19th January After last week, it could only get better. To be fair, we were starting from a low base! Nevertheless this was a decent 13 mile walk to clear away the mid-winter cabin fever. Occasionally we stumble upon places that we are completely unaware of and the Nickey Line is one of those. Running from Harpenden to Hemel Hempstead, this is a throw back to days when railway lines were more common and travel by rail was a genuine option. Now a cycle-footpath, it provides a gentle start to our walk as far a Redbourn.
13th January This goes down in family history as 'Not one of your better walks!' Sue has years of teaching experience on which to drawn when summing up disappointment...and this was her damning conclusion to this afternoon's walk. To be fair, it's hard to argue.
1st January Start the year as you mean to go on! We're up while the rest of the world is still asleep, recovering from having seen in the New Year. This is more a reflection of our traditional way of seeing in the New Year, fast asleep. It certainly doesn't mean we're able to party hard and still get up early! A couple of dog walkers are the only other people to have made it up this early...and they're missing a good start to the year. The skies start heavy and grey but within 30 minutes the sun starts to break through and by the time we reach Chalfont St Giles the sky is blue and the fresh breeze carries clouds at breakneck speed across the Misbourne Valley.
30th December As we walk down to the Thames there are views across to the Berkshire Downs in the distance and memories of Susan the Unready. South Stoke is a quiet village except for the trains heading west that thunder though at regular intervals, even on the penultimate day of the year. The Thames footpath takes us north passed Moulsford School on the other bank and once again old memories are evoked.
9th December An early start yesterday, a late start today. After the early church service we're parking up on Chorleywood Common by mid-day. Rain is in the forecast for tomorrow so today the priority is to make the best of it...and, when the sun's out like it is, that's no chore. The football pitches next to Chorleywood House are heaving with energy and the air is full of 'football dads' barking orders to 'Close him down' and 'Get rid'. Leaving them behind we drop down into the Chess Valley. Here the tranquility is broken only by the occasional dog walker. For a while we're retracing yesterday's route (well, in reverse) and we have the place to ourselves. More shouting as we pass the ford near Valley Farm. Someone's been exercising a falcon, of all things, and the bird is sitting up in a tree by The Chess, enjoying the sun. The encouraging whistles and accompanying curses seem to be having little effect. We leave them to it.
8th December When your body clock has been habituated to early morning starts Saturday lie-ins become a trial rather than a pleasure. No different today. We're in Sarratt before sunrise, parking on the Green. It's only then that a side effect of early morning starts becomes apparent...I've not been alert enough to load the correct gpx coordinates for our walk. We'll be free-styling! I have at the back of my mind that we were to walk north out of the village before looping back to the Chess and return to the car. Well, the route we eventually take bears no resemblance to the planned (see below)! Nevertheless the early start is rewarded by a 10-15 minute window as the sun rises over Sarratt. We walk as far as Chipperfield Common before following the footpaths to Venus Hill and Flaunden. Rumour has it Flaunden used to be at the bottom of the hill, in Buckinghamshire but, due to constant flooding, the locals decided to re-locate to Hertfordshire, at the top of the hill...makes sense to me, no decent football teams in Buckinghamshire!
24th November Dull and wet! Writing this about a month later, I'm struggling to remember much else about this walk. We were filling in some of the paths between Great Kingshill and Great Missenden and, in the process, linking several sections that we'd previously walked. More of those easily recognised Chiltern dry valleys (if you're interested in the geology it's explained in some detail here) as well as the Misbourne, one of the three Chiltern rivers (Misbourne, Chess and Gade...you tell me if there are more...). It had rained the night before and our walk is punctuated by light drizzle throughout but the walk through Longfield and on to Bryant's Bottomis pleasant enough. At Dennerhill Farm we pass one of those Kevin McCloud 'Grand Designs' barn conversions...I think time is running out for us and we should stop promising each other that one day we'll do something similar!