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

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).

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