Chiltern Way Day 2 - Chalfont St Giles to Loudwater
It feels so good being back doing what I love doing. Today's walk was only three and a half hours or so, but the weather was beautiful, and I had the joy of Magda keeping me company for this shortish leg. She walked with me on the English part of the journey, then again with my niece Flo on a section of the West Highland Way in July, and now for a little bit of the Chiltern Way. When we fixed up to meet today I hadn't started to consider doing this walk, so she got somewhat bumped into doing it with me. And now she's been part of three treks I hope she'll be part of any subsequent ones, to keep the excellent tradition going.
David picked her up from Beaconsfield station and took us back to Chalfont St Giles, where I stopped yesterday. This section of the walk is extremely familiar, though I seldom walk it in this direction. It starts through woodland on the edge of the village, and then turns uphill across farmland which today was sparkling. The dew was heavy on the cobwebs and the grass, but the sunshine demonstrated the promise of a dry and warm day ahead. Autumn is hovering around us, but just for this week summer is on her final fling.
Magda strode ahead in her confidently chosen shorts, whilst I as usual had wimped out with long trousers. But even with the trousers I got heavily nettled and brambled today. Her shorts were ideal for the weather, less good with the luxuriantly malicious foliage that was out to get us in the more enclosed parts of the footpath.
At the top of the hill the path swerves to the right, thus just skirting one of my favourite places. Hodgemoor Woods is at the end of my road, and is big enough at 250 acres to get at least a little confused in, if not exactly lost. I have walked for many hundreds of hours here, with friends, with our dogs, and on my own. It is a Site of Special Scientific Interest, and the core of the site is ancient woodland, with records going back to the thirteenth century. But astonishingly, between 1947 till 1962 the area was used as safe haven for 156 Polish soldiers and their families, with the woods filled with temporary buildings including a church, school and post office. These were demolished in the 1960s, and nature has almost completely reclaimed the space, but there are the odd ruins, around the outskirts of the woods, of which one is said to be a pest house, where sufferers of the plague were sent in ancient times. There are also interlopers of rhododendron, which was thought to have come from when a section of the wood was part of a cottage garden. During lockdown these woods saved many of us, and new paths were constructed by people, including me, finding somewhere different to walk within our hour long limit of being out of the house.
But I couldn't take Magda there today, as the Chiltern Way set off North West instead. The farmer had recently ploughed, leaving the footpath to be redefined from hedge to hedge by walkers.
The HS2 interference in the landscape was visible again. I really hope that the few minutes shaved off the journey from London to Birmingham is eventually found to be worth the mess it has made of these beautiful places.
Talking of beautiful places, we shortly afterwards stumbled across a field of sunflowers. I think this is the first time I've seen these in this part of the world, and they definitely merited a selfie. The flowers were resolutely turned away from me, as if I'd offended them, but I snuck up behind them for a close up without them spotting me.
This year is one of the best I can remember for blackberries. We became aficionados today, favouring the more tightly compacted versions, that looked as if they'd be tart, but instead burst with sweetness warmed by the sun. Had we come prepared we could have filled a freezer drawer with them. Instead, Magda rather brilliantly took some to add to her lunch, and eventually we ate so many that we became somewhat regretful.
The path emerged up the side of the Red Lion in Coleshill. Very near to home, this was the venue for a number of staff Christmas parties back in the day. I was taken back to that happy time with the colleagues that I cared about so much, and the faintly hysterical hilarity that would be typical of the penultimate day of term with Secret Santas and frantic preparations for the mayhem of the final Christmas assembly. I have never regretted stopping teaching, but I still think of that time often, and very fondly.
Coleshill is a typically lovely Buckinghamshire village, replete with red brick and duck pond.
Its neighbour, Winchmore Hill is larger, and creates an erroneous ear worm, as I am always afflicted with 'Sweet Lass of Richmond Hill', on approach. We arrived to discover we'd missed a party, with a large marquee on the green and a large number of rubbish bags neatly piled in the middle. Presumably erected for the village show the day before, we found the empty marquee helpful to get a bit of shade. Winchmore Hill was a pottery centre from the eighteenth till the twentieth centuries, and was also a furniture making village, like many round here. I wowed Magda with my chair making knowledge, gleaned from teaching year 3 about the bodgers that worked in the woods around Seer Green making chair legs, and from having a visit from the Wycombe Chair Museum at school. I'm sure that she was fascinated, but I couldn't see her face.
Another brush up against our past by walking through the Penn Estate, and across the Penn House drive. Our girls learnt the violin with the same teacher as the children who lived at Penn House, and we used to regularly take them to practices in the home of Earl Howe. They saw this beautiful 17th century building as a perfectly normal rehearsal space.
Then across the fields towards Penn, enjoying the etchings of the tractor on the soil, and the cornucopia of path opportunities on offer.
We sat in a field and ate our lunch, peanut butter with additional blackberries for Magda, tuna and pickles for me. I was very excited to have avoided cheese today. Afterwards we carried on over the agricultural land before crossing the road on which Tasha lives. The views were occasionally a little more extensive, although, as Magda pointed out, they weren't Scotland. But they were still beautiful, the skies were blue and the paths were quiet.
After an episode of deep and unexpected mud, and then a magical pinewood tunnel, we emerged out onto the hills again, with Wycombe Heights golf club ahead of us.
From here was a gentle stroll down to the A40, running from Loudwater into High Wycombe.
David was there to pick us up, and to take Magda back to the station and us home in time to attend the village Spud in a Bucket annual weighing. For those interested, stunningly I didn't come last. Normally I am the least successful potato grower in the village, but this year, whilst I was away from my bucket for most of the summer, the spuds grew a little more healthily. Read into that what you will.
Having thought that I would maybe just do a day and a half this weekend and then leave it for a bit, I'm hopefully going to fit in another couple of shorter walks whilst the weather is so glorious, maybe even tomorrow.
Distance travelled - 9 miles
Total ascent - 890 feet
Calories burned - 1299