Great Kimble, 3:30 pm, yesterday. Just before 2 o’clock I headed north out for Little Hampden (I kept thinking of Gray’s Elegy; you know the lines – “Some village-Hampden that with dauntless breast / The little tyrant of his fields withstood;” a tribute to John Hampden from Great Hampden, over the hill and far off the trail).
The way leads north through the woods. The ridge here carries on up to the prominence of Combe Hill on which stands the famed Boer War monument, but our route does not go this far. I was puzzled at this stretch though: the map showed me reaching a small road, but I did not see one: it turns out to be a public road on the map but on the ground an unnoticeable track fading out, so l though I know the path I was heading for, I overshot, wasting a mile, just looking for this mythical road. The actual turning is at a distinctive signpost a four way meeting of paths, signposted “Ridgeway”, and that is where I went.
I was now on the Resignation Way, a route I devised as a joke one afternoon after the Chequers Summit but which is actually a very good walk; for this is a way from (or in this case to) the official country residence of Prime Ministers at Chequers. A police van was parked at the bottom of the hill as I entered the estate itself – they cannot stop use of the public footpath, but it is reassuring that if a walker is carrying a rocket launcher in the Buckinghamshire countryside he can be stopped. I have seen shotguns being used at this location, but those a gentlemanly pursuit. The path is well defined, leading though fields, across the grand entrance drive, and up over the hills. There was no sign of Boris Johnson moving in nor anything much happening at all.
After the woods the path leads on to the broad grass chalklands at the very edge of the Chiltern Hills.
Several paths run off at this point and several can be followed down the scarp. I took the one marked both as the Ridgeway and as the North Bucks Way, a long-distance route which (with provisoes was soon to discover) provides most of the Buckinghamshire Way after this point. It does not quite tumble down the escarpment, but the drop is precipitous, and carved with dells. It is a good path and falls down to Great Kimble, a village sitting at the foot of the long line of the scarp; here begins the Vale of Aylesbury, which is a suddenly changed landscape.Please donate to the Stroke Association: click here.