Bledlow Ridge to Fingest and back

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.

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