Archive for March, 2009

Wendover Woods and Wigginton again

Saturday, March 28th, 2009

Yesterday (Friday 27th March 2009) I repeated my walk from Wendover Woods to Wigginton, which is Walk 5 of my Chiltern Chain Walk. It’s a very nice walk that I always enjoy, about 12.5 miles long. After the fine weather I had for the three walks I did last week, sadly the weather had turned wintry again – grey, cold and windy. I had to return to wearing my winter woolies again – coat, warm trousers, woollen hat and mitts.

I didn’t take many photos – the walk is already on my web site (twice!) and the grey conditions didn’t do the scenery justice. I spotted Wood Anemones and some Primroses, and saw my first Wood Sorrel of the year (in Barn Wood, southeast of Wendover). I heard Buzzards in a couple of places, but otherwise there were no bird or mammal sightings to report.

Two more favourite walks revisited

Friday, March 20th, 2009

At the moment I am repeating some of my favourite walks here in the Chilterns. On Wednesday (18th March 2009) I repeated a walk from Coombe Hill, visiting Whiteleaf Hill, Great Hampden and Little Hampden – it’s a walk I’ve described here several times before, and which forms Walk 12 of my Chiltern Chain Walk (see ). But I extended it slightly, by turning right just before I got back to Coombe Hill and following a descending path for about a mile almost to the edge of Wendover, before coming back on a parallel path over Bacombe Hill to Coombe Hill.

Today (Friday 20th March 2009) I did a 10 or 11 mile circular walk from Hambleden in the Buckinghamshire Chilterns. It was almost Walk 15 of my Chiltern Chain Walk (see ), done in the opposite direction, and shortened by going straight from Fingest to Turville (omitting Ibstone). I stopped at a couple of places near Turville for several minutes in the vain hope of getting some decent Red Kite photos, but the Kites were more distant and fewer in number than usual.

There are a few photos of both walks here on the ‘WildAboutBritain’ site:

Chess valley walk

Monday, March 16th, 2009

A beautiful Spring-like day here today, so I went and did a 12-mile walk in and around the Chess valley (southeast of Chesham, on the Bucks/Herts boundary). It was treat I’d been promising myself for some days! This is one of my favourite parts of the Chilterns, and one of the few places in these chalk hills where there is a river to walk along.

Starting at the attractive village of Chenies, I headed west along the hilltop south of the river, with nice views across the valley to Latimer and Latimer House. I descended through a beech wood and crossed the river just below Latimer House (now some type of Management Centre, I think).

I followed the river a short distance eastwards to the village of Latimer (another attractive place, with some interesting items on its small triangular green). I then turned and headed west again, along the northern side of the valley, back past Latimer House and along a lovely path beside a beech wood, with the river in the valley down to my left.

Almost on the edge of Chesham, I turned right, and followed a series of mainly bridleways for several miles, going in a semi-circle that eventually brought me back to the Chess Valley about half a mile east of Latimer. On the way I passed through the valley of Flaunden Bottom.

I then headed eastwards along the path through the Chess valley, passing Chenies Bottom and carrying on to reach Sarratt Bottom, where I recrossed the river and followed a path uphill back to my starting point at Chenies.

I saw a Little Egret flying along the river, between Chenies Bottom and Sarratt Bottom – it was making quite a racket, the first time I’ve ever heard them make a noise. I’ve seen them in the Chess valley a couple of times before (and saw them regularly when I lived near the Suffolk coast). Otherwise I didn’t see too much in the way of birds, except for a Jay and Buzzards in several places.There were lots of Lesser Celandine out, and lots of Dog’s Mercury too, as well as a few Violets. I saw my first Peacock and Comma butterflies of the year, as well as one or two more Brimstones. And I saw some fungus which I’m pretty sure was “King Alfred’s Cakes”.

Yesterday (Sunday 15th March 2009) I did a short local walk, to Whipsnade Downs and back.

There are a few photos from both these walks on this thread on the Wild About Britain’ web site:

Minor update to web site

Saturday, March 14th, 2009

I have just updated my web site, “Pete’s Walks”. There are two new walks in the Chiltern Hills section (one very similar to a stage of my Chiltern Chain Walk) and a handful of new bird photos.

Kensworth-Pitsone Hill

Saturday, March 14th, 2009

 Yesterday (Friday 13th March 2009) I did a very long circular walk from my home in Kensworth to Pitstone Hill and back. I have created a Google map of the route, which measures the distance at 17.75 miles :-,-0.558243&spn=0.093152,0.30899&z=12&msid=112467863617014694733.000465118e9f655b3c6a6

The route is basically my Kensworth-Ivinghoe Beacon walk, but extended from Ashridge through Aldbury and over Pitstone Hill before rejoining that route at Steps Hill. I had done this walk only once before, and I adjusted the route slightly in a couple of places this time.

It was a very grey day, so I took very few photos – because of the weather conditions, I had no intention of recording the walk on my web site. I had a few spots of rain when I reached Aldbury, enough for me to put the rain-cover on my daypack, but otherwise it remained dry. The low grey clouds did slightly restrict the views from Pitstone Hill and Ivinghoe Beacon.

It was a great walk for spotting birds – Red Kite, Raven, two Buzzards, Green Woodpecker, Great Spotted Woodpecker,  Fieldfare, Long-tailed Tits, Song Thrush, Yellowhammer and Jay. There was a lot of Dog’s Mercury growing in several places – this had been the only wildflower I’d seen this year, but today I finally spotted some Coltsfoot, Red Dead-nettle and Lesser Celandine.

Studham Common, Briden’s Camp and Redbourn

Sunday, March 8th, 2009

On Friday (March 6th 2009) I repeated a walk I first did about a month ago. Starting at Studham Common the 17-mile circular route took me to the hamlet of Briden’s Camp and then on to the edge of the large village of Redbourn, returning via Trowley Bottom, Cheverell’s Green and Roe End. The start of the walk follows Walk 2 of my Chiltern Chain Walk, and most of the return from Redbourn is the same as my Kensworth-Redbourn walk. But the majority of this route I’d only walked that once before.

I started walking from the car park on Studham Common at about 9.35am – it was a cold but beautiful morning, with clear blue skies and still a touch of frost in a few shaded places. As I walked along the top of the common, there was a good view back over the common to Studham itself, and ahead and to my right I could see the bridleway from Roe End that would be my return route, with Dedmansey Wood beyond.

In the corner of the common I turned right, following a hedgerow on my left beside a field showing the first green shoots of some arable crop. Further on I passed Great Bradwin’s Wood on my left. At the end of the wood I went through a gate and followed a fence through a small empty paddock, then continued along a gravel drive to reach a road. Opposite me were the village social club, a Scout hut, and some playing fields. I followed the road to the left, soon bearing right at a fork.

After about quarter of a mile, I turned left onto another footpath. Again I was following the left edge of an arable field. In the field corner the path turned right, and shortly afterwards switched to the left of the hedgerow. There was now a huge flat arable field on my left, as I followed the broad hedgerow for several hundred yards to the next field corner. I remembered seeing Bluebells in the hedgerow when I walked the Chiltern Chain Walk last Spring.

I then had a bit of a problem. The path goes through a hedge gap near the field corner, and follows the hedge to the left. There was now a new metal farm gate across the gap, with no footpath sign. I went through the gate and turned left, discovering that there was also a new barbed-wire fence alongside the hedge. I followed the hedge and wire fence, which soon turned left and equally soon then turned right. At this point, the footpath goes through a hedge gap and then turns right along the far side of the hedge. But the new barbed-wire fence blocked the gap (a wooden post with footpath waymarks lay discarded on the ground), so I had no option but to follow the right side of the hedge, rejoining the official route of the footpath by going over a gate in the next field corner.

The path continued through a field that is usually a sheep pasture, then goes through a kissing-gate to join a farm track. A few yards along this, I left the route of the Chiltern Chain Walk by turning left. This path crossed a large empty l-shaped pasture, heading for the corner of a wood. It continued through the pasture, with the wood on my right. Over a stile in the corner I turned right, still with the wood on my right. I turned left in the corner of a large ploughed field, then took a footpath going right which took me through a small field of rough grass and on to a road heading into Gaddesden Row.

I followed the road a few yards to the left, towards the village, then turned right onto another field path. This ran through a few more arable fields, crossing the Hertfordshire Way at one point,  then ran between wooden fences separating several paddocks. I crossed a narrow hedge-lined lane, the footpath continuing on a headland between fields with a large white water tower over to my left. I crossed another empty field and took a short permissive path (that avoided the official path route through a small meadow next to a house) to reach a drive.

I went over a stile on the far side, briefly joining the route of the Chiltern Way, and followed the right edge of a meadow – I had a distant view of some Partridges ahead of me here. The path then went half-right across the parkland of a large house called Golden Parsonage – I passed some large trees here that I think are some type of Walnut. When the path reached the drive from the house, the Chiltern Way followed it towards Water End, but I turned half-left onto a hedge-side path. After a hundred yards or so, I turned right onto a footpath running along a wide grassy ride between hedgerows with many mature trees. As I did so, I noticed two Hares in the field on my left which had been disturbed by a tractor. One ran almost straight towards, and crossed the path a few yards in front of me – I managed to get a poor quality photo, the best I’ve managed of a Hare so far.

There were several horse jumps or fences along the grassy ride.  I spotted another Hare in the field on my right, and another crossed the ride ahead of me (I think it was the second one fleeing from the tractor). I spotted another Partridge, but was again unable to see if it was a Grey or (more probably) Red-legged Partridge. The path then switched to the left of the hedgerow on my left, following it for several hundred yards beside an arable field on my left to reach the drive to a large farm complex. I followed the drive to the left to reach a lane.

I turned right and followed the lane carefully as it entered the small hamlet of Briden’s Camp (no, sorry, I’ve not been able to find the origins of this intriguing name!). I passed the pub and a few cottages on my left, and after the last building took a path on the left. This soon turned half right, and there were now some attractive views to my right, across the Gade Valley and towards Nettleden in a side valley on the far side. The path passed a bit of woodland and turned left, downhill between the wood and a small young plantation.

At the bottom of the small dip, the path turned right alongside a hedge on my right (the map showed the path on the other side of the hedge, but the waymarks showed the path on this side and there was a clear path here). There was a nice view ahead into the Gade Valley heading towards Hemel Hempstead, but it was difficult to photograph as I was looking into the sun. The path ran gently downhill for several hundred yards, to reach a path junction in the next field corner.

Here I turned left, following a bridleway uphill for some distance beside a neatly-trimmed hedge on my right. There were increasingly fine views looking back, again across the Gade Valley and towards Nettleden, so I used this as an excuse to stop a couple of times on the long steady climb. There was a short awkward muddy section near the top of the hill, then the bridleway switched to the right of the hedgerow which was now a fine line of mature trees. I found this section particularly pleasant, following the hedgerow with nice views over arable fields ahead and to my right. I passed a pond in the hedge, and spotted a black fungus on an oak log (I later had the fungus identified on ‘Wild About Britain’ as probably King Alfred’s Cakes, also known as Cramp Balls).

The bridleway followed the hedge slightly downhill, then I turned right on another bridleway, again following a mature hedge on my left. The hedge and bridleway soon turned left, heading uphill, then turned right and left again by a field corner. I passed a lady walking a dog  as the rather muddy path led me to a lane, with the houses of Cupid Green on the edge of Hemel Hempstead visible a short distance to my right.

I crossed the lane and followed a farm track opposite, which went down into a slight dip and up the other side, passing a small copse and an old chalk pit on my right. As I continued beside a trim hedge on my right, I saw a Buzzard ahead of me over Hay Wood. I turned left in the field corner, then went right, over a stile, following the edge of the wood with a small arable field on my right. In the field corner the path turned left, running through a small belt of trees, soon merging with a parallel bridleway and then joining a farm track between hedges.

At the end of the track, I turned right along the lane between Gaddesden Row and Redbourn. I took great care as the narrow lane twisted round a couple of bends, then I turned left onto a narrower lane. A cyclist passed me here, as I followed the lane steadily uphill. It soon levelled out, and continued on past an isolated farmhouse. After about half a mile of lane walking, I took a path going right – this was an attractive field path, with a good view ahead over fields and a small wood. The path passed to the left of the wood, then veered half-left between large flat arable fields to eventually meet a path junction near Flamsteadbury Farm. A small flock of Yellowhammers flew past me here.

I could have shortened the walk here, by turning left and following the Hertfordshire Way towards Flamstead, but instead turned right, passing the farm complex and crossing a bridge over the M1. I soon turned left and followed a path to the edge of Redbourn, where I again turned left. I followed the path for some distance with the back fences of some of the houses of Redbourn on my right. I then crossed another bridge back over the motorway, and turned left on a fenced path beside some paddocks.

This last section was not particularly interesting (it probably seems odd just crossing the motorway only to come back across it a bit further on), but the point was it enabled me to reach the path beyond the paddocks, which was another highlight of the walk. This initially followed a hedgerow on my left, but soon the hedge was replaced by a wood – the path continued just inside the edge of the wood for several hundred yards, a pleasant change from the mainly field paths so far. Across the large field on my left was the farm track from Flamsteadbury towards Trowley Bottom and Flamstead, the route of the Hertfordshire Way and the way I go on my Kensworth-Redbourn walk.

Beyond the wood, the path continued alongside a hedgeline on my right, which turned left then right in quick succession a couple of times, before eventually reaching a distant field corner. Here I went a few yards to the left on a track between mature hedgerows (it had obviously just been re-engineered with ditches either side, it was flooded and impassable the last time I was here), then took a path on the right. This crossed a small stubble field to a far hedgerow containing some mature trees, where I turned right. Beyond the stubble field the path descended a green valley of horse paddocks, with a nice view ahead to Flamstead, with its church topped by a ‘Hertfordshire Spike’. Sadly, the site of the large puddle at the bottom of the valley where I once met a little boy ‘fishing for Alligators’ had been filled in.

Partway up the opposite slope of the valley, the bridleway turned left, soon running between some old cottages to reach a road junction in the hamlet of Trowley Bottom (which adjoins Flamstead). I took the lane ahead of me to reach a crossroads, where I continued ahead on a bridleway – I was now back on the route of my Kensworth-Redbourn walk, so this was very familiar to me.  I spotted a Buzzard ahead of me – last time I walked this way I’d seen a Red Kite. The bridleway followed a valley bottom for some distance and ended at a bend in a lane. Here I stopped and sat on a log for a very late lunch – it was now about 2.20pm, and I’d already had a couple of extra Alpen bars to keep me going. This was probably my latest ever stop for lunch, there just hadn’t really been anywhere else suitable (though I guess I could have detoured slightly to the park benches around the huge green in Redbourn).

Suitably refreshed, I turned right and followed the lane uphill. At the top of the slope, I turned left at a crossroads and set off down Friendless Lane (an old favourite of mine). After a short distance I turned half-left on a path through Friendless Wood, turning right along the far side of the wood. The path continued onwards, parallel to the lane, following a hedgerow and then another small bit of woodland on my right. It then crossed a stubble field, and carried on along a thick garden hedge on my left – there were three horses here in what are usually empty small grass fields. I then rejoined Friendless Lane shortly before it terminated at a junction on the edge of Cheverell’s Green (a hamlet adjoining Markyate).

I continued on the very familiar path from Markyate to Roe End, with attractive views ahead and to my right over rolling hills, dotted with several woods. When I reached Roe End, I turned right along the lane. Where it ended, I took its continuation, an initially muddy track between hedges (I’ve always assumed it’s a bridleway but its actually signposted as a ‘public highway’). The muddy section was soon over and it was as usual a pleasant stretch along the flat and hedge-lined track. I had to remember to follow the track when it eventually turned left, rather than take the path going right (which is my usual way back to Kensworth).

The track continued onwards, soon going a short distance downhill beside a waterworks on the left. At the bottom of the valley I reached a corner of Studham Common (where I once spotted my first Bee Orchid!). I trudged uphill along the left edge of the common, meeting an elderly lady with a very friendly Spaniel, and turned right at the top to return to my car. It was now 3.45pm and, allowing 10 minutes for lunch, I’d walked the 17 miles in about six hours, which wasn’t too bad considering I’d taken 170+ photos.

This was only the second time I’d done this walk, so a large part of it was quite fresh to me, though the start and end were a little over-familiar from other walks.  The walk is one of the longer ones I do, which makes it slightly more of a physical challenge. It is a relatively flat route, with only one lengthy bit of uphill and that isn’t very steep. That uphill is the start of a very pleasant section towards Cupid’s Green, where there is little sign of habitation and some very nice views. The path from Redbourn to Trowley Bottom is good too, though it necessitates the less interesting section that crosses the M1 twice in quick succession. Overall it was not the best of walks, but a very enjoyable one nevertheless.

Circular walk from Cowleaze Wood

Tuesday, March 3rd, 2009

Yesterday (Monday 2/3/09) I did a roughly 12-mile circular walk from Cowleaze Wood, near Christmas Common on the Bucks/Oxon border in the Chiltern Hills. It was a walk I first did about 18 months ago, and a slightly extended version of it became Walk 16 of my Chiltern Chain Walk. I was really looking forward to this walk as it goes through one of the very best parts of the Chilterns. I had chosen a lovely day for it, as there wasn’t a cloud in the sky as I drove to the start of the walk.

I started walking from the car park in Cowleaze Wood at about 9.50am – straight away I could see some Red Kites nearby. Across the road I took a footpath that went diagonally across a large empty pasture and downhill through a belt of trees. The next section was one of my favourite paths in the Chilterns. The path gradually descended down the side of Shirburn Hill, with a glorious view ahead over the Oxfordshire Plain. About half a dozen Red Kites flew low overhead as I went downhill, and near the bottom of the slope I saw three Buzzards and a Kite together.

The path then folowed the foot of the steep Chiltern escarpment, with flat ploughed fields beyond the fence on my right. The slopes on my  left were wooded, initially with mainly coppiced Hazel, later with Beech. The path then went through some scrubby bushes to reach the route of the Oxfordshire Way long-distance path near Pyrton. I turned left, and followed the path steeply up Pyrton Hill. Near the top of the slope I forked right across a couple of sheep pastures to reach a road leading into Christmas Common.

I turned right and walked through part of the attractive village. After pasing the pub on my right, I took a path on the left beside the former church. This path took me through Queen Wood to Hollandridge Lane on the edge of the village. I followed the lane for a couple of hundred yards, but then took a bridleway on the left (again part of the Oxfordshire Way). This descended through Beech trees into a valley, where I forked left at a junction, to follow a bridleway along the valley bottom for about two miles.

The valley was wooded, in some parts with broadleaved trees such as Beech, but more often it was mixed woodland, with a mixture of Beech and Fir or Pine trees. After some distance I reached a path crossroads where I crossed the Chiltern Way (the Oxfordshire Way went right here). The bridleway continued down the valley – at some point I heard and saw a Buzzard overhead. eventually the bridleway left the woods and followed the valley as it curved right. I passed Turville Park Farm, where there were a large number of tiny calves in the open sheds, and continued alongside a hedgerow. After a few hundred yards the track switched to the left of the hedge, with ploughed fields either side.

At a path crossroads, I turned left and headed steeply uphill, following tractor tracks between a ploughed field on my left and a field of young grass on my right. As I neared the top of the hill, I saw about 20 Red Kites in the skies ahead of me. There was a bench sited near the top, and no wonder – there was an excellent view to my right over the Stonor valley, and more views behind me, towards Maidensgrove and back along the valley I’d been following.

I continued along a farm track, then branched left onto a path across a sheep pasture. The path continued through another pasture where there were some Jacobs sheep, including a ram and the first lambs I’ve seen this year. The path then approached the gardens of a house, where I had to brave a black Labrador that sat barking next to the path (I knew from previous experience that it barked but didn’t bite).

I crossed a lane in the hamlet of Turville Heath and followed another lane opposite for about a hundred yards, before turning left and crossing the common that gives the hamlet its name. I passed some more residences in the hamlet and took a bridleway heading steeply downhill into an attractive Beech wood. The bridleway curved right as it neared the valley bottom, then left the wood and ran slightly uphill between hedges  to reach a lane.

Walk 16 of my Chiltern Chain Walk goes right here, but I went straight ahead. The path descended across a large pasture – along the hedge some distance to my right were some Longhorn cattle.  I was now crossing the Wormsley estate, and I’d seen the cattle before on another part of the estate that is crossed by the Chiltern Way. There were again some marvellous views, along the Wormsley valley to my right and ahead to the steep slopes on the other side of the valley.

I crossed over a drive and started uphill across an empty pasture. Here I met a lady walker, with whom I chatted for a few minutes (she was the only other walker I saw all day, which was surprising considering the fine weather). I’d just spotted a few Red Kites, and as we talked there were about 20 Kites flying above us!

Just beyond the end of the steep pasture, I came to a junction where I turned half-left on a bridleway that continued uphill through a thin belt of Holly and Beech trees. Eventually the bridleway joined a lane running through part of the village of Ibstone. When I reached the start of Ibstone Common on my left, I followed a path going left along the edge of the common (rejoining Walk 16 of the Chiltern Way), then crossed part of the common to reach the village cricket pitch where I sat on a bench to eat my lunch. It was now just after 1pm. Four Red Kites were flying about nearby as I ate my cheese and crackers, and I reflected that the cricket team wouldn’t be too impressed with what a very active mole had done to their outfield!

I crossed over the common, passing the huge standing stone in its centre – I have just discovered a photo on the web that calls it the Millennium Stone, so it’s obviously not the original boundary stone that gives the village part of its name (the village is still on the border of Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire).  In the corner of the common, I entered Commonhill Wood and turned left, heading downhill back into the Wormsley Estate. For a short while I was on the route of the Chiltern Way, but it soon turned left as my path gradually turned left as it descended through the trees to reach the valley bottom.

The path then continued along the valley bottom on a good farm track. Soon there were hedges either side, and I glimpsed the cricket pitch and the big house, Wormsley Park, over to my left. The estate was once owned by the late Paul Getty II, who was fond of staging cricket matches at his private ground here after being introduced to cricket by Mick Jagger.  The track ended at a bend of a drive leading to the house. I continued ahead along the drive, passing some magnificent Beech trees and spotting a herd of some type of deer in a large fenced area of parkland over to my left.

Beyond a farm and an attractive yellow-painted cottage, the right-of-way forked left from the drive, heading fairly gently uphill through the trees of Langleygreen Plantation. I’ve yet to see any wildflowers in bloom this year,but I did spot the leaves of a Primrose here. Along the top of the hill I reached a path crossroads, where I turned left, descending steeply through the trees and then across a small meadow to reach the grounds of Lower Vicar’s Farm. I turned left for a few yards along the drive, then turned right on a footpath.

It was now a long steady slog uphill through a huge empty pasture, a bit of a sting in the tail of this walk. The scenery all around was lovely, so at least I had good excuses to stop and take photos. Near the top of the hill I entered Cowleaze Wood, and I then just had to follow the path for about half a mile through the wood to return to the car park.

I remembered thinking that this was one of the best walks I’d ever done in the Chilterns when I did it 18 months ago, and I wasn’t disappointed with it today. The scenery is lovely almost throughout the entire route, there are very  good views at several points, lots of woodland walking, five steepish ascents (well, by Chiltern standards!), attractive villages at Christmas Common and Ibstone, Red Kites galore and several Buzzards. This area is one of my three most favourite sections of the Chiltern Hills (the others being Great Hampden/Little Hampden and the nearby Hambleden/Turville/Fingest).

I hope to eventually use this blog entry as the basis for an entry on my web site.  In the meantime, there are a few photos on this report I put on the Wild About Britain site (towards the bottom of the page):