28th April Our annual Bluebell-fest (see here and here). We're at Dockey Wood by 6-45am and we have the place to ourselves, except for two hard-core photographers. It may be my imagination, but I think the display is marginally less spectacular this year. Perhaps the recent hot weather or yesterday's heavy rain and high winds have taken their toll....nevertheless, the colours are still breath-taking. As is traditional, we wander around looking like rank amateurs, taking a few snaps, before leaving the Wood for The Coombe via Ward's Hurst Farm. The smell of the wild garlic is strong as we walk through The Coombe and we have the place to ourselves.
6th April And so the encirclement of Luton is complete! As I type this it occurs to me, that sentence has probably never been used before. To be honest, I'd hoped that last week we'd achieved this but, as I examined our routes, it became clear there was a tiny section across the East Coast railway line that broke my chain of walks. So we're back to finish what we've started. I have planned a walk from Heartwood Forest. It's the start of the bluebell season...at least that's how I explain the walk to Sue.
9th March So this walk completes the Aylesbury Canal...which we'd started over a year ago. The canal itself was started well over 200 years ago...and never finished. The intention had been to drive a canal as far as the Thames to the south and, via the Kennet & Avon canal and the Thames, link Bristol and the West with the Grand Union Canal. Money ran out, railways arrived and, instead, the canal finishes in Aylesbury...an 18th Century equivalent of buying a 3D TV and finding the world had move on to 4K TV. However, today the Aylesbury Canal is a pleasant walk in early spring.
9th February To tell the truth, I'm still smarting from the 'Not one of your better walks' put down of a few weeks ago! It's Bedfordshire, for goodness sake! What did you expect? This week we're in Hertfordshire...just...completing the Nickey Line from Redbourn as far as Hemel Hempstead before heading north towards Gaddesden Row and then picking our way through the lanes and bridleways back to Redbourn.
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.
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!