Archive for December, 2008

Three-hour local walk

Tuesday, December 30th, 2008

This morning I did a three-hour local walk, repeating a route I followed a couple of weeks ago. It was very cold when I set out at 10.15am, with a heavy frost still on the ground. I started off along the Whipsnade Road, and again saw a Buzzard fly across the road just before I took the footpath on the left. I followed the very familiar path to Dovehouse Lane, where I turned right. At the end of the lane, I crossed Buckwood Lane and took the path along the edge of Holywell. I turned left, passing through a wood and then taking a path across a very large ploughed field to reach Byslips Road, Studham.

I crossed over and took a path just inside the edge of Byslips Wood.  I then turned left, following the edge of that wood and then Dedmansey Wood, curving slowly to the right, with another huge ploughed field on my right. I saw another Buzzard here, and as I continued on the path beyond the woods, I saw two of them ahead of me. I also saw two or thee Bullfinches in a hedgerow, and managed to get a poor quality photo of one of them.

The path took me to Buckwood Road, where I went right for about 100 yards to reach the edge of Markyate. Here I turned right, following a long path beside a hedge on my left, slanting diagonally across a hillside, with pleasant views of rolling wooded countryside. I continued along the path to reach Roe End, where I turned right along Roe End Lane. At the end of the lane I continued ahead on a Bridleway between hedges, which I followed for about half a mile. As it finally turned right, I saw another Buzzard. The path went downhill, passing a waterworks on the left, then I continued uphill along the edge of Studham Common.

Near the top of the hill, I turned right, and followed the top edge of the common, crossing two minor roads before the path descended through a wooded section of the common into a small valley. The path continued along the valley to reach Valley Road, Studham, where I went right and then took a lane going left to reach the village church. I passed through the churchyard, then continued on a very pleasant field path towards Hollywell. At least three Jays flew along the mature hedgerow on my left, and further on I saw yet another Buzzard.

At the end of the path, I turned left along the old lane between Holywell and Whipsnade, soon having the zoo fence on my left. I took a path on the right to reach Whipsnade Church, then turned right across the large and irregularly shape village green, descending downhill beside a road to reach the crossroads at Whipsnade Heath. I then took the usual route home, through the woods of the Heath and across a couple of fields, before turning right along Common Road, Kensworth.

It was 1.15pm when I got home, and I was rather surprised that the walk had taken three hours. It had been very pleasant, and I’d enjoyed seeing so many interesting birds. It had warmed up slightly as the morning had gone on, and I’d had clear blue skie throughout, although everything was slightly hazy.

Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 24th, 2008

I’d just like to wish everyone who reads this blog ( well, that’ll be you, Aged Agnes in Cleethorpes! 🙂   )  a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Here’s looking forward to some enjoyable walking in 2009!

Kensworth to Ivinghoe

Tuesday, December 23rd, 2008

Yesterday (Monday 22nd December 2008) I did a 17.5 mile circular walk from Kensworth to Ivinghoe and back. I had twice before walked this route, but in the opposite direction (it’s on my web site, see I thought it would make a change to do it in the clockwise direction.

I left home juat after 9.20am. Just before I turned left off the Whipsnade road, I saw a Buzzard fly across the road in front of me.  I crossed the fields to Dovehouse Lane, where I turned right and then took the path along the edge of Holywell, continuing on to reach the road from Holywell to Studham. I took another field path almost opposite, turning right at a path junction to reach Studham church. I crossed a small pasture, and carried on through a wood. As I followed a field path on the far side, I saw another Buzzard.

The path then took me across Whipsnade Golf Course, and then steeply downhill to reach the village of Dagnall. After a short road walk, I took the path along the long drive to Hog Hall. This starts out flat, but after quarter of a mile or so starts going uphill at a fairly gentle angle. From Hog Hall, the path continued steadily uphill, soon running along the edge of a large pasture with a narrow bank planted with beech trees on my right. It was quite a long, but not very steep, bit of uphill, which brought me to Ward’s Hurst farm (a familiar feature, as 5 or 6 paths meet here). It was grey, gloomy and overcast almost all the time, but rays of sunshine occasionally pierced the clouds and lit up a small bit of countryside – one such did now, the valley behind me now appearing quite bright amidst the surrounding murk.

I followed the farm drive and crossed the Ringshall to Ivinghoe Beacon road to enter the woods of Ashridge. The path curved through the trees, to soon reach the main track between the Monument and Ivinghoe Beacon. I turned right, soon passing the kennels at Clipper Down, where I saw a few Fallow Deer across a field on my left, including a large buck with impressive antlers. At a path junction I forked left, heading gently downhill. I soon emerged from the trees onto an area of chalk grassland, continuing gently downhill at an angle to the slope. I crossed over the Ridgeway path, with Pitstone Hill over to my left and Steps Hill and Incombe Hole to my right. My path continued gently downhill through another large area of grassland.

I stopped at 11.30am, sitting on the concrete block by a stile where I’d eaten lunch the two times I did this walk the other way around. My left foot was starting to feel sore in a couple of places, and so I applied some ‘Happi-wool’ which is supposed to help prevent blisters forming (so far it does seem to do a reasonable job). I carried on, the path heading steadily downhill alongside a hedge on my right. Further right I could see Ivinghoe Beacon, and ahead of me I could see Ivinghoe and much of the Vale of Aylesbury.

I walked through Ivinghoe, and started on the long bridleway going northeast towards Edlesborough. A jogger with his pet Labrador was running up and down the bridleway, and passed me three times in all. I crossed over a road on the edge of Ivinghoe Aston – the bridleway was now a wide track of grey gravel. I could soon see Edlesborough church ahead of me, and I stopped to photograph some wildflowers that were still in bloom – Charlock and Common Field Speedwell. Somehow the bridleway from Ivinghoe to Edlesborough seemed to pass much quicker than when I’d walked it in the other direction, and I reached the church sooner than I’d expected.

I continued on through the sizable village of Edlesborough, getting a better view of a moated site here than I did when walking the route in the opposite direction. I stopped to eat lunch about 12.45pm on a bench beside a playing field. It was then only a short walk to the next village of Eaton Bray, which I passed through quickly, and then only had to cross three or four fields to reach Totternhoe – there was a short crossing of part of a ploughed field where the path had not been re-instated. Again, a benefit of doing the walk in this direction was the good view of the motte of the old castle on Totternhoe Knolls.

I was feeling quite tired now and it was a bit of a struggle up the slanting path that rose to the top of the ridge that ends at Totternhoe Knolls. I turned right, heading away from the castle site, and continued past the car park, up a steepish slope with the old quarry workings down to my left. I was now on a network of green lanes, wide tracks with hedgerows either side. At a track junction I turned left – there was a flock of Yellowhammers here, and I was rather surprised to see some Reed Buntings too. I quickly turned right at a track crossroads, and the followed the green lane for about a mile into Dunstable.

It was a long steady slog up the green slope that took me to Five Knolls on the end of Dunstable Downs. I took it very slowly, as I was quite tired after five or so hours of walking on largely muddy paths. I followed the path along the top of the Downs, a paraglider flying very close by. It was still grey and gloomy so the views were nowhere near their best today. I stopped at a bench  by the old car park, for some water and coffee and another Alpen bar – unusual for me to sit for a break in the afternoon.

I crossed the road and  made my way to the path round Kensworth Quarry. I was tempted to shorten the walk by joining Isle Of Wight Lane and following it down to my home (thus saving a descent and re-ascent) but stuck to my original route. I passed a lady walking her black Labrador as I started to go down into the valley on my left. Further on, I left the quarry path and took a path along the valley, which passed through a couple of meadows, then turned right to ascend the hillside I’d only recently descended. The path ended by the small industrial estate in Common Road, Kensworth, and then it was a quarter mile stroll downhill to my home. I got home about 3.30pm.

This was a very tiring but enjoyable walk, despite the grey and gloomy conditions. I’m glad that I tried the route in the opposite direction for a change, but having done so I do think it’s slightly better in the anti-clockwise direction I’ve done it in before. This is mainly because I much preferred the long steady ascent from Ivinghoe towards Ashridge (as there are good views of Ivinghoe Beacon, Steps Hill and Pitstone Hill most of the way) rather than the long ascent from Dagnall past Hog Hall to Ward’s Hurst farm.

Short local walk this morning

Saturday, December 20th, 2008

I hadn’t been for a walk for about 2.5 weeks – I’ve had a rotten sore throat, cough and cold. I still wasn’t 100% this morning, but decided to go for a morning walk anyway. It was grey and overcast as I set out about 9.15am, heading off down Hollicks Lane. I soon saw some Long-tailed Tits in the hedgerows beside the lane. When I took the path that parallels the lane I was surprised how muddy it was, my foot slipped once or twice as I climbed the steep slope on the far swide of the valley.

From Church End, where I saw more Long-tailed Tits, I took the long lane that lead to the Lynch – it was quite a long road walk, but as I haven’t done it often I enjoyed it, the lane running between hedges along the bottom of a shallow valley. I passed the smart residences in the Lynch, and took the footpath from there to Markyate, running parallel to the A5 down in a valley to my left. From Markyate I took the long and pleasant path through fields to Dedmansey Wood, and continued on to Studham Common where I stopped on a bench for some coffee.

I carried on along the path along the top of the common, and made my way to Studham church. I then took the path across fields to the edge of Holywell, where I saw a Buzzard over the trees on the far side of  a field. I took the old lane from Holywell to Whipsnade, diverting onto paths that took me through the churchyard to the large village green. I then followed the road to the right, down to the crossroads at Whipsnade Heath. I took the path throuh the heath and across a couple of fields to return to Common Road, Kensworth, where it was a short downhill walk back to my home.

This was a very enjoyable shorter walk, despite the muddy paths. The skies had brightened up about 10.30, although they’d clouded over again a bit by the time I got home about 12.45pm.

Buckland Common and The Lee

Thursday, December 4th, 2008

Yesterday (Wednesday, 3rd December 2008), for the first time in what seems ages, I did a new walk – but as it basically linked together sections of three previous walks, there were only a couple of short sections that I’d never walked before. I’d spotted the walk on my maps a couple of weeks ago – on my older copies of the OS Maps for the Chiltern Hills I have highlighted the long-distance paths that I walked, and I noticed a roughly triangular route consisting of parts of Walks 5 and 6 of the Chiltern Chain Walk and part of the Chiltern Link.

I started in Buckland Common, where Walk 6 of the Chiltern Chain Walk starts and where I have twice started the penultimate walk of the Chiltern Way. I’d been late in leaving home and didn’t start walking until about 10.15, but it was still a freezing cold and quite misty morning as I set off. I had to take care not to slip on ice as I followed the lanes out of Buckland Common, following the route of Walk 6 but in the opposite direction. Though it was grey and murky, I was just glad I could see anything as the previous time I’d walked the route in this direction I’d been in thick fog.

I turned right, down the drive to Dundridge Manor, but soon took a field path on the left. After a hundred yards or so I turned right, crossing a field and passing to the left of Dundridge Manor farm. I continued on along the farm drive, with gloomy views over the fields and valleys to my right. The drive went up and down a slight dip, then when it turned I carried on ahead over an area of rough grass beside a small quarry to reach a narrow wood. On the far side of the wood I took a path going left, then followed a hedgerow going right and uphill. This brought me to Arrewig Lane, beside Erriwig Farm.

I went a few yards to the right along the lane, before going left on a bridleway on a track. This soon turned right, but I continued on along a footpath beside a hedge on my right, descending another small dip and rising up the other side, before descending again into a small valley with a wood now on the right. The path continued up the opposite slope, between a hedge and the wire fence of a paddock. Near the top of the hill I reached a pasture, and followed the hedge on my left to a gate in the corner.

Here I reached a T-junction of lanes or minor roads, where I took the road ahead of me. The mist and murk had now cleared and the skies were gradually clearing up and turning blue. After a few hundred yards I took a path on my left, along the left edge of an empty pasture with a farm across to my right. There were several mature trees along the field boundary. I went through a kissing-gate in the field corner and crossed another empty pasture to reach Lowndes Wood.

The path now ran through a succession of woods for about three quarters of a mile, the direction gradually curving from east to almost south. The nature of the woods varied, some parts being typical Chiltern beech woods, others consisting of other deciduous trees. I passed a lot of holly bushes. The path was perfectly clear, though a bit muddy in places. I crossed over the route of the Chiltern Heritage Trail at one point. A bit further on, there was a large pasture on my right as I continued on a bridleway just inside the edge of the wood. Walk 6 of the Chiltern Way soon turned off left into the wood, but I continued straight on.

When I reached the corner of the pasture, I turned right on another bridleway – I was now just inside another wood, still with the same pasture just to my right. I spotted a yellow fungus growing on a fallen log on the ground here, which I later had identified on the ‘Wild About Britain’  web site as a Sulphur Tuft. In the corner of the wood, the bridleway turned left to go steeply uphill – I’d originally planned to go that way, but now decided to continue ahead on a footpath. This would mean more time on paths new to me and a bit less time repeating part of the Chiltern Link route. The path ran between a wire fence and a hedge on my right, with a sequence of sheep pastures on the other side of the fence. As I followed the path along the valley, a Buzzard flew out of the hedgerow ahead of me, and then did so again a few hundred yards further on.

The path took me to a small number of houses on the edge of Ballinger Common, where I joined the route of the Chiltern Link (which I walked three years ago).  I crossed a road, and took a path that ran through a long narrow section of woodland, where I saw a couple of dogwalkers. I went over a stile where the path briefly left the wood and ran along the edge of a large pasture, before re-entering the wood and following a clear path that joined a track running along the far side. The track soon took me into the village of The Lee, close to a road junction by The Cock and Rabbit pub.

I followed a lane round one side of the large village green, passing a big lump of Hertfordshire Puddingstone. I didn’t see anyone in the village – not surprising really, I think the inhabitants have all been bumped off in the numerous episodes of Midsomer Murders that have been filmed here! 🙂 Still following the route of the Chiltern Link, I passed the village church, and then took a footpath on the left, crossing a paddock and then a pasture.

The next three quarters of a mile or so was a very pleasant but straightforward section, following a long hedgerow through a succession of fields. The path soon switched to the left of the hedge, and initially the fields on my side of the hedge were ploughed, with stubble in the fields on the far side. Later on the fields were stubble on both sides. There was the occasional mature tree dotting the hedgerow. At one point a gap in the hedge marked where I crossed the route of the Chiltern Way (heading for Lee Gate, a short distance to my right. The path along the hedgerow was very flat, but across the fields on my left I could see the ground start to drop into a valley, with the top of the opposite hillside in view (though rather hazy, despite the mainly blue skies).

The path turned slowly from northwest to north, and eventually I crossed a paddock to reach the hamlet of Kingsash. Here I left the route of the Chiltern Link (which continued ahead to reach Wendover via Hogtrough Lane), and turned right along a minor road for a few hundred yards. Where the road turned right, I followed a bridleway ahead for a few yards along a green lane, before taking a footpath on my left. This ran alongside the right-hand hedge of a very large pasture, occupied by numerous black sheep (rather uncommon in this area, at least I don’t remember seeing them too often). There were a couple of horses here too.

When I finally reached the corner of the pasture, I continued ahead on a clear but muddy path through a wood. I soon came to a staggered junction, where I went a few yards to my right then continued on a path in the same northerly direction as before. I was now on the route of Walk 5 of the Chiltern Chain Walk – there had been a glorious display of bluebells here when I did that walk, no sign of them on what was now a lovely December day! The path curved right, and headed northeast, soon running close to the line of the ancient earthwork of Grim’s Ditch. The path was soon running through Baldwin’s Wood, sometimes with fields close by on one side or the other, and occasionally a view out through a gateway across the stubble.

After about three quarters of a mile, I reached the end of the woods at a lane junction. It was just after 1pm, but there was nowhere to sit to eat my lunch so I had a second Alpen bar and carried on. I took the lane going ahead, with steep banks either side that had had a good display of wildflowers when I did the Chiltern Chain Walk. The lane ended at a minor road (which I’d driven along earlier to reach Buckland Common), where I went left for a few yards and then turned right. The path here was initially along a drive but soon ran between a hedge and a wire fence that separated the path from an empty pasture. A bit further on the hedge receded, and I followed the fence through a small area of long grass, where I briefly spotted a Fox. I continued through a small area of woodland, then followed a hedgerow through a couple of pastures to reach a lane.

Almost opposite was a bridleway on a good track, running along the county boundary between Hertfordshire (on my left) and Buckinghamshire. There were pleasant views across the fields on my right to a large pond with woods beyond. After some distance I passed some dwellings on my right and then came to another lane. A few yards to the left, I took a path on the far side, following a hedge on my right. In the field corner, I went through a gap and turned right to where a long belt of trees headed off along another section of Grim’s Ditch.

I had intended to follow part of the Chiltern Way the short distance back to Buckland Common from here, but it seemed too early to finish the walk just yet. So I turned left and followed the path through the tree belt,which was mainly beech and holly. At the end I turned right onto a good track between hedgerows, leaving the Chiltern Way but again following the route of Walk 6 of the Chiltern Chain Walk. The track soon led me to Shrubb’s Wood and then High Scrubs Wood. The clear track through the very pleasant woods seemed to go on much longer that I remembered, and I stopped to check the map. I also finally stopped for lunch as it was now 2pm, sitting on a fallen tree trunk.

I nearly missed the path I needed, that turned right and left the wood, following a hedge on the left that occasionally had horse jumps in it. Across Shire Lane I saw a sign saying ‘Montana’ – I’d walked further than I thought! 🙂  I followed a path between the backs of some stables on my left and a garden on my right, then along the edge of a wood with paddocks on my left.  I turned left at a junction, following a hedgerow at the end of the paddocks, then passing through another small wood and an area of bushes to reach the iron-age hillfort of Cholesbury Camp.

I went straight through the hillfort, rather than follow its banks and ditches, passing the old church on my right. On reaching the road through Cholesbury, I took a path almost opposite, which ran between gardens, and then followed the edge of a pasture down into a valley. Here I left the Chiltern Chain Walk, and turned right along a path I’d not walked before. This was a straightforward section following field boundaries along the slight valley for a few hundred yards.  On the far side of a massive field on my left I met up with the Chiltern Heritage Trail again, which I followed a short distance to my right between garden fence again to rejoin the road. It was then a short distance along the road to my left to return to my parked car.

This was another delightful walk in the Chiltern Hills, on a cold but very pleasant winter’s day. Much of the route was familiar to me, though it is over three years since I’d walked the Chiltern Link section. There was a good mixture of woodland walks and field paths, and while there were no outstanding views the scenery was almost always very attractive, a nice mixture of woods, fields, hills and valleys.