Jamming About In The Chilterns

Lynnie has gone out for the day with Lolly, they are taking a trip to London and have planned a walking tour. Also on their agenda is lunch at the Ciao Bella, in Lamb Conduit Street. This is probably my favourite London restaurant and one that I used to visit every week when I was staying and working in London ten years ago.

For me it is not the hustle and bustle of London (I’ve had enough of that in the past) but a day jamming about in The Chilterns. When in Norfolk last year we bumped into a chap who greeted us with “Tis a fine day for jamming about”. I’m not certain what the Norfolk definition of a “jam about” is, but I have chosen to define it as walking without a planned route, going where the mood takes you and hoping you end up where you started!

So rucksack loaded with provisions, rolls, chocolate and a drink for me, chews and biscuits for the boys, we head off. We leave Cholsey Grange in a north easterly direction along the farm tracks around the edge of a couple of fields before joining a footpath that takes us to a junction of paths, either direction would take us on the Chiltern Way, we go right heading towards Studdridge Farm.

On our travels we have encountered also sorts of field occupants my least favourite is bears. Apart from that I am usually relaxed. However, as we reach Studdridge Farm I see a gaggle of geese on the footpath in front of us. I’ve heard that geese can be territorial, but also have a distant memory of watching a Collie dog herd them, so I boldly head into the field (knowing that Mr Crosby will be a handy deterrent if they come too close). I need not have worried they are more intent on enjoying the heat of the summer afternoon. I am sure that the heat of the Christmas oven has not even crossed their minds, but feel certain that is their final destination.

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Our route is straightforward; we are following the Chiltern Way towards Stokenchurch. After Studdridge Farm we cross a field that has just been combined. Harvest time has many happy memories for me, especially those hot summer days on Coldharbour Farm when I was a nipper, but it also holds a tinge of sadness. As I walk I see the blackberries ripening in the hedge and know that autumn is not far off. Autumn is okay, but it is followed by winter and Freddy’s do not like winter. Time to enjoy the sun! And there is plenty of it today!

After skirting Coopers Court Farm the Chiltern Way heads through a tunnel under the M40. I am not sure that this will win any design awards but it does provide a canvas for youths to express their undying love for each other.

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Emerging on the other side of the M40, the fields are left behind and we walk through a small housing estate to reach the green that spans either side of the road. Crossing the road and passing the grand looking Kings Hotel I head towards the Royal Oak pub and then follow the Chiltern Way towards Andridge Farm.

This is fine walking, the crops are ripe and there are grand views across the chalk downs. The climb up to Andridge Farm is a good blow. Here I leave the Chiltern Way and turn left to follow the footpath up the farm drive to meet the road. At the road it is a right turn to wander down the hill towards Town End, stopping on the way to admire the view over Radnage with it’s unusual flat tower on the church of St Mary the Virgin.

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At Town End I take the bridleway on the left heading towards Daws Hill Farm, the sign at the end of the lane states there is a vineyard along here. The map tells me this bridleway forms part of the Bledlow Circular Ride. The route takes me through Sunley Wood. A feature of walking in the Chilterns is how clearly marked the footpaths are, along with the usual waymarkers there are frequently arrows painted on the trees.

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At a junction of paths I turn left to walk upwards alongside Venus Wood (another good blow) on reaching the road at Sprig’s Alley I turn right and wander along the lane through Crowell Hill with its fine houses.

As the road turns sharp right I take the footpath straight on, this goes steadily downhill through Crowellhill Wood with occasional fine views across the valley below.

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At a cross roads of paths I turn left to join the Icknield Way, I cannot recall previously walking any part of this long distance route which stretches 110 miles from Ivinghoe Beacon in the Chilterns to Knettishall Heath in Suffolk.

The path I am on also forms part of Swan’s Way, a shorter long distance path stretching 65 miles from Salcey Forest in Northamptonshire to Goring-on-Thames in Oxfordshire. It seems to me that in the world of footpaths you have not made it until you are named after something or someone and given the post nominal of ‘Way’. As I walk I start to consider the options for ‘Fred’s Way’, an early contender is the route through the woods from my home to the Hook and Glove – it is only a couple of miles but can prove challenging on the return leg!

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This stretch of my walk along the Icknield way is easy going, it is flat and clearly defined and in good open countryside with the constant company of Red Kites. There is also someone doing stunts in an aircraft to keep me amused. An expensive hobby me thinks. We cross a ‘B’ road and then the busier A40, soon after there is an English Nature hut (closed) but there is a helpful sign to a tap for drinking water. Dexter and Crosby are ready for a drink, but without a bowl they have to quench their thirst out of my cupped hands. Dexter takes to this, but Crosby is not so sure.

In just over half a mile I pass under the busy M40, then it is a further two miles along this Way until it crosses the Oxfordshire Way.

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Here I turn left onto the Oxfordshire Way and follow the lane up towards Pyrton Hill House. After the Sawmill and the Cattery the track becomes a path and it starts to climb, seriously climb! In the heat of the sun this is a decent climb, half way up a chap sneaks past me on a mountain bike but he is only going slightly faster.

Nearing the top I avoid the footpath on the right and keep straight on to join the road. A right turn along the road and in just over a hundred yards I take a footpath on the left which follows a track past the MOD tower on the hilltop.

As the lane bears right I take a slight left into the woods and follow the well marked path to reach a junction of paths. I take a right turn and head downhill for a short distance before taking a path that forks to the left. Now it is steady walking through Blackmoor Woods following the well-marked route. In just over a mile the Chiltern Way joins this path from the right and I continue straight along this.

After emerging from the trees the route crosses a couple of fields and two lanes before it heads upwards. Over a stile (the first of the day) then a seriously steep section (especially challenging after six hours walking) before it eases but continues uphill until it reaches Ibstone Common.

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Across the common, passing the standing stone and skirting the cricket field, where an evening fixture is being played, it is then a short stroll back to Cholsey Grange.

This has certainly been a good jam about, just under six hours and covering almost seventeen miles. Within minutes of returning to the Unicorn both Dexter and Crosby are stretched out fast asleep!

12th August 2015

[To follow our walk you will need Ordnance Survey Explorer Map 171 – Chiltern Hills West]

© Two Dogs and an Awning (2015)

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