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!
17th November This is a beautiful walk, made better by the fine, late Autumn weather. It's been said before, but bears repeating, we love the Hambleden Valley and most of the tracks have been walked by Angells over the last few years. This time we walk as far as Pullingshill Wood at Medmenham before turning north to Marlow Common. At Mundaydean Lane we stumble upon 8ft high boxing hares, frozen in mid fight! Outdoor sculptures are becoming a theme for us, first the Nuba Survival at Checkendon, then Much Hadham and some Henry Moores and now Marlow Common.
2nd December It's been a few weeks since we were last out walking. As if to make up for it, this is a long walk. We're filling in the area between Chesham and Berkhamsted. In my mental map these towns are far apart...one is on a quiet branch line at the end of the Metropolitan Line and the other on the West Coast main line. In reality, it's a matter of miles. Nevertheless today they seem to be separated by plenty of hills and valleys. As we leave Cholesbury the rain is billowing across the Common. Thankfully, by the time we approach Berkhamsted the weather has improved and candyfloss clouds chase us across the fields. Turning south we strike out for Whelpley Hill and Bovingdon. We've been through Whelpley Hill before and once again we walk through the middle of a mobile home park for the retired...unnoticed and unremarked, high house prices and poor pensions are quietly changing corners of the Chilterns.
2nd November Some culture today! Continuing a theme of outdoor sculpture, and on Sally's recommendation, we've traveled a lot further east than we normally do...the aim is to include the grounds of Henry Moore Foundation at Perry Green in our walk. We're almost into Essex and the villages round here look very different to the Chilterns...and, thankfully, the weather has changed for the better too. Parking by the village church we head out south east, across the fields, towards Moor Place and Wynches, before following the lanes back to Hadham Mill. The sun's out and the skies are azure blue...what a contrast to yesterday! Our planned route takes us through the grounds of the Henry Moore Foundation...at least it would have done had the gates not been firmly locked and adorned with threatening notices, warning of angry dog patrols. Sue's not up for an adventure today so we retrace our steps. Nevertheless we see enough Henry Moore sculptures to ask 'What is it?' and 'Is it art?' and generally scoff in our usual, unenlightened way.
1st November We set out from Hurley in the rain and it intensifies as we reach The River...big, heavy stair rods and within a couple of minutes we're soaked! By the time we reach Temple Lock it's eased off to a fine drizzle but the damage is done...I'm wet! We head north from the River Thames, eventually picking our way up onto Marlow Common. There really isn't much to report about this walk. Don't get me wrong, it's enjoyable and, as always, the conversation is good but we've completed lots of enjoyable walks through Chiltern woods and this is another of those. By the time we're descending into the Hambleden Valley it's early afternoon, the rain has eased and the gloom only serves to enhance the lime greens, canary yellows and copper browns of the beech trees. I think it's the best display of this year.
28th October This morning the clocks went back 1 hour. What to do with an extra hour? Well, we decided we'd use it out walking. Today, we're in Stoke Row. I'd planned a walk to take in a couple of sights that somehow we've managed to miss up to now. There are some good write-ups on the origins of the Maharajah's Well (here and here) so no need for me to repeat them. A common feature of the Chilterns is the lack of rivers and the need for a village well explains this, with the interesting involvement of the Maharajah of Varanasi. The Nuba Survival is less well known, situated on the edge of a field just outside Checkendon...no signposts and no plaques to explain its meaning...you have to dig around a bit to discover the backstory. It turns out I'm already familiar with the artist's work from childhood trips to Oxford...the Headington shark is similarly enigmatic.
27th October We have walked The Ashridge Estate before (here and here) but our route today is new and that much enjoyable for it. I wanted to try the Ashridge Boundary walk, 16 miles in total. Sue agreed because we've had some lovely walks on Ashridge and the weather was set to be fine. It's a long walk and the days are getting shorter now so we park up in the National Trust car park and the Bridgewater Monument at 7-45am on a Saturday morning.