Local ‘Almost everywhere’ walk again

At last! We finally had a day of nice sunny weather! I made the most of it by doing my ‘Almost everywhere’ walk, which visits most of the villages that neighbour Kensworth. I took over 150 photos, and so will eventually add the walk to my web site.

I started off at 10pm, and was soon walking down Hollicks Lane. I took the parallel path behind the hedge to the left of the lane, descending steeply to the bottom of the valley that runs north of Kensworth, and then climbed up the other side – I should have slowed myself down, I was really puffing and panting when I rejoined the lane near the top of the hill. It was then just a short distance to the hamlet of Church End, the old part of Kensworth.

I took the path through the churchyard, and continued through the hay meadow behind the church. In fact, one corner of the meadow had been planted with Sunflowers. I could have joined the quarry path here, but chose not to as the first section can be very muddy. Instead I continued to the field corner and turned left on to Beech Road (a lane from Church End to the edge of Dunstable). The lane almost immediately turned sharply right, and descended and reascended a small valley. Near the top of the rise I went through a gate on the left to join the path round Kensworth Quarry, which I followed to the right.

Soon there was an open area of grass on my right, giving me views over Dunstable and Luton.  I continued alongside the wire fence of the quarry for about a mile – there were generally bushes beyond the fence, screening the quarry from sight, although I could hear the noise of the diggers and trucks working in the quarry. For much of the way there was a wood on my right. Eventually a short path on the right led through trees to a path junction, where I turned left with Dunstable Downs Golf Club on my right. In about 200 yards I reached the main road across the Downs, and crossed over it to reach the old car park.

Although the car park was about a third full, Dunstable Downs seemed very quiet considering the fine sunny weather. There were just one or two people walking about or admiring the views, but there were no kite fliers or paragliders. I walked right, along the top of the Downs, generally keeping to the grass rather than following the new gravel track that the National Trust has recently put in. I took several photos – along the Downs, across to Ivinghoe Beacon and out over the Vale of Aylesbury. I continued on until I reached the ancient burial mounds of Five Knolls, and then descended the steep grass strip towards Dunstable.

At the bottom of the slope I turned sharply left, to start the path that runs all long the bottom of the Downs. I must have followed this path for about a mile and a half, passing the London Gliding Club on my right. There was usually a wire fence and a hedge on my right, with the steep slopes of the Downs to my left generally covered with scrubby bushes. My attempts to photo this part of the route were not too successful as I was looking into the sun. Eventually I turned left, and joined a steep path rising up Bison Hill. This eventually flattened out, and contoured round the hillside towards the car park by the very steep road that climbs the hill.

From the car park I took a bridleway towards Whipsnade, which ran between hedgerows either side. On reaching Whipsnade, I crossed over the road (close to the Zoo entrance) and followed the edge of the green on the other side, curving round in a semi-circle to the left. At the end of the semi- circle was a nice view of more of the huge and irregularly shaped  green ahead me, with the houses of Whipsnade dotted along its edges.

I turned right onto the old lane to Holywell, most of which has been closed to traffic for many years. After half a mile I passed the point where the zoo fence turned right, with a bridleway running along side it. There are a couple of slight alternative routes for this walk that go that way, but I chose today to continue along the old lane – the path beside the zoo features in other of my walks, whereas this way I would photograph a path I rarely use. I turned right immediately before the first house in Holywell, following a field path with garden hedges initially on my left.  I heard but could not see a Buzzard here. The field was now stubble, the first of many such that I would pass by today. The path turned left at the corner of the hedge, but almost immediately turned right again. I followed the clear path across two small valleys in succession, generally following a hedge on my right and passing more stubble fields, dotted with circular bales of straw.

The path took me to Studham Church. I walked through the churchyard, passing to the right of the church, and continued on along Church Road. Soon I passed a bridleway coming in on my right, where the two alternative routes I mentioned would rejoin the main route. At the end of Church Road I turned right, and followed Valley Road downhill, passing the last few houses on this edge of Studham.  At the bottom of the valley I turned left onto another field path, following a hedge on my left with a stubble field sloping up on my right. I passed Studham school on the left and reached Studham Common, where I turned onto a path going half-right through the bushes and trees of this part of the common.

I crossed a road and continued along the top of the second part of the common (like the third section, this was all grass as it had been used for agriculture during the second world war). I stopped for lunch on a bench along here, admiring the view towards Dedmansey Wood which I would be walking alongside later on. Having finished my sarnies I carried on, crossing a second road and continuing along the top of the third part of Studham Common. In the far corner, I turned right along the left edge of a large field, soon with a wood on my left. I soon turned into the wood, at first following a narrow path then continuing on a broad track after reaching a junction of several tracks and paths.

After a while there was a pond in the trees on my right, and I spotted a red dragonfly. It settled on the track in front of me and allowed me to photograph it – I later managed to have it identified as a male Common Darter. A bit later I passed the yard of Beechwood Home Farm and some cottages. As on previous occasions, I saw some Guinea Fowl around here. I turned left at a track crossroads, and followed a pleasant and well-surfaced track that descended into a valley, with a wood on my left, and rose gently up the other side to reach the end of Roe End Lane.

A bridleway (that I use on some of my walks) went left here, but I turned right and followed the lane past a few houses and a farm. I then turned left, following a hedge on my right through a large meadow – there were fairly extensive views around here which showed just how well-wooded this part of the Chilterns are.Through a kissing-gate in a field corner, I took the leftmost of two paths, following a straight but intermittent hedge line through more arable fields, heading gradually downhill to reach the edge of the village of Markyate. I turned left along Buckwood Road, almost immediately leaving the village, and after a few hundred yards turned left onto another path.

I only walked this particular path for the first time about three years ago, and it is one of my favourite local paths. It followed a hedgerow on the left through a couple of grassy fields, continuing along a small headland between two more fields (the one on the left was being harrowed). The path then joined a wide farm track, going on ahead between more fields and passing a very remote farm shed on the right. The farm track ended here, but the path carries on, now running alongside the edge of Dedmansey Wood on the right. I followed the edge of the wood for about half a mile, as it gradually curved left beside a huge ploughed field.

Eventually I turned right, on a path just inside the edge of what was now Byslips Wood. This took me to Byslips Road (one of the main roads between Kensworth and Studham), where I turned left for a short distance before taking a path on the right. This soon crossed part of a large stubble field, and continued beside a small wood on the right. Beyond the wood, the stubble gave way to what had once been a decent crop of beans, but which was now a blackened scraggly mess, presumably intended for animal fodder eventually. On the far side of the field, my path continued through a small wood to reach the edge of Holywell.

I turned right, following garden fences on my left. The wood on my right soon ended, replaced by another stubble field. The path continued beside the garden boundaries, and descended through  trees to a valley bottom where it met Buckwood Lane (the continuation of Buckwood Road which I’d been on earlier). I went a few yards to the right and turned down Dovehouse Lane. The lane was quite shady, being overhung by the hedges either side. At the top of the small rise, by a former farm, I turned left onto a footpath. This followed a rather overgrown track through a meadow, then continued across a much larger field of short grass. On the far side I reached the Whipsnade Road, and turned right to return to Kensworth.

It was about 3.25pm when I got home, so allowing 10 minutes for lunch I’d been walking about five and a quarter hours. I took over 150 photos, which probably slowed my pace quite a bit. It had been a really enjoyable walk on a gorgeous day – warm sunny, almost windless, with just a few white clouds in the blue sky.

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