Archive for October, 2007

Coombe Hill

Sunday, October 7th, 2007

This afternoon I did a 7 mile circular walk from Coombe Hill, passing through the small and isolated villages of Little Hampden and Dunsmore. It was the most enjoyable walk I’ve had for some time, following some good bridleways through Chiltern beech woods and finishing with a long steady climb to the top of Coombe Hill with its magnificent views over the Vale of Aylesbury.

I parked in the car park for Coombe Hill. I didn’t take the 1/2 mile path to the monument as I’d be coming back that way, instead I followed a path parallel to the road to the car park until it met the route of the Ridgeway. Here I turned left and followed the long-distance path through the beech trees to the road. I went a short distance down the road, then the Ridgeway continued on the other side, contouring round the hillside through a longer section of mainly beech trees.

At a junction, the Ridgeway went right, quite steeply downhill. It was heading towards the Prime Minister’s country retreat of Chequers, but I soon turned left, now on the route of the South Bucks Way. Still in the woods, I followed another pleasant bridleway gradually climbing back uphill, then took a path forking left which took me to Little Hampden.

Here I turned very sharply left, and followed another good bridleway through the beech woods, gradually descending. At a path crossroads in a valley bottom, I continued ahead, the bridleway soon turning right as it started to ascend the steep opposite side of the valley. There was a nice view out from the trees over some fields as I neared the top of the slope, and then I almost doubled back on myself as I took another very sharp left turn onto another bridleway.

This eventually left the trees and became a tarmac lane as it entered the remote and attractive village of Dunsmore. I crossed over a lane here and continued in the same direction on another lane that became a bridleway as it left the village. I kept left at a fork, and then the bridleway followed a fence for a mile or more through yet another charming beech wood. The bridleway eventually reached a junction where it went half-right, and then took a very long and leisurely descent over Bacombe Hill, still in the trees, to almost reach the edge of Wendover. 

Just before reaching a road, I again turned very sharply left and almost doubled back on myself. I now followed the Ridgeway again, as it steadily rose over Bacombe Hill. I was almost parallel to the path I’d just come down, but whereas that was in the trees, here I was on grassy scrubland with views to my left over the Vale of Aylesbury. There were still a lot of wildflowers here, including Harebell, Carline Thistle, Common Knapweed and even Clustered Bellflower.

The long but fairly gentle ascent eventually brought me to the monument on top of Coombe Hill. It was rather grey and hazy so the views were nowhere near as extensive as they can be, but three hot-air balloons added some interest to the panorama. There were a lot of people here – the car park had been very busy and I’d come across a lot of other people at the start of the walk.

I now just had to follow the broad and level path  back about 1/2 a mile to the car park, and so completed a thoroughly enjoyable walk. It was so good, I’m sure I’ll do it again sometime.

Updated Web Site

Friday, October 5th, 2007

I updated my web site today, adding the journal for Swan’s Way and a couple more wildflower photos.

Ashridge Walk

Thursday, October 4th, 2007

Today was the first nice day for almost a week, and I made the most of it by doing a 15-mile walk round the Ashridge and Berkhamsted Common area. After my walk to Hudnall and Nettlebed, this is probably my favourite local walk. I prefer it to the Ashridge Estate Boundary Trail (created by the National Trust) which goes round the same area.

Starting from the car park by the Bridgewater Museum, I took the main path towards Ivinghoe Beacon but almost immediately left it on a path going half-left. This steadily descended the steep north slope of the Chilterns, emerging from the trees at the bottom of the slope. I then crossed three fields, the third a large cattle pasture heading uphill again to the woods. The path continued steeply uphill through the trees to rejoin the main path, which I then followed to the left – a short distance along here I saw a fox in the field on my left. The track took me all the way to the Ringshall road.  A short distance to the left I reached the car park for Ivinghoe Beacon, and took the well-worn path towards the Beacon.

Near the foot of the Beacon I chatted to  a birdwatcher – I saw a group of goldfinches, and he’d just seen a stonechat. After admiring the far-reaching views from the top of the Beacon (I could see as far west as Didcot Power Station, which must be 30-40 miles away at least) I retraced my steps a short distance, crossed the road and took the path that went uphill a short distance and took me on to the end of Incombe Hole, a steep-sided gully cutting into Steps Hill. It was then a pleasant stroll to Pitstone Hill, another great viewing point, and a walk through the woods of Aldbury Nowers, before crossing a golf course and a couple of fields to reach Aldbury ( a picture postcard village, with pond and stocks).

I took a fairly steepish path up from Aldbury to a hairpin bend in a road, then followed a private drive a short distance before re-entering the woods. For the next half mile I tried to stay fairly close to a fence on my right. I then passed some isolated buildings at the end of a lane, before heading back into the trees. The path descended, again close to a fence on my right. I saw a Fallow Buck with big antlers cross the path about 50 yards in front of me. When I got to that point, I looked and saw he was standing just 30-35 yards away, staring back at me! Normally they run away, I’ve never been so close to one before, but as it’s the rut and he’s trying to impress the lady deer he obviously wasn’t going to flee. I took a couple of quick photos and moved on.

The path rose and fell a couple of times, still staying close to the fence, before rising again to reach a road just outside Northchurch, a part of Berkhamsted. I followed the road a short distance to the right, then took a private drive past a small group of houses – there were paddocks to the right of the drive where I’ve seen large numbers of deer occasionally, but none today. I continued on along a path passing a school and its playing fields (a class was playing soccer, the team in blue bibs hit the post as I went by!).

I turned right alongside a hedge, switching to the other side of the hedge for the next field, where I stopped for lunch on a convenient seat with pleasant views towards Berkhamsted. The path went through two more fields, dropping into a valley then climbing halfway up the other side to reach a large area of trees again. I turned right along one of my favourite paths, which followed the valley for half a mile, keeping just inside the edge of the wood. I had another close view of a deer, a young buck this time with tiny antlers.

The next section took me through part of Berkhamsted Golf Course, and then I passed through another area of trees to reach Frithsden Beches, an area of impressive old beech trees. I followed the edge of a large grassy field surrounded by trees for a while, before heading once more into the woods. I saw two more large Fallow Bucks, or at least their heads and antlers above the intervening bracken. A bit farther on I saw a small group of Fallow Hinds.

I reached a well-known avenue of old beech trees, often photographed for calendars and suchlike. I should mention that the trees today were generally in the early stages of changing into their autumn colours, but many trees, especially beech trees, remained green. I crossed the road at the end of the avenue, and continued on the bridleway on the other side. At a crossroads of tracks I turned right, and half a mile further reached the drive to the monument and my parked car.