Archive for February, 2009

Studham Common to Markyate

Saturday, February 28th, 2009

Another short walk this morning – I’m still suffering with a bad chest, and have felt really tired after the short walks I’ve done the last couple of days. This morning I started at Studham Common and walked to Markyate, returning via Roe End.

I saw and heard a Skylark as I crossed Studham Common. I took the track that starts in the corner of the common by the waterworks – I’d always assumed this track was a Public Bridleway but the sign indicated it was a ‘Public Highway’.  The other end of the track is at the start of Roe End Lane, so it was obviously a lane in times gone by.

Where the ‘highway’ turnd left towards Roe End, I went straight on along a footpath that soon curved right, alongside Dedmansey Wood. Beyond the wood, I saw a Buzzard very high in the sky, and three other birds making a strange noise that I’d not heard before. They were quite big, possibly raptors, but I’ve no idea what they were.

The path took me to Markyate, which I immediately left by taking a long curving path towards Roe End. I followed Roe End Lane to its end (where the track I’d been on earlier continued ahead of me) and turned left down the farm track to Beechwood Home Farm. I saw the Guinea fowl that are usually around the farm environs, and continued my walk through Great Bradwin’s Wood (where I heard another Buzzard). On the far side of the wood it was then a short stroll back to my car.

Short local walk

Friday, February 27th, 2009

I’m still not feeling 100%, with a lot of congestion on my chest, so I just did a fairly short local walk this morning.

I took my usual route to Holywell, via the Whipsnade road and Dovehouse Lane. For a change, I walked through Holywell itself and then took the footpath to Studhamchurch. Just outside holywell there were two Hares in the centre of a large stubble field. As I got near Studham church, I saw two Lapwings, a distant mixed flock of Rooks and Jackdaws, and a small flock of Yellowhammers.

I walked through the woods near the church and across fields to Whipsnade Golf Course. I crossed about five fairways and took the path along the edge of Whipsnade Zoo – there was a large flock of Lapwings in one of the zoo paddocks, and I heard a Skylark (as I did in two or three other places today).

I followed the old lane from Holywell to Whipsnade, and took the path to Whipsnade church.  On the way back to Kensworth I explored parts of Whipsnade Heath that I’d not visited since I was a child.

Stroll round Ashridge

Thursday, February 26th, 2009

I haven’t been for a walk for ages – unfortunately I’ve had a cold/sore throat/chest infection for a couple of weeks or so. My chest is still very congested, but I managed to stroll round Ashridge for a couple of hours this morning.

I saw a Treecreeper, a Great Spotted Woodpecker, a large flock of Redwings and a pair of Buzzards. I saw about 30 Fallow deer in the large pasture beside the Ringshall-Berkhamsted road, and another group of about a dozen just the other side of that road. I followed a few paths I’d not taken before – I didn’t have a set route when I set off, just a rough idea of the area I wanted to walk through, and I diverted down inteersting-looking paths whenever the fancy took me. This was a stroll to enjoy nature, rather than a proper walk, and very pleasant and relaxing it was too!

Redbourn walk in the snow

Thursday, February 12th, 2009

Yesterday (Wednesday, 11th February 2009) I did a variation of my circular walk from Kensworth to Redbourn and back. I did it in the anti-clockwise direction, which I’d only done once before. It was a cold day, with several inches of snow on the ground still. Some paths were very icy indeed, whereas others were very muddy – I realised that it depended on whether the path was on the southern side of the hedgerow (muddy) or the northern side (icy). The snow, ice and mud made for slow and tiring walking – the walk took about five and three quarter hours, around an hour or so longer than usual (though I had varied the route slightly).

I set off just before 10am. I took the very familiar route to Holywell, via the Whipsnade Road and Dovehouse Lane – the larger of the two fields between these roads was covered in several inches of snow that crunched pleasingly under my boots. From Holywell I took the path to Byslips road, crossing another large field of crunchy snow. I continued on and took the green lane that is the extension of Roe End Lane – in places there was a ‘stream’ of water running on a gravel bed in the centre of the path, with some interesting ice formations above it.

From Roe End I took the field path to Cheverell’s Green on the edge of Markyate, and briefly went down Friendless Lane. I took the usual path that runs parallel to the lane, but after a few fields I turned right on to a permissive path, which I’d not used before. This followed a hedgerow downhill to reach a lane running along a valley bottom, where I turned left. After about a third of a mile I reached a bend where the lane turned left and went uphill, but I continued ahead along a bridleway, still following the valley bottom and now back on my normal route.

The bridleway took me to Trowley Bottom. Here I again deviated from my usual route by forking left onto a bridleway – I was now following a route to Redbourn that I’d walked in the opposite direction when I did a walk from Studham Common to Briden’s Camp and Redbourn, a couple of weeks ago. The bridleway crossed the valley where I once met a boy fishing for alligators, and then I followed a footpath that ran for over a mile beside a left hand-hedge and then just inside the edge of a wood. This route is pleasanter but slightly longer than my usual route, which follows a farm track through huge fields to Flamsteadbury.

The path eventually turned left and crossed the M1 near a farm. I turned right and followed a path behind gardens to reach the huge green in the village of Redbourn. I stopped for lunch on a bench overlooking the cricket pitch. A Buzzard flew overhead just after I sat down. A friendly gentleman from Ireland stopped and chatted to me – he was visiting his niece and said how much he enjoyed walking the footpaths and bridleways in the summer months.

I was a bit worried as I set off after lunch – it had taken me over three hours to reach Redbourn, and I was only about halfway through the walk.  I usually prefer to get well over half the walk done before lunch. The skies had been a mixture of blue sky and clouds during the morning, but now grey clouds were becoming dominant. My path led past a couple of schools and on back into the countryside. I crossed another bridge back over the M1, and headed on back across the alligator valley (where I saw another Buzzard)  to reach Flamstead.

I took Friendless Lane for a few yards, then took a path on the right. I spotted a male Bullfinch her, flying along a hedgerow. It was then tough going over a ploughed field where the snow hid the line of the path, then there was a huge stubble field where the snow was again crunchy underfoot. When I reached a hedgerow, the path was solid ice and I had to take care as I followed it past some allotments to reach Markyate.

The path from Markyate followed a hedgerow on my right, through a couple of sports fields then a large field of stubble. This path was very wet and muddy, being on the southern side of the hedge. The only other time I did the walk in this direction, I went to the Lynch and on to Church End and Hollicks Lane, avoiding the long drag of three quarters of a mile along the main road through Kensworth. But the mud and snow had tired my legs, it was getting a bit late, and the grey clouds ahead reminded me that rain had been forecast for the late afternoon, so I continued on my usual route. The paddocks just before I reached the road in Kensworth were again very muddy. It was a weary trudge along the road through the village, but it seemed to go quite quickly, and I got home just before 4pm.

This was an interesting variation on a familiar walk, and I’m sure I’ll repeat it again sometime. I always like walking through snowy conditions, though it can be tiring on the legs. It was very tiring walking today – either the snow or mud was making it hard work, or else I was having to concentrate really hard on icy sections (which included all the lanes I walked). I really needed the exercise, having not had a long walk for a week.

Kensworth and everywhere (in the snow!)

Tuesday, February 3rd, 2009

We have just had the heaviest snowfall here for almost 20 years. Today I made the most of the conditions by doing my ‘Kensworth and everywhere’ walk – see  The advantage of this walk is that I can cut it short at numerous points as it is never more than a few miles from my home. I didn’t expect to do the whole walk, as I thought 15 miles through snow would be tiring, but in the end I did do the full walk.

It was very sunny as I set off just before 10am, and remained so until about midday. I took lots of snowy photos as I followed Hollicks Lane to  Church End, then followed the Quarry path round to Dunstable Downs. I got talking to three different people as I walked round the quarry, the conditions making everyone unusually friendly and willing to talk to strangers. There were lots of people sledging on the Downs, the local schools obviously being closed. As I followed the path along the bottom of the Downs, the skies gradually clouded over. I saw a pair of Buzzards just before I reached Bison Hill (I’ve twice before seen one in this vicinity in recent weeks).

I followed the bridleway from Bison Hill to Whipsnade, and went down the old lane towards Hollywell. I varied  slightly from the route shown on my web site, turning along the path behind the zoo fence, but rejoined that route by Studham Church. I saw a Hare and another Buzzard between the zoo and Studham Church. The skies were now grey and overcast. I got a photo of a Kestrel near Studham school, while there was a brief snow shower. I ate my lunch on Studham Common, and carried on, soon experiencing another brief snow shower.

At Roe End, I had my last chance to shorten the walk, but chose to carry on to Markyate – I saw another Buzzard, carrying some prey and being harrassed by several rooks. As always I enjoyed the long path from Markyate that passes Dedmansey Wood, and continued on the usual route across to Holywell and back home via Dovehouse Lane and the Whipsnade Road.

It was just after 4pm when I got home, after almost six hours walking. This was quite slow, but due to the 200 photos I took and the fact that I was ploughing my way through snow for much of the walk.

I might add some of the photos to my web site at some point.