Archive for February, 2008

Bird photos added to my web site

Thursday, February 28th, 2008

I have just updated my web site, “Pete’s Walks”.

I have added a small collection of bird photographs, which I hope to expand in the future. The quality of the photos is somewhat variable – I will replace photos as I get better shots of the birds.

I have re-organised the site slightly, with a new ‘photographs’ page. The existing wildflower and butterfly photos can now be accessed from this page, as well as the new bird photos. I may add further sections to the ‘photographs’ page in the future.

I have also added numerous hyperlinks to the text of the journals, so that you can click on the name of a bird I see on a walk to see a photo (or photos) of the bird. You could already do this for wildflowers and butterflies.

Garden Visitors

Saturday, February 23rd, 2008

(Entry copied from my WAB blog)

Unfortunately I’ve been suffering with the ‘dreaded lurgy’ for the last few days (well, some tummmy bug really), so I’ve not been out and about. At least today I managed some bird watching from the comfort of home.

Great Spotted Woodpecker

The first of the irregular visitor’s that arrived in my parent’s garden was this Great Spotted Woodpecker. The photo’s not too bad, considering it was taken from about 60ft away and from behind double-glazing.


The next unusual sighting was this Brambling – a pair of them appeared in the garden for the first time ever only 3-4 weeks ago.

Pheasant (f)

Later on I got this shot of a pheasant – there up to nine that visit every day about breakfast, then one or two will occasionally re-visit later on. Again the photo is through the double-glazing of the patio window, but much closer than the previous two photos, this time from only 10-12 feet away as the bird was on the rockery beyhind the patio. I tend to think of female pheasants as dull brown birds, but really they are quite beautiful in their subtle markings.

Later on I saw some Long-tailed Tits. But the bird of the day for me was the Coal Tit that I saw in the front garden, flitting about between the Sycamore tree and some bushes. We usually see these fairly regularly in the winter, but haven’t seen one for some time. It’s nice to know they are still about.

Hambleden and Ibstone

Wednesday, February 20th, 2008

I looked at my maps last night, and made a change to the route I’d planned for today. Today’s walk was going to be about 15 miles, which is a bit long for my proposed Chiltern Chain Walk where I’m aiming to average 12 miles per walk. The reason it was so long was because the next walk was so good when I did it as an ‘exploratory’ walk a few weeks ago that I didn’t want to change it at all – this meant that I needed to add in a big section to this walk, which was based on a good walk I did at the beginning of last year. However, last night I realised that I’d probably ruined a very high standard walk by adding in those extra miles. Fortunately, looking at the maps again I saw a way to reduce today’s walk by a couple of miles, which involved only a very slight change to the next walk and shouldn’t detract from it at all.

The walk started at Hambleden (a very interesting and picturesque village close to the Thames) and first followed a very good bridleway for many miles, along a valley and then steadily uphill through woods before emerging at a farm on a lane. I then followed a short section of the Shakespear Way, before another good bridleway through another wood took me most of the way to Turville (the ‘Vicar of Dibley’ village).

The next section was new to me. A very good path led uphill from Turville, across a field and then through more woods to reach Ibstone. From there, a bridleway on a cement farm drive led downhill to a valley bottom, where I turned right and followed the bridleway for some distance to reach a lane that took me into Fingest (which I went through on my last walk).

I ate my lunch on a bench on a hillside above Fingest. The rest of the walk followed the route of the Chiltern Way. I went downhill through a wood and across pastures to the hamlet of Skirmett, then continued south down the Hambleden valley through the hamlets of Colstrope and Pheasant’s Hill to return to my starting point at Hambleden. The walk took me about 4.5 hours – it was an excellent route (if I do say so myself!) and I’m looking forward to doing it in the opposite direction when I walk the Chiltern Chain Walk.

I’d hoped to get some photos of Red Kites and Buzzards, but the weather put paid to that idea. It was foggy and misty all morning, and remained grey and gloomy all afternoon, the light being too poor to take bird photos. I did see a lot of Kites though (13-14 in the sky near Turville at one point), and several Buzzzards too, with one particularly good buzzard siting near Turville. I also startled a hare when I stopped for some water, towards the end of the wooded section before Turville. I also saw a very large number of Fallow deer in a field between Turville and Ibstone – I calculated there were over 100, and if that sounds a bit fanciful, I did count 180 deer a couple of miles from here about a year ago.

West Wycombe and Fingest

Monday, February 18th, 2008

(This is an edited and expanded version of an entry in my WAB blog – I’m a bit tired tonight!)

Red Kite

A great walk in the Chilterns today, about 14 miles I should think. Very cold (about 3C) when I started but nice and warm by the afternoon, though there was still frost in some shady spots. I started at West Wycombe and headed south, through Lane End to Fingest (which has an amazing Norman church, with a double-gabled tower). I then headed back via Cadmore End, Studley Green, Radnage and Bledlow Ridge.

This walk was basically a combination of parts of two of the ‘exploratory’ walks I did for my Chiltern Chain Walk – I did both those walks to check out possible paths to cross the M40, and ended up selecting a route from each of them. The section from just south of the M40 through Lane End to Fingest was new to me though – I didn’t like part of the route I used last time, mainly because it involved a very dangerous road section. I had to go through a housing estate in Lane End, but the rest of the new section was brilliant, a very clear and well-maintained path through woods and fields with some lovely views.
Red Kite
I hoped I’d get a few Red Kite photos, as I new from previous walks that the area around Fingest was a good place to see them. In fact I saw them on numerous occasions, including about 10 in the skies above Fingest and then 22 or 23 above Studley Green, the biggest group I’ve ever seen. I got a few photos, bu none that were too good – I’ll have another go on my next walk, which will also go through Fingest.

I also saw several buzzards today, on two or three occasions in the air with the Red Kites, a phenomenon I’ve noticed many times before.

Common Buzzard

As I walked through Hanger Wood, Fingest, I saw about 30 Fallow Deer cross the track about 100 yards in front of me – below is the best of the photos I took. I also saw Muntjac deer twice today, but they were off too quick for me to get a photo. Near Radnage I think I saw a weasel, but it was too fleeting a glimpse for me to be really sure.

Fallow Deer

Red Kite in Kensworth!

Sunday, February 17th, 2008

(Entry copied from my WAB blog)

Red Kite

I’m so excited! At long last I’ve seen a Red Kite here in Kensworth! It flew over at about 12.45pm today as I was out photographing birds in the garden again. So I was able to get this poor quality photo of it.

I love these birds – every time I see one they lift my spirits, especially when I’m out walking. I love their colouring, the distinctive shape of their tail, their plaintive calls and the way that they don’t seem to fear humans the way other birds of prey do. They have often flown very low over my head as I’ve been out walking, and they are often to be seen in towns and villages, not just out in the country.

It’s been an ambition of mine to see a Red Kite in Kensworth for a couple of years or more. I often see them in the western part of the Chilterns, but they are only gradually spreading eastwards towards Bedfordshire.

The other interesting sighting today was a Long-tailed Tit tapping on the dining room window!

Circular walk round the Saunderton valley

Friday, February 15th, 2008

(This is an edited and expanded version of an entry in my WAB blog)

Muntjac Deer, near Bradenham, Bucks.

Today I did a 13-mile circular walk around the Saunderton Valley – this is a broad gap in the northern escarpment of the Chiltern Hills, immediately south of Princes Risborough. The beautiful warm sunny weather of the last few days has gone, and the day started cold (2-3C) and very grey. The sun started to break through the clouds about 1pm though, and I ended the walk under blue skies and hazy sunshine.

 I started at the village of Bledlow Ridge, on top of the hills west of the Saunderton valley, and followed a footpath that headed north, gradually descending into the valley. This was very familiar to me, as it’s part of the Chiltern Way. I then joined part of the Ridgeway national trail, and headed up and over Lodge Hill, before rejoining the Chiltern Way and crossing the broad Saunderton valley via a number of arable fields. I then climbed up the eastern side, passing through the adjoining villages of Loosley Row and Lacey Green. I headed eastwards into the hills for about a mile, before turning south on a path just inside the edge of a beech wood. I then headed back west, touching on Lacey Green again. I then turned south for a couple of miles to reach the attractive village of Bradenham, before recrossing the valley, following a path over Slough Hill  and heading back to Bledlow Ridge.

Red Kite, Bradenham, Bucks.

As usual, I saw several Red Kites in and around Bledlow Ridge, and saw at least one Buzzard too. I saw many more kites throughout the walk, and a couple more buzzards near the end. I saw a Jay and a Green Woodpecker too. I also came across a Muntjac deer as I walked towards Bradenham, and saw another one cross my path as I was heading back to Bledlow Ridge.

This was a very enjoyable walk – and not just because I had so many good sightings of Red Kites! It was actually quite up and down, and when the grey clouds had gone there were some nice views across and along the Saunderton valley. The first half of the walk was on familiar territory, almost all of it on the Chiltern Way or the Ridgeway, but the remainder I’d only walked once on a couple of my ‘exploratory’ walks and there was a short section beyond Bradenham that was new to me. I’m looking forward to doing the walk in the opposite (anti-clockwise) direction in a couple of months time when I walk my proposed Chiltern Chain Walk for real..

Siskin in the garden

Wednesday, February 13th, 2008

(Entry copied from my WAB blog)


I spent about an hour and a half photographing birds in the garden again this morning. Undoubted star of the show was this siskin, the first I’ve ever seen in my parents’ garden I think (my parents say they sees Siskins occasionally every winter). Otherwise it was just the ‘usual suspects’ – Blue Tits, Great Tits and Chaffinches. A Dunnock landed briefly near me, before realising I was there and flying off. A Robin appeared now and again, and occasionally a blackbird flew low across the garden. There was frequently the delightful sound of jackdaws overhead, and I think I got a glimpse of a yellowhammer again.

Blue Tit

Great Tit

In the afternoon, I saw four Long-tailed Tits on the bird feeders.

Chaffinch (female)

Why am I walking round in circles?

Wednesday, February 13th, 2008

Regular readers of this drivel may be wondering why I seem to have been walking round in circles for the last few months – normally my walks are ‘there and back’ along sections of long-distance paths, suddenly I seem to have developed a penchant for circular walks. Not only that, but you may have noticed that I only seem to be walking about 12 miles a day instead of my more usual 15 miles.

You may remember that a couple of months ago I revealed that I was looking at creating my own unofficial long-distance path. I wanted to research and design a long-distance route of my own, and then walk it and write a journal for it. Well, the time has come to reveal that I’m calling my long-distance path the Chiltern Chain Walk. It will consist of 20 circular walks that connect to each other, so that on a map they look like a ‘chain’, stretching from Dunstable Downs in the northeast of the Chiltern Hills to Goring-on-Thames. And yes, I freely admit that I nicked the idea from the Hertfordshire Chain Walk! There are already several long-distance paths through the Chilterns, so I thought that if I was going to create another one, I ought to make it a bit different.

Each of the circular walks will be about 12 miles long. I decided on that distance because, as far as I can tell, most walking groups only do walks of up to 11-12 miles. So if I’d made the walks 15 miles long, the route would have appealed to fewer people. Having said that, I’m not really expecting other people to walk the route – it is simply a personal challenge to devise and walk my own long-distance route. But I will document the walks so that if other people want to do them they can. Certainly some of the walks are so good that it would be a shame if no-one else tried them out – when I’ve finished, I will contact some local branches of the Ramblers Association and let them know about it.

I have more or less finished planning the Chiltern Chain Walk, and have walked about 95% of the route already (either where it overlaps other long-distance routes that I’ve done already, or else on one of the ‘research’ walks I’ve been doing over the last few months). The 20 circular walks split fairly evenly between clockwise and anti-clockwise (usually a fairly arbitrary decision on my part). I am currently walking them all in the ‘wrong’ direction, partly because I want to check that I have chosen the best direction (clockwise/anti-clockwise) for them, partly to check out the few remaining sections that I have yet to walk, and partly because I want to be able able to say that I’ve walked the route in both directions, as I have with most of the long-distance paths that I’ve walked.

I hope to walk and journal the route in the ‘correct’ direction in the Spring, when the wildflowers will be an added attraction to the route.

In the meantime, I have just updated my web site with the walk I did yesterday – it is in the ‘Chiltern Hills’ section and called ‘Coombe Hill and the Hampdens’. The walk is one section of my proposed Chiltern Chain Walk but in the wrong (clockwise) direction.

Coombe Hill and the Hampdens yet again!

Tuesday, February 12th, 2008

Yet again I returned to one of my favourite areas in the Chilterns, walking from Coombe Hill through the villages of Little Hampden and Great Hampden and returning via the great viewing point of Whiteleaf Hill. I’m not going to say anything more about the route, as in the next day or so I intend adding the walk to my web site (about time I added another walk to it!).

I was in two minds about doing the walk today – I wanted to do it on a fine day, and today was forecast to be the last day of the gorgeous weather we’ve had for almost a week now. On the other hand, walking today would mean my fourth walk in five days and I didn’t want such an enjoyable walk marred by aching limbs. Anyway, I’m very glad I did decide to go, although I’m feeling pretty tired right now!

It took me almost five hours to walk about 12.5 miles, which is ridiculously slow, but then I did stop to take just over 100 photos (I fiddled with the camera settings much more than usual too, as I struggle to improve my photography) – and my legs were tired after my previous walks.

Cobblershill and Little Kingshill

Monday, February 11th, 2008

Another glorious day, and another 12 mile circular walk (sometime soon I may get around to explaining why I’m wandering round in circles at the moment!). Frosty this morning and I had to wear my coat for the first 45 minures, but after that it was a lovely warm day with blue skies and plenty of bird song every time I went through woodland.

I parked at the picnic site near Cobblershill,  a few miles south of Wendover. The first half mile or so was new to me, as I crossed a horse gallop and then  followed a hedgerow gradually uphill through a very large empty pasture. In the wood at the top of the hill I soon picked up a path I was familiar with – it went downhill through the wood, followed a hedge across the valley bottom and then climbed uphill again through another wood to reach the attractive hamlet of Little Hampden.

Having been heading west so far, I now turned south and was soon following a long path beside a hedgerow that gradually descended over a long distance down to a road in the wide and attractive valley of Hampden Bottom. I followed the road left a short distance, before turning right on a woodland path that gradually went uphill to reach another road, right on the edge of the substantial village of Prestwood.

I was soon back into the countryside, following a very pleasant path through a sequence of empty pastures. It then descended through a wood before joining a farm drive that led to a lane. I went left for a short distance down the lane (a bit dangerous as there were no verges, but it was wider than I remembered it). There then followed a very steep climb back uphill, through another beech wood, definitely one of the steepest paths I’ve come across in the Chilterns. The path continued alongside a fence separating two fields, through a small wood and across the end of a pasture in a small valley, soon reaching a road in another part of Prestwood.

Across the road and down a drive I was soon back into another lovely beech wood. As always it was a joy to walk through these lovely trees, though the path was rather muddy in some places. Across another road, I was soon following the path round two sides of a large orchard. After a short stretch along a hedged track, I went half-left on a path that crossed a very large arable field diagonally. On the far side, I emerged on a road on the edge of the village of Little Kingshill (I was here again on Saturday).

I was soon leaving the village again, on a path that started by going through a pub garden, now heading back north and on the route of the Chiltern Heritage Trail. I followed a path between fences and hedges, with paddocks to my left and cattle pastures to my right beyond the hedge. After a short interlude through trees and shrubs I crossed a ploughed field following tractor tracks, then went over a grassy field to reach a lane by a farmhouse. I turned left, but soon left the lane by taking a tarmac farm drive on the right. I soon branched slightly left on an attractive bridleway running between hedges that dropped down slowly to a wood. Here I left the bridleway, going through a metal kissing gate and following a sketchy path marked out by white arrows on the trees. Once out of the wood, I followed a curving hedgerow and then made my way to a farm drive that took me back to yet another part of Prestwood.

Leaving the Chiltern Heritage Trail, I followed a cul-de-sac road and then an alley, before turning right and going over a crossroads. I left the village by turning right on a path that started along a farm drive, and continued between fences and hedges, with paddocks again to my left. The path then went slightly right and descended steadily through yet another charming wood. It then ran between a hedge on the left and a fence to the right, to reach a road with Great Missenden a short distance to my right. I soon took a farm drive on the opposite side of the road. The path soon forked off slightly left to run between hedges, then turned to the right and ascended gently through a wood. At the end of the wood, I sat on a stile to eat my lunch.

The path then turned left along the edge of the wood, before re-entering it. I soon heard a couple of woodpeckers, but was unable to see them. On the far side of the wood I turned right onto a bridleway. I followed this muddy track for about a mile (stopping briefly to chat to a dog walker and then for a bit longer chat to another walker), almost into the hamlet of Cobblershill, before forking right onto a bridleway that descended through yet another wood and took me back to the picnic site where I’d started from.

Again this walk was about 12 miles and took me about four hours. The weather was amazingly good for the time of year, it really felt as if Spring had come early.