but I couldn’t really pinpoint where I was on the map.

Finally I crossed a drive, which showed me exactly where I was, and I then easily navigated myself through the trees to the end of the lane. A short distance down the lane, I re-entered the trees on my right, then went left at a path junction. This path took me to Flagmore Wood, where I turned right on a good track. I stopped here to have lunch. Just before reaching the end of the wood, I turned left and then right. I was now on a nice contouring path that soon left the wood and then curved round to the left, with the wood on my left and fields and pastures on my right.

This path led me into the grounds of Hughenden Manor. I took a quick photo of the house (I had a look round it with my parents and my niece Emily earlier this year), then took a nice bridleway that went between fields to another wood, and on to the village of Downley. From here I took a series of paths and a farm drive that took me back to the very attractive village of West Wycombe, with its old houses and coaching inns.

The Hampdens and Whiteleaf Cross

Monday, October 15th, 2007

A superb walk today, one of the best I’ve ever done in the south of England!

I parked in a small car park immediately south of Pulpit Hill, about 2 miles NW of Princes Risborough. I took a bridleway going south through woods, then turned almost east, following a hedgerow beside a series of ploughed fields. A Red Kite, the first of several I’d see today, flew low overhead at one point. The path eventually joined a tarmac farm drive which led through woods again to a road.

I took another farm drive almost opposite, then followed a permissive path to avoid going through the gardens of the former farm house. The path went steadily uphill (I saw a Buzzard here), and entered another wood, still heading roughly east. The path left the wood and followed a hedge though a couple more ploughed fields (there was a burnt out tractor here!). I went a short distance through another area of woodland, then turned right at a path junction, reaching the remote and tiny village of Little Hampden after a couple of hundred yards.

I was here just 8 days ago on my walk from Coombe Hill, but I took a different route out of the village this time, a path descending steeply eastwards through the lovely beech woods. Near the valley bottom, I emerged from the woods and followed a hedge betweeen two ploughed fields. I entered a wood on the other side of the valley, where a path led quite steeply uphill. Near the top of the hill I turned right at a crossing of paths – I now had a delightful walk through the trees on a level path, with occasionally an attractive view across the valley now on my right.

I soon crossed the Chiltern Way (between Little Hampden and Cobblershill on my left), as I continued on this fairly level path between the trees for about 3/4 mile until I reached a lane. I followed it to my right, heading south – it was very narrow and I had to squeeze into the hedge when a car came along. Where the lane ended at a road, I took a woodland path almost opposite. This took me steadily uphill through the trees, then I turned right and crossed a large ploughed field (nice views again) to reach a minor road.

A dog barked fiercely from the other side of a fence as the next footpath took me through the grounds of a house, then I followed a hedge on my right through yet another ploughed field – yet more stunning views when the hedge ended. I was soon back in more attractive woodland, then a short road walk and a private road took me to Great Hampden.

Here there was the church, an impressive building called Tower House and the manor house, Hampden House, which was the home of John Hampden, the leading parliamentarian in the years leading up to the Civil War. I took a path running south from the church which lead across a sequence of fields to the village of Hampden Common. From here I took a path beside the cricket pitch, which then went through yet another wood to reach a road by a crossroads. A path continued SW from the crossroads, still in woodlands – this was a bridleway runing alongside a wire fence, with signs indicating that horse should keep left of the fence, walkers to the right.

On the far side of this wood, the bridleway continued a short distance between hedges. At crossroads of tracks I turned right onto Lily Bottom Lane (a RUPP, or Road Used as Public Path) which was very muddy in places. I passed Lily Farm and then Lily Bottom Farm, where the track became a tarmac lane and I recrossed the Chiltern Way. I continued along the lane a short distance (seeing a muntjac deer emerge from the hedge just a short way in front of me before turning and running back the way it came) to reach Parslow’s Hillock by the Pink and Lily pub, famous for its connection with Rupert Brooke, the poet.

I was now close to the northern escarpment of the Chilterns again, and as I followed another woodland bridleway northwards, I occasionally had views out over the Vale of Aylesbury. A memorial seat, carved in a tree trunk, was positioned to take advantage of one such view, and I stopped here for my lunch about 12.50.

The bridleway ended at a road were I went a short distance left, then rentered the woods on the far side – the next path was the only one all day that was slightly unclear in places, though this wasn’t a problem as I needed only to keep close to a field to the left of the wood. I soon reached a path junction where I turned left on a bridleway. At the next junction I turned right,  then left again- this path now passed through some nice areas of tall beech trees, with the wood dropping away steeply into a valley on my right, and more fields just yards away to my left.

Eventually I met a well-surfaced track, part of the Ridgeway, where I turned right (northwards) and soon reached the neolithic barrow on top of Whitleaf Hill. Carved in the steep slope below the barrow, is Whiteleaf Cross, a chalk figure of a cross on top of a large triangle. There were good views out over Princes Risborough below and across the Vale of Aylesbury. There were 21 panels telling the history of Whiteleaf Hill (I didn’t have time to read all of them, but noted that the barrow dated to about 3700BC).

I followed the Ridgeway northwards as it descended very steeply through yet another beech wood to reach a pub on the edge of Cadsden. I continued on the Ridgeway as it skirted the eastern slope of Pulpit Hill (I remembered coming here to look for wildflowers this summer). I reached the signpost where the North Bucks Way sets off for Wolverton, 35 miles away, but almost immediately afterwards I left the Ridgeway and followed a rising path that went round just to the north of the top of Pulpit Hill.

As the path levelled out then started to descend, I came to a crossing path, where a sign indicated the hillfort on top of Pulpit Hill was to the right. I’d seen the fort marked on the map and had often wondered what it was like, but the map doesn’t show any paths to it. Anyway I went right, and after 1/4 mile reached the iron age hillfort – not as impressive as Cholesbury fort (see Day 6 of my Chiltern Heritage Trail walk), but the remains of a ditch and bank were still clearly visible. I returned to the path  crossroads, and took the path now on my right, which went steeply downhill back to where my car was parked.

This was a glorious walk, one of the best I’ve done in the Chilterns – I’m struggling to think of a better one. It had everything I’d want from a Chiltern walk – probably over 50% was through woods, there were several short but quite steep ups and downs as I crossed the rolling hills and valleys, there were small and attractive villages, I saw buzzards and red kites, there were good views over the woods and fields, more good views from the escarpment over the Vale of Aylesbury, and there were several places with historic interest – a neolithic barrow, an iron age hillfort, the home of a leading ’roundhead’ and a pub associated with a poet who died during WWI. This was a walk I’ll remember for a long time!

Short local walk in my new boots

Saturday, October 13th, 2007

I bought a new pair of boots yesterday, Scarpa Rangers for about the fifth time! I found there is a good outdoors shop in Stony Stratford (now part of Milton Keynes, where I started the MK Boundary Trail) – I found it by chance on the internet while researching boots, they had a good web site and had all the boots I was thinking of trying, so I was delighted when I saw their shop was only 40 minutes drive away. I wanted to try another Scarpa boot, the ZG65 XCR, but they didn’t have them in my size (second shop where that’s happened!) and didn’t know when they’ll have them in. I tried some Meindl boots, which I’ve read many good things about, but they were too narrow for my feet. Tried a different Scarpa boot, nice fit, very comfortable feel – except I could feel it pressing down on my big toes. Tried it in the next size up (47), but while the toes were now OK, of course the rest of my foot was loose and sliding up and down all over the place. So I bought the Rangers again, as they fit my feet very well – I’m just disappointed how quickly the last pair cracked over the bottom of the toes, the cracks eventually leading to actual holes in the leather. I probably managed to get 1800 miles out of them, so I shouldn’t really complain.

This morning I did a short local walk for just over 2 hours, in order to start breaking the new boots in. I walked up the road for quarter of a mile, then took the path that led downhill and then further up the valley to meet the path round the quarry. I followed this round to the left, crossed over the drive to the quarry, and made my way to the top of Dunstable Downs. It was very misty thus far – I hadn’t actually seen the quarry as I went by, though I’d heard the diggers and trucks working away there.

I turned left along the downs. Beyond the new visitor centre I saw both Red and White Campion growing. I took the bridleway going left towards Whipsnade – I’d walked this on my longer local walk on Monday, but this time instead of forking right I stayed on the path that took me to part of the green at Whipsnade, close to the Old Hunter’s Lodge restaurant. I went half-right across the green, going uphill and across the road to reach the church. I said hello to some people cutting the hedges as I walked through the churchyard. The footpath then took me along the edge of a meadow, before I turned right along another hedgerow to reach the old lane between Whipsnade and Holywell.

I turned left, again on the route of Monday’s walk, but instead of turning right alongside the zoo fence, I carried on further down the lane and turned right immediately before the first house in Holywell. I was now on a very pleasant and clear path that took me across three or four fields (stubble or ploughed) to Studham church. I didn’t actually enter the churchyard, but turned left with the churchyard on my right.

A short distance further on, I turned left at a path crosroads and followed a hedgeline on my left to reach the Studham-Whipsnade Heath road. A path on the other side led through a wood and then across a field, befoere running along the back of some gardens in Holywell, and eventually reaching Buckwood Lane. I went up Dovehouse Lane almost opposite, before crossing a couple of fields (where I heard and saw a skylark). It was then a short distance along the Whipsnade road back to my home in Kensworth (the last part of this walk, from Holywell on, was the same as the finish to Monday’s walk).

No problems with the new boots, they inevitably felt a bit stiff and new as I set off, but that soon wore off and they felt really comfortable by the time I got home.

Ashridge again!

Friday, October 12th, 2007


Today I walked round Ashridge and Berkhamsted Common again, pretty much the same walk as I did last Thursday. This time, though, I did it with a friend. It was the first time Tim Bertuchi and I had actually met up, but we’ve been exchanging emails for some time. Like me, Tim is keen on walking long-distance paths and has a web site with journals and photos of his walks. I came across his site  when researching the Hertfordshire Chain Walk.

We met at the car park by the monument at Ashridge, then took my usual more direct up-and-down route to Ivinghoe Beacon (we saw a buzzard being mobbed by crows on the way). Unfortunately it was very hazy and quite misty in places, so the normally very extensive views from the beacon were greatly restricted – we could just about make out the Whipsnade Downs and the Zoo, but Dunstable Downs were hidden in the mist. It was quite atmospheric and interesting, but as Tim hadn’t been there before it was a shame he didn’t get to see the views at their best.

We followed the Ridgeway path over Steps Hill, past Incombe Hole, to Pitstone Hill. Sadly the views were still very restricted – we could only just make out the Beacon in the mist behind us! As always it was then a nice walk through the woods, and then across the golf course – the last short bit into Aldbury was familiar to Tim as he’d walked the Hertfordshire Way.

From Aldbury we followed part of the Chiltern Way uphill to Tom’s Hill, then a bit more of the Hertfordshire Way as we re-entered the woods of Ashridge and Berkhamsted. We stopped and ate lunch as we sat on a fallen tree. Last week I had a surprisingly close view of a large Fallow buck – well, this time we saw one even closer, just a bit further on than last week. It was lying down just behind a tree, so at first we couldn’t see much more than one of its antlers sticking out. As we went on a few paces we, got a better view and took some photos after it stood up – it didn’t run off, but just wandered a little further away from us.

A little further on, our route crossed a private drive and as we reached it I advised Tim to look to the left as I’ve seen deer there a few times in the past. Sure enough, there were a group of hinds not too far along the drive. We continued on our way, soon following the road to Berkhamsted for a short distance, then a private drive past a small estate in Northchurch. After passing a school on the right (no soccer match this time!), we turned left and followed a hedgerow through three or four fields (I saw a few field pansies here – this was the first place I ever saw them, about a year ago).

We then followed a really nice path, just inside the edge of a wood, following the side of a valley for over half a mile. We then turned and headed back towards the monument, at first passing close to part of Berkhamsted Golf Course, and then passing through Frithsden Beeches, an area of impressive old beech trees that has been coppiced over many centuries.

Our route took us through more woodland, now with a lot of bracken under the trees, and along the fine avenue of beeches to cross the Berkhamsted road again. In the large field next to the road we could see a group of deer. After we’d turned right at a path crossroads we reached a point where we got a better view of the deer, and I did a rough count of about 100 deer. This path took us back to the drive to the monument, and we were back at our cars at about 4.10pm, after walking about 14.5 miles.

It was great to meet Tim – we had a good chat about walking and web sites, and numerous other topics. We both agreed we’d like to meet up again sometime for another walk somewhere.

Local walk – Quarry, Downs, Whipsnade, Studham, Markyate

Monday, October 8th, 2007

I’m feeling a bit tired this evening! Today’s local walk was probably 16-17 miles, the furthest I’ve walked for a while.

I went down Hollicks Lane to reach the old part of Kensworth at Church End (there is a footpath on the other side of a hedge for most of the way). I took the path through the churchyard and made my way to the path that goes round Kensworth Quarry. I turned right and followed the path round the quarry for over a mile – I think the vast chalk quarry is actually an impressive site. A kestrel flew up from the other side of a fence at one point, and then perched on the fence about 30 yards ahead of me. I took a photo and crept nearer, taking a couple more shots before it flew off when I got to within about 20 yards. Eventually, I turned right to leave the quarry path and made my way the short remaining distance to Dunstable Downs.

I turned right to walk along the top of the downs, admiring the stunning views as usual (a bit hazy, so they were not as good as they can be). A new path and car park were being built, and when I reached the Five Knolls burial site I found some archaelogists (the ‘Albion Archaeology’ on their yellow jackets was a bit of a clue!) who told me that they were putting in some test trenches ahead of the new path that the National Trust were building.

I went down the slope towards Dunstable, then turned left to pick up the path that goes all along the foot of the downs. I soon saw a Comma butterfly on some Ragwort, and later saw some White Campion and Common Toadflax. After passing the London Gliding Club to my right, I took  apath going left that climbed the steep slope of the Downs at a reasonable angle to reach the car park on Bison Hill.

Here I turned left, along the top of the hill again, now in a very large sheep pasture, where I saw a flock of goldfinches. Just past a wood, I turned right on a bridleway, finally leaving the downs behind. At a fork in the path I went right to join a private drive, then turned righton a path that took me across two fields to join another bridleway, where I turned left to reach Whipsnade (I could have taken this bridleway directly from Bison Hill if I’d wanted to shorten the walk). I followed a hedge round part of the green at Whipsnade until I reached a lane by the former pub, where I went right.

The lane soon ended for traffic and I continued on what was now a path, before turning right alongside the zoo fence. I saw the usual small deer and wallabies. At a junction, I turned right to stay alonside the zoo fence, and now saw two or three types of larger deer in an enclosure. The path then took me across about five fairways of Whipsnade Golf Club. At a T-junction of paths I went left, following the edge of another fairway.

The path then crossed the corner of a field, before running alongside the right-hand hedge of another field and entering a wood. Here I turned right and then left, to emerge on the dead-end lane to Studham church. I went right (away from the church), and at the end of the lane turned right. The road descended into a valley where I turned left on a footpath that took me past Studham School and on to Studham Common. I took a path that forked left through some trees, then crossed a road to reach part of the common that is just grass and wildflowers. I noticed a new sign about the common here, and then stopped on a bench to eat my lunch. It was 1pm and I’d been walking almost 3.5 hours.

After eating my sandwiches, I continued along the edge of the common, turning right on a path beside a wood. I then went left, on a very pleasant path through the wood which led on to a surfaced track running through more woodland. I then passed a farm and some cottages where some caged dogs barked as usual. I went left at a crossroads of tracks. I descended a small valley and rose up the other side, the track reaching Roe End Lane, where I turned right.

After quarter of a mile or so, having passed a farm on the left and a cottage on the right (barking dog absent this time!), I went left on a footpath alongside a right-hand hedge, with the farm I’d just passed visible across the grass field on my left. The path then went through a hedge gap and then forked – I took the left fork which took me in a straight line to the edge of Markyate (the right fork just takes a sem-circular route to come to the same place!).

I followed Buckwood Road a short distance to the left to leave Markyate, then took a path going left. This is one of my favourite local paths, which I only discovered a couple of years ago. It follows a hedgerow on the left through a number of fields, running along the bottom of a small valley that gradually peters out. It then follows the edge of a wood on the right for about another half mile – this is a good area for seeing buzzards, but not today.

I then turned right, following  a path through the edge of a wood to Byslips Road. I went left for a hundred yards or so, then took a path on the right. This went for about half a mile across a vast field, currently stubble, passing another small wood on the way. The path then went through another small wood to reach the edge of Holywell, where I took the path going right to emerge on Buckwood Lane (the continuation of Buckwood Road which I’d been on in Markyate earlier) almost opposite the end of Dovehouse Lane. I followed the latter for a short distance, before turning left on a path across two fields to reach the Whipsnade Road where I turned right and within a few hundred yards was back home in Kensworth.

Another very enjoyable walk. Good views from the downs, good mixture of field paths and woods, reasonable amount of wildlife (on top of the things I’ve already mentioned, I saw three green woodpeckers and a shrew).