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.
A walk through an ancient landscape on less permanent footpaths! The 8-30am sunshine is perfect and there are panoramic views north from the fort. This is an ancient landscape and from The Ridgeway we catch glimpses of Silbury Hill and Avebury in the distance.
A Sunday afternoon walk near Stokenchurch. We park on the green by the Fleur de Lis pub before walking north out of the village onto the Chiltern Way and Collier's Lane. About 300 hundred years ago Collier's Lane was the main road to London. Difficult to imagine now. This afternoon the only noise in the valley is the high-pitched mewing of circling Red Kites.
An afternoon stroll through the 'tucked away' Chilterns. Hawridge & Cholesbury Cricket records suggest a certain Sarfraz Narwaz plays for the local cricket team! Judging by the recorded scores this is not the swash-buckling former Pakistan captain...although to be fair, he'd be quite old now...so who knows! Anyway, we're back for a Saturday afternoon walk around the shallow valleys near Chesham. Most of our walk is along wooded bridleways and this is probably the first time this year it's felt like Spring has arrived fully. Two hundred years ago the beech woods around here provided the base material for a burgeoning chair-making industry in High Wycombe. Today they just provide the backdrop to a not-too strenuous afternoon walk.