Chiltern Way Day 3 - Loudwater to Pullingshill Wood
One of the things with doing the big walk that I especially loved was the simplicity of it. I had nothing to do but walk, eat, write and sleep, with very few other responsibilities. Fitting a walk around all the other things that happen in my life when back home makes things more complicated. But the decision is therefore between walking whilst maybe not being able to do as much as I would like, or not walking at all. And not walking feels like a decision I'd rather avoid if I can.
There's been a lot going on at home over the last 48 hours, with family illness and medical dramas with pets meaning that walking yesterday wasn't what I wanted to be doing. Then we had an injured fox in the garden this morning that required time and attention, so a long walk today wasn't really feasible either.
But I had four hours this afternoon, and seized the chance, even though it was very hot and sunny. David dropped me in the outskirts of High Wycombe on the way to what is now becoming a daily visit to the vet. Fortunately the patient is a little improved this evening, thank goodness.
The Rye is one of the green lungs of High Wycombe, including sports fields, a lido, play parks and the grassland area formerly known as Rye Mead, on which historically the people of High Wycombe had the right to pasture their cattle. There were no cattle obvious this afternoon, but as I crossed the rugby pitches there were a couple of sweaty athletes, one doing increasingly hot and weary sprints, the other lying on the grass throwing and catching a rugby ball above his head. I preferred to walk.
I crossed the river Wye, another chalk stream, that was looking cool and clear, if a little overgrown.
The coolness was quickly forgotten as the path started to climb steeply. In what feels like another life, I used to do a lot of running, and the first half marathon I raced was in High Wycombe, taking in this unforgiving hill. I'd not really trained on hills, and my performance was possibly lacklustre. This was obvious to my lovingly supportive family, one of whom was heard to say to another 'why is mummy not running fast?' when I got to the finish line.
Mummy was not even walking very fast at this point, the extra water that I'd packed because of the heat felt heavy as my body got used to the exercise again. I also couldn't understand why my arm was hurting as it nudged against the side of my rucksack. I eventually discovered that I had taken a clump of nettles on board whilst pushing through an overgrown section, which were kindly rubbing against my arm with every swing.
At the top of the hill there was a surprisingly graffiti-free tunnel that went under the M40, and then I was disgorged blinking into the sunlight and the countryside again, seemingly miles from the urban sprawl. The skies were so clear, the heat shimmering in a very un-Septemberish way. I admired the wonkiness of the roof of the Crooked Billet, and was grateful that it hadn't met the end of the Crooked House pub in the Black Country.
Out into the fields again, and I was puzzled to encounter a very strong smell of weed. I stood, looking round to see who might be smoking, and could see nobody except sheep. As I started walking again, a middle aged man emerged from the hedgerow looking a little sheepish (see what I did there?) and faintly beatific. I greeted him with a wry smile and walked on. Ahead of me a frantic lamb was rushing about looking for its mother, screaming. I reckoned that he needed a bit of what the man was having.
There's been some lovely woodland interludes today. Very gratefully received because of the heat, but also because they are just so brilliant round here. The mottled sunlight and the colonnades of beeches are wonderful, and I love the sections where it's almost bare underfoot, meaning the trees are uncluttered and able to be seen in their entirety.
I dutifully read an information board about a medieval earthwork area, though there was nothing much visible on the ground to my untrained eye. And then past the archetypal Buckinghamshire red brick and flint cottages of Seymour Court. Home of the eponymous Jane, one of Henry VIIIs wives, the Manor House was knocked down in the Civil War, but the cottages gave the impression of having seen a bit of history themselves. And out to the south was a lovely view over Marlow. It was interesting seeing it from a distance, as when in the town you feel that the river is the most important aspect. Yet when away from the centre, looking down, it appears to be far more a town nestled in woodland.
The path runs between two farms, Blounts and Woodside. Blounts had high barbed wire fences, and extremely aggressive shouty signs making it very clear that nobody was welcome. On the opposite side was Woodside, with a low wall, ivy and open windows. I felt that there was a message here. Let's all be a bit more Woodside.
Bovingdon Green, the next village, felt sadly more in the Blount camp. It's pretty, with cottages abutting a village green, but there's no way anyone in a car would be able to stop, as there was absolutely no parking allowed, and wooden bollards running along the grass to prevent anyone who took no notice of the grumpy signage. I was happy to move through and back into the woods.
The Chiltern Society is responsible for the signage of the Chiltern Way. This is often done with conventional metal signs on lampposts, but also there are many instances of painted arrows on trees. Someone has done this extremely carefully. More than once today I had a moment of pause whilst considering which of various footpaths to take, only to see an arrow on a tree ahead of me. Subtle, not disturbing the environment, and extremely effective.
I could have walked a lot longer today, even with the heat, but time was up. David had kindly driven over to pick me up again, so I had to stop at 8 miles, on the road between two woods. It was quiet and cool, and somewhere where you can park a car. I'll be glad to return there to continue, whenever life gives me another few hours to do so.
Distance travelled - 8 miles
Total ascent - 1049 feet
Calories burned - 1211
Video of the day - https://www.relive.cc/view/vPOpre5jdEq
Videos of the first two days (because the app had stopped working whilst I wrote the last two blog entries)