Archive for June, 2008

Web site update!

Saturday, June 28th, 2008

Just to let you know I have just updated my “Pete’s Walks” web site.

I have completed the journal for the Chiltern Chain Walk, adding the last four walks (17-20), route descriptions for each of the 20 walks, and a crude map of the overall route. There are also a few more buterfly/wildflower photos – the details are on the ‘Site History’ page as usual.

Chiltern Chain Walk – Walk 20

Tuesday, June 24th, 2008

I finished the Chiltern Chain Walk yesterday! This is my journal entry for Walk 20 – I’ll be posting it on my web site in the next few days, along with a few odds and ends to complete the journal. I’ll also be incuding route descriptions for all 20 of the walks.


Walk 20 23/06/08 – Goring and Mapledurham (13.4 miles approximately)

Parked in car park in Goring-on-Thames.

Rather disappointingly it’s been a week since my last walk – the weather has been rather indifferent (or at least the forecast has), and on the one nice day I had something else arranged. It’s been frustrating not being able to get out and finish off the Chiltern Chain Walk , but at least in the end I had an almost perfect day for doing the final walk.

I got up early this morning and set off at 8.15am, about three quarters of an hour before my normal time. Despite being the ‘rush hour’, there was little more traffic than usual on the roads, except at a couple of junctions, so the journey only took two or three minutes longer than I’d expected, and I arrived in Goring at 9.38am.

The Oxfordshire village of Goring-on-Thames is situated in the Goring Gap, where the river Thames has carved a route between the Chilterns and the Berkshire Downs. Across the bridge over the Thames here lies Streatley, in Berkshire. Goring is mentioned in the Domesday Book, and the village church dates to the time of the Normans – it was originally dedicated to St Mary, but was later re-dedicated to St Thomas a Becket. Goring Priory, an Augustinian establishment, was founded around 1200 – at the time of the dissolution in 1536, there was only the Prioress and three nuns still in residence.

It was a warm sunny morning as I left the car park, walking down the short alley to the High Street, where I turned left. I followed the road through the village towards the bridge over the Thames (with Streatley beyond, where I started my Berks-Essex walk). Instead of crossing the bridge, I turned left and followed the footpath along the river bank. I passed some narrow boats moored here, and further on exchanged greetings with a fisherman. The path was diverted a few feet away from the river for a short section, because that part of the bank had become unstable. I met one or two dog walkers as I followed the bank, with garden boundaries and then a hedge with a cattle pasture beyond on my left. Across the river, a wooded hillside swept down to the far bank – I was walking through the Goring gap, where the Thames has carved a route between the Chilterns and the Berkshire Downs.

The path continued through two large meadows of tall grass, with bushes intermittently between the clear path and the river on my right. The path followed the river as it curved left, and in the second meadow I started to see Brunel’s railway bridge crossing the river ahead of me. The path next went through a smaller meadow which is a nature reserve – unfortunately it was currently almost completely taken over by work on some sort of pipeline. I noticed a World War II pill-box as I passed under the railway bridge, and photographed some Banded Demoiselle damselflies on some nettles. The path was now enclosed by a fence on the left and bushes along the edge of the river on my right. I could see the Chiltern Hills ahead of me, a section close to part of the Chiltern Way between Whitchurch Hill and Goring. The path soon turned left, away from the river, passing between the wooden fences of some paddocks by a farm to reach a junction with a bridleway.

I turned right on to the bridleway, which I’d be following for a couple of miles. At first it ran between fences and hedges, the fields on the left sloping steeply uphill. There then came a very pleasant and lengthy section through a wood, the trees on my right sloping steeply down a bank towards the river. I passed at least one section of Yew trees along here, and came upon some Greater Celandine – this is the only spot where I’ve seen this flower so far, I first saw it here a couple of months ago. I spotted another pill-box down to my right, and had occasional glimpses down to the Thames.

The bridleway emerged from the wood after about three-quarters of a mile, and continued between hedgerows with pastures or meadows either side. There were some Meadow Brown butterflies here and also a Ringlet, the first time I’d seen either of them this year. I also saw some Great Mullein growing here, another first for the year. The bridleway descended a small hollow and rose up the other side on a flight of wooden steps. At the top it joined a tarmac drive, continuing in the same direction and still parallel to the river, which was now out of view, somewhere down to my right. I followed the drive for about half a mile, passing a cattle pasture and then some paddocks on the left and occasional houses on the right. Just before the drive reached a road on the edge of Whitchurch-on-Thames, I managed to photograph a Meadow Brown butterfly.

I followed the road to the right, being careful as it was very narrow at this point. I then turned left, and within quarter of mile had left the village behind. I followed a path on the right of a lane at first, the path being a ‘green tunnel’ between hedges. When the path ended I continued along the lane, there being a wide verge on the right. There were large numbers of Alpacas in the fields on the right, and I passed near the entry to the farm where some people were working amongst these charming animals. More Meadow Browns flew up as I walked along the grassy verge, and I saw some Agrimony and Common Mallow growing beside the lane.

After about ¾ of a mile the lane turned sharply left, but I continued straight on, following a bridleway along the drive to Hardwick House (a large manor house I occasionally glimpsed in trees ahead of me, not to be confused with Hardwick Hall in Derbyshire!). On both sides of the drive were paddocks, and it was an attractive view across those on the right towards the river. I passed stables on the left, and then the drive continued between hedgerows. Near the grand house it split into three, where the bridleway continued on the leftmost track. A short distance along here I came upon a JCB that was resurfacing the track with broken asphalt. The track ended at a lodge house on the far side of the estate, but the bridleway continued, now a narrow track between hedges. There was a steep hillside now rising on my left, and again I occasionally had views towards the river on my right with Purley-on-Thames visible beyond the far bank. There was some Common Toadflax growing beside the bridleway, some more Common Mallow and a lot of St John’s Wort of some kind. When the bridleway ended at a lane, I took a quick detour to visit the charming village of Mapledurham, ¼ mile to the right.

The whole village of Mapledurham still belongs to the Mapledurham estate, which has not allowed any new development for over a hundred years, which is one reason why the village retains its old-world charm. The idyllic and isolated riverside setting also adds to its attractions. Mapledurham House has been the home of the Blount family and their descendants since 1490. Part of the house is fifteenth-century, but most of it is built of red-brick dating from 1585-1588, with nineteenth-century alterations. The house was visited by Elizabeth I, and is mentioned in John Galsworthy’s “Forsyte Saga” (it is Soames Forsyte’s home). St Margaret’s church dates back to the late 13th century, and contains a private Roman Catholic chapel belonging to the Blounts. The watermill here is the oldest one on the river Thames, and the only one to still be working (my parents’ neighbour Tony was brought up in the village, and remembers taking corn to the mill to be ground into flour). There was a mill here at the time of the Domesday Book, but most of the current mill dates from the fifteenth century, with additions in the 1670’s and around 1700. The mill features in the 1976 film “The eagle has landed” and on the cover of a Black Sabbath album. The village also has almshouses (now converted into two cottages) that date from 1613.

From where the bridleway ended, the Chiltern Chain Walk went left along the lane. There were two or three Red Kites here. After a few hundred yards the lane turned right, while I continued ahead on a drive to a farm, passing some paddocks on my right. I passed the farm and some cottages, then turned right on to a footpath. This followed the right edge of a corn field, where I saw my first Scarlet Pimpernel of the year. I also saw a Marbled White butterfly. The path went over a stile and rose steeply uphill through a large meadow, following a hedge on the right. I kept stopping here to take photos – not because of the steepness (honest!) but because of the wildflowers. I saw a good example of Yellow-wort, some Lady’s Bedstraw (another first for the year) and some Pyramidal Orchids (I see these often when I look for wildflowers at Ivinghoe Beacon or Totternhoe, but seldom see them on my walks).

I surpassed myself today by managing to go wrong no less than four times! And this on a route I’d walked before, in both directions! My first mistake came at the top of the hill, where I was so intent on looking at the flowers (that’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it!) that I went a few yards past the stile on the right before realising my mistake. Once over the stile I followed a farm track to the left, passing the ancient Whittles Farm and reaching a minor road. I took the footpath starting on the other side, which followed a fence on the left through a mown meadow. Here I went wrong again, mistakenly thinking (remembering my previous two walks here!) that the path went to the right of some long grass around some mature trees. On reaching the corner of the field, I had to back track and cross the long grass to find a faint path right beside the fence. This went through a metal kissing-gate into Nuney Wood, the start of a three-mile section of almost continuous woodland walking. After a few yards, I stopped to eat my lunch on a tree trunk beside the path – it was quarter of an hour earlier than my usual 1pm stop, but then I had had my breakfast half an hour early.

I continued through the wood, and then the path ran between gardens in the small and isolated hamlet of Nuney Green. It ended at a wooden gate, beyond which I turned left on a track through the hamlet, passing a few old thatched cottages with attractive gardens. Where the track ended at the entrance to one such cottage, a bridleway continued between garden hedges and then entered another section of wood. It soon went between two small ponds, the one on the left covered in green slime. It continued straight on through the trees when another path crossed – the trees here where now mainly beech, and soon there were fields just a few yards to my right. After a few hundred yards I reached Deadman’s Lane, which my previous walk had followed to the right.

I crossed over and continued along the bridleway through the wood on the other side, retracing my steps of last Monday. The wood here was again mainly beech, with lots of holly bushes. After about a quarter of a mile I came to a junction, where I followed the bridleway as it turned left, slightly downhill. It soon came to another junction, where the bridleway went right on a wide track. A path soon went off to the left, but I stayed on the bridleway and reached a fork where the bridleway went right – as usual, there were white arrows with a blue dash below the arrowhead to denote the route of the bridleway. A short distance further on I came to a crossroads of bridleways – Walk 19 came in from my right at this point, but today I went straight on. The bridleway became a little less distinct as it continued through the beech trees here, but the arrows still kept me going in the right direction.

After a few hundred yards I came to another bridleway crossroads, where there was a field ahead and to my right, containing some sort of pink/purple flowers. I checked my photos later and decided the flowers were Opium Poppies! An entry on Wikipedia on the web mentioned that the British government had licensed a firm to grow them near Didcot for medicinal purposes – as Didcot isn’t too far away, I assume this field is part of the same project.

I turned left at the crossroads, following an old boundary between two woods on my right. I reached a more open area, where a crossing path ran through some tall bracken, and continued on through the wood to reach a minor road.  I continued on the other side, now in Oaken Wood. After about a quarter of a mile, I reached a junction where I managed to go wrong for a third time. I knew I had to turn right, and started off down an obvious forestry track. But I’d only gone about a hundred yards before doubts crept in as to whether this was the correct way or not – I couldn’t see any white arrows on trees, but then that could have been because the trees here had recently been felled! I checked my map, and realised from the contours that I was on the wrong side of a very shallow depression. I went back, and soon found that I should have turned right just a few yards before the forestry track – the path was very feint and the wide forestry track was so close by it was an (almost) understandable mistake.

I followed the path through the trees, soon crossing over a wooden stile in a wire fence. A little further on I came to a path junction where I turned left. After a short distance this went through a gate in a boundary fence, and a little later it crossed a muddy track or drive. Not much further on I reached a road, which the path followed to the right for a few yards before I crossed to the other side, finally leaving the woods. A footpath started here, going diagonally across a school playing field although I chose to walk round the edges of it.  In the far corner a path had been cut across the neighbouring area of tall grass, continuing in the same direction to reach a minor road just south of Cray’s Pond. I went left for just a few yards and then turned right onto a bridleway that began along a tarmac drive.

I soon passed a few cottages in Blackbird’s Bottom, the bridleway then continuing through a wood (where I saw some Honeysuckle) to reach Bottom Farm. The drive ended here, but the bridleway continued, initially between hedges with fields sloping gently up on either side and then with a wood on the left. The section beside the wood seemed to go on for longer than I remembered, and I stopped to check the map (which showed that it went on for about half a mile). When I then came to a junction, I made my fourth mistake of the day. The map showed a three-way junction, but in fact there were four paths i.e. a crossroads. My notes for this walk said to go left, so I did. The path went uphill gently, and I soon came to a junction. I realised this was wrong, as I went right and soon came to another junction – I recognised the path here as part of the Chiltern Way, but I knew I should have come out at a junction with it a little to my right. I followed the path to that junction, and instead of following the Chiltern Way to the left, went right to see where I’d gone wrong. Within a hundred yards, I was back at the path crossroads, where I should have gone straight on, not left! Oh well, at least I had the pleasure of seeing no less than 15 Common Spotted Orchids on my little diversion!

Back on the correct route (but feeling very annoyed with myself for having gone wrong so often!), I followed the Chiltern Way through Great Chalk Wood. Yes, that’s right – the infamous Great Chalk Wood where I managed to go round in a complete circle when I first went  through here on the Chiltern Way in 2005! I had then missed a turning (I was obviously lost in a daydream) and ended up back at the point where I first entered the wood! I also managed to miss a turning here when I did this walk in the reverse direction a couple of months ago! Somehow, Great Chalk Wood and I just don’t seem to get along – no idea why, it seems a perfectly nice and innocuous bit of mixed woodland. Anyway, I kept right at a couple of forks and safely made my way to the correct exit from the wood (where I saw a Speckled Wood butterfly).

The path now followed a hedge on the right, heading quite steeply uphill with a wide band of fallow ground between the path and the corn in the field. There were again plenty of wildflowers to give me an excuse to stop as I puffed uphill – including Weld, Wild Mignonette and the first Dark Mullein I’ve seen this year. At the top of the slope the path turned left along the top of the same field – there were large numbers of Poppies in the corn.  Soon there was a cemetery behind the hedge on my right. The path continued on into a second field, where there was again a broad band of uncultivated ground to the left of the path, containing a lot of St John’s Wort amongst other plants. There were some more Pyramidal Orchids beside the path, too. This was a very pleasant section of the walk, as the path gently descended beside the hedgerow, with nice views ahead of me over the river Thames in the Goring Gap where my walk had started.

At the end of the field, the path crossed a playing field on the edge of Goring. I followed a modern residential street, which turned left and right. At its end I turned left for a few yards to reach a T-junction by a pub, where I turned right, parallel to the railway lane. I soon came to another junction, where I turned left and crossed a bridge over the railway. I followed the road the short distance into the village centre, and reached the alley leading back to the car park. And so ended my walk on the Chiltern Chain Walk!

It had taken me about 5½ hours to walk the 13.4 miles, a very slow rate but easily explained by the detour into Mapledurham and by the large number of photos I’d taken – I’d certainly wasted several minutes in a number of generally unsuccessful attempts to photograph butterflies. I’d been exceptionally fortunate with the weather – although the sun had hidden behind clouds occasionally, it had generally been a pleasantly sunny day with the temperature around 20C, just about perfect for walking.

I was still annoyed with myself for going wrong so often, but that didn’t detract from the fact that it had been a smashing walk. I had first done this walk about six months ago as one of my exploratory walks when trying to devise the route of the Chiltern Chain Walk. It was so good, I immediately decided to keep it exactly as it was as the final stage of the route. It’s definitely a walk of two halves. The first half is surprisingly varied as it follows the Thames from Goring to Mapledurham, then the return half is almost entirely through woodland, with just the final stretch through fields giving good views over the Thames as you get back to Goring. I think it’s an excellent walk with which to finish the Chiltern Chain Walk – and today I had the extra bonus of seeing numerous butterflies and wildflowers for the first time this year.

Total distance: 238.9 miles

Totternhoe Quarry again

Sunday, June 22nd, 2008

(Entry copied from my WAB blog)

I went back to the reserve at Totternhoe Quarry again this afternoon. I found no less than 5 Man Orchids, but all were past there best. When I first went I found just one, but found four the next time I went. As I discovered today, the one on its own is just a few feet from the other four. On the opposite side of the track were a couple of Bee Orchids.

There were numerous Common Spotted Orchids and Common Twayblades, and the Pyramidal Orchids have now come out (they were few and far between last week). There was a lot of Selfheal, Silverweed and Sainfoin, and I also saw Clustered Bellflower, Common Toadflax and Eyebright.

I also saw my first Marbled White butterflies of the year.

Web site update!

Wednesday, June 18th, 2008

I have just updated my “Pete’s Walks” web site with Walks 13-16 of the Chiltern Chain Walk, plus a few more wildflower, butterfly and bird photos.

I hope to complete the Chiltern Chain Walk this week, and will then update the web site  again within the following couple of weeks.  I will add the route directions for all 20 of the walks in the Chiltern Chain Walk, in case anybodyelse would like to do the walks.

Chiltern Chain Walk – Walk 19

Tuesday, June 17th, 2008

Tis is the draft of my journal entry for Walk 19 of the Chiltern chain Walk, which I did yeterday.

Walk 19 16/06/08 – Stoke Row and Exlade Street (10.2 miles approximately)

Parked in Stoke Row.

I took a slightly different route on my drive to Stoke Row, turning off at Kingston Blount and taking the minor road through Christmas Common. Nothing much in it distance-wise, but it avoided the almost continual 30-40mph limits all the way from Aston Rowant to Watlington. There were fewer hold-ups behind slow-moving traffic today too, so the journey only took an hour and five minutes, and therefore I’d got my boots on and started walking by 10.15am. It was a cool day, 16-17C, not overcast but with a lot of large clouds in the sky, some of them quite grey.

I walked westwards along the road through Stoke Row, passing the Maharajah’s Well on my right (it was covered in scaffolding and people were working on it). I turned left down School Lane, immediately before the village church. The lane ran past a few houses for maybe quarter of a mile before becoming a track between hedges. Here I took a path going half-right across a couple of paddocks  (alternatively, a sign said that I could use a permissive path a hundred yards further on on the right, to avoid stiles and horses). Beyond the paddocks I turned right on a path between fences (the alternative path). This soon turned left along a tree belt, and after about 100 yards I turned right, passing through the tree belt to a stile.

The route now followed a field boundary on my left through a large field or meadow of very long grass – there was a clear path through it, so other people had clearly been this way. Beyond the long field I crossed the drive to a house on my left and reached a lane. I went just a few yards to the left before going over a stile on the far side. Here I entered an L-shaped pasture, extending ahead and to my right. I took a slight detour a few yards to my left to avoid coming between some tiny calves and their mothers, and thus managed to find a cattle path through the longish grass that was going in the right direction. I soon had a wood on my right, as I followed the path to a gate and stile in a far corner.

I crossed another lane and followed a footpath through trees and bushes a few yards to join a drive or track, continuing ahead in the same direction a little further. Very soon there was a house on my left and the track turned right – I wanted to take the rightmost of two footpaths going on ahead, but first had to wait a few minutes as a BT lorry was parked across the track and three men were trying to unload some telephone poles off it. When I got going again, the path ran through a wood – it was quite muddy in places, and a fallen branch almost blocked the path at one point.

On the far side of the wood I reached the edge of a farm yard, where I went a few yards to the right and crossed over another lane. I continued along a footpath on the other side, initially along a stony drive with some cottages on my left. A little further on the path entered a wood, and went very slightly downhill. After a few hundred yards I reached a path junction, where I turned very sharply left, almost doubling back on myself. I went wrong here, but realised my mistake after 50 yards or so – some fallen or cut-down branches had obscured where the narrow path continued ahead so I’d wrongly stayed on a wider track (it didn’t help that the first painted arrow on a tree was obscured by another tree). I followed the white arrows through the wood, and then continued across another field or meadow of long grass to reach another lane, with about five house dotted along the far side.

I crossed over and continued on a path that initially ran between garden fences. It then continued just inside the edge of a wood, with large corn field just yards to my right. I noticed several Yew trees here. After a few hundred yards the path turned sharply left – almost immediately there was a fork where I kept left. Soon there were paddocks on my left but a wood still to my right, the path running between fences. Apart from some Buttercups I’d not yet seen any wildflowers, but here there were Wood Avens and Herb Robert growing. The path ended when it reached the gravel drive to Checkendon Court, to my right.

I had a quick detour here to take a photo of Checkendon church, then continued on a footpath that started on the opposite side of the drive. This went through a very large sheep pasture, at first with the boundary of the grounds of Checkendon Court to my right (from what I could see of the house and gardens, I’m fairly sure I saw it in an episode of Midsomer Murders recently). On the far side of the sheep pasture I went through two kissing-gates either side of an old driveway, then turned left, following a path between a hedge on my left and a fence on the right with a large meadow or pasture beyond.

On reaching a minor road, I turned right for about a hundred yards and then took a bridleway on the other side. This ran between hedges, and after about quarter of a mile I reached a crossing footpath (there was some Nipplewort and Woody Nightshade growing by this junction). I turned right, following the right-hand fence of another very large sheep pasture, with a farm visible over to my left. The field boundary eventually curved round to the left, and I went over a stile and continued a few yards through bushes with a small pond on my left. At a path junction, just before another stile or gate, I turned right and followed the left edge of a field downhill. This path then continued down an alley between gardens to reach a lane in the hamlet of Exlade Street.

I turned left, soon pasing The Highwayman pub on the right. A little further I passed a junction where another lane went left – the road sign here pointed in three directions, and under each of the three destinations said ’via Quiet Lane’. I carried on, now with a wood on the left. Where a wood began on the right after another quarter of a mile, I turned right on a short bridleway through the trees to reach a main road, the A4074. On the far side a bridleway went sharply left, through the trees of College (or Abott’s Wood). As usual, the path was marked by a series of white arrows painted on the trees – just as well, as a number of tracks created by forestry vehicles might otherwise have caused some confusion. I kept left at a fork, and a bit later on had a rather odd experience. A very large pine cone fell to the floor just in front of me – but there were no conifers anywhere near, just a fairly young oak tree! I can only imagine a squirrel had dropped it.

I crossed another wide forestry track, where I had to look carefully to find the next white arrow on the far side. The path then passed through an open glade with much bracken, and I found a Common Spotted Orchid beside the path. I then soon came to a crossroads of bridleways, where I turned left. I took care to take the correct path here, because there is a second path, unmarked on the map, going left just before the bridleway – this had caused me quite some confusion on an earlier walk! The bridleway continued through the trees, soon joining a broader track for a while, before leaving it by turning left. A few yards further on it turned right, where a path came in on the left, and I carried on for a few hundred yards more, through beech trees and holly bushes, to reach a minor road, rather ominously called Deadman’s Lane.

I turned left and followed the road for almost half a mile, with the wood still on my left. I had to take care on the road, as there were several vehicles using it and there were seldom any verges. At one point I spotted a yellow flower beside the road which I’d not seen before – I later identified it as Creeping Cinquefoil. The road ended at a junction with the A4074, and again I had to take care crossing this busy road. The road sign pointing down Deadman’s Lane said ‘Goring 5’, so it can’t be far to the end of the Chiltern Chain Walk now!

The next section of the route was very easy to follow, as I would be on a bridleway almost continuously for about three miles, heading roughly north-east. It started along a hard-surfaced drive, between a wood on the left and a hedge on my right, but once it passed a cottage on the right it continued between a fence and a hedge on the right, with large corn field either side and woods beyond them. I crossed a lane, Park Lane, and continued on with a wood, Nipper’s Grove, on my left. There were a few trees on my right too at first, and then a small and dirty pond, Sheepwash Pond. Beyond that there were two very large corn fields on the right, entirely surrounded by woods. I saw some Honeysuckle here, and further on some Hedge Woundwort.

I crossed a second lane, and continued on a muddy track through a small wood. On the far side I had to go right for a few yards along another lane, before continuing on another bridleway in the same north-easterly direction as before. This ran between fences and hedge, with huge meadows of very tall grass on either side, where pathways appeared to have been mown through them. I assumed the meadows were associated with the very large house I could see ahead and to my left, Wyfold Court.

Wyfold Court was built between 1872 and 1878 for Edward Hermon, a Lancahire cotton baron and MP. The architect, George Somers Clarke, was a pupil of Sir Charles Barry (most famous for the Houses of Parliament). It was later used as an asylum, and has recently been converted into a number of private residences, the developer working closely with English Heritage and the Victorian Society to maintain the character of this impressive edifice.

It was quite a lengthy section here, the meadow on the right later giving way to a field of oil-seed rape. There were several young oak trees here, which blocked the view to the grand Victorian mansion (which was also hidden by the large trees in its grounds). Eventually I crossed the drive to Wyfold Court, the bridleway continuing through another wood and then going down a short drive beside a cottage on the left. It crossed another lane and another drive in quick succession, carrying on through more trees. These were now mainly silver birches, with an undergrowth of ferns. Further on the wood was predominantly young oak trees. The bridleway then crossed another lane or drive, and entered a beech wood. It soon started to descend quite steeply, and at the bottom of a valley it came to a crossroads with another bridleway.

Here I turned left. There was soon a slight fork in the path where I kept left (though the two paths were only yards apart, both amongst the beech trees at the bottom of this small valley). After a few hundred yards the bridleway turned left (a footpath carried on ahead), rising uphill gently through an area of conifers. It soon reached a broader track at a bend, and continued on in the same direction. There was a lot of Yellow Pimpernel here, and occasionally Foxgloves. The wood was now mainly deciduous to my left, but coniferous on the right. I’d heard Ravens here on a previous walk, but not today.

I went by gates either side of a lane or track, then took a narrow path going right. I followed this for several hundred yards through the trees and bracken, until I came to a crossing bridleway, immediately before a cleared area of the wood. I turned right for just a few yards, passing between the wooden posts of a fence, then turned left onto another bridleway. This continued on through the trees, soon going up and down a small dip and running to the left of an area of small young trees. Again I saw Yellow Pimpernel and Foxgloves here.

The bridleway crossed a road on the edge of Stoke Row, and continued on through the edge of a beech wood – I could hear children shouting from across the field just to my left, presumably at a school. After a few hundred yards I came to a bridleway junction (I’d followed the one on my right at the start of my previous walk) at the corner of a lane. I turned left, and followed the lane a short distance to the main road through Stoke Row, where I turned right. I saw my first Red Kite of the walk as I went along the main road back to my parked car.

This was a relatively short walk of just over 10 miles – I suppose it balances some of the 14 mile walks I’ve done, helping bring the average length for the Chiltern Chain Walk down to 12 miles per walk. It was just after 2pm when I got back – I sat and ate my sandwiches in the car, having just had a second Alpen bar to keep me going about 1pm.

This was quite a pleasant walk – the first part was a little fiddly, and Deadman’s Lane wasn’t very nice, but after that it was nice easy going, mainly on bridleways through a variety of woods. Very few birds or butterflies to be seen today, nor many wildflowers, but seeing my first Creeping Cinquefoil was a real unexpected bonus.


Total distance: 235.5 miles

Chiltern Chain Walk – Walk 18

Sunday, June 15th, 2008

This is the draft of my journal entry for Wlak 18 of the Chiltern Chain Walk, which I did on Friday:-

Walk 18 13/06/08 – Stoke Row and Nuffield (12.9 miles approximately)

Parked in Stoke Row.

It took almost an hour and a quarter to drive to Stoke Row, and I started the walk at 10.12am, having parked near the Village Hall. It was much cooler today, the temperature being around 16-18C all day. It was fairly grey to start off with, brightened up a bit around midday, but then became very grey in the afternoon although remaining dry. I had a quick look at the Maharajah’s Well, but it was covered in scaffolding, so I turned round and walked down the road, passing the Village Hall and shop on my right, and further on the Cherry Tree pub on my left.

In Saxon times, Stoke Row was called Stoches Ruh (loosely translated as ‘enclosure in rough outlying place’). It later became Stoke Rewe, from the Norman French ‘Rue’ meaning street. It was only a small hamlet, part of the parish of Ipsden until becoming a separate parish in 1952. Its most noticeable feature is the Maharajah’s Well. This was dug in 1864 as a result of the friendship between the Maharajah of Benares and Mr Edward Anderdon Reade of Ipsden, sometime Governor of the Northwest Provinces. The well is 364 feet deep, and was dug by just two men in a year. The Maharajah also paid for a cottage for the wellkeeper, and a small cherry orchard to provide for the upkeep of the well. The Maharajah had been touched by his friend’s story of a child being beaten for drinking the last water in the house during the time of a drought. Once it had its own water supply, Stoke Row started to grow from a small collection of hovels to a reasonable size village. The well is still functional, but the cherry orchard is now an ornamental garden. As in other parts of the Chilterns, cherry orchards, brick making and chair making (from local beech) all played roles in the village economy. During World War II, about 3 million tent pegs were made here.

I turned left down Newlands Lane, initially with a large green on my right.  The lane turned sharply to the right and then to the left, passing several houses and cottages. Where the lane then turned left again, I went straight ahead on a bridleway that headed steeply downhill through a wood. A path soon forked left, but I stayed on the bridleway and followed it all the way to the bottom of the slope where I reached a lane. I continue through the trees on the other side and with a hundred yards or so came to a second lane (the two lanes converged a short distance to my right). I crossed over and carried on along a very long tarmac drive, initially a footpath but becoming a bridleway after a hundred yards or so. I followed the drive for about half a mile, with various fields beyond the hedges on either side. I passed one or two residences along the way, and beyond the last one the drive entered Nott Wood.

The tarmac ended here, but the drive was still well-surfaced as it went through the wood. At one point I saw a Buzzard fly off through the trees ahead of me. On the far side of the wood I reached a junction where I turned right, following another tarmac farm drive steadily downhill beside the wood on my right, and with a rather unkempt corn field to my left. Looking ahead I could see across the fields to the tower of Nettlebed church. In the valley bottom the drive turned right and went uphill slightly, still with the wood on one side. It then turned left, running between hedges with cornfield or meadows on either side. I had some close up views of Red Kites here and managed to get some photos – unfortunately I then realised that I’d left the camera in ‘Scene’ mode rather than switching to ‘Aperture Priority’, so they were nowhere near as sharp as they might have been! Doh! There was also another Buzzard here, or possibly it was the one I’d seen fly out of the wood.

The drive led on to reach a main road near the edge of Nettlebed, next to the church. I continued almost opposite, alongside a field on my left and then passing through some allotments to reach another road (the one from Watlington which I’d driven along earlier). Here I turned sharp left onto another bridleway (Bushes Lane) that started from the road at the same point. This soon passed a few houses then left Nettlebed behind, then ran on between hedgerows.

Archaeological finds have shown that the area around Nettlebed has been settled since Palaeolithic times. It has long been frequently travelled through, as it lies on the main route between Oxford and Henley. There is a tradition of pottery making here that is first recorded in the 9th century, with several clay pits in the vicinity, and brick making was recorded here as early as the 14th century. The last pottery closed in 1930, though there is one pottery kiln still standing in the village. The sand used for the first Flint Glass, a high-quality optical glass, was taken from Nettlebed in 1674 by George Ravencroft.

The bridleway then passed through some woodland and finally went through a farmyard to reach Huntercombe End lane. I turned right and followed the narrow and twisting lane for about a quarter of a mile. Where it turned sharply to the right, I turned left onto another bridleway (this one is called Digberry Lane on the map). I passed two or three cottages on my right, then the bridleway changed from a surfaced track to a path running through a thin belt of trees. I kept right at a minor fork in the path, and soon came to a T-junction of paths, where I turned left, starting to retrace part of Walk 17 (if I’d turned right I’d have soon come to Park Corner). The path ran through another thin belt of trees, mainly beech, and was quite muddy in places. I soon passed the junction where the last walk had come in from my right, and carried on very gently descending along a valley bottom. The tree belt had now expanded to become a wood on my left. I got a very brief glimpse of the back of a Fallow deer in the bracken to my right at one point – I’d seen them near here before. The path here was very familiar to me, as it’s part of the Chiltern Way.

After about half a mile the wood ended, and  the path continued between a narrower tree belt, again mainly beech – I remembered seeing masses of Wood Anemones when I last walked here a couple of months ago. After another quarter of a mile I came to a crossing path, where I turned left, leaving the Chiltern Way but joining the Ridgeway instead. The path went through a field of oil-seed rape – I had to thread my way through where the crop spilled over onto the path – and then went half-left and uphill through a small wood. Here I saw what was probably a Marsh Tit (although possibly a Willow Tit, they are very difficult to tell apart) – I spent a few minutes trying to photograph it, but it kept flying to a different branch every time I focussed on it, and I only got a couple of very blurry images.

Beyond the wood I crossed over a busy main road and continued along a path, passing directly in front of an old house before crossing three or four fairways of a golf course – the route here was shown by white-topped wooden marker posts, which also had waymarks and the white acorn symbol that denoted the Ridgeway National Trail. I passed to the right of the clubhouse and went diagonally across a large meadow. There were great views over the Oxfordshire Plain to my right – the skies had brightened up now, so that the views were quite extensive. On the far side of the meadow I reached a lane in Nuffield, where I turned right and soon passed the ancient church on my left (where a drinking tap is kindly provided for thirsty walkers!).

At 700 feet above sea level, Nuffield sits at the highest point in the southern Chilterns. It was the home from 1933 to 1963 of William Morris, 1st Lord Nuffield, founder of the Morris Motor Company and the philanthropist behind the Nuffield Foundation (which promotes education and social welfare). He also founded Nuffield College, Oxford. His home at Nuffield Place is open to the public. He was buried in the village church, parts of which are thought to date back as far as 640AD (though most of it is a mere 900 years old!). It has a simple stone font, which may possibly be Saxon.

Shortly beyond the church I turned left on a footpath following the edge of a very recently mown hay meadow. Again there were lovely views to my right over the Oxfordshire Plain, towards the monstrosity that is Didcot Power Station and the more attractive feature of Wittenham Clumps (a pair of tree crowned hills where Time Team once did an archaeological dig). The path then ran through a belt of beech trees, with more meadows either side, to reach a junction where a signpost pointing right said “Grim’s Ditch for 3.4 miles”.

There are several ancient earthworks called Grim’s Ditch (alternatively Grim’s Dyke or Grimsdyke) in the chalk hills of southern England, and also in Yorkshire. Their exact age and purpose are unknown, though they are thought to be too small to have been military defences and so were most probably some type of boundary.  They are thought to pre-date the Saxons, who supposed these extensive earthworks were the work of their god of the underground, hence the name. The earthwork here extends for about five miles from Mongewell on the Thames to near Nettlebed, and is believed to date from the late Iron Age/early Roman period.

I turned right to follow the ancient earthwork (still on the route of the Ridgeway), which ran through another thin belt of mainly beech trees. This was a nice easy part of the walk, as the path very slowly and easily descended down towards the flatter lands of the Thames Valley and Oxfordshire Plain at the foot of the Chilterns. The path was initially on the bank right of the ditch, soon running beside the meadow to the right of the trees. After crossing a drive by an isolated house on the left, the path ran for a short distance along the bottom of the ditch, where I saw some Cuckoo-pint growing (green ‘berries’ on a spike). The path soon returned to the bank right of the ditch, through more beech trees. I then went through a kissing gate in a wire fence, and the path continued on the bank left of the ditch, still running through a belt of mainly beech trees. Again I remembered seeing numerous Wood Anemones here a couple of months ago.

Further on, the tree belt ended and the path ran a short distance between hedges – the earthwork was no more than a slight bump in the ground here. The path then went through a small wood, where I stopped and sat on some logs to eat my lunch as it was now almost 1pm. Just as I was finishing, a lady walker passed me, going in the opposite direction. I carried on, the path soon leaving the wood and following a line of pine trees beside a corn field on my left. At the end of the field I reached a lane, where I turned left, finally leaving Grim’s Ditch after accompanying it for a couple of miles, and also switching back from the Ridgeway to the Chiltern Way (or at least it’s Southern Extension).

After a quarter of a mile I turned left again, onto the drive to Woodhouse Farm. As usual, I saw a Red Kite over the corn field to my left. On reaching the farmyard I continued between long sheds on each side, and then turned right on a good track going slightly uphill into a wood. On the far side of the wood, the path crossed a corn field and then continued along a broad farm track between fences. Again there were good views to my right, across the Thames Valley to the Berkshire Downs on the far side. I saw some Sainfoin growing along the edge of the corn field on my right. The track, known as Poors Lane, continued on past Poors Farm and past a couple of houses to eventually reach the hamlet of Hailey.

I turned left along the lane, soon passing the King William pub on my left. Just beyond a couple of houses on the right, the surfaced lane became more of a track, and the Chiltern Way soon turned right. I continued ahead along the track, almost imperceptibly going uphill over a long distance. There were some rather noisy sheep in a pasture on my right at one point. After a while the track ran through a wood, where I spotted some Honeysuckle and some Rhododendrons.. I then came to a fork, where I couldn’t remember which way I should go – and unfortunately I’d forgotten my map this morning. I remembered having to check my map here when I first came here on one of my exploratory walks, but couldn’t quite recall which was the right way. I thought it was the left fork and so took that one, but it was only after I’d gone a quarter of a mile or so that the track became familiar to me again and I knew I’d made the right choice.

The track eventually reached the hamlet of Homer End, a farm and a couple of cottages. Another walker emerged from the left here – it was the red-haired lady who’d passed me when I stopped for lunch, and she asked if the track I was on was the way to Hailey. The track was now a surfaced lane again, which soon curved right with a wood on either side and ended at a road. I continued on the other side, passing an untidy yard where there were many skips and piles of scrap, and then a cottage on the left. The bridleway then continued rather muddily between hedgerows for about three quarters of a mile – I saw another large fungus along here, which I think was another Chicken of the Woods (it was on a Silver Birch this time). The bridleway eventually passed a farm on the left and became a surfaced lane, Coxs Lane, which soon led me back into Stoke Row, reaching the main road alongside the Cherry Orchard donated by the Maharajah for the upkeep of the well.


It was about 2.45pm when I got back to my car, so allowing for my lunch stop the almost thirteen miles had taken me just over 4½  hours. I was quite pleased as that was more like my usual walking pace than some recent walks – today, because I had a lengthy drive before and after the walk, I’d consciously taken fewer photographs, especially of wildflowers. I still took just over 100 shots, but recently I’ve frequently taken 150-170 on a walk (it was over 190 on the last walk).

This was an enjoyable walk on a fairly straightforward route, much of it on broad bridleways, and a sizeable portion of it following the Ridgeway or the Chiltern Way. There were some nice views over the Thames Valley and the Oxfordshire Plain, and some historic interest in Nuffield church and Grim’s Ditch. It was a flatter walk than most that I’ve done recently – just a couple of very minor ups and downs, with a very long and easy descent along Grim’s Ditch and then an almost unnoticeable re-ascent along the lane from Hailey.

Total distance: 225.5 miles

Chiltern Chain Walk – Walk 17

Thursday, June 12th, 2008

The draft version of my journal entry for Walk 17 of the Chiltern Chain Walk, which I did on Tuesday.


Walk 17 10/06/08 – Watlington Hill and Park Corner (14.5 miles approximately)

Parked at car park at top of Watlington Hill.

I managed to leave home a few minutes earlier than usual and started walking just after 10am. Rather worryingly, despite a forecast for good weather, the skies were overcast, quite grey and threatening – it didn’t look too promising at all. Fortunately the forecasters had got it right, and it started to brighten up about 11am, the afternoon then being very warm and sunny.

Watlington Hill is a good site for seeing Red Kites, and has extensive views over the Oxfordshire Plain. On the steep slope overlooking the ancient market town of Watlington is the ‘white mark’, a triangular chalk carving 270 feet high and 36 feet wide. It was designed by the local squire Edward Horner in 1764, so that Watlington church appeared to have a spire when viewed from his home.

I went out of the car park to the road – opposite was the entrance to Watlington Hill farm, and I was slightly disappointed not to see the Highland Cattle that are sometimes there. I turned right for a few yards, and then right again, following the footpath that started beside the car park (most normal people would have taken the shortcut straight from the car park to the footpath!). The footpath passed a line of beech trees, with a field beyond them on my left, with the wood surmounting Watlington Hill on my right. Beyond a gate, the footpath forked slightly right, away from the field edge, and followed a fence of wooden palings past a large number of Yew trees on my right. I spotted a Chicken of the Woods fungus on one of them, much smaller than the specimen I saw near Dunsmore on Walk 13 (as this one was growing on a Yew, it would be poisonous and not to be eaten!).

The path was heading fairly gently downhill, and soon came to a more open and grassy area, though still with the Yew trees to my right. This was a very pleasant section of walking, with a good path descending easily and a nice view ahead over the lower flatter region of the Oxfordshire Plain. But I found I was stopping every few yards to take photographs, so it was very slow going! There were simply so many wildflowers here – the predominant ones were Common Rock-rose again, as at the start of the previous walk (in fact, the early part of this walk was similar to the previous one, in that it started with a long descent from the escarpment, a section along the foot of the hills and then a steep climb back up the escarpment). But there was also Germander Speedwell, White Campion, Thyme, White Bryony, Yellow-wort, Agrimony and two or three others that I didn’t recognise. I also spotted a Robin’s Pin-cushion, not a flower but a gall on a wild rose caused by a gall wasp. I also photographed a Green Woodpecker on a Silver Birch tree, but it was too far off for a decent shot.

With Mother Nature distracting me in just about every conceivable fashion, it took me almost 25 minutes to reach the bottom of the hill! The path continued between hedges to reach a farm drive and then soon reached a road (the one I frequently use between Watlington, to my right, and Nettlebed). I turned right for a short distance – there was a reasonable verge on the left where the grass was quite long but a thin line showed where people must walk here regularly. I spotted some Red Campion here. I then turned left on to what, for me, is now a very familiar section of the Ridgeway (it’s also part of Swan’s Way). I chose to follow the permissive path to the left of a hedgerow, rather than follow the hard-surfaced farm drive. At one point I stopped to look back and photograph Watlington Hill. I noticed some Bladder Campion in the hedgerow, so I’d seen all the three Campions I know in a very short distance. At the end of the field the permissive path ended and I rejoined the official Ridgeway route at a track junction by a couple of properties.

I now followed a good track running between hedges. Soon there was another permissive path for walkers only, running parallel a yard or two to the left of the bridleway. As the ground was generally dry, I stuck to the bridleway, just using the path a couple of times to avoid muddy sections. I spotted some Cuckoo-pint here, in the form of a spike of green ‘berries’ (they’ll turn reddish/orange later). Where the path ended there was a notice board about Red Kites, and fittingly I saw a pair of them here. The track widened out now, with lower hedges so that I could see the fields either side. There were a lot of Poppies in the corn field sloping up the hillside to my left. I soon saw some more Red Kites and managed to photograph one that was carrying some straw in its talons. I crossed over a lane, and passed a notice board proclaiming that the farm here was part of LEAF (Linking Environment And Farming), an organisation that believes ‘Efficient production of wholesome food can be combined with care for nature’ – a very sensible idea. A little further on I saw two male Yellowhammers chasing each other up and down a hedge and then having a mid-air fight.

The Ridgeway soon turned left by North Farm but I continued ahead on the track, still on the route of Swan’s Way. To my left, a large corn field sloped uphill, while to my right I could occasionally see across fields to Britwell Salome House. After about half a mile a wood started on my left, the track keeping between the wood and a high hedge on my right. At the end of the wood, near a sharp bend in a lane, I turned left and followed a path climbing steeply uphill through the trees – I had now left Swan’s Way but joined the Chiltern Way, my third long-distance path of the day. There were a few Yew trees again amongst the other trees and shrubs as I plodded slowly uphill. It wasn’t too long a climb (not that any of them are in the Chilterns!) and I soon emerged on to the long flat grassy top of Swyncombe Downs. There were more wildflowers here, of course, including Common Milkwort, Common Rock-rose and some type of Scabious. There were good views all round, along the line of the Chiltern escarpment on either side, and looking back over the Oxfordshire Plain.

The grass ended after a few hundred yards, where the path went through a gate and continued between bushes. Just beyond the gate I photographed a butterfly which I later identified as a Large Skipper. To the left of the path was the large corn field I’d seen earlier from the track, while in the trees and bushes to my right was the long linear earthwork known as the Danish Intrenchment (thought possibly to date from the failed attempt by the Danes to conquer southern England in the 870’s). Further on there was another area of grass to my left, and I saw some Common Spotted Orchids. The path then turned slightly right, into the trees, where it soon came to a junction with the Ridgeway again.

I turned right and followed a good track through a wood, meeting two ladies walking the other way (I’d only meet one other walker all day). At the end of the wood, the path continued downhill along the edge of a large meadow, before rising up the other side of the valley. There was a new fence here, certainly put in since I was last here a couple of months ago, so the path was restricted between the fence and the hedgerow on the right. At the end of the meadow I reached a lane junction, where I went straight on. The lane descended slightly and turned right. I stopped here to take my usual photo of the ancient Swyncombe church, before turning left on a footpath through the churchyard.

The Church of St Botolph, Swyncombe, dates back to the 11th century. It consists of a nave, chancel and semi-circular apse – the division between nave and chancel isn’t clear from the exterior, but inside there is a large chancel arch that was widened in the nineteenth century. There is a plain font, which is Norman or possibly even Anglo-Saxon. In the apse are faint remnants of wall paintings, including votive crosses thought to have been painted by knights before setting off for the crusades. A window in the chancel shows the coats of arms of the Chaucers and the Suffolks – Alice Chaucer, granddaughter of the poet, married the Earl of Suffolk, and owned both Swyncombe and the neighbouring estate of Ewelme.

Beyond the churchyard I turned left, soon crossing a drive to a farm and entering a large empty pasture (usually there are sheep here). The path went gently uphill and slightly right here – the pasture was dotted with mature trees, either singly or in small clumps, and was obviously part of the parkland surrounding Swyncombe House. On the far side I reached a wood, where I immediately turned right at a path junction, leaving the Chiltern Way. The path continued through the wood, going very gently uphill at an angle – this was one of numerous places that I saw Wood Avens and Herb Robert today. After a short while I came to a junction, where I turned right on a wider path. There was soon a gap in the wood, with a view downhill to the right over Swyncombe and the Oxfordshire Plain beyond. The path continued through the wood, crossing a drive to Swyncombe house, and then passing through an area of younger trees to reach a stile on the edge of the woods.

The next section of the walk was very pleasant indeed. The path followed the left edge of a huge meadow, sloping steeply downhill to my right. Again this must be part of the parkland around Swyncombe House, as there were small stands of beech trees studded amongst the long grass. A couple of Buzzards circled overhead – in the past I have twice seen or heard Ravens in this area. Occasionally there were some good views out to Swyncombe Downs and the Oxfordshire Plain. There were more wildflowers amongst the long grass, including Common Mouse-ear and Lesser Stitchwort. The meadow went on for about half a mile – at its end I went over a stile and turned right, briefly rejoining the Ridgeway which I followed through a couple of fields to the farmyard at Ewelme Park, where I turned left onto a bridleway along the stony farm drive.

I passed a row of estate cottages on the left, with some paddocks and a small enclosure containing game birds on my right. When a wood started on the right, I took a track leading into it, close to the paddock on my right. I soon reached an open area in the centre of the wood, where I saw a hare on the track ahead of me. The footpath went left at a T-junction of tracks, and soon exited the wood, running along the right edge of a meadow, before switching to the right of the hedge and continuing alongside a large arable field. At the end of the field I passed the end of a narrow belt of trees, and then turned right alongside the tree belt with another arable field on my left. I descended into a slight valley and at the bottom of the field entered a wider and more mature tree belt, where I turned left at a path crossroads (briefly rejoining the Chiltern Way). The path through the tree belt was muddy in places. Beyond the trees, the path continued between hedgerows and then beside a wood on the right to reach the Watlington-Nettlebed road again in the hamlet of Park Corner.

I crossed over carefully and took the lane opposite that led into the hamlet. It soon turned to the left, where I took a byway going right which was signposted ‘Bix Bottom 3 miles’ – I wasn’t going that far, but would be following the byway for quite a distance. The track led very slightly downhill, with a wood on the right and a cattle pasture beyond the hedge on the left. Beyond the wood it continued between hedges, with a series of meadows either side. The taller hedge on the left overhung the track, so that I was almost enclosed in a ‘green tunnel’ – I was grateful for the shade, as it was now pretty warm. Eventually I passed a farm on the right and then the track turned left, following the valley bottom with cattle pastures on the steep hillsides either side. I soon came to a junction, where another track went off to the left and a couple of footpaths started either side – this is the point in the valley of Upper Bix Bottom where the Southern Extension of the Chiltern Way splits off from the original route. I stopped to eat my lunch on a stile sheltered in a hedgerow, as it was now almost 1.30pm – with so many stops to photograph flowers and other bits of nature, it had been a slow walk this morning!

I then carried on, following the same track as before as it followed the valley to the right, soon entering the woods of the Warburg Nature Reserve. A Land Rover passed me a couple of times as I followed the long track through the trees for over half a mile to reach the car park and visitor centre. I then turned left on a footpath, climbing quite steeply uphill through the trees, with the fence of the reserve on my left. I stopped a couple of times to take a photograph of the reserve, as usual probably as an excuse to get my breath back as I struggled uphill. Though I was mainly in the shade of trees, this did seem to be an unusually lengthy and steep climb by the standards of the Chiltern Hills and I found it warm work. At the top of the slope the path emerged from the trees onto a track, which I followed a few yards to the left to reach the end of a lane in the remote village of Maidensgrove.

I was again briefly on the route of the Chiltern Way as I turned right on the lane, almost immediately turning left on a path that initially ran along a drive beside some cottages. On reaching a field corner, the Chiltern Way went half-right across the field (heading towards Stonor), but I continued along the hedgerow on my left, now following part of the Oxfordshire Way which would take me most of the way to Christmas Common. After a while the path turned left and crossed the field (a meadow that had just been cut, the grass was still lying in strips across it) and passed through a holly and beech wood to another lane. The path continued on the other side through a similar wood, staying close to some gardens on the left at first. Across a couple of path junctions, following the ‘OW’

signs painted on the trees, the path started to descend steeply through the wood, now with a wire fence on the left. I passed a lady walker coming the other way – like me she had a map case hung round her neck, I soon regretted not stopping and asking if she was walking the Oxfordshire Way.

When the path left the wood, I continued alongside a hedge on my left through a large meadow, descending slightly still to the valley bottom and then up the other side. Beyond the meadow I reached the end of a drive or lane, where I turned right. There were views to my right towards Stonor, and the parkland around Stonor House (the grand house itself was hidden from view in a small side valley). I soon came to Pishill church on my left – a notice by the gate enticed me into the church porch, to pay 50p for a very tasty slice of Flapjack (free help-your-self Tea and Coffee were also available). I had a quick look inside the church then continued on my way.

The village of Pishill takes its name from the Latin  for pea, pisum, because of the great many pea farms that once existed in the area. The village lies in the Stonor valley. It contains a 15th century pub and an 11th century church perched on a hill above the valley.

At the end of the lane, I turned right along the minor road that runs through Pishill and Stonor, but soon turned left onto a footpath. This ran along the bottom of a valley, with grassy meadows either side of a new fence (being erected when I walked through here a couple of months back). There were a lot of red Poppies in the meadow on the hillside to my right at first, further on they were replaced by yellow Wintercress. After almost half a mile I reached College Wood, where the path went half-right gradually going uphill through the wood. After another half-mile, the path left the wood at a stile and crossed a small meadow or pasture to reach Hollandridge Lane, a track that is thought to date back to Saxon times.

I turned left, and headed down the hedge-lined track. I tried to walk quite fast, as the afternoon was getting on, but I was feeling a bit tired as it had been quite a warm day.  I had to follow the track for around a mile, with fields either side at first and then woods. As it entered part of the village of Christmas Common, I started to retrace my steps from the last walk. I turned left along a drive, but almost immediately forked half-right into Queen Wood – I must have been tired, it seemed twice as long through here as it did five days ago! I emerged on the main road through the village beside the converted church, and turned right, soon passing the Fox and Hounds pub on the left.

I went straight on where a road came in on the right, but then turned left at the next junction. In the field on the right were the Highland Cattle I’d missed seeing at the start of the walk. It was now just a quarter of a mile down the road back to the car park where I’d started – I spotted my first Field Bindweed of the summer, and admired the view over the Oxfordshire Plain from the entrance to Watlington Hill farm.

I was tired but happy when I got back to the car about 3.40pm. It had been another excellent route, with lots of ups and downs, some good views and a variety of scenery (woods, downland, parkland, arable fields and meadows). But I think I’ll remember today for the variety of wildflowers that I saw, including many that I saw for the first time this summer. There was also a new butterfly, the Chicken of the Woods fungus, the gall, the hare and various bird sightings too, so all told I saw quite a lot today.

Totternhoe Quarry

Sunday, June 8th, 2008

This afternoon I visited the nature reserve in the old chalk quarries at Totternhoe, Beds., a few miles from where I live. I was really looking for wildflowers, but hoped to see some birds and butterflies as well.I was lucky enough to see a Man Orchid – I know they are found at Totternhoe, but this was the first time I’d managed to spot one. The much more common Common Mouse-ear was another new flower for me. There was a lot of Sainfoin, and I saw my first Clustered Bellflower of the year.

I managed to photo a Common Whitethroat, and heard but didn’t see a Turtle Dove, something else for which the site is noted.

On the Butterfly Front, I saw several Speckled Woods and a Small Blue.

Chiltern Chain Walk – Walks 15 & 16

Saturday, June 7th, 2008

Here are the draft journal entries for Walks 15 and 16 of the Chiltern chain Walk, which I did on Wednesday and Thursday.

Walk 15 4/06/08 – Hambleden and Ibstone (12.9 miles approximately)
Parked in village car park in Hambleden.

This morning I had one of those annoying drives when I seemed to forever get stuck behind slow-moving vehicles. The journey took 5-10 minutes longer than it would normally, and so, despite an early start from Kensworth, it was 10.10am when I started walking from the car park in Hambleden.

Hambleden, set in its valley rimmed by woods, has remained an unspoilt village due to the benevolence of the Hambleden estate that owns much of it, and the National Trust to which most of it is covenanted. It has therefore avoided the ravages of modern development. Its characteristic Chiltern brick-and-flint houses have made it an ideal setting for films and TV. There is an old pump by a tree in the village square, and several old-fashioned shops. In the Domesday Book of 1086 it is recorded that the manor of Hambleden was given to Queen Matilda. A mill at Mill End a mile south of the village then paid an annual rent of £1, and there is still a mill on that site today (the weir is said to have been built in the reign of Henry V, 1413-1422). In 1215 the manor was held by King John, through his subsidiary title as Earl of Gloucester. It then passed to Richard de Clare and then his son Gilbert de Clare – these two were the next two signatories of the Magna Carta after King John himself. 1215 is also the first year that mention is made of a Rector of Hambleden, Ralph Neville. He was a prominent statesman, holding five other livings and holding the very important role of Chancellor of England. He became Bishop of Chichester in 1224 and seven years later was appointed Archbishop of Canterbury – however the Pope refused to ratify this latter appointment. St Thomas de Cantilupe, the last pre-Reformation English saint, was born in Hambleden. He too was a Chancellor of England (1265) and became Bishop of Hereford in 1275. He died in 1282, being canonised in 1320.

I turned left out of the car park, and wandered down the street into the centre of the village. The workshop and family butcher’s on the left were familiar from numerous TV series. I crossed the triangular ‘square’ in the centre of the village (as usual pretty full with parked cars), with the church to my right. I followed the narrow street ahead of me, passing more quaint brick and flint cottages. It soon turned right, with the Hambleden Brook flowing to my left. The road was partly flooded as I went by the church again.

Hambleden church is originally Norman, but built on the site of an earlier Saxon church. It has been much changed over the centuries. There is an ancient font that may be early 12th century or even a relic of the Saxon church – it is certainly where the previously mentioned St Thomas de Cantilupe was baptised. In the North Transept is a monument to Sir Cope D’Oyley, his wife and ten children, consisting of alabaster figures in front of a plaque. A few of the figures of the children carry skulls, a sign that they predeceased their parents. In the graveyard is the tomb of W. H. Smith – for many years a church warden here, he was the founder of the stationers that bears his name, an MP and a statesmen, and later the first Viscount Hambleden. His descendants still live in the village.

I soon came to a kissing-gate on the right, where I followed a path across a large flat pasture. There were a large number of young bullocks here and they were congregated by the kissing gate on the far side, so I had to march right through them, ushering a few of them out of my way so I could reach the gate. The path continued through a smaller empty pasture (possibly interconnected with the first one, as when I drove home I saw the bullocks were now in both pastures). The path then ran alongside a wooden fence beside a meadow to reach the hamlet of Pheasant’s Hill. When I first came here on the Chiltern Way in 2005, there was a topiary face (like one of the Mr Men) carved in the corner of a hedge here. It has long gone, but I could just about see the gash where its mouth had been.

The path continued as an alley between hedges and fences, the alley dividing a series of gardens in two. I crossed a lane and left the hamlet, following the right-hand hedge of another pasture – there were more cattle here, but some distance away to my left. I saw some Buzzards circling over the wood on top of the hillside to my right. The path soon switched to the left of the hedgerow, as it continued through a corn field. It then went through a paddock, where two horses had some masks made of netting, to protect there eyes from flies. I now reached the hamlet of Colstrope, where I followed the lane ahead of me past a few houses. After a hundred yards or so the lane turned right, but I carried on ahead along the footpath.

This early part of the walk was all along the Hambleden Valley (and was following the Chiltern Way as far as Fingest). The valley is quite broad and flat bottomed, with the Hambleden Brook flowing through it. Either side are steepish hillsides, in most places topped by woods. This is popular country for Red Kites (I’d seen a few already) as well as the Buzzards I’ve already mentioned. Looking ahead (north) along the valley, I could see a windmill, Cobstone Mill, on top of its hill above Turville and Fingest, two of the villages I’d be passing through today.

In my opinion, the Hambleden valley is one of the best areas for seeing Red Kites in the Chilterns. These magnificent reddish-brown and grey birds, with their five-foot wingspan and distinctive forked tail, became extinct in England and Scotland at the end of the 19th century, due to persecution and egg-collecting. Only a few pairs remained in remote mid-Wales. In 1989 a project was launched to re-introduce the Kites in the Chilterns and elsewhere. Over the next five years around 90 birds from Spain were released in the Chilterns, and the first successful breeding took place in 1992. There are now thought to be over 300 pairs of Red Kites in the Chilterns – the reintroduction here has been so successful, that between 2004 and 2006 94 birds were taken from here to start a new population in the North East of England. Don’t assume all large birds of prey you see here are Red Kites, though, as Buzzards are also doing well in the Chilterns as elsewhere in the country. At a distance they are most easily distinguished from Red Kites by their fan-shaped tail – they also have slightly shorter and broader wings. It is not uncommon to see both birds together.

The path continued alongside a hedge on my left, through another arable field, and then ran through a short section between hedges, with many tree roots exposed across the path. I crossed another lane, and continued on a path through a meadow – here I photographed what turned out to be a Burnet Companion moth (as usual I got it identified on the Wild About Britain web site). I continued across a large empty pasture, with the large buildings of Arizona Farm ahead and slightly to my left (California is a fairly popular place name, but this is the only Arizona I’ve come across on my walks). Soon I was again following the left-hand hedge of another arable field, where I managed to photograph a Yellowhammer on a wire along here. I then crossed a large empty paddock. I passed a man coming the other way with two dogs – I said ‘Good Morning!’ but he completely ignored me. Strange – still, if he wants to be a rude ignorant fellow that’s his problem, not mine. I wouldn’t dream of saying hello to a stranger in a town or city, but when passing someone in the countryside it is usual to greet them politely. Anyway, I now reached a lane on the edge of Skirmett, where I turned right.

Like nearby Fingest, Skirmett has always been a hamlet within the parish of Hambleden. Unusually for this part of the country, its name is of Norse origin, meaning ‘Shire meeting place’. The popular village pub is called The Frog. It was originally the King’s Head but after it went through a spell when it had a bad reputation (for some reason) it was decided to rechristen it, to mark a break with the past. Apparently the new name was chosen because Skirmett rhymes with Kermit!

A short distance down the lane, I turned onto a path going left. I followed the field edge of the boundary on my left, in a very large meadow, with the houses of Skirmett a short distance further left. The path followed the left edge of the meadow, then turned right along the wooden fence on the far edge – due to the rather irregular shape of the meadow, it was effectively going around two sides of a triangle. At one point I saw footpaths through the grass taking a short-cut direct to the far corner, but I resisted the temptation to follow them. When I did get to the far corner, I found the wooden gate there had been paid for by Cherry Red records – I have come across numerous new stiles and gates while I’ve been walking the Chiltern Chain Walk, often with signs indicating they were provided by walker groups, or by local residents, or individuals, or in memory of someone, but I think this is the first one I’ve come across that’s been paid for by a company.

I crossed a corner of another meadow. Close to a corner of a lane I turned up a hedge-lined chalky track heading quite steeply uphill towards a wood. I noticed some Woody Nightshade growing here, as I trudged slowly along – it was now very warm and I was glad to reach the cooling shade of the trees of Adam’s Wood (another wood managed by the Woodland Trust). The chalky path continued uphill through the wood, the gradient easing after a short while. It was very pleasant following the path through the trees, now rising very slowly and easily. On the far side of the wood I reached a track, where I went a few yards to the left to a gateway. The path, still following the route of the Chiltern Way, now crossed a hilltop meadow with woods on three sides, the fourth side dipping out of view into the valley below. On the far side of the meadow, the path ran for a hundred yards or so through Fingest Wood.

I left the wood by going over Fairfield’s Stile, named in honour of a renowned nature writer, who understandably loved this spot. One of the posts supporting the stile had the grid reference carved into it. This is a terrific viewpoint, looking down over the village of Fingest which lies close to where five valleys meet (including the Hambleden valley) – on the hilltop behind Fingest stands the white Cobstone Mill.

I turned left, following the edge of the wood as it curved right and down the slope. The huge pasture I was in was empty today, but there are sometimes sheep here. I continued along a hedgerow through a field in the bottom of the valley, reaching a lane on the far side where I turned right to enter Fingest. I turned right opposite the Chequers pub, finally leaving the Chiltern Way but briefly retracing part of my previous walk. The church with its massive Norman church was now on my left. Walk 14 had used a path that came in on my right, but I continued on down the lane as it left the village. The lane was narrow and hedge-lined, but fortunately very quiet and only one vehicle passed me here. Beyond the hedge on the right were large sheep pastures, sloping up to Hanger Wood which I went through two days ago. The lane turned slightly to the left, and then I took a bridleway going off half-left.

The bridleway started off as a ‘green tunnel’, with the trees and bushes either side completely overhanging the path. It was quite muddy too – there’d been a few days of rain before my last walk and then more rain yesterday, so I’d taken the precaution of wearing my gaiters today. After a while the ‘green tunnel’ ended, and the path continued between the fences and hedges of large corn fields, sloping up on either side of the bridleway. I noticed some White Campion growing here, as well as the fairly ubiquitous Herb Robert and Germander Speedwell. It was still wet underfoot along here, and continued to be so as the bridleway entered a long thin belt of trees. After a while, the trees spread out to my left into a wood, though there were still fields a short distance away to my right. After following the bridleway for about a mile and a quarter, it turned left through the trees (a footpath continued along the valley bottom). A short distance further on it reached a track, where it again turned left. I emerged from the wood and passed a cottage and barn that were being worked on, and the track became a cement drive that went steeply uphill – there were good views to the right, along the valley I’d been walking along from Fingest. At the top of the slope I reached the road that runs through the village of Ibstone.

Ibstone is in Buckinghamshire but borders Oxfordshire – at one time the county boundary passed through the parlour of the village’s manor house. The name derives from the Anglo-Saxon “Hibba’s boundary stone”. At the time of Edward the Confessor the village was known as “Hibestanes”. The 900 year old parish church of St Nicholas stands separate from the rest of the village.

As I turned left, I immediately passed the village Infants School – from the picture of a Red Kite on the school sign, I deduced that the teachers were very wise and the pupils very intelligent!  The after-school club was called the Kites Club, so the village is obviously proud of the magnificent birds they have flying overhead. I often see them here when I drive through, and one flew overhead now as I followed the road, passing a junction on the right. After another couple of hundred yards I took a footpath on the right, entering another wood. The path headed slightly left through the trees, which were here mainly conifers. I saw some Foxgloves growing here. The wood went downhill to my right, the path very slowly descending a little way down the slope. Further on I left the conifers and the path continued through a youngish plantation, the trees protected by plastic tubing and stakes. I kept left where a path came in sharply from the right and soon reached another junction (the white arrows on a tree were a bit hard to spot), where I turned right for a few yards to reach a gate. The path didn’t go through the gate, but turned left, running between the edge of the wood and the wire fence of a huge sheep pasture sloping down into the valley on my right.

This path continued for several hundred yards, with nice views across the valley and ahead towards Turville. Eventually the path came to a stile in the wire fence, and then went across a corner of the pasture to another stile. I saw an unusually adventurous sheep here – it squeezed through a gap beside a gate to get back into the pasture, and slowly dawdled off towards its companions who were several hundred yards away at the other end. The path now led through scrubby bushes, and for the second walk in a row I saw some Common Spotted Orchids. The bushes gave way to trees, and then I reached a gate. The last time I was here (on an unsuccessful mission to get decent photographs of Kites and Buzzards) I discovered an escaped Harris Hawk! The path cut across the corner of a rough pasture on a steep hillside to a pair of gates, and then continued across a large meadow to reach Turville, with Cobstone Mill up on the hilltop to my left.

Like Hambleden and Cobstone Mill, Turville is often used as a setting for films and TV. In recent years it has acquired a certain fame as the setting for ‘The Vicar of Dibley’ (a pleasant enough comedy that has its moments, and written by Richard Curtis whom I greatly admire, but how on earth was it recently voted third best British sitcom ever?)
When I walked through here in 2005, the signpost for the Chiltern Way was pointing completely the wrong way – I heard later that it had been put back incorrectly by a film crew. There is an interesting story relating to the church in Turville. In 1900, an ancient stone coffin was discovered buried under the floor – when opened up, it was found to contain not only the body of a thirteenth-century priest, but also that of a seventeenth-century woman with a bullet hole in her skull! (Perhaps an earlier attempt to install a female vicar in ‘Dibley’ hadn’t been quite so successful!).

As I photographed the village’s pub and church, a coach pulled up carrying a load of tourists. I hurried on my way, following the lane to the school and continuing on along a footpath between overhanging hedges. These ended at a gate into a large meadow, where another path crossed – I stopped here to eat my lunch sat on a stile. The path continued on along a hedgerow on the right – looking back, there was a good view of Cobstone Mill. About halfway along the meadow, I took a path forking left through the grass and going slightly downhill to another stile and a lane. I followed the lane a short distance to the right, then continued on a bridleway where the lane went right.

Cobstone Mill stands on top of a hillside between Turville and Fingest. It overlooks a point where four smaller valleys meet and the Hambleden Valley starts southwards to the Thames. The white-painted, eighteenth-century smock mill is thus visible for some distance in several directions. Like the village of Turville below it, it is a popular setting for films and TV, and is probably best known as the windmill in the film ‘Chitty Chitty Bang Bang’.

The bridleway ran through a wood, and had a very stony surface. It seemed in places that the track had been surfaced with stones or flints, but no drainage channels had been put in, so after heavy rain water had scoured quite deep ruts along the track. It was a long section through the wood, about a mile and a quarter. I noticed more Foxgloves, some Crosswort and some Yellow Pimpernel beside the track. It was as usual very pleasant walking amongst the green trees. The track curved left and then right, but generally heading south-west, at one point having a field visible above a slight bank on the right. When I finally got to the far side of the wood I turned left, following a path uphill just inside the wood (I was briefly on the route of the Shakespeare’s Way here, which runs from Stratford-upon-Avon to London). At the top of the hill I crossed an empty pasture, to reach the corner of a lane where I continued straight ahead.

After quarter of a mile or so, I turned left on a bridleway that went past a farm and then continued between hedges, with sheep in a pasture on the left and an arable field on the right. It then entered another wood – here the way was very muddy in places as the the bridleway descended slightly, though there was usually an alternative path to avoid the boggy bits. I spotted a couple of Fallow Deer here, in the trees to my right – I’d been surprised that I’d not seen any more of them since those I saw in Ashridge on Walk 3, I usually see them far more often than this in the Chilterns. A bit further on a fallen tree completely blocked the bridleway, and I had to scramble up and down a bank on my left to get over and around it.

The bridleway now descended gently through mainly birch trees, to reach a path junction near the bottom of a slight valley. Here I turned right, now following a well surfaced track with the valley bottom just down to my left and the wood sloping up on my right. The trees here were now mainly conifers, and I saw several yew trees just to my right. A bit further right, at the bottom of the valley, were some very colourful Rhododendrons. The track was very slightly downhill as the valley broadened out, making this a nice easy section in the shade of the trees.

The bridleway continued beyond the end of the wood, still on a well-surfaced track which slowly followed the valley as it curved to the right. There were a few brown and white cattle in a field on the right, then a few more in a larger pasture on the left. Looking down the valley ahead of me I could see a hillside running across, which I knew from the map was on the other side of the River Thames. Eventually I passed a cottage on my right, and a few yards further on I turned left onto another bridleway. This started off between hedges and then ran along just inside the right edge of Ridge Wood, the trees sloping up the hillside on my right. A few feet to my right were fields in the flat Thames Valley. The bridleway then ran for a few yards along a drive beside cottages on the right to reach a lane, just south of Hambleden.

I had to go a few yards right, away from the village, before turning left along a bridleway on the other side of the lane. This was a wide track between hedges, but had several large puddles that crossed it completely. I ignored a path going off across a meadow beside the Hambleden Brook, but stopped to photograph the village across the meadow. I soon came to a track junction, where I turned left. It was only a few hundred yards now to where a path went left, across the end of a sports ground and back to the car park in Hambleden.

It was around 3.45pm when I got back to my car, so again a very slow walk for some reason. Not really sure why.

This was a very enjoyable walk and an excellent route (if I do say so myself!). I first walked most of the route at the beginning of 2007 when I came walking here specifically because I wanted to see some Red Kites, but on that occasion I followed the direct route from Fingest to Turville (as does the Chiltern Way). It was such a good walk that I hoped to include it as it was in the Chiltern Chain Walk, but it was a little bit short for my purposes and in the end I needed to extend it out to Ibstone to link up with the next walk.

I have walked round the Hambleden area several times now, and fully understand why it is one of the most popular parts of the Chilterns. The countryside is particularly lovely here, with wide valleys rising to wooded hilltops, and there is much of historic and other interest in the attractive villages of Hambleden, Fingest and Turville.

Total distance: 186.2 miles

Walk 16 5/06/08 – Cowleaze Wood and Ibstone (11.9 miles approximately)
Parked on road at Cowleaze Wood.

When I arrived at Cowleaze Wood this morning, I was very surprised to see that the large car park had been closed because of forestry operations. I assume that this is only temporary. Anyway I managed to park off the road by the car park, and started my walk about 10.10am. Unusually this was the second successive day that I’d walked, and in fact my third walk in four days – the gloomy weather forecast for the next few days had rather forced this upon me.

I walked through the car park, parallel to the road on my right, and continued on a path through the trees that soon joined the road. I followed the road for a few yards, then took a footpath on the right, just past the end of a belt of trees. The path went diagonally across a large cattle pasture, heading for the left end of a row of tall conifers. Some young bullocks over to the left stared at me as I went by – most of them were lying on the ground, which is meant to be a sign of impending rain, but it was a nice bright morning. The path then went downhill through a small area of wood to a kissing-gate.

A wonderful view now opened up, as the path descended at a steady gradient down the northern escarpment of the Chilterns, with the Oxfordshire Plain spread out before me. Curiously, the path seemed to be aiming directly at the distant eyesore of Didcot Power Station. The downland that I walked through here was studded with many bright yellow flowers – not the usual buttercups (although there were a few of these) but mainly Common Rock-rose, which I’ve never seen before in such profusion.

At the bottom of the slope, I went through a kissing-gate and followed the path along the bottom of the hillside, between a wood on my left and the wire fence of a corn field on my right. From previous walks I knew that the Ridgeway ran along behind the hedge on the far side of the field. The path turned right and then left, still following the edge of the field, and eventually reached a gate. Beyond this the path continued with bushes now on either side. I spotted a Red Kite nearby as the path contoured round the bottom of the hillside sloping up to my left.

The path ended at a surfaced drive, where I turned left, joining the route of the Oxfordshire Way (I’ve no plans to do all of this long-distance path, as much of it is more than an hour’s drive from my home). The drive went past a timber merchants, a cattery and Pyrton House, all on the right. Where the drive ended, the path continued ahead, initially on a broad strip of grass, heading quite steeply up the wooded slopes of Pyrton Hill. The path followed a fence on the left, the grass strip soon being replaced by bushes and trees. I paused to take a photo looking back over the Oxfordshire plain, then continued on up through the trees and bushes. It wasn’t too far before a meadow or pasture started on the right – here I went over a stile and followed a path going half-right, continuing on the Oxfordshire Way as the path followed the right edge of the field to reach a road just outside Christmas Common.

According to Wikipedia Christmas Common takes its name from the Christmas family who were once local landowners. However another version is that it takes its name from an event in 1643 during the Civil War, when the Parliamentarians held Watlington while the Royalists defended the ridge on which the village was situated. A truce was declared for Christmas Day, and both sides met and socialised here during the festivities. The small village church was built in 1889, and is now a private residence (complete with gravestones in the garden).

I followed the road to the right (Cowleaze Wood was a mile or so to the left), soon passing a turning to the right (my next walk will start at a car park about quarter of a mile down that road, on Watlington Hill). I kept on the road as it turned slightly right where another road forked left. I passed a few houses and the Fox and Hounds pub on my right, then turned left on a footpath, with the converted church on my right. The path ran through Queen Wood for a short distance, ending at a path junction by a garden fence, where I followed a driveway a few yards to the left to reach a lane. I turned right along this lane, with tall hedges or fences either side, until I reached a bridleway going left after about 200 or 300 yards.

The bridleway descended through another wood, Prior’s Grove, before turning right to follow a valley bottom. This was still wooded, at some point becoming Fire Wood. The bridleway, part of the Oxfordshire Way again, was a little muddy in places but not too bad. It was almost imperceptibly going downhill as it followed the bottom of the widening valley. The wood was quite mixed, some parts being predominantly conifer, other parts being more like typical beech woods. There was some Red Campion here, as well as the more usual wildflowers. I came to a crossing path, part of the Chiltern Way, where the Oxfordshire Way turned right but I continued straight ahead. This was a lengthy but pleasant and easy section of the route. I was now close to the edge of the wood, and could see through the trees to fields on my left.

After following the bridleway for about a mile and a half, it finally emerged from the woods. There was still a line of mature trees to my left, while on the right was an empty pasture or paddock. I noticed that the gate in the wooden fence on my right was wide open here. The bridleway curved round to the right, following the edge of the same field and now with another wood on the left. I passed a small enclosure on the right containing numerous young calves, then passed Turville Park farm, where a tanker was delivering fuel. The farm drive soon turned left, but the bridleway continued ahead, still following the winding valley bottom. There was a large field with young calves on my left, and then the bridleway followed a mature hedge on the left of a large corn field which sloped up to a wood on my right. After a few hundred yards, the bridleway switched to the left of the hedgerow, where there were now further corn fields.

A bit further on I reached a crossing path, where I turned left and followed a wide track going steadily uphill between two corn fields. At the far side of the fields, near the top of the hill, there was a bench and a picnic table by some trees, obviously put here because of the views. To my right was the Stonor valley, and I could see where I’d crossed it on the Chiltern Way. Looking back and left I could see the largely wooded valley that I’d just followed for about two miles. I continued on my way, now on a wide track between hedges and fences, with cattle pastures to my left and arable fields on my right. At a point where the track turned right, I went through an old iron kissing gate and continued across the corner of a large pasture – this was dotted with a few old trees as if it was the parkland of a great house at one point, and there were a few cows some distance to my left. The path continued across a meadow, where some sheep and goats were sheltering under a tree. The next meadow merged with the gardens of a house, the path keeping to the long grass and passing between the lawns on my left and a grand old beech tree to reach a kissing gate. The path then followed the drive of the house a few yards to reach a minor road by a junction.

I crossed over and followed the lane ahead of me, with trees and bushes on either side. After a hundred yards or so another lane came in on the right, and here I turned left onto a bridleway. I followed it the short distance through the trees and bushes of Turville Heath, bearing slightly left through an area of grass as I reached the hamlet of the same name. A fingerpost indicated where the bridleway continued, going steeply downhill between hedges at first and continuing downhill through a beech wood (looking on the map, this may be part of the interestingly named Idlecombe Wood). The path curved right then left, leaving the wood and running between hedges again, with sheep pastures either side, to reach a lane where I turned right.

I soon came to a path junction, where a footpath crossed the lane and another bridleway went half-left – this was the route I followed. The bridleway went through more woodland, bearing right at a junction. A few yards further on, I forked left onto a footpath. This crossed the drive of a farm (just to my left) and exited the wood at a stile. I now followed a wire fence on my right, which separated two sheep pastures complete with cute lambs. I was now heading steeply uphill, and to my right I could look along the valley towards Turville where I’d been yesterday. Over a stile, I continued alongside a hedgerow and then a wood on my right, a large meadow of tall grass now sloping down into another valley on my left. The path levelled out as it ran beside the wood, and after a while it went over a stile and climbed steeply through the woods for a short distance. It soon turned sharp right and levelled out – at this point I took a very short detour into the adjacent churchyard to photograph Ibstone Church.

The fairly level path then continued through the wood. After a few hundred yards I came to a path junction where I turned right, leaving the wood and crossing a large paddock to reach a junction where the lane from the church reached the road through Ibstone. I followed the road to the left, almost immediately passing the village school on my right (wise teachers and intelligent pupils who obviously appreciate the local Red Kites!). After about a quarter of a mile I turned left on a path between wooden garden fences, which soon reached the same wood and same path I’d been on before, where I turned right – the slight detour in and out of Ibstone was an admittedly somewhat contrived way of linking this walk to the previous one, but didn’t really detract from the quality of today’s walk.

The path now continued for some distance through the wood (mainly beech, I think), very gradually descending into a small valley on my left. When it reached the valley bottom, it turned left up the opposite slope, with the fence of a field closeby on my left. This was a steep but short section, soon emerging on a lane or drive in Ibstone. I went a few yards to the right, to where the large grassy expanse of Ibstone Common started on the left, and turned left on a bridleway. This runs along a drive between the common and garden hedges on the left, then passes through a small area of trees and crosses another drive, before following a hedgerow beside the common on the right. I took a short detour here across the common, to eat my sandwiches on a bench beside the village cricket pitch.

I returned to the bridleway along the edge of the common, noticing the large stone in the middle of the common (I’ve not been able to find anything out about it, but I don’t think it’s the original boundary stone that gives the village its name). Where the edge of the common curved to the right, I went straight on into a wood. Within yards I reached a path junction, where I turned left onto a bridleway. A notice announced that I was entering the Wormsley estate, and the bridleway descended quite steeply through the wood, the path being a very narrow chalk gulley. Initially I was on the Chiltern Way again, but about halfway down the hill this forked left onto a footpath (I remember missing this junction once!). The bridleway curved right, and emerged from the wood near the bottom of the slope, continuing on a good track along the bottom of a broad valley.

The track soon ended at a sharp corner of an estate drive, the right of way continuing along it in the same northerly direction. There were some mature trees beside the drive, and then a wood on the right. I passed a farmyard and a thatched cottage on the left, and then turned left on a bridleway rising uphill through another wood. This was quite a lengthy but reasonably gentle climb – as this was my third walk in four days I was a bit more tired than usual, and had been counting down how many more short ascents I’d got left. The path levelled out soon enough, and it was a very pleasant section through the trees of Langleygreen plantation.

When I reached a crossing footpath, I turned left. The path descended quite steeply for a very short distance, before turning slightly to the left and thus easing the angle of descent through the trees. It emerged from the wood, and continued downhill at an angle, now crossing a meadow. In the valley bottom, I passed to the left of Lower Vicar’s Farm to reach another drive. I turned left for a few yards, before going over a stile in the hedge on my right. The path went uphill through a huge meadow – I was relieved that it wasn’t quite as steep as I remembered it, but it looked even further than I’d expected to the far side. It was just a matter of plodding steadily onwards and upwards, and I resorted to my usual trick in such situations. I started to think about a certain manager from my days at BT, a really unpleasant and incompetent individual who used to make totally ignorant and completely inaccurate remarks about my work. Thinking about him always makes my blood boil and the adrenaline flow, and I find I get up the hill almost without realising it! It certainly worked today – as I came out of my angry reverie, I was amazed how close I was to the top of the meadow.

I went through a gate and entered Cowleaze Wood. Almost immediately I met a woman coming the other way with a St Bernard dog (I’d see her again later, along the road just after I’d started my drive home). There was clear evidence that there really was forestry work going on here, with branches and logs left lying on the ground amongst the conifers. I followed the path through the wood, looking out for the sculptures that are located here. Or at least they were – I went past one, which consisted of two triangular cement columns. I was sure that when I first went past here (last October, on one of my exploratory walks) there were some images on each of the sides of the columns, but now they had gone – I could see the rectangular spaces where they’d been. I wondered whether the images have been stolen or vandalised, or just temporarily removed for protection while the forestry work is carried out (in fact I’ve just checked on the internet, and the sculptures have been removed due to a lack of funding!). It was a straightforward half-mile walk through the wood and I was back to the closed car park and my car parked on the road.

I was a little tired today, so didn’t quite enjoy the walk as much as I should have done. But it was still very enjoyable, and like yesterday’s walk I think it is an excellent route. Also like that walk, when I first walked round this area on an exploratory walk, I thought it such a good route that I’d like to include it unaltered in the Chiltern Chain Walk, but in the end had to alter it slightly to link in with the other walks. My original route had taken a more direct path from Turville Heath to Ibstone Common, but I had needed to extend it out to near Ibstone church to link with Walk 15.

I don’t think I’ve been doing the walks justice, really – I’m sure these journal entries are not as enthusuaistic about the walks as they should be. The problem is that I first did some exploratory walks to help work out where I wanted the Chiltern Chain Walk to go, and then did each of the twenty walks in the ‘wrong’ direction (clockwise or anti-clockwise) in order to check the details of the route and to determine which direction was best for each walk. While I still think that I needed to do that (I actually made a couple of slight changes to the route), it means that I’ve done most of these walks a couple of times already, in one direction or another. So I am not seeing them through a fresh pair of eyes, and so am not as enthusiastic about them as I should be. I can only say that when I first did this walk (as I say, very slightly different to today’s walk) I thought it was absolutely brilliant, and could hardly imagine a better walk in the Chilterns! Admittedly, it was October when the autumn colours were near their best, but I still think that this is an exceptional walk. There are great views from a number of places, lots of ups and downs, a large percentage of the walk is through very pleasant woodland, with enough field paths to add variety, and it passes through some attractive and interesting villages and hamlets.

Total distance: 198.1 miles

Chiltern Chain Walk – Walk 14

Tuesday, June 3rd, 2008

The walk I did yesterday:-

Walk 14 2/06/08 – West Wycombe and Fingest (14.0 miles approximately)
Parked in village car park in West Wycombe.

As you no doubt realise by now, I am very much a ‘fair-weather walker’, only venturing forth when there is a negligible chance of getting rained on. Well, as I’m fortunate enough to be able to choose which days I walk, it makes sense to select the days with the best weather. Today though I was feeling guilty about only walking once last week, so I set out this morning despite the forecast predicting a grey day with the possibility of rain by mid-afternoon.

Of course, I have to rely on weather forecasts to decide which days I will walk. I use a variety of sources – the weekly forecast on the BBC’s Country File programme on Sunday mornings, the forecasts in the Grauniad and Daily Torygraph, the BBC’s weather web site, Ceefax pages 401 and 402, and (if I remember) the forecasts on Breakfast TV before I set out. It’s surprising how they differ sometimes! Last week the presenter of the Countryfile forecast happened to present the weather after the news the following day – she’d obviously totally changed her mind!

Usually I find the forecasts are fairly accurate for the next 24 hours, a bit less reliable for the following day, and I don’t pay too much attention to any forecast beyond that. I think the forecasts tend to err on the pessimistic side, forecasting showers or rain that doesn’t materialise (I read that some owners of tourist attractions believe this and are very upset about it, as it reduces their visitor numbers). As it happened, today turned out to be one of those occasional days where the forecast proved to be slightly optimistic. It was meant to be largely overcast but dry until mid-afternoon, but there was some light rain on and off as I drove to West Wycombe. Fortunately it stopped as I put my boots on in the car park, but it was still a very grey and heavily overcast morning and I knew I’d be donning my waterproofs before too long.

Unsurprisingly, West Wycombe lies to the west of High Wycombe. It is a very attractive village with many fine buildings from the 16th to 18th centuries dotted along the A40, the old London-Oxford road. The village was sold to the National Trust in 1929 by the Dashwood family, who needed to raise money after the Wall Street Crash. The Italianate West Wycombe Park was built for Sir Francis Dashwood in the middle of the 18th century. The church, also 18th century, stands on top of West Wycombe Hill and is a prominent landmark – the golden ball at the top of the tower seats eight people, and gives panoramic views. The hilltop was once the site of an Iron Age hill fort, and as well as the church it is now surmounted by the Dashwood family mausoleum, inspired by the Colosseum in Rome. At the foot of the hill are the Hellfire Caves – thought to be of ancient origin, they were extended by Sir Francis Dashwood in the 1740’s and later used as a meeting place for his notorious Hellfire Club.

I crossed the road from the car park and followed a clear path climbing steadily across a steep grassy hillside. There were trees further up the slope to my left, and through a gap in them I saw the circular Dashwood mausoleum. Somewhere ahead and to my right, at the foot of the hill, was the entrance to the Hellfire Caves (which I must get round to visiting sometime!). The path turned slightly left and steepened, going up a flight of wooden steps at one point. It ended at a T-junction with a wider path on a broad grass strip where I turned left to reach the mausoleum – looking back, the grass strip lined up with a long straight stretch of the A40 into High Wycombe, making the mausoleum an even more prominent landmark.

I followed a path round to the left of the mausoleum, which soon passed through the churchyard of St Lawrence’s church. The Italianate tower with its gold ball on top is also a prominent landmark, which I’d see again later as I approached Radnage. I continued across the car park behind the church and followed a short path through grass to reach a wide track, initially beside a hedge on my right. The track would remain pretty level as I followed it for a mile or more – the church and mausoleum were at the end of a ridge, which I was now following northwards. After the first hundred yards or so I rarely saw the valleys on either side, as the track was generally through woodland. I saw my first Foxgloves of the year here – I’d see them again later on in a couple of places. There were some paddocks or fields beyond a thick hedge on the right at one point, before the track continued through Hearnton Wood. This was a very pleasant start to the walk, an easy level track in sylvan surroundings.

Eventually I reached a gate, beyond which a path continued ahead between a thick hedge and the wood on my right. It soon reached Nobles farm, and carried on along the farm drive. The wood was still on my right, with fields to my left. There was a small gap in the wood at one point, where I could see over the valley to my right (just north of Bradenham, I could see a path I’d followed on Walk 13). A bit further along the drive I had a bit of a hold up. A lorry had tried to get to Nobles Farm, but had given up because of all the overhanging branches from the wood that were hitting its roof. It was now slowly reversing, the driver’s mate (presumably) guiding it back, trying to avoid the worst of the branches. A farmer with two dogs in the back of his Land Rover was also following its progress. The lorry was going slower than my walking pace (!), so I had to wait patiently as it manoeuvred backwards. The fields on the left soon ended, and the lorry continued reversing along the drive – a van coming the other way had to go back some way to find a point where the two vehicles could pass.

Towards the end of the wood, I turned half-left onto a footpath, leaving the lorry to reverse down the hill towards the lane near Slough Hill (where I turned left, Walk 13 had gone to the right). The path ran through some bushes and trees and over a stile, before emerging into a large meadow on a steep hillside, where I immediately spotted some Common Rock-rose. There were nice views here along and across the valley in front of me – they looked good even on this very grey day, they’d be even better on a sunny day I’m sure. The path descended diagonally downhill across the meadow to a gate, where I turned left on a lane. I passed an attractive old brick-built farm complex on my left, with a dry pond in front of it (surprising given all the recent rain).

The lane soon turned left, and almost immediately afterwards I took a footpath on the right, following a hedge on my left uphill. I soon came to a corn field where I could see my trousers would get a soaking from the damp crop, so I stopped to put on my waterproof overtrousers (well, it had worked in preventing blisters on my last walk!). Beyond the arable field the path continued uphill through another meadow to reach the end of a lane. There were just one or two houses here as I followed the lane a short distance to the top of the hill and a road, where I turned right to enter Bledlow Ridge. I followed the road through the village for about a quarter of a mile, but turned right onto a footpath long before I reached the section of the village where I’d started and finished the previous walk.

The path followed a hedgerow, with tennis courts and a children’s playground on my left at first, and then the village cricket pitch. The path continued along the hedgerow, now beside some paddocks, then descended very steeply through a small wood – so steeply that it was on a long flight of wooden steps. These emerged on a quiet lane, where a bridleway continued almost opposite, dropping gently now along the edge of a corn field to the bottom of the valley. There were pleasant views here, though not as nice as the previous valley (though there I had the advantage of a higher viewpoint). The path ran through the end of a small narrow wood, where I paused to allow a horsewoman to overtake me. It was now starting to rain gently, and so I put on my waterproof jacket. The bridleway continue dup the opposite slope of the valley, following the edge of another large corn field. Soon there was a thin belt of trees to my right – a path seemed to run through the middle of it, but the official right of way clearly ran along the field edge.

At the top of the hill I reached part of Radnage, one of those villages that is spread out in a number of ‘ends’ or hamlets It is one of the few disappointments of this route that I didn’t manage to include Radnage church, which I passed on the Chiltern Way (it recently featured in the BBC’s excellent Cranford, I recognised it immediately). I turned left along the road for about a hundred yards, spotting a Red Kite overhead, before turning right by a white-painted chapel that had been converted to a private residence. I followed the lane, passing the village hall on my right, and noticed masses of Wood Avens in the hedgerow, more than any I’d seen before. It would soon be apparent that this would be the ‘Flower of the Day’ as I seemed to see it everywhere today – not just in woods, but in almost every path I walked and, as here, in the villages I went through. The lane ended at the bottom of a small valley, where I turned right and followed a hedgerow along the valley bottom to reach Bottom Wood, a nature reserve.

The path just went a few yards through the end of the wood, then went steeply uphill along the right edge of a pasture. Through a gate at the top of the hill, I continued beside a right-hand hedge, with several more Red Kites visible ahead of me. Beyond the large corn field on my left, I crossed a small meadow to reach the old A40 immediately south of Studley Green. I went a few yards to the right, then crossed over and took a path into the wood opposite. I almost straight away came to a junction where I forked left, continuing in more or less the same direction over a couple of minor path junctions amongst the trees. When I could see a field corner just ahead and to my right, I turned left at a footpath junction indicated by white arrows on a tree. This led almost back to the A40 at one point, before veering right and going downhill, soon passing an area of conifers. As well as the ubiquitous Wood Avens, I saw Wood Speedwell, Herb Robert and Greater Stitchwort along the path.

On finally leaving the wood, I turned left along a track beside a corn field. The rain, which had never been very heavy, had now stopped. Where the field edge turned left after a couple of hundred yards or so, I took a path going right. This soon entered the end of a very long belt of trees, and continued through it for some distance. The path here was quite muddy in places, but not too bad. At the end of the tree belt, I went over a crossing path and continued through Barn Wood, and then through another broader tree belt – I was glad the path, now a broad track, wasn’t too muddy here, as last tie I came here it was a right mess due to recent forestry work. The tree belt led to Leygrove’s Wood – the track was now surfaced for forestry vehicles, and there was evidence of forestry working such as piled up logs beside the track. Beyond this wood there was a gap of a hundred yards or so to another wood (Pound Wood). I took a path going left, soon joining another forestry track that went downhill and through a bridge under the M40 motorway to reach a minor road in Cadmore End.

I followed the road to the right, passing the village school, then turned down a lane on the left (I could have cut across a small green here). I went by a few cottages and then the village church, before turning right on a bridleway, a hedge-lined track. This descended slightly and came to Hanger Wood – the bridleway ran along the edge of the wood, but I forked right on a path rising gently uphill through the wood. Part way through the wood I came to some interesting hand-made notice boards, giving the history of the wood over the last 60-70 years. After a while the path started to descend through the trees. On the edge of the wood I stopped for lunch on a bench (set up to commemorate the Queen’s 80th birthday), with nice views ahead over Fingest and the Hambleden valley.

According to different sources, the name Fingest derives from the Anglo-Saxon ‘Thinghurst’ meaning ‘wooded hill where assemblies meet’, or it is from the Norse for ‘meeting place in a spinney’ – take your pick!. The church of St Bartholomew has a massive Norman tower surmounted by a double gable – there is thought to be only one other similar arrangement in the country. The tower is also unusual in being wider than the nave – these are the two oldest components of the church, the chancel being added in the 13th century. Inside the church there is a 15th century octagonal font.

I then continued downhill, between a barbed wire fence and a hedge on my right. The path then continued between the wooden fences of paddocks to reach Fingest, opposite the impressive church. I turned left to reach a T-junction opposite the village pub, and turned left to leave the village. There was soon a broad track running along the wide verge on the left – I spotted some Woody Nightshade here. After quarter of a mile or so, I turned left on a bridleway along a farm track – this soon turned right, parallel to the lane, and ran along the edge of Hanger Wood on my left (it was the continuation of the bridleway from Cadmore End). I soon came to a fork, where the wood and bridleway curved left but I went straight on along a broad footpath. I stopped and chatted for a few minutes with an elderly walker coming the other way – he was off to the Lake District in a few days, and hoped to climb Helvellyn, having had to turn back on a couple of previous attempts.

The path ran alongside the right edge of a large empty pasture, then went over a stile into a sheep pasture. Several lambs fled as I followed the hedge on my right as it turned sharply right. In the field corner, I left the field to reach the corner of a lane, where I went straight ahead. Where the lane turned sharply to the right, I went left on a footpath rising uphill along the edge of a cattle pasture – there were some Jersey or Guernsey cows away to my left. Over a stile, the path continued between a hedge and wire fence and wood on my right. Beyond the hedge was a large meadow, recently mown. The hedge ended when I reached the end of the meadow, and I just followed the edge of the wood through the next meadow – there were three or four Red Kites here. In a field corner the path left the wood, turning left along the hedgerow. It soon came to a gate that took it into a wood (Long Copse). It was only a short distance before the path emerged on the other side of the wood, where it followed the edge of the wood through two large corn fields to my right.

The path then went through another gate into Fining Wood. I immediately turned right, following a path close to the edge of the wood on my right. As usual, the path was indicated by white arrows painted on trees. I now decided, at long last, to take off my waterproofs. A little further on, there was a fork where I went left to join a wide track, open to the skies – so of course it now started to rain again! I hurried on along the path, fortunately it soon narrowed and I was sheltered by the trees again. I went over a small footbridge over the course of a little stream (unusual in these chalky hills), and then the path left the wood, running through hedgerows to reach an unmade road in the hamlet of Ditchfield. I turned left, passing a pub and following the gravel road through some small industrial area to reach a road on the edge of Lane End. I crossed the road and went through a small area of trees to reach a path running along a substantial and old brick wall. I turned left along the path, but soon stopped to put my waterproofs back on as the rain was getting heavier. Beyond the end of the wall the path passed right in front of a large house, then wiggled to the right through its garden to pick up a narrow alley that led to the centre of the large village.

I crossed the road to continue along an alley opposite – before entering the alley, I stepped aside to let two women with a pram coming the other way go by. They went past with not a word of thanks or acknowledgement – such ignorant rudeness really grates with me. The hard-surfaced path ran between iron fences, with some industrial units on the right, then a school and then an area of grass. I crossed over a residential street and continued along the path or alley to reach a metal kissing-gate on the edge of the village. I went a few yards further on to a second such gate on my right. Through this, I immediately forked left, on an initially very muddy path between bushes. The path continued along the right edge of a grassy meadow, with houses to my right. By a partially hidden fingerpost, I turned right on a thin path through the meadow (feeling rather glad to leave Lane End behind).

The path continued over a second smaller meadow. Over a rickety stile I reached a drive (going to a reservoir to my right – I know this from one of my exploratory walks in this area!). The path continued on the over side, running through another wood. I went left at a junction, and emerged from the wood where a private drive to some company met a minor road. I turned right along the road, straight away crossing a bridge over the M40. My route then went left, along the edge of a field with a wood on the right. Beyond the wood I carried on alongside a hedge to reach the field corner, where I went over a stile on the right into an empty paddock. I went slightly left across the paddock, to where the hedge on my left turned left. I followed it round the corner, to reach a stile in the paddock fence ahead of me. I crossed the drive to a farmhouse on my left, and continued down a track ahead of me, descending gently with pleasant views ahead.

When a wood started on my left, I left the bridleway and followed a parallel footpath just inside the edge of the wood. I was pleased to see a new post with waymarks indicating this junction, as it was unmarked when I first came this way. Sadly there was no such marker indicating where the path left the wood to rejoin the track beside the wood – after about quarter of a mile, there was a gateway on the right, but I left the path and made my way to the remnants of a stile a short distance further on. I turned left along the edge of the wood, but soon went slightly right across a grass area in the corner of the field – I saw my first Yellow Rattle of the year here.

I went through a gate and followed the path steeply uphill, initially in a grass break between the trees of yet another wood. I was delighted to see some Common Spotted Orchids here, not quite in full bloom. Beyond a crossing path, I went slightly left, continuing uphill through the wood. Beyond the wood, the ground soon levelled out as I followed the edge of a ploughed field to reach a lane or drive in Towerage. I turned left here – soon there was a break in the wood on my right, where I saw an equestrian statue at the end of a grass ride leading downhill to West Wycombe House. At a junction, I turned right, following a lane downhill through the woods. When the lane left the wood, I got a glimpse of West Wycombe House below and to my right. Ahead of me was a good view, where I could see the road I’d be taking back towards Princes Risborough, with Lodge Hill in the distance. As I carried on down the lane, a Red Kite flew slowly away. At the bottom of the hill, the lane reached the A40. It was then a short distance along the road to the edge of West Wycombe, where I turned left to return to the car park.

I had set out just after 10am, and it was now 3.50pm – allowing 10 minutes for my lunch break, a ridiculous five hours and forty minutes to walk 14 miles. I was quite bemused as to why it took so long, though I wasted a few minutes putting on and taking off my waterproofs. I did take almost 140 photos, but that is about the usual number nowadays.

The rain was never very heavy, and had stopped before I got back to the car. It was a shame that it was such a grey and damp day – but this hadn’t stopped me from enjoying this walk. It was a very pleasant route, quite varied with a mixture of woods and fields and numerous ups and downs. On a nice day, there would have been charming views in many spots. I was actually quite pleased with the route (apart from the dull half-mile or so through Lane End). A major problem in devising the route of the Chiltern Chain Walk was to find two ways of crossing the M40 that were quite close together – I’d tried a couple of other routes on my exploratory walks but had to reject them (bulls in a field and a very dangerous road walk were the main reasons). I think this route that I ended up was perfectly satisfactory, and I enjoyed today’s walk despite the rather grim conditions.

The next three walks are some of the very best on the Chiltern Chain Walk, so I’m hoping for some nicer weather over the next few days!

Total distance: 173.3 miles