It sits at the top of the Ipsden valley, hidden from most of the world…but up here, amongst the tranquility of this gentle Chiltern valley, it raises two fingers to the everyone else. It is a matter of record that, when Rowan Atkinson applied for permission to build his dream house, it wasn’t popular with the locals. As the planning application was disputed, it was variously described as ‘inappropriate’, ‘a sore thumb’, and a ‘space age petrol station’. Stumbling upon it during our walk today, we had to agree, they were right! Because you have lots of money it doesn’t guarantee good taste. The building jars with the surrounding countryside…at least it is hidden enough not to spoil the view for too many people.
We’re scouting bluebells today and rumour has it Ipsden Heath has plenty. Parking up in Exlade Street, outside the Highwayman pub, the first part of our walk reprises an earlier walk before looping around Woodcote. The sun’s out and it’s pleasantly warm. So much so that, as we emerge from Dean Wood, the views across the Thames Valley towards the Berkshire Downs, are shrouded in heat haze. We’re enjoying the walk too much to remember to look out for John Reade’s memorial…but Rowan’s mansion is a jarring return to reality. ‘Why has someone build a research lab out here?’ asks Sue.
At the top of the valley we finally discover Ipsden Heath and rumours are right, it does have a plentiful supply of bluebells…well, it will do in a few weeks time. We’re 2 weeks too early. Still, we tuck it away for another visit, this year or next…but we’ll probably avoid the top end of the Ipsden Valley, if you don’t mind, Mr Atkinson?
An ‘interesting’ 11.3 mile walk.
Ipsden picture gallery (more pictures on Flickr):
Distance: 11.3 miles ; Difficulty: Moderate
Postcode for Satnav: RG8 0UA