Bucknghamshire Way 2.2: The longest day

I was in no condition to post this on getting home yesterday – I ended up walking further than I should have; 28 miles. This walk went almost to plan (apart from the length) and on the walk I passed through many contrasting landscapes and saw more of what Buckinghamshire has to offer. Starting (8:30) from Forty Green, I started north on the Chiltern Way.

I was in no condition to post this on getting home yesterday – I ended up walking further than I should have; 28 miles.  This walk went almost to plan (apart from the length) and on the walk I passed through many contrasting landscapes and saw more of what Buckinghamshire has to offer.  I will compose this post over the course of the afternoon, adding bits as I go.

It was raining intermittently, lightly though, and mercifully cool.  Starting (8:30) from Forty Green, just outside Beaconsfield, where I had finished the Day 1 walk, I followed a waymarked path the Chiltern Way Berkshire Loop, out towards Penn – on the way it met the actual Chiltern Way – then round to Winchmore Hill, where I left the track and took local paths north to Penn Street and on over the common (fascinating, tall church there) to Holmer Green. There is then a footpath parallel to Featherbed Lane, that leads the road to Little Kingshill in the Misbourne Valley, and here I picked up the South Bucks Way, which is well signposted around and through the village and out to Great Missenden.

The meadows of Great Missenden were all over white marquees, with keen youth choirs belting out the distinctive sound of Christian rock – the Lighthouse holiday week is coming.  In another field were the tents for a very different endeavour, which I was to encounter as I went:

It was in this section that I started seeing pink arrow signs and indications of a challenge run, but they went on for miles.  Then I finally I encountered a runner coming towards me, slowly enough I have a conversation:  he was taking part in a “100K Challenge” – that’s 62 miles – and he was expecting to run it al in one, taking 11 – 12 hours.  That was what the markers and boards were for.  Suddenly I felt lumpen, slow and unfit.

Most of the day had been farms and little woods, and passing through villages as quickly as possible.  Here I was climbing higher into the Chilterns, the woods becoming larger, and the farms disappearing into them, and the ground turning into grazed scrub.  I scrambled down the steep slope in the Harpendenleaf Wood, and there were still odd runner coming up., crossing a broad wheatfield, then I came to Little Hampden which is a random hamlet at the edge of the wood (and here, by their “57 km” sign I left the 10K runners and turned north, but not until I had eaten a packed lunch.

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Buckinghamshire Way 2.1 – Forty Green looking north

8:00 (est.) Forty Green. I am posting this at home before setting off. Today I am not blogging as I go as I want to save weight after last time and the laptop is staying at home. I will post when I finish though.
It is raining hard, which at least means I will not have the roaring heat of the last few days. I start her I finished a fortnight ago, in Forty Green near Beaconsfield, and head north into the Chilterns.

8:00 (est.) Forty Green.  I am posting this at home before setting off.  Today I am not blogging as I go as I want to save weight after last time and the laptop is staying at home.  I will post when I finish though.

It is raining hard, which at least means I will not have the roaring heat of the last few days (the forecast on the Beeb has ‘heavy rain’ in Croxley Green and ‘light rain’ in the Chilterns, which is not the usual way round).

I start where I finished a fortnight ago in Forty Green, just outside Beaconsfield.  There is a straight path north from by the Royal Standard, which would be a legitimate way to do it, but the plotted route follows a roundabout way on the better established Chiltern Way to Penn and then to Winchmore Hill – here were really are in to the Chilterns – and then by lesser paths into the Misbourne Valley, where  pick up the ‘South Bucks Way’ at Little Kingshill and later the Resignation Way: I will be passing Chequers just in time to help Boris move in!

Past this point I descend the scarp of the Chilterns and pick up the North Bucks Way, which leads across the Vale of Aylesbury – I’ll see how I get on.

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Buckinghamshire Way 1.4 – addendum

8:00 am – Home. Waking up and find that I could not walk was a bit of a damper to a plan to continue north from Forty Green. I had everything packed and ready, with a shortened route.  However yesterday crushed my toes, and it was a longer trail than planned for.  I was gently reminded too that I have a particularly busy Monday morning and being half-asleep and half-brained will not help.

Also, it has been raining hard.

That is annoying, but there we are.

In two weeks’ time I aim to resume.

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Buckinghamshire Way 1.3: North into the Chilterns

7:20 – Forty Green.

Cliveden is political ground: the home of the Astors and the Duke of Sutherland before them and many noble families, and a frequent meeting place for political plots in past days. It is too sedate and respectable now.  However I could not get in, which means I must strike that part of the route from the map.  I had been misled in my confidence of the route, and the directions I received earlier were for the wrong direction.  I was later told that the northbound path by the Thames in the Cliveden Estate is a popular family walk hereabouts but it is open only to National Trust members.  I will replot the section, but as I was here, I walked along the roads, for miles, mostly with a pavement, which I do not recommend. It was punishing, particularly after walking up and down the hill in Taplow three times.

I was back on track at Hedsor Priory, north of the end of the Cliveden Estate, I turned from the river and looked north, following a stretch of the Shakespeare Way, though the signage marks this path as part of the Chiltern Way Berkshire Loop (presumably much of the loop is across the river then) and of the Beeches Way. It is a pleasant path, and heads north, inland.

The route runs through the area where my ancestors, I learn, owned paper mills, driven by the waters of the many streams here.

I carried on along paths of the Chiltern Way Berkshire Loop until eventually I came to Beaconsfield; one of my favourite little towns.  The main street of Old Beaconsfield is broad, and lined with old coaching inns, as this was the main London road, with a noble church at the cross-roads, where Disraeli worshipped: his thoroughly gaudy private pew is still displayed.

However I had not plotted the route to go through this picturesque spot but through the modern housing at the west end of the town at the– I was still going north, slipping between Beaconsfield to the east and High Wycombe to the west.

This is still the Chiltern Way, which here describes a horseshoe loop around to Forty Green.

I sat down at The Royal Standard of England, which is a delight and possibly the oldest pub in Britain. It is not on the exact planned route but worth a diversion or a meal stop.

However, I had overpunished myself on this day’s walking.  My boots squashed my toes with each step (I think my feet have changed shape), and it just went on too long.  I concluded that if I am to carry on then (a) I need new boots, (b) I must shorten the day stages, (c) I should not carry a heavy laptop and charger just to blog on occasion, especially since my ‘phone has stopped connecting and I can only work it in pubs.

I have yet to see how I am in the morning.

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Buckinghamshire Way 1.2: A morning by the Thames

The Thames is a perfect companion in the height of summer, a cooling mirror between trees. I first met it on the National Trust’s Ankerwyke Meadows, which once belonged to an old priory, bare remains of which stand in the corner of a field.
The route this morning was mainly beside the river.

1:00 – Taplow.  2:15 – still in Taplow.

The Thames is a perfect companion in the height of summer, a cooling mirror between trees. I first met it on the meadows owned by the National Trust between Hythe End and Wraysbury; the Ankerwyke Meadows that accompany its ‘Magna Carta’ estate. These lands belonged to an old priory, bare remains of which stand in the corner of a field.

The route this morning was mainly beside the river, though there was some road-walking from Wraysbury and a path by the railway (that was far, far better than other railside footpaths I have waded through). Then at Datchet I took up with the Thames Path, and was with it all the way here.

I went astray in Eton (how many gentlemen can say that, eh Boris?) but was soon back on track. Eton really is as genteel as the sound it makes on the ear.  It is not just the Battle of Waterloo that was won on the playing fields of Eton: an empire was won here and governed wisely and well, for the most part.  (For the failures I blame lesser schools.)  They could have fitted the literal Battle of Waterloo on its fields – the Eton College Estate is massive. No wonder Old Etonians have a unique outlook on the world.

From here are broad meadows beside the river and the Thames Path all the way to Taplow, opposite Maidenhead.

North of Maidenhead is the Cliveden Estate, also now owned by the National Trust and it was looking unlikely that the promised path beside the river here is open, but the helpful staff at the Oak & Saw in Taplow village have told me of a new bridge not on the map, over the Jubilee River.  I can recommend the Oak & Saw judging by the Eton mess I am about to tuck into.

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Buckinghamshire Way 1.1: Start at Hythe End

7:20 am, Hythe End. This is a practical rather than a pretty place, between Staines behind me and the M25 viaduct ahead, but it is where a lovely county starts.  I am at the brook marking the border with Middlesex, looking westwards into Buckinghamshire. In a few hundred yards I will make my way to the meadows by the Thames, and have a morning by the river.

It struck me that I could turn this morning’s route into the beginning of a county border walk, but not today. Buckinghamshire is a long, thin county and an end-to-end walk is best suited to it.  I will be missing a lot, but there are other weekends and other routes for another time.

First then to the Thames, which marks the border with Surrey and then Berkshire. I will turn inland at Hedsor, beyond Clivedon, and head north through the heart of the shire and see how far I can get.

It is not a good time to remember that I have been out of training.  Let’s go.

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The Buckinghamshire Way – first walk this weekend

The Buckinghamshire Way has been a long time in contemplation, but I will finally be starting it on Saturday, 13 July 2019. The starting point will by Buckinghamshire’s south-easternmost point, in Hythe End. I will then walk down to the Thames and the National Trust’s Ankerwycke meadows, and follow upstream to Eton and to Clivedon before turning due north. The next day should see me through the Chilterns and on to Aylesbury.

Some of the route is on paths I know, while most is completely new – in any case, the Buckinghamshire Way is no more than a line on a map until it is actually walked.

The Buckinghamshire Way has been a long time in contemplation, but I will finally be starting it on Saturday, 13 July 2019.  The starting point will by Buckinghamshire’s south-easternmost point, in Hythe End west of Staines, at the county border on the Colne Brook close to the M25 viaduct.  I will then walk down to the Thames and the National Trust’s Ankerwycke meadows, and follow upstream to Eton and to Clivedon before turning due north for Beacconsfield, where the Chilterns begin, and beyond.

The next day should see me through the Chilterns and on to Aylesbury.

Some of the route is on paths I know, while most is completely new and it must be walked just to see that it can be walked, or if the route needs diversion. In any case, the “Buckinghamshire Way” is no more than a line on a map until it is actually walked.

I only have weekends, so it will have to be finished off after a fortnight’s gap, but the final aim is to touch Buckinghamshire’s northernmost point at Northey Farm, north of Olney. Then I get to go home.

However, rather than set the whole route out here, I will blog as I go.

Also:

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Maps and books

Ordnance Survey Explorer range (1:25 000):

Books

 

Whatever happened to the Berkshire Way?

Several years ago there appeared on the BBC’s local pages for Berkshire a series of 14 articles on walks all around Berkshire, which could be put together to form a proposed ‘Berkshire Way’. No more has been heard since.  Maybe it is time to revive this.

I have added a new Berkshire Way project page to WildþingUK: have a look and see what you think.  I have walked some of the paths but nothing like enough to judge the route from experience.

The route is an eccentric one, apparently because it is designed as a series of relatively short half-day walks rather than a logical whole, and as such it loops wildly and bends back on itself as it finds new, interesting places to go.  Seen in that way, it makes more sense – it is a way to see the highlights of the county, although in a county of so many beauties there will be plenty of highlights omitted.

The first published version has a major failing in that it misses a major part of Berkshire altogether, namely the north of the county all amongst the Berkshire Downs and Vale of White Horse.  Therefore our project fixes this, adding a new first stage from the St John’s Bridge near Lechlade, on Berkshire’s short border with Gloucestershire, to Lambourn by way of the Ridgeway and the White Horse of Uffington.  There is far more to be seen in the north of the county, not least in the greensward valleys leading down to the ancient county town, Abingdon, but we cannot see everything.

From Lambourn the route runs south to the highest point in the county, on Walbury Hill, then back across its waist, through the rich farmland in of western Berkshire.  It takes in the main towns; first Newbury then back up to the Ridgeway and along the county’s northern border, the Thames, to Reading.  The forests of eastern Berkshire are the next to be discovered. The finishing point is at Queen Victoria’s statute in Windsor.

It is an ambitious route but it provides a variety of experience truly to soak in nature of Berkshire as a whole.

Map

(On the Project page)

Links

 

The Buckinghamshire Way: first steps

I set off by the Thames at the southernmost end of Buckinghamshire, looking north to a route up the whole length of the county. I estimated ninety miles, if the planned route is practical, and that is what I am finding out.

I have advocated the creation of a Buckinghamshire Way and have a project page for it here.   I tentatively plotted a route, but while I am familiar with much of the middle section, the ends were based on conjecture.  I found yesterday, for example, that the actual southernmost tip of the county is private land and inaccessible (so those few hundred yards will be scrubbed from the route map).  Near enough though a public path runs for a short way along a gorgeous stretch of the Thames, which forms Buckinghamshire’s southern border – as stretch spoiled only by the vast M25 viaduct in the middle, but at least it provides an access to a short portion of the riverbank.  ideally I would have walked upstream a few yards to a path beside the meadows and the Colne Brook, but the way here is cruelly blocked by a water treatment site.

Thames

(A start point for the route could be in across the river on the Thames Path in Egham. A cartographer has pointed out to me that the river has been altered here and that the original course was slightly further south, so that Buckinghamshire has a claim to own a small portion on what is now the south bank.)

Emerging in Hythe End, I headed along the road a little and then up a wooded path between a lake in an old gravel pit and the diverted course of the Colne Brook; a pleasant wander in the summer with glinting water beside me. However after crossing the railway (a stile to a foot crossing with no warning signals) the linking path runs in the tight gap between high fences, between the railway and the Wraysbury Reservoir and this is, if not impassable, deeply unpleasant:  the whole width is filled with neck-high stinging nettles and briars.  It is not a path down which I would lead the family during a happy morning’s stroll.

This being so, a new track is needed for the opening section of the Buckinghamshire Way.

A walk sticking to the river all the way is not practical here: houses run down to the riverbank.  However there is a permissive path (I always worry about what goes on down a path that is announced as ‘permissive’) which appears to run down to the river around the National Trust’s land here, which is a longer path than following the road, but avoids too much asphalt.  I was unable to explore it this time but will do so on another occasion.

The projected route has a mile or so unavoidably on the road up to Datchet, but when it finally reaches Datchet, it comes into its own, following footpaths through the fields to Eton. From there, the well-established Thames Path follows all the way to Taplow, opposite Maidenhead, then there is a public towpath north to Hedsor, where it meets a spur of the Chiltern Way going north.  This is for later though.

Until there are boots on the ground, ‘The Buckinghamshire Way’ is no more than an idea. The first steps have now been made though. Let’s get it properly established.