Long Walk 6th September led by Angela Wall
Twelve of us met at the NT Car Park at the top of Watlington Hill on a fine autumn morning and set off along the path to the very top of the hill overlooking Watlington. Stopping for a while to admire the wonderful view, we then carefully made our way down the steep slope alongside the famous white mark until we came to the foot of the hill. Turning left along the Ridgeway track we walked for about a mile until we came to a lane leading left from the Ridgeway. Taking this lane we walked past Dame Alice Farm and on to a track then turned left on to a lovely wooded path until reaching a house intriguingly called Dumbledore on the main road.
. Crossing the road we headed through a field towards hills and on entering the wood took the path which climbed gently through majestic beech trees in Watlington Park until we reached a wall. Going through a gate in the wall we found ourselves at the small community of Greenfield. Crossing the road we took the track to the left of Greenfield Farm and followed it down the hill for about half a mile to the valley bottom. Here we turned left along a track and after another half mile, took a path to the left which led up through more woods and along the side of a deep dry stream valley until we eventually came to Hollandridge Lane. Keeping Hollandridge Farm to our right, we crossed the lane and made our way across a field until after passing through woods, we walked up a shallow dry valley through the middle of a field passing an oak tree in the middle until we arrived in Northend. Turning left at the farm we followed a path which eventually led us to Christmas Common and our lunch stop at the Fox and Hounds. After a really good meal, we completed a great day’s walk by walking half a mile back to the car park.
Strollers 11th September led by Janet Griffin
Eight strollers met at the Eight Bells, Long Crendon on a windy but fine day. It was a 2 ½ mile walk via the River Thame and Notley Abbey followed by lunch at the pub which was very welcoming and serving good food.
Medium Walk September 15th led by Alan & Hana Mace
With a “call to walkers” in the final days a respectable number of 14 arrived at the start point of The Black Horse Inn, The Vale, Chesham. Food choices made and orders taken by the pub staff we set off with clear skies above.
This part of the Chilterns counties is rich in beechwoods with chalky hills, flinty ridges and a land of paddocks and hay mangers as this is horse country. At Bower Farm, as we climbed over the first of many stiles, the wind-vane figure is a polo player in mid-chukka. Up on the ridge above White Hawridge Bottom the fields had recently been ploughed and had obliterated the well-trodden path walked on our recce from a few weeks before, but fortunately the earth was fairly dry so the going was easy. We passed the 18th century farmhouse of Hawridge Court, which stands on the site of an early medieval manor, and then down the into the valley bottom. For hundreds of years the local clay has gone to make bricks and the business still flourishes at the brickworks of HG Matthews, which we walked through. We passed the cottages at Bellingdon Farm, where DH Lawrence briefly lived in 1914 while writing The Rainbow. The homeward path lay along a beautiful hillside and up between the beech trees of Captain’s Wood, returning to the Black Horse Inn at 1pm for lunch .
Main Walk September 25th – led by Jacqui Kennedy
Six of us met up at the Half Moon pub in Wilstone , to follow the Black Poplar Trail around the village. Black Poplars are one of Britain’s most endangered species; related to the willow, they prefer to grow in damp ground and the trail therefore followed for the most part streams and ditches. The trail started near the Church and took us over fields and footbridges, then across the Grand Union Canal. Continuing towards Long Marston we crossed a footbridge by Dover House, and followed Astrope Lane to the road junction. Here, the trail led us through fields alongside a stream and came out at the end of Chapel Lane, where an old Norman Church Tower stood. It is all that remains of a 12th Century Chapel of Ease that was pulled down in 1883. We stopped to read the information board and walk round the Tower. A lady who lived next to the Tower came out to chat to us; she turned out to be the author of the Trail guide and gave us a little chat about the Black Poplars, which was interesting. We continued through the village of Long Marston, then along a footpath that led us though a field to a road with several black poplars along it, including some that had been pollarded in an effort to preserve them. Back into the fields, where the trail took us past Millhoppers reserve and back, once more onto Astrope Lane, then Tring Road. Although it was quite a long stretch of road walking, there was barely any traffic and we passed a number of black poplars on either side of the lane. We eventually left the road and headed towards Gubblecote (where on earth did that name come from?!). The trail led us along a stream at the bottom of a garden, back into fields, and then onto a track which took us to the Grand Union. Crossing the bridge, we turned right onto the towpath and after a few yards, headed left, over a couple more fields and back to the pub.
It had been a good walk; the downside was the road walking and some heavy mud in places, but on the upside, it stayed dry and we came across a couple of curiosities: the first was an immaculate and extremely passive white ram, standing guard in the corner of a field – didn’t move an inch or blink an eye!!!! Then, on the towpath, we spotted a huge set of lower jaw bones, complete with teeth. Came to the conclusion they were from a cow, NOT, as someone suggested, a monster man-eating fish that had jumped out of the canal!
We all stopped for a welcome meal and the Half Moon, having enjoyed a good walk.