Archive for November, 2008

Kensworth-Totternhoe walk again

Friday, November 28th, 2008

Yesterday (Thursday, 27th November 2008) I did a slight variation on my Kensworth-Totternhoe walk – an earlier such walk is described on my web site here:

I needed to sort something out before I set off, so I didn’t start walking until about 10.20am. I therefore shortened the walk slightly, by going round the near side of the quarry rather than the far side (which I’d walked on Tuesday, anyway). I got some photos of a Buzzard in the valley behind Kensworth, but not very good ones as it was quite high up.

It was no hardship to walk over Dunstable Downs for the second time in three days – it was quite sunny at this point and so the views were again very good. I had yet another annoying incident with a dog, as I walked down Green Lane in Dunstable – it leapt around me barking, and actually bit the sleeve of my coat. The woman owner and her two daughters just walked off when I angrily suggested they should keep their dog under control.

Further on, I saw a lot of Redwings  in the berry-laden hedgerows along the track from Sewell to Totternhoe. As I passed by the cement works at Totternhoe, there were more Redwings and a few Fieldfares. I had my lunch on a bench along the path between Totternhoe Knolls and Totternhoe, about 12.50. The skies had now clouded over and were ominously grey, so I decided it was better to stop then rather than wait until I got back to the Downs in case it was then raining. In the event, there were just a few spots of rain for a couple of minutes or so.

I took a slightly different route to the top of Bison Hill, partly so as not to repeat the route I’d taken on Tuesday. I then took a rather convoluted route back to Whipsnade, where I saw some Long-tailed Tits as I passed the Tree Cathedral.

I then took the path through the churchyard at Whipsnade, following the path to Holywell and then taking the all too familiar route back from there via Dovehouse Lane and the Whipsnade Road. I got home about 3.20pm.

Weather forecast is not looking too promising at the moment, so I’m not sure if I’lll manage a third walk this week.

Kensworth and everywhere (again!)

Tuesday, November 25th, 2008

Today I did a variation on my ‘Kensworth and everywhere’ walk (which is described on my web site – see  I have been feeling unwell with an upset stomach on and off for the last few days, so I thought it wise to do this walk instead of the one I’d originally planned, as if I felt unwell I could cut the walk short at numerous points and would never be more than a few miles from my home.

I did the walk in the opposite direction last Saturday – it was a day or two later that I realised that I’d unintentionally cut it short by missing out a big loop around Dunstable Downs! No wonder it only took me 4 1/2 hours!

Today I followed the anti-clockwise direction, as per the description on my web site. It was a bright and sunny morning as I set off, rather late at 10am. It was very cold, but I was warmly wrapped up in my Paramo gear (no, they don’t pay me to advertise it!). As usual I was puffing and panting a bit as I climbed the steep hill on the way to Church End. Beyond the church, I followed a section of Beech Road  to avoid the very muddy part at the beginning of the path round the quarry.

As I left the quarry path to go to the Downs, I bumped into a neighbour from across the road. He often walks all round the quarry, and I’ve met him along the path before.

Because of the clear blue skies, the views from Dunstable Downs were  near their best. I saw a Kestrel quite close by as I approached Five Knolls. I particularly enjoyed the views from the ancient burial site, not just over the Vale of Aylesbury to the West, but over the lower lands to the north and east across Dunstable and Luton to Warden and Galley Hills which I have crossed on the Chiltern Way and other walks.

The path along the foot of Dunstable Downs was particularly muddy. I saw a Buzzard as I approached Bison Hill. As I climbed the steep path up to the car park on Bison Hill, I saw that there was traffic queueing on the road and that unfortunately there had been an accident. It didin’t look too bad, but I did hear the sirens of police cars and ambulances approaching.

From Whipsnade, I took the path to Studham that starts on the edge of Holywell, rather than the path along the zoo fence which I sometimes take. As usual, I stopped for lunch on one of the benches on Studham Common, admiring the view across the common to the village and across to Dedmansey Wood.

After lunch I continued on through the woods to Beechwood Farm where as usual I saw some Guinea Fowl. As I followed the farm track to Roe End I saw and heard a couple more Buzzards.

I decided to take a different route back from Markyate (simply because I’ve done the route from Byslips Road to Dovehouse Lane and the Whipsnade Road so often recently!). I followed the path parallel to the river Ver and the A5 (as used on Walk1 of the Chiltern Chain Walk), staying on it all the way to Kensworth Lynch. I saw some Long-tailed Tits as I walked through the Lynch and continued on along the lane all the way to Church End. I then turned left along Hollicks Lane to retrace the initial stage of the walk. I got home about 3.15pm.

Short local walk, yet again

Sunday, November 23rd, 2008

I had hoped to do a long walk yesterday (Saturday, 22nd November 2008) but I’ve had a bit of an upset stomach the last couple of days and didn’t sleep well. I felt a bit rough on Saturday morning, but was OK by lunchtime so did a short local walk in the afternoon.

I followed what has now become my usual route for a short local walk, through Whipsnade Heath and along the bridleway from Whipsnade to the Downs. From the foot of the Downs I took the steep path up to the car park on Bison Hill, and followed the bridleway from there back to Whipsnade. I varied the route slightly at this point, following a path through the large green that ran parallel to the road and then went down the old lane towards Holywell. I then turned left and followed footpaths to Holywell, returning home the usual way via Dovehouse Lane and the Whipsnade Road.

It was a bitterly cold afternoon – I was soon wearing two pairs of gloves to keep my fingers warm, and had my coat hood pulled over my thermal hat. I soon warmed up a bit, and removed one pair of gloves and my thermal hat. Otherwise it was a pleasant afternoon, the sun occasionally appearing between the numerous clouds.


Thursday, November 20th, 2008

For the first time in ages I went bird watching today, at the RSPB reserve at Fowlmere. It is between Royston and Cambridge, about an hour’s drive from my home.

The site was originally a mere or lake, fed by chalk springs. After a failed atempt to drain it, it was used for growing watercress for many years, but when that industry ceased it became largely overgrown with reeds.

I didn’t see any of the marsh or reedbed birds I’d hoped to see, other than a solitary Snipe, but I did see a female Sparrowhawk hunting low over the reeds. I also saw Long-tailed Tits, a Goldcrest, Redwings and a Great Spotted Woodpecker.

Kensworth and everywhere, again!

Saturday, November 15th, 2008

Today I did my ‘Kensworth and everywhere’ walk again, but in the opposite (clockwise) direction to that described on my web site  –

I chose to put the camera in my rucksack rather than hang it round my neck, and in the end it stayed there, I didn’t take a single photo. Consequently I did the walk much faster than usual, taking just under 4.5 hours to do the 15+ miles – considering how muddy the paths were, which usually slows me down, this was probably 45 minutes shorter than I’d expect. I felt good as I got home, as if I could carry on walking quite easily, but once I’d got my boots off I suddenly felt very tired – this was the first time for a long time that I can remember feeling very tired after a walk.

The only wildlife sightings were a Buzzard, just at the very end of Dedmansey Wood as I approached Markyate – I’d heard one over Byslips Wood a few minutes earlier – and then a Red Kite, while I was eating my lunch by the car park on Bison Hill.

It was quite bright and very warm to begin with – I took my coat off just after Byslips Wood, only putting it on again when I stopped for lunch. The day gradually clouded over, and was very grey and overcast by about 12.30pm. The grey conditions rather limited the views from Dunstable Down, but they were still pretty good.

I really enjoyed the walk – I think it’s only the second time I’ve done it in this direction, and it may be even better this way than in my usual anti-clockwise direction.

Small update to web site

Thursday, November 13th, 2008

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

There are only two new walks, both local ones from Kensworth that I have added to the ‘Chiltern Hills’ section. I have also added many more photos to the ‘Ashridge Estate Boundary Trail’ journal.

I have collected some of my favourite landscape photos together from all the walks, and put them in a new section accessible from the ‘Photographs’ page. Also from there, you can now see some Fallow Deer and Muntjac Deer photos. I have also added a few new Bird photographs.

Ashridge Estate Boundary Trail

Thursday, November 13th, 2008

Yesterday (Wednesday 12th November 2008) I walked the Ashridge Estate Boundary Trail again. I documented my first walk on this route on my web site – – so I won’t say too much about the route, as you can read about it on my web site and see the photos I took then. I may possibly add some more photos from yesterday’s walk to those pages.

It was a very pleasant autumn day, sunny at first, then clouding over briefly around noon before  further sunny intervals in the afternoon. Many trees had lost most of their leaves, but there were still several trees with beautiful golden foliage. I saw several Fallow Deer again, the largest number being close to the end of the walk as I passed Ringshall Coppice. I saw a young buck, with just two prongs for antlers, close to the Tom’s Hill road above Aldbury.

I went wrong at one point, approaching Norcott Hill, as I unthinkingly stuck to the route of my Alternative Ashridge Walk. It was only for a few hundred yards and really made no difference. A bit further on I met the chap I’d spoken to at Norcott Hill on my last walk, out walking his two dogs again.

As I followed the long track from the Monument to Ivinghoe Beacon, I heard a Raven flying over the tree tops. Later on, as I followed the Ridgeway path as it climbed up Steps Hill, I saw a Buzzard over the hilltop ahead of me.  I also saw three different groups of Long-tailed Tits at various points on the walk – I’d already seen several of them in the front garden before I’d set off!

I’m still a bit concerned against blisters, and twice stopped to add some stuff called ‘happiwool’ to my feet. It seemed to do the trick.

As always, it was a very enjoyable walk  – a nice mixture of field paths, lots of woodland walking, the chalk downland around Steps Hill and Ivinghoe Beacon and a short stretch along the broad grass common of Northchurch Common.

Another Ashridge walk

Thursday, November 6th, 2008

Today I walked for about three and a half hours around Ashridge and out towards Berkhamsted and Northchurch. Again I’d hoped to walk for longer, but started to feel a hot spot on my foot where I’ve had a nasty blister recently, so I cut the walk short. The foot was OK when I got home, so perhaps I was overcautious (I know, I’m a wimp!).

The walk was a truncated version of my Alternative Ashridge Walk, but in the opposite direction to usual. I started walking from near the Bridgewater Monument in the centre of Ashridge at about 10am. I went a short way back down the drive then turned right, the same way I started my last two Ashridge walks. It was a grey and overcast morning, and quite misty and murky to begin with. I enjoyed walking through the colourful trees in these typical November conditions, which are so atmospheric. When I reached a crossing bridleway, I followed it to the left, crossed the road and continued on along the well-known avenue of beech trees on the other side.

I crossed a drive that goes to Coldharbour farm, and continued onwards to reach the lovely Frithsden Beeches. The way carried on past part of Berkhamsted Golf Course, and then I turned back towards Northchurch. The path follows the edge of a wood along a valley for half a mile or more – I met someone with binoculars coming the other way, and we stopped and chatted about bird watching for a minute or two. I then followed field paths for half a mile or so (there were Long-tailed tits in the hedgerow at one point), then turned right along a path beside a large school. As I passed a small residential estate on the outskirts of Northchurch, I saw 6 or so Fallow deer in an adjacent paddock (there are sometimes many more than that here) and managed to get some decent photos.

From Northchurch I recrossed the road, and was back on the route I’d used on my last two walks in Ashridge, though going the other way. As I followed the path, again just inside the edge of the woods with fields to my left, I spotted many more Fallow deer in the trees. I passed the hamlet of Norcott Hill, where I had a brief chat with a dog walker, and continued on back into the woods.

It was now that I decided to cut the walk short, rather than go through Aldbury and over Pitstone Hill as I’d intended, so instead of following the edge of the wood round to Tom’s Hill I made my way through the wood instead. Despite having walked the path in the opposite direction a couple of times recently, I still managed to take a wrong turning here and so came out on the Tom’s Hill road at the wrong point. It turned out to be rather fortuitous, because as I walked quarter of a mile up the road to where I wanted to cross it, I saw a large group of Fallow deer in an open space on the far side of the road, including at least one large buck. It was then a straightforward walk along a wide track back to the drive to the Monument – just before reaching the drive, I saw a Great Spotted Woodpecker. I got back to my car about 1.30pm.

Another local walk

Monday, November 3rd, 2008

This morning I did another local walk, for about two and a half hours. I had hoped to do a full day walk, but my foot started to feel tender where I had a massive blister recently so I cut the walk short.

I set off just before 10am, and headed off down Hollicks Lane. I saw a Buzzard  as I descended the path alongside the lane. When I reached Church End, I followed the lane to the right, and at the crossroads carried on ahead. This quiet lane ran along the bottom of a shallow valley, eventually reaching Kensworth Lynch, an attractive hamlet of mainly large and old houses at the foot of Lynch Hill.

I crossed over the main road, and continued along a footpath beside a hedgerow. Further on I joined my usual route to Markyate, which came in from my right. Just  before reaching Markyate I saw a Green Woodpecker beside a playing field. From the edge of Markyate I took the usual field path to the hamlet of Roe End. At the end of Roe End lane, I continued on ahead along a hedge-lined bridleway. It was now that I started to feel some tenderness under my left foot, and decided to cut the walk short rather than develop another blister- I don’t get blisters often, and don’t worry about them too much when I do get them, but the one I got recently was huge and took many days to heal up.

I took the path through the edge of Bysylips Wood to Byslips Road, and then continued on the long path across fields to Holywell – there was another Buzzard flying over the wood I reached just before Holywell. I followed the path along the edge of Holywell to Buckwood Road, and took the very familiar route home along Dovehouse Lane and across fields to the Whipsnade Road. I got home about 12.20pm.

I enjoyed the walk. It was a grey and overcast November day,  but it stayed dry and after being initially quite cold (I had to put my hood up and don my gloves) it soon warmed up a bit. The trees looked especially attractive with their gold and yellow leaves, which contrasted nicely with the grey skies. I was surprised how muddy the paths were, we’d obviously had more rain recently than I’d realised, but the mud was never a problem and all the paths were perfectly passable.

Couple of local walks

Saturday, November 1st, 2008

Many apologies – recently I have been somewhat lax in keeping this blog up-to-date with my walks.

On Monday afternoon (27th October 2008), I did a short walk up to Dunstable Downs, returning home via Whipsnade and Whipsnade Heath. The highlight was seeing a Stonechat in the valley north of Kensworth, the first time I’ve seen this bird in my home village. I also saw a Red Kite and  buzzard from near the same spot.

On Friday morning (31st October 2008)  I repeated the walk I did two weeks ago around Ashridge. I spotted some Fallow deer as soon as I turned off the drive to the monument, but after that I saw far fewer deer than I had a fortnight ago. There were none in either of the two large pastures where I frequently see them. I didn’t get any decent photos of them this time. Nor did I hear any bucks roaring – perhaps the rut is over for the Fallow deer of Ashridge this year.