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.
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.
20th October The early mist is still clinging to the fields in the still morning air as we leave the car park at Cowleaze Wood. This is an early start...and would have been earlier had we got going when we intended. Nevertheless there is something strangely satisfying about being out before the rest of the world...we're getting a head start on everyone else today. This is a beautiful, mid-Autumn walk. The woods are suffused by the full range of autumn colours...russet reds, honeycomb yellows and lime greens.
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.
26th May Today we're walking in the Kingdom of Wessex and, it turns out, I've been joined by Ethelred's long-lost grand-daughter, 'Susan the Unready'. We arrive at the Lardon Chase car park to discover that Sue's left her walking boots behind! In spite of our inauspicious start, this is a thoroughly enjoyable walk. It has a pleasing mix of river views, secluded valleys, downland views and sleepy country villages. We follow the Thames as far as Moulsford before striking up onto the Downs through Unhill Wood and Cow Common. From up here the views are far and wide, including the Chilterns in the distance.