Archive for November, 2007

Coombe Hill, Whiteleaf Hill and the Hampdens (again!)

Friday, November 30th, 2007


I did this walk with my friend Tim Bertuchi. We started walking from the car park at Coombe Hill at about 10.15, Tim having had to drive there from Walthamstow. The walk was similar to the one I did two weeks ago with my brother Tim, except we extended it from Whiteleaf Hill through Parslow’s Hillock and Great Hampden before going to Little Hampden. This extension was part of the walk I did from Pulpit Hill a month or so ago, but in the other direction.  We were lucky with the weather – overnight rain had cleared away, and we had bright sunshine and blue skies throughout the walk.

 I chose this walk to do with Tim as he had recently enjoyed walking through this area at the start of the South Bucks Way. In fact, from the car park we soon picked up the route of that path, and followed it away from Coombe Hill, through a nice beech wood with a field to the left. We went right on a road for a couple of hundred yards, then continued left through another beech wood, walking from one marker post to the next, the fallen leaves obliterating the path. The path had been fairly level so far, with a descending slope on our right, but we now turned right on a good track and went steeply downhill. Near the bottom of the slope, the South Bucks Way went left, but we continued ahead, following the route of the Ridgeway. We saw the first Red Kite of the day about here.

We crossed a field and then went past the security cameras as we crossed the drive to Chequers, the PMs country home. We continued across a large sheep pasture, then turned right with a wood on our left. There was a nice view along here, towards Chequers with Coombe Hill behind it. We went across a large empty cattle pasture, where views opened up ahead over the Vale of Aylesbury. We continued through another pasture, that was on a slope and contained some scrubby bushes in places. After a quick look at the view from the small eminence of Chequer’s Knap, we passed the start of the North Bucks Way and continued on a level path, contouring round the wooded slopes of Pulpit Hill on our left. We saw both a Buzzard and a Kite here.

We reached the road at Cadsdean, but only followed it right for a few yards before taking a path by the pub on the right, and starting the long and fairly steep climb through the trees to the top of Whiteleaf Hill. I showed Tim the Neolithic barrow and the top of Whiteleaf Cross carved in the hillside below us, and we admired the views over Princes Risborough and the Vale of Aylesbury. We only followed the Ridgeway a short distance further, before turning left on a bridleway. This went through another lovely beech wood, descending steeply into a valley on our left, with a field a few feet to our right.

We turned right, to follow a path in the wood along the far edge of the field, then went left on a bridleway betwen the wood and another field. We then again took  a path through the wood going right, with the field on our right again. This took us to a minor road, where we turned left. After about 300 yards we took a bridleway on our right – initially there was a wood on our left and a feld to the right, and again we saw a Buzzard and a Kite here. The bridleway then went slightly left through the wood, now withe the steep north escarpment of the Chilterns on our right.

The bridleway took us to Parslow’s Hillock, with the Pink and Lily pub (the one associated with Rupert Brooke). We took the lane beside the pub for quarter of a mile, then went a few yards left on the route of the Chiltern Way, before turning right. This path took us through another lovely beech wood, parallel to the lane we’d been on, with a couple of grassy fields a few feet to our right (I’d walked this path for the first time, in the other direction, on my walk north from Bledlow Ridge the Saturday before last). We turned left at a fence, which we followed through the wood to reach a crossroads (walkers keep to the left of this fence, horse riders keep to the right). Another short path through woods took us to the cricket ground at Great Hampden Common, where we stopped to eat lunch on a bench.

We then continued, following a path across fields and sheep pastures to reach the church at Great Hampden. We turned left, then turned right onto the Chiltern Way again to pass in front of Hampden House (once home of John Hampden, the leading Parliamentarian in the struggle against Charles I). We followed the Chiltern Way through Lady Hampden’s Wood (passing a Redwood tree of some sort, and spotting a Muntjac deer) and then across a large field to the bottom of the broad valley of Hampden Bottom. Across a road (Chequers was now about half a mile to our left), the path continued uphill through a long thin belt of trees, then went right, crossing a small empty pasture with good views back over the valley. We soon went through yet another wood, then joined a track that took us to the solitary lane in Little Hampden.

At this point the Chiltern Way goes ahead, sharing its route with the South Bucks Way as far as Cobblershill, but we went left along the lane as far as the Rising Sun pub, then turned right onto a bridleway. This went a long way through another beech wood, gradually descending to the bottom of a valley. It seemed a bit steeper going up the other side. Near the top, we turned left (my brother Tim and I had failed to find this path the other week, we missed it by just yards – there is a waymark post, but it was a few yards away from the path, and hidden by a bush looking from the direction we had come).

The path led us by a garden on the left to the bridleway from Cobblershill to Dunsmore. We followed it left to Dunsmore, and continued on a lane through this attractive and remote hamlet. This soon became a bridleway and re-entered the beech woods. We followed it for about a mile, beside a stout iron fence. Where this went slightly right, we followed a path through the trees (marked by yellow arrows) to a kissing gate on the edge of the wood. We then followed the path through scrub land to the monument on top of Coombe Hill. It was now about 3pm, and the light was already beginning to fade slightly so the views weren’t quite as wonderful as usual, but still impressive nevertheless. We the made our way back the third of a mile to the car park where we’d started from.

Tim and I both really enjoyed the walk, and will do another walk together sometime, probably in the new year and possibly in the Chess Valley area.

This is the fifth or sixth walk I’ve done in this area in recent months, so I apologise if you’re bored with reading about it! I really do think it is one of the best areas for walking in the Chilterns – there are great views from the escarpment at places like Coombe Hill and Whiteleaf Hill, lots of paths through typical Chiltern beech woods, lots of ups and downs as you cross the hills and valleys running south-east from the escarpment, quaint and remote hamlets such as Little Hampden and Cobblershill, and plenty of historic interest too. I absolutely love it! (Whoops!  I nearly forgot to mention the Red Kites and Buzzards!).

West Wycombe to Fingest and back

Tuesday, November 27th, 2007

 I didn’t walk yesterday (which was a nice day weatherwise) as I’d tweaked my back very slightly. I’ve arranged to meet up with Tim Bertuchi for a walk again on Thursday, so I was keen to walk today rather than tomorrow, even though it was a typically grey and ‘dank’ November morning. In the event it remained that way throughout the walk, I was always in a very fine mist.

I started at the car park in West Wycombe (I started another walk from here just a few weeks ago) and went a short distance west along the A40 before turning left down Toweridge Lane. This went uphill into a wood, where I forked right onto  a track past a couple of isolated houses and continued on into another wood. I turned right onto a footpath that continued through the wood, soon running parallel to a track a few yards to my left at the foot of a small valley. On the edge of the wood I turned left onto a bridleway, but soon turned off it, taking a path on the right through another smaller wood. I then crossed an empty pasture to reach a lane in Wheeler End.

I went a few yards left down the lane, then took a path on the right across Wheeler End Common. Across a road I continued on across Cadmore End Common, which was more wooded than the previous common – there were a lot of minor paths going off in every direction here, and it was difficult to be sure which was the footpath I was trying to follow. There was also the constant drone of traffic noise from the nearby M40. I managed to find my way to the far side of the common though, and turned left on a lane that immediately took me over the motorway and on to a road near Cadmore End (I’d been a few hundred yards west of here on my walk on Thursday).

I continued down a farm drive opposite, then took a path forking right across an empty field of long grass. The path then continued downhill beside a couple of pastures, briefly entering a wood before returning to a pasture. It then crossed a large grass field on a clear path – I could now see ahead to where the village of Fingest lay at the crossroads where four valleys meet, with the Hambleden Valley going south.

I continued on towards Fingest,  and soon saw 6-7 Red Kites close by. I followed a left-hand hedgerow through a sheep pasture and then on an old track between hedges. This eventually met a road into the village. I turned left immediately before Fingest (which I’d visited on my last walk), and followed a path steadily uphill, curving to my left beside a wood on my right. This was part of the Chiltern Way, and at the top of the slope was “FieldFare’s Stile”, a memorial to a populare writer about Nature. There’s normally a great view over Fingest here, but today visibility was greatly reduced by the grey and misty conditions, so I couldn’t even see Cobstone Mill on its hill behind Fingest.

I went through a narrow part of Fingest Wood and crossed a grassy field to a gate. The Chiltern Way soon took a path on the right, but I continued on a track ahead. I soon came to another path junction, where I turned left onto a footpath. This ran through a large wood for half a mile, before I turned left to reach the village of Frieth.

I followed a short lane through the village and crossed a road. A footpath then went across a large paddock, then followed the edge of a wood through an empty pasture. I went through a kissing gate into the wood, and turned left on a track that took me to a road. I crossed over and took a path going half-left across Moorend Common. The ground was very boggy here, and the path was not at all well-marked in the initial stages. I eventually picked up a line of white arrows marked on trees, but for several minutes wasn’t at all sure I was on the right path (though there was no other shown on the map).

As I reached some houses in Moor Common, I turned right. This path took me across another large but empty pasture. I then went past the remains of a chapel (marked on the map – just some low fragments of old wall, unlike the ruins of other chapels and churches I’ve seen on my walks). The path soon switched from the left to the right of a hedge, and I then met three walkers coming out of a wood. They asked me where they were, and warned me that they’d been lost twice in the wood, saying there were few arrows or waymarks. I don’t  think they had a map with them.

I followed a clear track through the wood, and had no difficult finding my way. On the far side, I turned left on a bridleway then forked right on a path uphill. I then crossed a grassy field where a few hens were feeding. I then turned right on a road – I only had to follow it for maybe quarter of a mile, but it was quite nasty as there was a lot of fast traffic both ways and no real verge to walk on.  I turned left into a belt of trees, a nature reserve, where I stopped and sat on a tree stump to eat my lunch.

As I carried on, there was some shooting going on very close to the path. I went on through another wood, passing a couple of signs warning that there was a shooting area to my right. I then went round two sides of a reservoir surrounded by an iron fence, and followed the drive from the reservoir for a hundred yards or so before turning right on another short woodland path. This took me to a road, where I turned right and crossed back over the M40.

My route next took me left on a field path beside a wood on my right and then on beside a hedge. I went over a stile in the hedge and crossed a corner of an empty paddock near an old farm, then continued on a bridleway on a track. I soon left the bridleway though to follow a parallel path through a wood. This eventually left the wood and went across a corner of a grassy field, before going very steeply uphill a short distance between trees. I then followed a path beside a hedge to return to Towerage, and then follow Toweridge Lane (no, I dont understand the difference in the names!) back to West Wycombe.

I probably walked about 11 miles today. I saw a few Kites, so it can’t have been a bad walk! On a better day, some sections would have been very pleasant, especially either side of Fingest. But it was the least interesting walk I’ve had recently – I was basically exploring alternative routes I might use to take my Chiltern Chain Walk over the M40, and I wasn’t really happy with either of the two I tried today, for various reasons.

Bledlow Ridge to Fingest and back

Thursday, November 22nd, 2007

On Saturday I walked north from Bledlow Ridge, today I walked south from there. Bad weather has meant I hadn’t walked for four days, so I was keen to get out walking today even though I knew the paths would be wet. This was another exploratory walk that I didn’t expect too much from (mainly because there’d be a bit more road/lane walking than usual), but it turned out to be pretty good.

I had a slow journey from home, then had problems parking in Bledlow Ridge. I started walking about 10.15, first walking almost half a mile along the road through the village. When I eventually turned off onto a footpath on the left, the area around the kissing gate was a large unavoidable puddle 2 or 3 inches deep. As I then crossed a small empty pasture, the ground underfoot was very soggy and I wondered if I’d made the right decision to walk today. After a second such pasture, I went through a gate and descended steeply through an area of scrubland, then crossed another pasture and soon reached a lane.

I turned left to reach St Mary’s church, Radnage – an old favourite of mine from the Chiltern Way. Coincidentally, I’d spotted it on TV on Sunday night, as it’s been used as the location for Cranford church in the excellent new BBC costume drama ‘Cranford’. I turned right on a path across another pasture to reach another lane, then went left a short distance before turning right at a lane junction. The Chiltern Way soon went off right on a footpath, but I followed the lane until it ended at a T-junction in Bennett End, one of the numerous hamlets that make up the rather scattered village of Radnage.

I took a bridleway ahead of me. As it neared a steep wooded slope I chose to take a footpath that went straight up the hill – it was very steep, one of the steepest paths I’ve come across in the Chilterns, so next time I’ll stick to the bridleway which takes a more circuitous route up the slope! Back on the bridleway, I soon reached a road on the edge of The City, the largest part of Radnage. I turned right, and followed the road for about half a mile, before turning left at Waterend (another bit of Radnage). I still wasn’t feeling too good about the walk, when I saw a Red Kite. For a moment I wondered if this would be the walk to break my rule that ‘Any walk where I see a Red Kite is a good walk!’, but a few yards further on I saw eight Red Kites in the sky, and my mood was instantly transformed!

A few hundred yards further on I turned right onto a footpath – most of the road walking was done with now, and the rest of the route was really good. I went through a small beech wood and then across a grassy field to the A40. On the other side, I entered East Wood – this was a very enjoyable stretch, as the path wound its ways through the trees for about a mile. I followed white arrows painted on trees, only going wrong once where an arrow could have been a bit more helpful (it pointed straight up, instead of slanting right to show I should fork right).

On the far side of the wood I turned right on a B road for a few yards as it crossed over the M40 (the purpose of today’s walk was to look at a couple of places to cross the A40 and M40).  I then went right on a path between a hedge and a wire fence on my left, with a bull and some cows beyond the fence. The path came to a kissing gate, where I had to cross a few yards that the bull could wander, to another kissing gate. Beyond that, I was in a pasture with some young bullocks lying down. One or two stood up as I went by, but generally they ignored me. I followed the right hand edge of the pasture, until I reached a signpost where I followed the path across the pasture to a gate. The slightly overgrown path now went downhill through a wood, where I saw several pheasants and then a buzzard.

At the bottom of the slope I turned left onto a path that I’d follow along the valley bottom for just over two miles. It was generally through woods, occasionally in a belt of trees where I could see fields either side. A short distance along the path I came across a shooting party – some of their dogs approached me barking, but were friendly. A little later the shooting party passed me in their 4x4s – fortunately I was on a bit of the path that ran a few yards to  the left of the track they were on, as they threw up a lot of mud as they went by. They’d shot quite a number of pheasants, which were hanging in the back of one of their vehicles. Further on there were more people shooting, lined up along the edge of  a field a few yards to my left, but obviously shooting in the opposite direction. Soon after I met a group of ramblers – one of them thought I was beating a retreat from the gunfire behind me!

Further on the path became a bridleway (several rights of way joined the path I was on at various points) and became a bit muddier, but was never too bad. Eventually I reached a lane, where I turned right and followed it for maybe half a mile to Fingest, where I took a quick photo of the church with its massive Norman tower topped by very unusual twin gables (this church and village is another of my favourits from the Chiltern Way).

From Fingest I took a path between fences and hedges, that passed a paddock and then a sheep pasture as it rose uphill. Immediately before the path entered a wood, there was a seat where I stopped for my lunch as it was now 1pm – there were lovely views over Fingest to Skirmett and the Hambleden Valley. As well as more Red Kites in the distance, I heard some Ravens – I heard some crows too at the same time, which confirmed that I was right about the Ravens, I can definitely tell the two apart. I had a bit more uphill straight after lunch, which I normally avoid, but it wasn’t too bad plodding through the attractive Hanger Wood – there were a few signs beside the path indicating different species of tree, and a wooden board with an interesting history of the wood since about 1940 – replanting, thinning, coppice, damage by storms, etc.

The path descended through the trees to join a bridleway on the edge of the wood (I could have taken that route from Fingest, it skirts the hill rather than go over it). The bridleway soon became a green lane between hedges (with some nice views) and took me into the hamlet of Cadmore End. I turned left along a lane, then went a few yards right along a B road, then turned left on a footpath on a forestry commission drive. This immediately went under the M40, and a little further on I turned right onto a path. I was now in Pound Wood, and followed the path on through Leygroves Wood (where tree felling was in operation, and there were lots of felled trees stacked beside the path) and then along a thin belt of trees to Barn Wood (all these woods are owned by the forestry commission).

I had intended turning left after Barn Wood, but realised that path would have crossed two muddy ploughed fields, so continued ahead along a path in another belt of trees instead. I then turned left beside a hedge (more Red Kites here, as there had been in numerous places by now), and then continued fairly gently uphill through yet another wood. This path eventually led me to the A40 on the edge of Studley Green. I crossed over, and followed a hedgeside path through fields to reach the western end of Bottom Wood, a nature reserve managed by about five differenat conservation bodies, including the Chiltern Society. I didn’t enter the wood, but continued on a bridleway, then turned left along a lane back into The City, Radnage.

I turned left along the main road, then went right on a bridleway that followed a hedgerow quite steeply downhill – away to my rightI could see the tower of St Laurence’s church at West Wycombe, that I walked past a couple of weeks or so ago. I crossed a lane, and then had a long and very steep climb uphill on a flight of wooden steps, again through a wood. The path then continued past a few paddocks and crossed the edge of playing fields to reach the main road in Bledlow Ridge, where I turned left for the last half mile stretch back to my parked car.

The start of the walk was a bit ‘bitty’ with several rather lengthy road or lane walks. But after that, it was a really good walk (despite the muddy conditions) – there were lots of good woodland sections, some really nice views, lots of Red Kites and at least one Buzzard. Once I got my initial bad mood out of the way, I really enjoyed it. The walk was only about 13 miles, but took almost 5 hours walking – I think muddy conditions really slow me down, I remember this occurring last winter.

Circular walk north from Bledlow Ridge

Saturday, November 17th, 2007

I didn’t have high hopes for this walk. I was basically trying out a diferent way to cross the Saunderton Valley, south east of Princes Risborough – a pleasant enough area but not the most interesting part of the Chilterns. It had been a bit of a pain planning the route, as the area is on the edge of three maps that overlap slightly. It was another grey and mirky November day too -‘dank’ is the appropriate word I think – but I had to walk today as the forecast is wet for the next few days. Anyway, in the end the walk was perfectly pleasant, and on a nicer day (when you could see the views!) some parts would have been pretty good.

I parked in Bledlow Ridge, in the same place I’d used when I walked through here on the Chiltern Way. A footpath north took me through a couple of sheep pastures, the second one steeply downhill, and then across a ploughed field on the southern edge of the Saunderton Valley – a Red Kite slowly flew past me here. I turned right along a bridleway on a farm drive to reach a lane (where I saw the Kite again). I went a short distannce left along the lane, then turned right and followed a hedgerow through two or three meadows, gradually ascending Slough Hill. At the top I went half left, downhill across another ploughed field (I was now on the route I used when I walked from West Wycombe the other week).

I followed a lane into Saunderton. passing the railway station, and crossed a main road. I continued along another lane for about half a mile, before taking a footpath on the right – this was again new territory for me. The path followed a hedgerow on my right, rising slightly at first alongside the ridge of hills north of the Saunderton Valley – if it hadn’t been so grey, there’d have been nice views across to Lodge Hill (which I’d reach later). After passing through two or three fields I went right, along the edge of a cattle pasture, then through a kissing gate to join a track between hedges running downhill into a small valley. At the bottom of the valley, I went right for a few yards along a farm drive, then took a clear path through a meadow, rising gently up the other side of the valley to reach some attractive old houses in Lacey Green.

I followed a lane north from Lacey Green which soon became a track, then picked up a very muddy bridleway for a short distance, before turning right on another bridleway that was a hard-surfaced track. I then turned left onto another bridleway, rising steadily uphill through a wood. It then continued between hedges or fences to a crossroads of tracks, where I went straight on (I’d walked this bit on my Little and Great Hampden walk recently).

I soon reached a wood, where I turned left on a path just inside the edge of the wood. This was the only lengthy bit of woodland walking today, and as always it was a pleasure walking through the beech trees with the fallen leaves rustling underfoot. After several hundred yards I reached a small cluster of buildings by Lily Bank farm and I turned left, onto the route of the Chiltern Way.

The first couple of hundred yards were along the line of Grim’s Ditch, an ancient earthwork believed to predate the Saxons, then I went half-right across a cabbage field, across a large meadow and then through a paddock. A couple of fields later I reached another part of Lacey Green, by the windmill, and followed the road a short distance to the adjoining village of Loosly Row. I followed a farm drive downhill, and then started to follow field paths back across the Saunderton Valley.

Having gone over a railway line, I left the route of the Chiltern Way, and started following the Ridgeway instead. This took me past part of a golf course to another farm and along its drive to a road. I then continued on a bridleway beside a large ploughed field, then climbed quite steeply up to the top of Lodge Hill, where I had my lunch on a convenient seat. Again, on a clear day there would have been some lovely views.

It was nice walking along the top of Lodge Hill, but not as nice as summer last year when there were masses of flowers here, and I could admire the views. Just after descending Lodge Hill, I followed a bridleway going right, briefly treading new ground again, but soon rejoining the Chiltern Way by Old Callow Down Farm. It was now a familiar walk, gradualling ascending the hillside to return to Bledlow Ridge via Routs Green – this final section being enlivened by two or three sightings of Red Kites.

The walk was probably about 12 miles long, as it took me 4 hours and I didn’t stop very often (I only took 1 photo all day). It was a walk I wanted to get out of the way, as it was awkward planning a route spread over the corners of three maps, but it turned out nicer than I’d expected. Rain is forecast for the next three days, so I’ll do some more planning for my personal long-distance route through the Chilterns, but I’m looking forward to walking again before too long.

Little Missenden to Cobblershill and back

Friday, November 16th, 2007


A cold start to the day. I had to scrape ice off the car before setting off, and it was still very frosty when I started walking. 

This walk started outside the church in Little Missenden (I really enjoyed looking round the church last year when I did the Chiltern Heritage Trail). I took a long path diagonally uphill across a field to reach Toby’s Lane, a nice bridleway between hedges, which I followed southwards for about a mile. I then turned right, and followed good paths to the village of Holmer End. There was about half a mile of walking on pavements through the village, then I headed north on more footpaths. These initially went through a sequence of paddocks, then round two sides of a cattle pasture. I continued through a wood called Grubbins Plantation, then took a path to Little Kinghill.

I turned left, then went right and followed a series of paths to reach a road, across which I entered Peterley Wood. The bridleway through the beech wood was a little indistinct under the mass of leaves, and also rather soft and muddy in places. It was still a pleasure to walk through a beech wood, though. The bridleway turned left to reach the A4128, on the edge of Prestwood. I now continued on some very pleasant paths heading west, finally descending a very long and steep slope through another beech wood.

A short road walk to the right, then I went right on another very pleasant path that went uphill very gently, through another wood and then through three empty pastures. Another short road walk (again I was on the edge of Prestwood) and I entered Lodge Wood, where I’d been on a recent walk through Little and Great Hampden. Here I foolishly went wrong – worse, really, as I was actually on the correct path, but managed to convince myself I’d gone wrong and wasted twenty minutes before coming back to the same place and realising it was where I wanted to be (if I’d just walked 10 or so yards further on in the first place, I’d have realised where I was).

I followed a hedgerow, with nice views over the valley of Hampden Bottom to my left, then went left down a lane to the road running through the valley. On the other side, I followed a long line of tractor tracks through a field, gradually rising up the other side of the valley. I followed a hedgerow through another field, then the path continued just inside the edge of a wood. A little further on I came to a lane, which took me into the hamlet of Cobblershill (I’ve been here or hereabouts two or three times recently!).

From Cobblershill I took a Bridleway, heading southeast towards Great Missenden – I’d walked this before on the South Bucks Way – waymarks indicate that that route uses a parallel path on the other side of a hedge, but the map shows it using the bridleway. At a stile where the path rejoins the bridleway I stopped for lunch – it was already about 1.40, and I’d still some way to go.

I followed the South Bucks Way as it took the right fork at a bridleway junction and then went left through Coneybank wood, but then turned off it, taking a path going right.  This took me through another part of the wood, and then downhill to enmerge by a farm on a road. I went a few yards down the road, then took a path between hedges or fences that rose up the other side of the valley. The path then entered another wood, where I continued uphill. The path levelled off beyond the wood, where I passed a number of paddocks to reach Prestwood again.

After a short road walk and a path along an alley, I left the village on the route of the Chiltern Heritage Trail. This took me across a meadow than diagonally across a field of winter wheat to yet another wood. Beyond this, the path ran between hedges and fences with cattle pastures either side, to emerge immediately in front of a pub in Little Kingshill. I crossed a road and followed the edge of a playing field to another road (I’d reached the same point from the opposite direction this morning).

I turned left and walked down the road for about half a mile, passing a couple of schools – I was now back on the route of the South Bucks Way, as well as the Chiltern Heritage Trail. By a left-hand bend I took a path on the right which soon emerged on the edge of a huge field of winter wheat, with a really attractive view towards Little Missenden ahead of me. It was a long gradual descent across this field and the next, then I crossed a horse paddock to reach the road into Little Missenden.

Having had several shorter walks of 10-12 miles recently, I felt quite tired after walking about 15.5 miles today. It was a very good walk though, better than I’d anticipated. I managed to explore three lengthy sections of path that I’d not done before, although most of the return from Cobblershill was on routes I already knew.

Web site update and other news

Tuesday, November 13th, 2007

I have updated my web site again today, adding three more walks in the Chiltern Hills – local walk to Totternhoe, circular walk from Chesham, and the Chenies/Chess Valley walk I did yesterday.

Rather than write everything from scratch a second time, I have basically cut and pasted the descriptions of the walks from this blog, edited them in a few places and added the photographs.

Much to my surprise, the statistics tool my web host provides shows that about 10 people a day visit this blog! I’m very grateful (surely you must have better things to do!), so I thought it was about time that I shared with you what I’m actually doing at the moment.

As you’ve probably noticed, I am currently having great fun walking circular routes in the Chiltern Hills. So far these have all been good walks and some have been excellent, as good as any walks I’ve done in southern England. Now, believe it or not, there is actually a bit of reasoning behind the somewhat random nature of these walks – I want to devise my own long-distance path through the Chiltern Hills, and the walks I’m doing now are ‘research’ for this project. I’ve been thinking of places I’d like to visit (or more usually revisit), and looking at the maps to find ways of linking them together.

I don’t really expect anyone else will ever walk this long-distance path that I’m devising. It’s just something I’ve wanted to do for a long time, inspired by something that Alfred Wainwright once wrote. As well as writing those wonderful ‘Pictorial Guides to the Lake District’ (not to mention the beautiful coffee-table books with photos by Derry Brabbs), the great AW also devised the ‘Coast-to-coast path’, which I believe is now the most popular long-distance path in England. In his guide book for that walk, he said that he didn’t want people to just follow in his footsteps on that path – he wanted to inspire people to create their own routes. Well, thirty years after reading that and thinking it was a very good idea, I’m finally doing something about it!

I think it will probably take me another couple of months to do the necessary ‘research’ walks. I might then take a short break from the Chilterns and do something else, such as the North Beds Hertitage Trail, before walking and documenting my new long-distance path (I’d prefer to walk it in the spring and summer months).

I don’t think I’ll be adding too many more of the ‘research’ walks to my web site, because I don’t want there to be too much duplication when I finally add my long-distance path to the web site. But you’ll be able to read about the ‘research’ walks here on my blog, and eventually some parts of these walks will appear in my journal for my new cross-Chiltern walk.

If you have any thoughts or suggestions regarding my long-distance path through the Chilterns, or anything else to do with my walks, feel free to add a comment to this blog, or else email me at

Chenies, Latimer and the Chess Valley

Monday, November 12th, 2007

(APOLOGIES for the format of this post – I wrote it in MS WORD as the web server for my blog was down, then ‘cut and paste’ it. I’ve tried re-inserting blank lines between the pragraphs but they keep disappearing when I publish the post!)

Today I had a superb walk, on a glorious autumn day. It was cold – I had to scrape ice off my windscreen before setting off – but I was warmly wrapped up and the clear blue skies made for some great views. I’d been looking forward to this walk, as it went through Chenies, Latimer and the Chess Valley, an area I’d really enjoyed on Day 1 of my Chiltern Heritage Trail walk last year.

I parked at Chenies, and took a bridleway westwards along the hilltop south of the Chess Valley. I soon got a sight of Chenies Manor across its attractive grounds, then had good views across the Chess Valley towards Latimer. I took a footpath that descended through a wood, then across a meadow in the valley bottom. I crossed the road through the valley and went diagonally across another meadow, before crossing the river Chess with Latimer House on the hillside above me. I turned right on a path through another meadow, initially alongside the river before heading slightly left to reach the village of Latimer.

I took a few photos of the small village green with its water pump, Boer War memorial (I saw another on Coombe Hill on Friday) and grave of the heart of a horse on which a General was killed in the Boer war. I then followed a short footpath which soon rejoined the road out of the village. I passed the church on my left, and admired the views over the woods and valleys to my right. I then took a path across a large field of winter wheat to reach Frith wood. On the other side of this attractive wood I crossed a meadow, a lane and then a sheep pasture to reach a second lane. A short distance to the left, I turned right onto a bridleway.

This was a pleasant part of the walk on a clear path between hedgerows, although the latter obviously restricted the views. I eventually took a footpath that crossed a corner of a field to rejoin the bridleway after it had turned right. I was now following Bottom Lane, and soon reached a part that I’d walked last Wednesday (immediately before I stopped for lunch). At the end of Bottom lane, I crossed a road and continued along another bridleway, which had the intriguing name of Broomstick Lane. I turned right, and followed a hedgerow to reach a wood – I’d been here before on the final day of the Chiltern Heritage Trail, so had little difficulty in following the paths through the wood to reach Ley Hill. I turned right, and at a funny junction where the road effectively splits into three, I followed the middle road (there was a sign indicating a path slightly left of the road, but I couldn’t see where it went across a cricket pitch and then a golf course). After maybe a third of a mile I turned left onto a bridleway.

Again this was very pleasant, following fences and very gradually descending, with a nice view towards the valley of Flaunden Bottom ahead of me.I turned right along the road through Flaunden Bottom, then went left on a bridleway, steeply uphill between pastures then through another attractive wood. The path levelled out beyond the wood, and I soon turned right on a hedged track marked as an ‘other route with public access’ on the map. This led to a bridleway through Baldwin’s Wood – again it was pleasant walking through the wood with the fallen leaves rustling underfoot, and I saw a Muntjac deer here. On the far side of the wood, the bridleway turned left along the edge of the wood a short way, before turning right and descending back into the Chess valley.

Where the bridleway met another one running through the valley, I stopped and ate my lunch sitting on a stile. Then I turned left and followed the bridleway through the valley to Mill farm. I went a few yards left along a lane, then continued on a footpath between fences with paddocks either side. Through a kissing gate, I had a slight problem as a horse was blocking my path, grazing from a bush. Having checked it was friendly and wasn’t going to kick me, I squeezed behind it and crossed the field to continue on a path through some trees. There were a group of four walkers just ahead of me, but I didn’t catch up with them as I kept stopping to take photos of the very attractive Chess Valley. Part of the path hereabouts was on a boardwalk.

The path came close to the river at a point where watercress was being grown – the walkers ahead of me went somewhere right here, obviously on a path not on my map. I continued ahead down the valley on a farm drive, and at the end turned right along a lane. I was now in part of the Chess valley known as Sarratt Bottom (I visited Sarratt church on the Chiltern Way this spring). Where the lane turned left I went straight on along a tarmac drive, with the river visible a few feet away through the hedge on my right. Just yards after the tarmac ended at a row of cottages, I reached a crossing path where I turned left and crossed the river Chess on a small footbridge.

I was now on the route of the Chiltern Way, but only for a couple of hundred yards as at the next path junction I turned half-right to take a different route back into Chenies (as I approached that path junction, the four walkers I’d seen earlier appeared from the right – we chatted for a couple of minutes, and it turned out one of them walks with the Hillingdon branch of the Rammblers, same as the chap I walked with near Chalfont St Giles recently). The path went steadily uphill across a large grass field to a hedge where I turned left, turning right in the field corner to follow a wood on my left. This curved round to the left, and then I followed another hedgerow to a farm, and finally followed the farm drive back to the centre of Chenies where I’d parked.

I probably walked about 12 miles – the walk only took just over 4 hours. It had been very sunny and bright throughout, there were still many trees in their autumn colours though most had shed their leaves, Chenies and Latimer were well worth revisiting and the Chess valley was as lovely as ever. All in all, this was a thoroughly enjoyable walk that I’d be very happy to do again.

Coombe Hill, Whiteleaf Hill and Hampden

Friday, November 9th, 2007

Today’s walk was shorter than usual at about 10 miles. For the third time in less than a week my brother Tim went with me. The walk was also unusual for me, in that it seemed to ‘evolve’ as we went along – the walk we ended up doing wasn’t anything like the one we’d set out to do!

We started at the car park for Coombe Hill, near Wendover. I originally planned to do a similar walk to the one I did at Coombe Hill a few weeks ago, so instead of taking the path to the monument on Coombe Hill we started by following a path going further left, until it reached the Ridgeway path. We turned left along the Ridgeway until we reached the road to the car park, where we turned right and then took a path on the left after a couple of hundred yards.

We were still following the Ridgeway as we walked through the beech trees. The leaves on the ground completely obliterated the path, and I managed to go slightly wrong at one point, but generally we were OK heading from one waymark post to the next. After a few hundred yards the Ridgeway turned right to head steeply downhill. I had planned on turning left near the bottom of the hill and following the South Bucks Way to Little Hampden, but Tim had expressed an interest in walking past Chequers (the Prime Minister’s Country House), so we continued along the Ridgeway.

We crossed a road (where a man was doing something to a security camera) and followed a fence through a grassy field, then crossed the drive to Chequers by another security camera. We followed another fence through a grass field, slightly uphill, then turned right along the edge of a wood. Soon we had a view to our right of Chequers, with Coombe Hill and its monument in the background. At the end of the wood, we continued across a large empty cattle pasture, with views over the Vale of Aylesbury opening out ahead and to the right of us. We continued through another large pasture and passed the point where the North Bucks Way starts.

Again we changed the route here – I had thought of going over Pulpit Hill and on to Little Hampden, following part of the route I’d used through the Hampdens a couple of weeks ago, but Tim mentioned that Whiteleaf Cross was mentioned in a song by one of his heroes, the legendary John Otway (‘Beware of the flowers …’,’Really free’), so we decided we’d follow the Ridgeway as far as Whiteleaf Hill.

We continued through a rather scrubby area at the foot of Pulpit Hill, where I’d been looking for wildflowers in the summer and where I first got interested in wildflowers last year when I saw what turned out to be a Common Spotted Orchid. Tim spotted a Red Kite here, the only one we’d see today (he must have better eyesight than me, because it was him who first spotted the two deer we saw today as well!). We crossed the road at Cadsden, and then followed the Ridgeway as it gradually climbed through the trees to Whiteleaf Hill – one of the longest bits of uphill I know in the Chilterns. We stopped for some water (and a breather) just before the top, then emerged from the trees onto the grassy top of the hill.

We had  quick look at the neolithic barrow on top of the hill, at the chalk carving of Whiteleaf Cross, and at the new information boards that I noticed when I was here a couple or so weeks ago (sadly there was no sign of Louisa on a Horse … ). We admired the view over Princes Risborough and the Vale of Aylesbury, and I pointed out Waddesdon Manor, Brill Hill, Bledlow Cop, Quainton Hill and a few other features I recognised from my walks.

We then followed the Ridgeway for another quarter of a mile, before finally leaving it and turning right on a bridleway. This took us back into the beech woods, going round the top of a wooded valley called The Hangings on the map (we’d seen it from the far side as we’d struggled up Whiteleaf Hill). At a fork we took a path going slightly left, then joined another bridleway. We soon turned right, leaving the woods behind and following a path alongside a hedgerow through a series of fields growing winter wheat (I was now retracing the early part of the circular walk I did from Pulpit Hill recently).

We crossed a road (Chequers was now a short distance up the valley to our left) and went down a private drive, following a permissive path that avoided going through a garden, then continuing uphill to enter another wood. The path went slightly to the right through the wood, and on emerging from the trees followed the edge of a field to the right. In the field corner we switched to the other side of a hedge and at the end of that field entered more woods, where we shortly turned right to reach Little Hampden by The Rising Sun Inn (we’d gone past here on our Saturday walk as well).

We took the footpath going left here, descending steeply through more woods, and then along a hedgerow across the valley bottom (we saw a female Muntjac deer here), then climbed steadily through more woods up the opposite side of the valley. We turned left at a crossing path, and enjoyed a section of path between rather scattered beech trees, giving glimpses of the attractive valley topped by woods on our left. Near the end of this path we saw a male Muntjac deer.

We then joined a bridleway (we’d walked on part of it from Cobblershill on Saturday) which took us to the remote and attractive village of Dunsmore. We continued on the other side of the village, following a bridleway through more glorious beech woods for a mile or more, before bearing right and following a path that emerged from the trees onto the scrubland at the top of Coombe Hill. We sat and ate our sandwiches at the monument, before walking the short distance back to the car park.

This was a very enjoyable walk on a cold but lovely day – we started off under clear blue skies, though it clouded over later. The temperature was only 6-8C, and this was the first time this autumn that I wore my warm Paramo coat.

Chesham circular walk

Wednesday, November 7th, 2007

Today I did a circular walk from Chesham, a fair bit shorter than usual at about 10 miles. I parked at the car park by Chesham station and walked through the town centre (it was obviously market day), leaving the town via Lowndes Park. I crossed a field to a lane, then crossed two large paddocks to a second lane.

I’d originally thought of walking along a valley called Herberts Hole, which I’d enjoyed walking through on the Chiltern Link a couple of years ago, but instead decided to follow a bridleway that ran along the hilltop south of Herberts Hole. This proved to be a good decision, as I enjoyed walking the bridleway, generally a good path between ivy- and holly-clad hedges, with occasional views over Herberts Hole to my right and another valley to my left.

I saw my one Red Kite of the day where the bridleway became a farm track. Beyond a farm the track became a lane, which soon reached a T-junction with another lane. I turned right for a short distance before taking a footpath going half-right, descending through a wood to the floor of Herberts Hole. I continued straight up the other side of the valley across a grass field, pausing to take photos up and down the valley (and to get my breath back!).

I crossed a lane and continued northwards on a path through a sequence of sheep pastures, descending steadily into another valley. Across another lane, the path rose steeply up the other side between a hedge and a wood on my right, then through a cattle pasture. The path then ran between hedges or fences to reach the village of Chartridge (I was here a week or two ago, on my walk that started at Buckland Common).

I turned right and followed the road through Chartridge for about half a mile, then turned left down a lane going steeply downhill. This turned right along the valley bottom, then went left to reach a road. Across this, I followed a farm drive and then a bridleway going back uphill into Captain’s Wood (where I’d been on that Buckland Common walk). Beyond the wood, I followed a path past a farm to reach the edge of Little Hivings, a ‘suburb’ of Chesham.

I now followed a path that took me through Ramscoat Wood and down to the Ostrich farm in White Hawridge Bottom. Here I turned right and followed a byway to another road, running through a valley called Chesham Vale. I was now due north of the centre of Chesham. I continued westwards on a path through a farmyard, then uphill again across a couple of fields to reach the Berkhamsted-Chesham road, south of Ashley Green. I continued the other side, along a hedge and then across a field of winter wheat, following tractor tracks. The path was then enclosed between hedges for a while, before I turned right down a similar path to reach a road in Lye Green.

I went a few yards left, then took a path on the other side of the road, at first alongside a fairly new residential area, then across a large pasture to another minor road. Across this, I continued alongside field boundaries to another farm drive and a road in Botley. I turned right, then went left down a lane, turning right at the bottom of a hill into Bottom Lane. The tarmac surface soon ended and it became a green lane between hedges, running along the valley bottom.

Where a footpath crossed, I turned right. I was now on the final section of the Chiltern Heritage Trail (which I walked last year), heading back into Chesham. At the top of a slight rise, I stopped to eat my lunch on a stile, then continued across a large fallow field that spread across the top of the hill. I followed the path for some way beside the grounds of a school (very noisy as it was the kids’ dinner break) then crossed some more fields to reach Chesham. I was disappointed that the cairns had disappeared from the last field – last year the route across the field was marked by small piles of flints, like the cairns marking paths in the Lake District.

I crossed a footbridge over the railway line, and turned right to pass the station and return to the car park. It was only about 1.45pm, a very early finish for me. It had been a pleasant but unspectacular walk, certainly one that I’d be quite happy to do again.

Totternhoe walk

Monday, November 5th, 2007

Today I decided to do one of my regular local walks, from Kensworth to Totternhoe and back. I took loads of photos with the intention of putting the walk on my web site, but as it was such a grey and mirky day I’m in two minds about doing so – the conditions meant that the views from Dunstable Downs and Totternhoe Knolls were nowhere near as good as usual.

I started by going down Hollicks Lane to Church End, the old part of Kensworth. I then followed Beech Road a short way towards Dunstable, before following the long path around Kensworth Quarry to Dunstable Downs. The views here were very restricted, maybe 10 miles rather than the usual 40 miles, and the top of the downs was rather untidy as the National Trust are putting in a new path. I descended into Dunstable, and followed Green Lane back out into the country, before turning right on  a track towards Sewell (following the route of the Chiltern Way and the Icknield Way).

Instead of turning right into Sewell, I continued ahead on a good track between hedges – to my left was a former quarry, now partly a nature reserve where I enjoyed looking for wildflowers this summer. The track took me to the cement works at Totternhoe, from where I followed paths that took me to the top of Totternhoe Knolls. This is a prominent hill, the site of a motte and bailey castle and now another nature reserve (where again I looked for wildflowers this summer). It was still a grey and misty day, and so again the views here were disappointing compared to normal.

I followed the path from the Knolls into the village of Totternhoe, then took Wellhead Road back towards the Downs. Nice views as I walked the road, along the Downs from Five Knolls to my left all the way to the White Lion at Whipsnade Zoo to my right. I crossed the main road at the foot of the Downs, and continued on a path beside the London Gliding Club (there were just a couple of gliders in the air today). I then turned right, and followed a path for about a mile along the bottom of the Downs, before taking a rising path that took me up to the car park on Bison Hill (so called because of the large enclosure containing Bison, part of Whipsnade Zoo).

I had lunch sitting on a fallen tree near the car park (I watched a ‘dogfight’ between a jackdaw and a black-headed gull as I eat my sarnies), then took the path from the car park towards Whipsnade. I turned left to go past the Tree Cathedral, then crossed the large green in Whipsnade and took the path through the churchyard. This took me to Holywell, where I took a path that ran parallel to Buckwood Road (the minor road between Markyate and Whipsnade), then turned left down Dovecot Lane. I could have followed the narrow lane all the way back into Kensworth, but as usual I turned off it to cross a couple of fields, then turned right along the road from Whipsnade to get back home that way.

I got home about 2.30, having walked about 12 miles or so.