Local walk, Saturday afternoon

Yesterday, Saturday 30/08/08, I did a local walk just in the afternoon for a couple of hours or so.

I’d intended to do a full day’s walk, my regular local route to Redbourn and back. The morning started grey and overcast yet again, but the forecast was for the skies to clear and for most of the day to be warm and sunny. So I thought that at last I’d be able to do a long local walk on a decent day, take some photos and put the walk on my web site. Just before I set off, I remembered I needed to pay my car tax urgently. No problem, I’d got all the necessary paperwork and the walk took me past the village Post Office anyway. But when I’d walked half a mile down the village street, I found the PO was closed for a couple of weeks due to ‘unforeseen circumstances’. This rather threw me – I really needed to get my car tax sorted out. So I went home, and drove to another PO to pay the car tax, deciding to just do an afternoon walk instead.

I set off again about 1.30pm, walking up the road then turning left across a couple of fields to Whipsnade Heath. I followed the path through the woods, then walked along the main road to Whipsnade. I turned left along the path through the churchyard, then went right at a path junction to reach the old lane between Whipsnade and Holywell. Unusually I followed the old lane all the way to its end in Holywell, and then took the road through Holywell (which is largely an estate of large bungalows or chalet bungalows). I’m not sure I’ve ever walked through the estate here before, but I had no problem finding where the usual footpath I follow comes into Holywell.

It was then just a hundred yards or so further on that another familiar path started, running between the properties of Holywell and Buckwood Lane. Near the end of the path, I started up Dovehouse Lane (for seemingly the umpteenth time recently!). I ignored the path on the left that I usually follow to return to the Whipsnade road, and continued along the lane as it went up and down a shallow valley. When I last walked along here a week or so ago, there were about half a dozen blokes with metal detectors scouring the recently ploughed field on the right.

By a bend in the lane, I turned right onto a footpath – although it started only half a mile or so from my home, I’d only ever walked it once before (and that was in the opposite direction). It initially ran along the gravel drive to a sawmill, then continued between a hedge and the railings surrounding the sawmill. Further on there were hedges either side. I was pleased to see that the path was evidently well used. After about a third of a mile it turned left, and followed the lengthy drive of a large house to reach the main road through Kensworth almost opposite the Old Red Lion pub.

I continued on the footpath opposite (part of Walk 1 of my Chiltern Chain Walk), which led between a couple of properties and then descended the steep valley that runs immediately north of the village. At the bottom of the valley I admired the views in each direction, of mainly pale gold wheat fields rising up both sides of the valley, interspersed with occasional hedgerows. The path continued as a wide green strip between the wheat, rising steeply up the other side of the valley to reach a corner of Spratt’s Lane near the old vicarage. I went on down the lane towards Church End – there should have been a path further on to my right, but I either missed it or it was completely overgrown. No matter, it only cut a small corner off, and I just needed to turn right when I reached the minor crossroad a little further on instead.

After a hundred yards or so, I turned left onto a footpath following a hedge on my left. There was a wide uncultivated strip beside the hedge, but the path wasn’t at all clear as it obviously wasn’t often used. There was just some evidence that someone had trodden a way through the long grass sometime before me. The path went very gently uphill and after a few hundred yards, at the top of the slope, the path went through a gap in the hedge (by a yellow marker post) and continued along the other side. I was now beside a wide ploughed field – I knew I was going to have to cross this on my way back, but I could see the path had not been reinstated.

Never mind, for now the path beside the hedge was perfectly clear, a good farm track that descended gradually into another shallow valley. At the bottom, the path switched again to the right of the hedge. The field on my right was some sort of blackened bean crop. At the end of the field I went through a hedge gap, and turned right on a very broad and rutted farm track bordered and overshadowed by mature trees. Within a hundred yards I turned left, going through an old iron gate and following a left-hand hedge through an empty paddock. I crossed a stile and continued a few yards further through some industrial yard where a couple of lorries were parked by numerous stacks of wooden pallets.

The path should have  continued between the metal fence of this yard and a hedge, but the way was completely overgrown and impassable. No matter, as I wanted to turn round at the A5 beyond the blocked section anyway – I’d only really come this way to see if this section was passable or not, as I suspected it would be blocked. If it was open, I could use the path in a circular walk that would take me to Caddington. I’ll probably report the problem to the parish council – the paths round here are usually fairly clear.

I headed back the way I’d come, as far as the yellow marker post. Here I had no option but to make my way as best I could across the ploughed field, heading in the direction of Kensworth church which I could see a short distance away.  For the first few yards there was no difficulty as the field had been harrowed as well as ploughed, but then I was trying to cut across the deep furrows left by the plough, treading on large clumps off earth turned over by the plough which tended to give way under me as I stumbled on. I soon saw a yellow marker post on the far side, and gradually made my way across to it.

I crossed over Beech Road (which goes  from Church End to the edge of Dunstable), and continued on a path on the other side, initially along a drive to a farm. The path turned right and continued along a field edge, with the churchyard to my left. I went left over a stile, across the churchyard, and then it was a simple and familiar walk home along Hollicks Lane, using the parallel path behind the right-hand hedge as the lane descended and re-ascended the steep valley again.

It had been a pleasant and interesting walk, utilising a few local paths that I rarely frequent. The afternoon had been very warm, with hazy sunshine and a stiff breeze that fortunately took the edge of the temperature. I got home about 15.50pm.

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