Walking Christmas off around Chequers

It needs a good walk to break out of  turkey-induced lethargy, and so this last week we headed out to the Chilterns and dropped in on the Prime Minister – well not quite, but we took in a good path around her country residence, Chequers.

The path we chose, written up on this site as ‘Ellesborough and Chequers‘, starts at the vast church in the tiny village of Ellesborough, at the edge of the Chilterns and really at the heart of Buckinghamshire’s prime walking country.  The paths here lead south over the fields to Coombe Hill, then around the south edge of the Chequers estate.  It is odd that though this a secured area, bristling with cameras, there is a public path straight through and this we took.

Frequent readers may know that I previously wrote up a route hereabouts called the Resignation Way; a walk that a minister might take if he resigns during a visit here and has to find a station having lost his ministerial car.  It is a good walk, and almost worth timing the resignation just to get a good Chiltern walk in.  Much of our route was, by coincidence, on the Resignation Way.

The path is a mixture of landscapes to be enjoyed –  fields, woods, hills, and open meadow.  From parts of the walk, particularly in Maple Wood, there are good views of the Prime Minister’s residence, and it is a popular route – much of it uses The Ridgeway, a long-distance path very well defined.

Turning off the Ridgeway, going north and into Little Kimble Warren, there is an unexpected view:  a sudden, deep, heavily wooded valley, named Happy Valley, with a view opening out to Great Kimble’s parish church and the Vale of Aylesbury beyond; the path crosses the head of the valley.  Thereafter it open onto a chalk down beyond which Ellesborough’s church comes again into view, topping off a fine morning.

There is much to see around here also; the monument of Coombe Hill which is visible from much of the walk, the ancient church at Little Kimble, the little Iron Age fort known as Cymbeline’s Castle, an abandoned mediaeval village, and the anticipation of possibilities in the network of paths which meet here.  They are for another time.

Mountain of the Lost Princess

The hills are cold, hazardous.  The freezing clouds descend on Snowdonia ruthlessly, and the rain turns the underfoot into a morass.  Here amongst the forbidding mountains stands the greatest monument to a lost princess.  By the hard work of a society dedicated to her memory, the name of Gwenllian of Gwynedd now adorns one of the 3,000-foot mountains of Caernarfonshire.

Gwenllian cried her first in Abergwyngregyn while the court wept for her mother, Eleanor, or Elen, dying in childbirth.  She lay in her cradle when her father, Llywelyn the Last, was slain at Builth Wells, and was barely walking when her uncle, Dafydd, was taken and hanged for rebellion against King Edward. She was dangerous  – the last of the line of the princes whose ancestry ran back to those who had borne the name “King of Britain”, a kingdom which contracted into the mountain fastness of Snowdon.  King Edward was her uncle though, and he bore her away and placed her in a nunnery in Lincolnshire, never to hear her native Welsh tongue again.

In 2009 the mountain’s name was changed to Carnedd Gwenllian, from the bland ‘Garnedd Uchaf’ (a daft name; it is not the highest).  It followed a campaign by a society founded in Gwenllian’s memory.

Some years later I stood on the flank of the mountain, walking up from Abergwyngregyn, Llywelyn’s capital and now a little village, Aber, squashed into the valley.  With two small children in tow we could not climb to the summit, but we stood looking around us at the spectacle.  Here now reunited next to each other stand the peaks named Llywelyn, Elen, Dafydd and Gwenllian.