I’ve just added a new walk to the ‘Chiltern Hills’ section of my web site – it’s the circular route I did from Watlington Hill on 11th December (you may recognise the text description, as I just copied it from my blog entry, but there are 34 photos including a reasonable one of some Fallow Deer).
Archive for December, 2007
This walk was the reverse of a walk I did two months ago, which I put on my web site – http://www.petes-walks.co.uk/Chiltern%20Hills/Wendover%20Woods/Wendover%20Woods%201.htm. It took about 4 hours to do the approximately 12.6 miles, starting at 9.40.
I saw (and heard!) some Jays as I walked back down the drive to the car park. I then followed a path through the woods that soon joined the drive to a house and went through it’s garden to reach a road at Aston Hill. I crossed over and followed a farm drive opposite, soon glimpsing a Muntjac Deer in the Mountain Biking Area on my left. At the farm I followed a path through the trees that soon headed steeply downhill, with a field just to my left. Across a road I followed a path along the edge of an arable field, then turned right on a byway running between hedges.
I crossed a lane, and continued past a couple of cottages. I soon turned left on another byway, with paddocks beyond the hedges either side. The byway gradually curved to the right and came to a junction with another byway at the foot of a steep wooded hillside. I turned right, and followed the rising track through Grove Wood, quite steep in places. At the top of the hill I followed a private drive a few hundred yards to reach Hastoe, Hertfordshire’s highest hamlet (nice alliteration there, don’t you think!).
I turned left and followed a lane through the tiny hamlet. I went left at a junction, then turned right on a path through Tring Park – much of this was along King Charles Ride, along the top of the Chiltern escarpment above Tring. It took me to Wigginton, where I partly retraced my route through the village from two days ago before turning right along the main road. I then turned right on to the route of the Chiltern Way, crossing an empty pasture and then following a line of gorse bushes and then a belt of trees, which marked th course of Grim’s Ditch which I’d be following for 3-4 miles.
I went through a small wood and crossed a lane. I followed a path on the same line through another wood, and on across a stubble field to reach another belt of trees. At the end of the trees I left the Chiltern Way, going a few yards right and then turning left again. A short section along a narrow lane then followed – it was surprisingly busy with at least 6 cars passing me in a short space of time. The lane ended at a T-junction, where I carried on ahead on a footpath, still on the line of Grim’s Ditch, or a little to the left of it.
I carried on through woods for some distance, then took a short path on my right to reach another section of the Ridgeway. I followed this downhill through the woods, and then turned right along Hogtrough Lane (basically a long farm drive – as well as the Ridgeway, it’s part of the Chiltern Link which I walked a couple of years or so ago). At the end I turned right, and soon turned right again into Hale Lane (the Hale is the name of an attractive valley here, ringed by wooded slopes). After about half a mile, I took a track on the left that rose steadily back into the woods. At a junction I turned left, the path gradualy curving round to the right as it neared the top of Boddington Hill. Is topped for my lunch on a bench here, with a nice view out over Wendover and the Vale of Aylesbury. I then continued along the path, meeting hordes of people with children and dogs as I got back to the car park in the middle of Wendover Woods.
Sorry I’m a bit late – Happy Christmas!
Today I did a circular walk from the car park at Pitstone Hill, on the borders of Herts and Bucks. From the car park, I actually walked away from Pitstone Hill, going north in the direction of Steps Hill, before turning right on a path that rose steadily across the steep escarpment of the Chilterns. Near the top I joined the main track between Ashridge and Ivinghoe Beacon. I went right here, but only for a short distance before turning right on a path just before the kennels. This path, which was new to me, went steadily downhill through a large empty pasture. Near the bottom of the slope it joined a track between hedges, which soon reached the drve to Duncombe Farm.
I turned left along the drive, then went right where a footpath crossed. Back on familiar territory, I followed the path across two fields, then turned left on a bridleway that entered the woods of Ashridge and again rose steadily up the Chiltern escarpment. Near the top of the slope, instead of taking my normal route and forking left on a footpath, I took the right fork, and followed the bridleway as it contoured along the escarpment, passing a couple of cottages in the trees, with the Bridgewater Monument just a short distance to my right. I saw som Fallow deer here – three large bucks with impressive antlers.
A bit further on, I reached the main path heading down from the Monument to Aldbury. Almost at once I saw a flock of small birds in the trees and bushes, including Long-tailed tits and a Goldcrest. When I got down to Aldbury, I took the usual photo of the stocks and village pond, then turned right. I soon turned right again to pass through the village allotments, and took the usual path back uphill through the woods again to a bend in a road. Here I took the drive to the small industrial estate at Tom’s Hill, and beyond that continued on downhill on a bridleway (I was following the route of the Chiltern Way now).
Emerging from the trees at a gate, I turned left and followed the familiar route of the Chiltern Way across three fields to a farm (where I noticed a paddock with a few Alpacas in it). I continued onwards,soon crossing a footbridge over a railway line, then turning right along a lane to reach Cow Roast. I followed a good track on the other side of the old A40, then went under a bridge beneath the new dual carriageway A40. Across a field and a large paddock I reached a wood. Here I left the route of the Chiltern Way and walked straight through the wood, then continued on a clear path through three or four empty pastures or meadows to reach the village of Wigginton.
I walked through the village to reach the route of the Ridgeway, which I’d follow all the way back to Pitstone Hill. I followed a field boundary through some small fields, crossed a lane, then continued through a couple more fields before crossing the A40 dual carriageway on a quite spectacular footbridge. I carried on to reach Tring Station, and after a short road walk took a path going left. The Ridgeway soon turned left again at a crossroads of bridleways – there were high hedges each side of the bridleway and I came acros a small flock of Fieldfares along here. I passed the Aldbury Nowers nature reserve (good for butterflies) and then followed the clear path through the woods, contouring round a hillside. Finally the path went through a kissing gate and emerged onto the grassy slopes of Pitstone Hill. I followed the path as it gently climbed to the top of the hill, following the line of an earthwork called Grim’s Ditch. I then just had to walk down the other side of the hill, over a small hillock and down to the car park.
(I’ve recently started a second blog on the Wild About Britain web site, where I record more about the wildlife I see on my walks. This post is a straight copy of my entry on that blog).
I’ve just got back from a short break in North Norfolk, only the second time this year that I’ve really been bird watching.
On Wednesday afternoon I visited the RSPB’s Titchwell Marsh reserve. I saw several types of duck (Shoveller, Shellduck, Wigeon, Mallard, Teal, Pintail) and wader (Ruff, Lapwing, Golden Plover, Grey Plover, Ringed Plover, Turnstone, Sanderling, Dunlin, Avocet) but the highlights were Med Gull and Barn Owl.
On Thursday morning I started at Salthouse (next village east from Cley) as the kind gentleman who’d shown me the Med Gull at Titchwell had told me about Buntings there. I soon managed to see a small flock of Snow Buntings near the car park, where some photographers had been putting down food to attract them (apparently the locals have been feeding them about 200 yards away). I then managed to identify a Lapland Bunting amongst the Snow Buntings, a first for me!
I then went to Cley. There was a nice new visitor centre, where I stopped for a capucino. I saw a Marsh Harrier here, but nothing else that I’d not seen at Titchwell.
Next I walked round a bit of Holkham Park, where I saw Long-Tailed Tit, Pochard, Tufted Duck, Dabchick and Egyptian Goose. Just as I was about to leave, I saw a small group of Chaffinch, and checking them closely I spotted a Brambling amongst them (I remembered seeing a mixed flock of chaffinch and bramblings here a few years ago).
I finished the day at a couple of hides behind the coastal pine belt at Holkham, overlooking the marshy fields where thousands of pink-footed geese roost. I saw a Hen Harrier and some white-fronted geese. By the time the pink-footed geese came in to roost, it was almost dark. I saw a few small groups come in, but by the time the main body came in it was really too dark to see them – but the noise alone was worth going for! It started very faintly then gradually grew louder and louder, like an approaching wave, then reached a crescendo as the geese arrived over the fields and squabbled over where each individual would land. Think of the noise one goose can make, then multiply it by 40,000! A truly remarkable wildlife experience.
This morning I went to Titchwell Marsh again. I had a nice view of a Snipe from the Fen Hide, then saw a Great Spotted Woodpecker and a Bullfinch as I made my way out to the reed bed. I saw a Little Egret on the grazing marsh next to the reserve, and when I got to the coast I saw some Eider and Goldeneye on the sea.
I had a cornish pastie for lunch at the visitor centre. There was a very friendly robin and blackbird there, keen on eating up my crumbs!
I didn’t sleep well and then overslept by 30-40 minutes, so I altered my plans and instead of driving for an hour or so to do a walk in Oxfordshire I did a local walk instead. I drove the 15 minutes or so to the Monument at Ashridge, and did a 12-mile circular walk from there, including Ivinghoe Beacon.
The walk was essentially a shortened version of the Ashridge Estate Boundary Trail. I basically followed that route in an anti-clockwise direction, but took a few shortcuts that reduced it to about 12 miles rather than 16. Very early on on the walk I saw a Muntjac deer, and a short distance further saw two Fallow deer in a field by the Ringshall-Berkhamsted road – I was a bit disappointed, as sometimes there are large numbers of deer here.
I followed paths through beech woods, and then a nice stretch alongisde the wide grassy expanse of Northchurch Common. I used part of the Chiltern Way to cut off a bit of the Ashridge Estate Boundary Trail, and saw some more Fallow deer here, close to Ashridge Golf Course. Lost in a daydream, I stayed on the Chiltern Way for about 1/4 mile longer than I intended, before realising my mistake and turning round.
I followed more paths through the beech woods, then from near Ringshall took a path across sheep pastures to a farm where five paths meet. I continued on back into the woods, going steeply down a slope where a flight of wooden steps has been installed recently, part of some improvements made to the Icknield Way. Just before entering a dark area of coniferous trees I saw and heard three buzzards overhead.
Beyond the woods, I took field paths to reach the eastern end of Galley Hill, and then followed the grassy ridge over that hill and on to Ivinghoe Beacon. I was glad to have the cold east wind behind me on this 1/2 mile section. There were nice views either side, though they were limited in the grey and mirky conditions. I sat behind the Ordnance Survey column on top of the Beacon to get some shelter as I ate my lunch. I then walked down from the Beacon to the car park, then followed the road a short distance before going down the long track that follows the top of the escarpment through the beech woods back to the Monument.
A shorter walk than usual today, I was only walking for about 3.5 hours. I started from the car park at Studham Common. The temperature was 2C when I set off at about 9.40am (it had only risen to 3C when I got back), and it was a grey overcast morning, although the sun broke through and it brightened up later on.
I crossed the road from the car park and followed the path west along the top of the common. I crossed another road and continued on, now in a wooded section of the common. I passed Studham School on my right, and followed a field edge to Valley Road. I then went half-left on a path going diagonally uphill across a ploughed field, to reach the lane to Dagnall. On the other side I followed a bridleway alongside another field, then through a small wood, before descending steeply into the Gade Valley (nice views here in both directions, with Ivinghoe Beacon just visible to the north).
Across the road in the valley bottom, I continued alongside another hedgerow as the path climbed fairly steeply up the opposite side of the valley. At the top of the hill, on the edge of Hudnall, I went half right across a flat field (meeting my second jogger of the day) and then across a couple of small sheep pastures. Little Gaddesden church was a short distance to my right. I crossed the drive to the church and went through a small meadow, then an alley behind some houses, and next along a fenced path between paddocks to reach the road through Little Gaddesden.
I crossed over and went through a pub car park, then folowed a path between fences downhill. This took me into a part of the National Trust’s Ashridge Estate, by part of Ashridge Golf Course. I turned left on a good path (part of the Ashridge Estate Boundary Trail) which ran for some distance with trees either side. I crossed the drive to Ashridge House, and carried on along Golden Valley, a broad strip of grass through a valley bottom with woods on either side. A few scenes in the BBC’s brilliant ‘Cranford’ (last episode tomorrow night, sadly) were filmed here. Near the end of the grass strip I turned left and walked uphill through the trees, noticing a Great Spotted Woodpecker as I did so.
I passed through another bit of Little Gaddesden, then took the path to Nettleden. This is one of my favourite local paths, as it goes for almost 1.5 miles along a valley without passing anything – no houses, farms, not even any hedgerows. Sometimes the fields here are grass, sometimes arable crops – usually the path is very distinct, but today it was a little faint and at the far end had disappeared completely – I had to guess the line and follow it as best I could.
I just touched the edge of Nettleden, immediately turning left and going uphill on a clear path beside another hedgerow – I saw a Bullfinch fly along here, the fifth I’ve seen recently (I usually only see them maybe 6-7 times a year, if that). The path took me to St Margarets, close to a Buddhist monastery. From there, I took a nice path downhill through a paddock and then a couple of pastures to the village of Great Gaddesden. Again, I just touched the edge of the village, before returning to another pasture where I crossed a series of small footbridges to cross the river Gade and reaching the main road running through the Gade Valley.
I now went uphill again, the path initially by a hedge, then heading half-left across the field (some root crop) to a wood. There was a pleasant path through the wood for about a third of a mile, then I followed hedgerows through three grassy meadows to reach a lane just outside Gaddesden Row. I continued on down a track, where I saw several redwings in a tree, then followed the edge of an empty sheep pasture. I carried on alongside hedgerows for another half-mile or so (this is part of my favourite local walk), when suddenly I saw a buzzard fly from a tree. I soon saw a second one quite nearby. As I continued along the hedgerow, I saw some fieldfares and a couple of jays.
I reached a road where I turned right, now in Clements End, a hamlet in the parish of Studham. I followed the road as it turned left, then turned right on a footpath along a gravel drive. Just before reaching a house this went slightly left and crossed a paddock where three horses grazed on some straw. I then continued on alongside a wood on my right, and then went through a gap in the hedge of me to return to Studham Common, where I turned left to return to my car. It was only about 1.20pm, so I saved my packed lunch until I’d driven the couple of miles back to my home.
Today I did a circular walk close to my home, from Dunstable Downs to Markyate and back. It was really a rather shortened version of a walk I’ve done a few times, but I chose to start at the Downs rather than walk from home. It probably took longer to scrape the ice of my car than to drive to the Downs! It was -1C when I started walking about 9.50am.
From the new ‘Chiltern Gateway Centre’ on Dunstable Downs I headed southwest along the top of the Downs, with frosty views ahead of me towards Ivinghoe Beacon. To my right, the views over the Vale of Aylesbury were rather limited by a bank of fog a few miles away. I walked along the top of a very large field, currently being used as a sheep pasture, to reach the car park on Bison Hill, Whipsnade. Here I turned left along a path that soon became a slightly sunken track. On reaching a bungalow, I turned left on a path that went uphill along the edge of a paddock to reach the Tree Cathedral at Whipsnade.
On the other side, I crossed the large irregularly shaped green and took the path through the village churchyard, where I saw a pair of Pied Wagtails. Beyond a meadow, I turned right alongside a hedge, having to detour into the field to go round a recently fallen beech tree. I then went left along the old lane between Whipsnade and Holywell (pronounced Hollywell, incidentally), which nature has been gradually reclaiming since it was closed to motor vehicles some 20 plus years ago. I then turned right along the path beside the fence of Whipsnade Zoo – there were several wallabies in the adjacent paddock, and many more of the small deer than I’ve seen before.
Beyond the zoo, I continued through two large fields following a hedge on my left to reach a wood near Studham church. I followed the path through the wood a short distance, before going left over a stile and across a small pasture to reach the churchyard. The path passed to the right of the church, then I went through the gate and followed the lane from the church to a junction in the village, where I went right. Appropriately enough, Valley Road took me downhill to a valley bottom, where I turned left onto a footpath, where I saw one of several Redwings that I’d come across today. This ran along the valley, to reach Studham Common just past the village school. It was very frosty here. I soon took a path going right, through the trees on this part of the common to reach a road.
Across the road, I followed the path along the top of the common to another road, and crossed this to a car park, then continued on along the top of the common. These two sections of the common were just grass rather than scrub, having been returned to agriculture during WWII. At the far corner of Studham Common I turned right, soon walking with a wood on my left. There was a nice frosty mist beside the wood as I looked ahead.
I turned left onto a narow path through the wood. After a while it emerged at a junction of hard surfaced tracks – glancing along the track on my left, I got a fleeting glimse of a fox as it disappeared into the trees. I followed the track ahead of me through the wood, until it emerged after about quarter of a mile near a farm (where I saw about 15 guinea fowl) and some cottages. Just past these I turned left at a crossroads of tracks.
The track I was on soon went downhill, with a wood on my left, then rose again to reach the end of a lane in the hamlet of Roe End. I turned right along the lane, and after quarter of a mile went left on a footpath. I followed a hedge on my right, with nice views ahead over roling hills with woods and ploughed fields. At a field corner I came to a path junction where I went half-right, following an intermittent hedgerow steadily downhill for about a third of a mile to reach Markyate.
I followed some streets through Markyate, then took a path along the right edge of a couple of sports fields and back out into the countryside – I’m pretty sure this was the first time I’d walked this path in this direction, though I’ve done it in the other direction several times. I followed a hedgerow along a hillside, with the valley of the river Ver to my right – through a gap I saw Markyate Cell across the valley (a previous house on the site was the home of an alleged highwaywoman!).
The path then went half-left across a field of some root crop. It passed a small copse in the centre of the field – I remembered there was a seat there, and stopped to have my lunch there. I continued across the field, then went through two large paddocks to reach a road on the edge of Kensworth. I turned left to follow it through the village, soon passing the school I attended as an infant. I passed the recreation ground (‘the rec’) on my left – sadly the grand line of horse chestnuts has recently been drastically reduced because many of the trees were in a dangerous state.
Just past the Old Red Lion, I took a path on the right. This followed a driveway, then went steeply downhill between hedges. It emerged into a large field, with nice views up and down this typical Chiltern valley. I continued on a headland between fields, down to the bottom of the valley and steeply up the other side, to arrive at a corner of Spartt’s Lane by the former vicarage. I folowed the lane ahead and turned left at a crossroads to reach Church End, the original part of the village of Kensworth.
I took the path through the churchyard, passing to the left of the church (it dates back to the 12th century). Over a stile, I continued through a meadow of rough grass, then turned left on a muddy track with a small wood on my right. I soon joined the path that goes all around Kensworth Quarry (a distance of several miles) and followed it ahead to pass to the left of the quarry. I soon passed another wood on my left, then the path went left, going steeply down into the valley I’d crossed earlier – the steepest section here was on wooden steps. The path then went right, through a small wood, then along a farm track across the bottom of the valley. It then followed the edge of a large ploughed field (still very frosty in the shade of a wood on the left), as it curved to the right and rose steadily up the other side of the valley. It flattened out, and there were views across the quarry on my left as far as Blows Downs and Luton. The path switched to the other side of a small plantation, crossed the drive to the quarry, and after about quarter of a mile I turned right for a few yards to another path, where I turned left and was soon back at Dunstable Downs.
As I walked back along the Downs to the new visitor centre, I took a photo of a bird which was either a raven or a crow. I’ve put the photo on the Wild About Britain site, and there is an ongoing debate about which bird it is.
Another excellent walk in the Chiltern Hills! I really am enjoying my walks at the moment. This was a very cold but very bright December day – the temperature was 0C when I started walking, rose a bit during the day, but there were still patches of frost and ice in puddles in the afternoon, with the temperature back down to 2C when I returned to the car shortly after 3pm.
I parked in the car park at Watlington Hill, close to Christmas Common (a bullfinch flew off as I arrived). I was amazed that I didn’t see any Red Kites as I drove through Watlington – I always think of it as ‘Red Kite City’ as there are usually so many of these birds flying low over the main street. Still, I soon saw my first Kite of the day as I followed the footpath steadily downhill from the car park. There were some nice views here to the neighbouring hills to the west and out across the Oxfordshire Plain. I passed a fair number of Yew trees here – I’ve come across them in a few places in the Chilterns now.
The path led to a road, where I went a short distance to the right, then turned left on to the route of the Ridgeway. This was a section I walked a couple of months back on Swan’s Way, but this time instead of keeping to the tarmac farm drive I followed the permissive path over the hedge on the left. This ended near a couple of houses, where I rejoined the fram drive as it turned left (the Ridgeway going straight on towards Swyncombe Down). I followed the drive to the farm, then continued on a bridleway heading steadily back up into the hills, passing through a beech wood. I eventually reached another farm, where I followed the drive about a hundred yards to a lane.
Across the lane I followed a drive towards another farm. As I passed the farm, I saw a stoat on the track ahead of me. I followed the track through another small wood to reach Cookley Green, a village I know from the Chiltern Way. I turned right along a lane, and then went left into a wood. The Chiltern Way goes right through the wood and on to Swyncombe, but I turned left in the wood, on an initially narrow and very frosty path which soon joined a wider track. A little way on, there was a gap in the trees on my right, with a lovely view down over the parkland surrounding Swyncombe House.
The track went back into the trees, and crossed a drive to Swyncombe House. I then went over a stile into a large parkland pasture, where I followed the edge along the hilltop with the wood on my left. There were a few impressive beech trees dotted about in the pasture, and again there were lovely views across the flat lands at the foot of the Chilterns.
After about a third of a mile I reached the corner of the pasture, where I rejoined the Ridgeway as it made its way to Ewelme Park. Here I again left the National Trail and turned left on a bridleway along a tarmac drive. I passed a row of estate cottages on my left and a couple of paddocks on my right, before turning right on a woodland path, initially close to the edge of the second paddock. Shortly beyond the paddock the path turned left and soon emerged from the trees into an open grassy field where I followd the hedge on my right. The path soon switched to the other side of the hedge, where I walked beside a ploughed field. I passed the end of a belt of trees on my right, then turned right to follow the trees beside another ploughed field. In the field corner I entered another belt of trees where I turned left at a path crossroads.
I was now back on familiar territory, on part of the southern extension of the Chiltern Way. The path ran through the belt of trees for a few hundred yards, before emerging from the trees and becoming a track between hedges. Soon there was a wood on my left, where I saw a Fallow Deer cross the path ahead of me. I then heard a large noise behind some holly bushes on my right, and realised there were more deer about – I managed to photo two deer as they stopped on the edge of the wood about 60 yards away (my decision to get a new camera with an 18X zoom is already paying off!).
The track led me to Park Corner, where I left the Chiltern Way and crossed over the main road and took a lane through the small village or hamlet. This soon turned right, and a few yards further on I went right on a bridleway. This soon passed a wood on the right, with a hedge on my left, following the course of a small valley. Beyond the wood the track continued between hedges, the one on the right recently trimmed, but the one on the left containing mature trees and bushes, with branches overhanging the track. I stopped along here and sat on a log to eat my sandwiches at about 12.45pm.
I soon passed a farm, and continued along the track, the hedges now trimmed on both sides. I came to a junction I knew well, where another track went left along the valley of Upper Bix Bottom, and two footpaths came to the same junction from either side – this is the point where the southern extension leaves the original route of the Chiltern Way. I continued ahead on the track I was on, soon entering the Warburg Nature Reserve, which I also went through about 10 days ago on my walk from Maidensgrove Common. I soon crossed the path I used that day, as the track continued through what seemed like mainly hazel.
After some distance I reached the visitor centre and car park for the reserve, and a few yards further on I turned left onto a footpath. This climbed fairly steeply through the trees beside a fence (I photographed a squirrel on one of the fence posts) to reach Maidensgrove. Here I joined the route of the Oxfordshire Way, which I’d follow north for most of the rest of this walk (for just a few yards here I was also on the route of the Chiltern Way again).
The path crossed a field then went through a wood to a lane (between Maidensgrove and Stonor, downhill to my right). It continued through the wood on the other side of the lane, soon descending into a deep valley (curiously I thought this a very long and exceptionally steep descent for the Chilterns, but looking at the contours on the map it wasn’t anything much at all). I then followed a right-hand hedge through a field of rough grass, with pleasant views to either side, and reached the end of a lane which led me past some houses and the church in Pishill. There were again nice views along the valley to Stonor – I could see the parkland around Stonor House but not the house itself.
At the end of the lane, I turned right along the road for a few yards before turning left onto a path. This went along another valley bottom across a wide and open field. I saw and heard a Red Kite in a tree at the top of the slope on my right. After about half a mile I reached College Wood, where the path climbed quite steeply up the hillside on my right. It then ran along near the edge of the wood. Just past a junction where the Chiltern Way came in from my left, I went over a stile to leave the wood and crossed a small pasture containing about half-a-dozen cows.
I then turned left, leaving the route of both the Oxfordhire Way and Chiltern Way, and followed a hedge-lined track called Hollandridge Lane. This soon passed through some more beech woods, and eventually reached the village of Christmas Common. At the end of the track, now surfaced, I continued ahead across a couple of minor road junctions, then turned left to return to the car park.
This was a very enjoyable walk, on a really nice winter’s day. It had been bright and sunny all day, and the low temperatures were no problem at all as I was warmly wrapped up. It’s days like this that make me realise just how fortunate I am!
I’ve just got back from a quick visit to Ipswich to see all my friends there, staying with my friend Kev for a couple of nights. On Sunday morning, the two of us drove to Needham Market, where Glyn led us on a two hour walk. Stu and Sally and Martin B also came with us, while Linda stayed behind to keep Wendy company. The walk took us across fields towards Barking and on through a large wood, before more field paths brought us back to Needham Market. We had some light rain for about an hour, but it was never too heavy. It was good to have a lengthy chat with my friends as we walked round, and we stopped at a pub back in Needham for a light lunch (first time I’ve had a toasted sandwich for years – delicious!).
In the evening, we had a Christmas meal at The Ship in Levington (a village near the river Orwell, just east of Ipswich). This was the main point of me going over to Ipswich, the group of us always have a Christmas meal together each year. It was the same friends as earlier, plus Martin W, Dave, Barry and Cynthia – Stu and Sally couldn’t come for the meal as they had an engagement elsewhere, but turned up for a pre-dinner drink when we all exchanged Christmas cards. The food was very good (I had guinea fowl, duck and chocolate mousse – yum,yum!) and the service very friendly and efficient. Again it was great to chat to all my friends again, and everybody had a very enjoyable time (so thanks, Linda, for organising it!)
A very enjoyable walk today – well worth the hour and a quarter drive each way, just about the longest journey I’ve done for any of my walks. I started walking from the car park in Goring about 10.15 – it was very bright and sunny, with lots of blue sky, and that was pretty much how it would remain throughout the walk.
This was very much a walk of two halves. The first half was a fairly flat walk following the river Thames from Goring to Mapledurham. The second half was then returning to Goring on paths across the western end of the Chilterns, most of this half being in woodland. Together, the two contrasting halves made for a very interesting and enjoyable day’s walk.
From Goring I followed the Thames Path along the bank of the river. The Thames here goes through the Goring Gap, the route it has carved for itself between the Chilterns to the east and the Wessex Downs to the west. So there were steep hillsides rising a short distance from the river on either side. Initially the path ran between garden fences and the river, then between a hedge and the river, and then ran through a couple of flat water meadows with a row of bushes along the river’s edge to my right. I went under a railway bridge (designed by Brunel, part of his Great Western Railway), and a bit further on the path turned left away from the river. It ran between paddocks to a T-junction of paths where I turned right onto a bridleway.
The bridleway continued for some way, roughly parallel to the river, sometimes within feet of it, other times further away. The bridleway passed through quite a long wooded section, climbing quite steeply for a very short distance near the end of the wood, before continuing betwen fences and hedges. It went downhill for a bit, then went quite steeply uphill on a flight of steps. At the top it joined a tarmac farm drive, and followed that some distance to reach a road in Whitchurch.
I turned right for a few yards before turning left on to another road. It wasn’t long before I left the houses behind and the road became a lane, with good verges either side. There was a large Alpaca farm here – I’ve seen Alpacas at several places now, but never anywhere near as many as here. There were several fields or paddocks with 50 or more Alpacas in each. Several of them gazed at me curiously as I went by. Eventually the lane turned sharply left, but I went on ahead along a drive towards Hardwick House (no, not the NT property in Derbyshire that was home to Queen Elizabeth I’s friend Bess of Hardwick). There were some attractive views over horse paddocks and parkland to the river here. Near the buildings the bridleway switched to a track between hedges and fences. Beyond a tall iron gate it became a narrower path between hedges, and soon I was on familiar territory as I reached part of the Chiltern Way.
The path led to lane, a short distance north of Mapledurham. I’d said before setting out on this walk, that I wouldn’t actually go into the village today, as I’d been there twice already this year, But it’s such an unusual and charming place, I couldn’t resist wandering in to it and taking photos of the Almshouses and the Watermill. I then returned back up the lane, the only way in or out of Mapledurham, passing the path I’d been on before and then turning left onto a bridleway along a farm drive. This passed a farm, and continued past a couple of cottages. I then turned right onto a footpath, this followed a hedge across a field to a stile, then went very steeply uphill through a sheep pasture (nice view of a Red Kite here, one of several I’d see today). Near the top of the hill I went over another stile, and followed a farm track past a farm to a minor road.
Across the road I continued on another footpath, heading slightly uphill alongside a fence in another sheep pasture – four jays flew up from just ahead of me here. I then entered Nuney Wood, soon stopping to sit on some logs to eat my lunch as it was now 1pm. The next three miles were all through a series of woods, mainly beech woods – this was quite possibly the longest unbroken section of woodland walking I’ve done on any of my walks. There’s little I can describe as I progressed from Nuney Wood, to Hawhill Wood, to Bensgrove Wood, across a road to Common Wood and then to Oakwood Wood, where I turned right off a bridlewway to a faint path marked by white arrows on the trees. As always, it was a pleasure walking through the beech woods, with the leaves rustling around my feet, although the paths were muddy in one or two places (hardly surprising at this time of year).
I finally reached a road near Cray’s Pond. I went a few yards along it, then went across the playing field of a private school (the path went diagonally across, but I chose to go round the edge of a Rugby pitch rather than across). Over a road (I didn’t recognise it at the time, but looking on the map now it’s a road I used between Woodcote and Whitchurch Hill on the Chiltern Way) I took a bridleway along a track, passing one or two attractive houses. The track went through a small wood, then passed a very attractive old farm house.
I then entered Great Chalk Wood (I got so lost here on my first Chiltern Way walk, I went round in a complete circle and came back to where I first entered the wood!). I soon turned left, and then right to join the Chiltern Way route. On the far side of the wood, I descended slightly then went uphill beside a hedge, then turned left alongside the hedge, passing a cemetery on the other side. There were now nice views towards the Thames Valley and Goring, with the Wessex Downs across the river, but the sun was now very low, making photography a bit awkward. I followed the Chiltern Way as it crossed a playing field and then went through a fairly new housing estate and on to my starting point in the centre of Goring.
I really enjoyed every section of this walk. I shall definitely be making use of much of it in my planned personal Chiltern long-distance path.