27th August We were last here 30 years ago and, even then, the place was a well known for gridlock, with traffic queuing both sides to cross the narrow bridge at Sonning Eye. We're parking up at 8am on Bank Holiday Monday and already there's a short queue for the bridge. How do local celebs cope living around here? Perhaps the Clooney's arrive and leave by boat. This is a gentle, morning walk. Nothing too strenuous, just a pleasant climb onto the high ground above Sonning at Dunsden Green, followed by a loop past Binfield Heath and back to The Thames at Shiplake.
17th August The first of several Thames walks and I'm kicking myself. I meant to set off in a broadly clockwise direction but walking out of the Lardon Chase car park I get confused and we end up walking through Common Wood and down the hill to Streatley. I do my best to pass it off as a planned diversion but to tell the truth it annoys me for a large part of the walk...we've already walked along this stretch of the Thames and in this direction...I'd wanted to do it in the opposite direction! Sue reckons I'm a bit up-tight sometimes.
15th August It's been quiet a while since we were walking in The Chilterns proper. A holiday in The Forest of Dean and, before that, some walks around Ruislip Woods, have distracted us. So this is an opportunity to get back to some typical Chiltern scenery. From Christmas Common this walk drops down off the escarpment and heads west before steadily climbing to the Ewelme Park Estate. Harvest is in full swing as we pass through and tractors scurry backwards and forwards staking hay bales. There's rain in the forecast.
10th August The end of the good weather coincides with the end of our holiday. On the way home we stop off in The Cotswolds to break the journey. We've parked in the back streets of Bourton because we suspect the centre of the village will be heaving...more later! It's pouring with rain as we set out and it's still heavy as we pass through Lower and Upper Slaughter but the weather doesn't spoil our enjoyment. We follow Warden's Way as far as Naunton and its ancient dovecote before returning to Bourton along the Windrush Way.
9th August We've been saving this walk all week! Our last full day and time to explore some of The Beacons before heading home tomorrow. The weather is perfect! Cooler than earlier in the week and it's forecast to be dry until later in the afternoon. The weather is spectacular today and its the great views that keep stopping us, honestly! Halfway us we pass a (more) elderly couple who we've been tracking for the last 30mins. They very generously encourage us as we pass just before the final steep scramble to the top of Pen Y Fan...where a shock awaits us both.
8th August There's something really odd about The Forest of Dean! Set on a plateau between the Severn and the Wye, it's cut off from the rest of the world. As far as this walk is concerned, there's really not much to record...a pleasant walk in the woods on another hot August day. A couple of summer showers blow through during the walk but you'd hardly know. We're hidden away, deep in the Forest. Occasionally we catch fleeting glimpses of Fallow Deer ghosting amongst the shadows but no sign of the famous wild boar...but plenty of evidence of their rooting.
7th August A gentle walk after yesterday's exertions. It's too warm to do much else! We park in the car park at Goodrich Castle and head off for Coppet Hill. Symonds Yat Rock towers above us as we sit in the shade at the edge of the woods. Peregrine falcons wheel and swoop through the haze. Other than the herd quietly grazing by the River, the silence is complete.
6th August Today's walk is a nice change from our recent expeditions. We're off to the Black Mountains. From just above the Farm we head up the side of the valley. In today's heat this is tough going and several times we stop for water. However the view from the top is worth it. We pause for an early lunch.
5th August If possible, it's hotter today than yesterday...so we opt for another walk in the woods, this time in the Wye Valley. Highlights? The cable bridge at Biblins, the hand-pulled ferry back across the Wye at Symonds Yat (£1.20 per person) and the cool shade of the woods. A relaxing 7.8 mile stroll in the woods.
4th August The first part of this walk follows the Sculpture Trail. Some of them need an explanation, others are more obviously worth looking at. There are plenty of cycle paths and we bump into cycling families at every turn. However we leave the families behind by the time we reach Great Kensley Inclosure and cross Speech House Road into Little Kensley and Russell's Inclosure. For a while the walk is more like I imagined the Forest would be, peaceful and undisturbed...until we reach Cannop Ponds...and once again we're dodging bell-ringing bikes all the way back to the car.