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.
(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.