20th April Easter Saturday and we're out before most of the world is awake. As we wander through Park Wood, behind Nuffield Place, the milky light through the trees combined with the lilac carpet of bluebells is a magical experience. It's worth getting up early for this! We turn south and head for Ipsden Heath. It's hard to find paths around here that we've not walked but it's no less agreeable for that. The sun is warm and the early morning peace is thoroughly enjoyable. This is better than working, any day!
13th April It sits at the top of the Ipsden valley, hidden from most of the world...but up here, amongst the tranquility of this gentle Chiltern valley, it raises two fingers to the everyone else. It is a matter of record that, when Rowan Atkinson applied for permission to build his dream house, it wasn't popular with the locals. As the planning application was disputed, it was variously described as 'inappropriate', 'a sore thumb', and a 'space age petrol station'. Stumbling upon it during our walk today, we had to agree, they were right! Because you have lots of money it doesn't guarantee good taste. The building jars with the surrounding countryside...at least it is hidden enough not to spoil the view for too many people.
17th February Probably the first spring-like walk of the year and Hannah's joined us. Some mix-up over ordering a new printer and she's back to collect. Whatever the reason, any weekend either of them are back is special...and at last we pick the sunny day to go for a walk. Not that the first part of the walk goes to plan. I'd hoped to be able to walk through the grounds of Taplow Court but we're accosted just inside the gate and directed back to the road.
16th February We've had a series of Bedfordshire walks over the last few weeks and it was high time we did a quintessentially Chiltern walk...and this was going to be it....except that the muppet who arranges the weekly walks forgot to load up the coordinates on the GPS before leaving...and I only discover this as we're getting ready to walk out of Rotherfield Peppard.
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.
16th June Leaving the car, we walk south across the fields to Cookham Rise before the long, gentle climb to Fultness and Quarry Woods, high above Bisham. Through the trees we glimpse Marlow but to tell the truth, for the most part the view is obscured by leaves and trees. The return takes in some views from Winter Hill, a gentle stroll along the Thames and a stop for an ice cream at The Bounty.
We join the River at the Woolwich ferry pier and within a few minutes we've reached the Thames Barrier. The great silver domes could be made for a day like today, they blend perfectly with the dull skies and river. From here we head towards Canary Wharf, something which we appeared to be doing for the next 3 hours as it looms menacingly to our right The lazy meanders of the Thames mean we pretty much walk around three sides of Canary Wharf and by the time we leave it behind I'm glad to see the back of it!
An early Autumn walk along the Thames near Henley. It's been a while since we last walked and we'd been looking forward to getting out again all week. If the weather let us down the walk itself had plenty to keep us interested. The Thames, river boats and posh houses mean we do little talking.
Hurley stirs old memories of other's generosity. 40 years ago our boys' club leader had a motor launch moored here. Back then he used to take us on trips along the Thames. Altogether more innocent days! As we park up in Hurley it seems not much has changed in the intervening years. There are many more threatening 'No Parking' notices but the village shop and church look like they've been stuck in a time capsule. However the 21st Century comes crashing in as we walk west along the River...they're charging £3 per head for a picnic in the Riverside Park! Taking care not to inadvertently unpack food or drink, we press on as far as Culham Court.
This really is a walk of two halves and, on the hottest day this year for walking, we're glad the first 7 miles are mostly through woods. From Goring we follow the gentle climb through Great Chalk Wood, Cray's Pond and Goring Heath. It's noticeably cooler in the shade and we have the paths to ourselves...the heat seems to have selected for mad dogs and Englishmen. We pass a charcoal making camp at Cray's Pond but even they've stopped today!