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.
2nd March This always seems like the most 'tucked away' part of the Chilterns...perhaps because it takes us so long to get here. Anyway, walking around here is always good and today was no exception. It's been a while since we walked any hills...Bedfordshire and North Hertfordshire are both flat...and to tell the truth, it was a struggle in places. Nevertheless its good to get back to walking in the woods and the outward stretch is pretty much all woods. It's great to watch the seasons tick by and today it certainly feels like spring is just around the corner.
5th May It's probably the last 'Bluebell weekend' of the season...and the best! From Christmas Common the route follows a long, gentle descent through Queen Wood, Fire Wood and Longhill Hanging Wood and there are bluebells aplenty. We have the paths to ourselves and, by the time we reach the bottom of the valley, the air is thick with the scent of bluebells and the sunlight and shadows swirl through the heady mix.
4th March Hampshire has some special memories, even if it's over 30 years since I lived around here. I'm sure I didn't really appreciate this part of Hampshire back then. Having said all that, last time I was at Bucklers Hard I'm sure it didn't cost to get in.
Today we choose to stick close to the footpath. No running through wheat fields...you never know when those farmers might return and bite you on the bum, Mrs May! And for the most part, these footpaths are easy to follow. Parking up at the Dashwood Mausoleum we walk through Hearnton Wood as far as Nobles Farm. The last time we were here it was a cold, misty November morning and the views were obscured. Today, as we drop down off the ridge we can see far up the Bradenham Valley towards Saunderton and Lacey Green. Bradenham is as picturesque as we remember it and we stop long enough to snap some pictures across the sloping village cricket pitch before the next hill, up onto Naphill Common.
We need a break so return to South Oxfordshire. This time we plan to walk to Mapledurham by way of the wonderfully named Gallowstree Common and Kidmore End and back via Cane End. The last time we visited Mapledurham was 1992 and the intervening years have dulled my memory. The house and watermill are only open on Bank Holidays and Sundays and arriving at lunchtime the place is deserted, so much for the ice cream I'd been promising myself. We eat a rather forlorn lunch (cheese and crackers) in the graveyard before heading back.
The full range of greens are the dominant colour at the moment and the views picture postcard perfect for the Chilterns. This walk was hard work! Perhaps it's the muggy weather, certainly there are more hills than we've had for a while but from 4 miles in we were checking how far to the end. This week we're filling in the top end of the Hambleden Valley, walking from Hell Fire Caves, passed West Wycombe House and crossing the M40 at Wheeler End.