Dick & Gloria & Lesley & Michael's
Chiltern Way Walk
Our car was absolutely filthy when we parked it in Penn, just outside the Red Lion: our neighbour had some paving laid this week and the dust from the cutting process had left the car with a matt finish paint job! (Sadly, no-one washed it while we were away... They didn't steal it either - who'd steal a car that dirty?)
We walked back through the village to the point opposite the end of the last walk (a place where there is no parking at all) and started stage three of the Chiltern Way. The path passed between the gardens of some very large houses to begin with before we turned onto a tarmac road, the No Through Road called Beacon Hill. There are some lovely old cottages in this lane including one with four gravestones in the garden: it didn't appear to be a converted chapel. We continued to enjoy this easy walking, a little too much in fact as we missed our turning onto the footpath. That footpath was due to cross our lane shortly so we stuck with the tarmac as it slowly got narrower and less well maintained and eventually, just past a newly-renovated cottage with a very attractive garden beside the lane, the lane became a track. We were reunited with our footpath shortly after passing a tractor ploughing the fields or scattering or something.
The path then took us around the edge of and across the middle of a golf course: I have always felt that golf is a complete waste of land and time and a positive nuisance in terms of the amount of water and fertilizer/herbicide/pesticide used to keep the grass green. This club was no exception and its dresscode was being widely flouted with denim in plain sight and even (whisper it!) a football shirt. Shocking! The nicest part of that section was the field of cows near the start, just after the sign warning us to beware 'wayward golf balls'!
We reached the London Road, the A40, at a place which was possibly quite significant in High Wycombe's history: on the corner of the Rayner's Lane and the A40 is what looks like a lodge to a great house. It is built of yellow bricks which have been cast or carved (Dick did say but I was too busy taking photos!) into some very intricate patterns. There was a lovely sunflower growing, apparently quite spontaneously, in the pavement outside.
Walking around the edge of the playing field called Kings Mead we were
attracted to a delicious smell of food coming from a catering van parked
inside a compound which was fenced off and surrounded by obscuration panels.
On one of these panels was a notice announcing that the press office would
close at 8pm today: on the strength of this and the smell (!), we decided
that this was some sort of film set. We were not surprised, therefore,
to see a man in a 'police uniform' emerge from the compound smoking a
cigarette - he'd finished his role for the day, we thought. There were
several 'police vans' in the adjacent
car park, adding to the appearance of reality - no expense spared
for this film crew. As we turned the corner to walk towards the next road
we had to cross, about six actors in 'police uniforms' were gathering
together by a van: one of them was even in 'shirt sleeves' - all very
convincing! Dick asked Mr Shirtsleeves (obviously playing some sort of
senior office) 'what's happening?' and the actor replied 'we're still
searching the woods up there' (waving) 'although we should be finished
today.' Ohmigawd - they were real policemen. Whoops! They were searching
for evidence connected with the plot hatched by 'home-grown terrorists'
News item) to use some sort of liquid explosive to blow up planes
in flight. It turned out that they were just about finished so we would
be allowed to walk where we intended - any earlier and we would have had
to take a detour. We were escorted up to the place where the search crews
gathered - police forces all around the country were represented at the
point where their Portaloo stood - and we were allowed to proceed in a
south westerly direction uphill along the edge of Fennels Wood to the
underpass beneath the M40: our presence had been radioed ahead and we
were expected by the two policemen standing there. The tunnel beneath
the motorway was horrible - totally dark and littered on either side of
its narrow width with plastic and glass as well as many leaves which had
blown in, and mud. At least we hoped it was mud... Emerging blinking into
the daylight, we climbed some steps to find ourselves only feet from the
Climbing a slight hill and turning south, we walked at the side of a field I have often seen from the M40: it is notable for being full of blue flowers in the summer and now I know what they were (possibly). It may only be a coincidence, but where we were walking there was a lot of comfrey. The plants in the centre of the field were grey and may have been flax/linseed or something entirely different... We were now on the extreme north western edge of Flackwell Heath: I pity the people who live at this spot - the traffic noise is constant and very loud. Despite the noise, we decided that the handy bench beside the playground was as good a spot as any (and a great deal drier than most) at which to eat our lunch. There had been no rain but the early morning mist had left a blanket of moisture on every surface and the sun had not yet burst through the cloud to dry it up. The forecast suggested a temperature of 17º C for the afternoon and it was definitely not cold.
The next half mile or so was not very pleasant as it skirted the edge of Flackwell Heath then took us along Heath End Road past the college where Gloria did her Access course. At last we left the road and walked into a field again, going quite steeply down hill towards Sheepridge Lane. The first field we walked through had a notice informing us that we were to stick to the paths as the field was being managed to protect the nesting partridge and skylarks: oh yeah, both of them? Judging by the number of partridge which flew out of the hedge as we passed and the shooting stands which were marked out, the real aim was to protect the birds before shooting them. Great! Glors was ahead and just missed stepping on a young partridge which was lying right beside the path: it was injured but managed to escape into the hedge before our intrepid wildlife rescuer could do his stuff.
Just before we reached the road we passed New Farm where we saw the most amazing thing - an elder tree growing out of the top of a lopped-off telegraph pole! And then we were presented with our first chance to have a proper sit down - The Crooked Billet hove into view (or maybe I should say that we hove into the Crooked Billett's view?) and very lovely it was too, and not just because it was a pub! It has a fantastically colourful garden with some flowers which must surely need a watering can? Having had a hosepipe ban in place since April 1st, one wonders how such a beautiful display is possible without one! We had a very welcome drink and a couple of bowls of chips, listening all the while to the happy quacks of two electronic ducks with infra red sensors (or something) which greeted every new arrival and delighted one small boy in the garden with his parents. It was a very busy pub and the chips were great! Gloria and I only had one each. Well, one potato-equivalent each. Well, maybe only one bowl between us. Whatever, Michael ate more than both of us, of course, of God's chosen vegetable.
Turning sharply westwards immediately after the pub, we went up a narrow path between two hedges: here were walnut and sweet chestnut trees - we gathered plenty of the former to eat after our supper following a recent news story (BBC News item) which suggested that it is a good thing to do. Do they know how much I love wet walnuts? Can it really be that something I enjoy eating is good for me (GFM)? It's not unprecedented: plain chocolate (which is high is cocoa solids), tea, red wine, prunes - all of those are GFM and fun. Whoopee!
We saw a red kite chasing a rook (probably) just as we entered Warren Wood which blended into Horton Wood: the first part of this woodland was mixed species with a lot of ash, the second part was dominated by silver birch and the third part was beech. In the silver birch section I was delighted to see a number of Fly Agaric: I have often wondered how to discourage slugs in the garden and the answer is obviously not to grow these beautiful but highly poisonous fungi! The beech section had a variety of fungi. My taking photograph after photograph caused some considerable amusement to start with then some frustration as it led to delays. My apologies are due to Gloria, Dick and Michael - I hope you like the outcome!
After leaving the first part of the wood, we walked down a quiet lane for a while until we rejoined the wood just where a children's hunter cross country event had happened earlier. There were jumps at intervals throughout the part of the wood we walked through. This path led us to the A404 (that's what Stanley Hill is!) only instead of the phenomenally busy 30mph (oh yeah?) road we are so used to that we hardly hear it this was the Marlow by-pass, a dual carriageway. The book actually noted that some people cross the road by walking across the tarmac on foot - how stupid is that? We chose the safe option and walked down hill and back up again. Just after we crossed underneath the road, and still well within earshot of its noise, we passed the redeveloped Wood Barn Farm: this collection of maybe ten houses, including a re-built farmhouse, sit at the bottom of a steeply sloping field and we noticed that the farmer had dug a large pit to catch the run-off before it flooded the houses. We made a slight error and walked further up beside the road than was necessary, which was very educative! The lay-by near the top of the Marlow by-pass dual carriageway is obviously used a lot by people who have stuff to dump - the rubbish in that hedge is appalling. Walking across the field, we came to Burroughs Grove, the very grand name now given to the houses which surround The Three Horseshoes on the old Marlow road - that's the pub where the portions are so huge we struggled to eat one each (with MatnKat, MattynHoward and Daniel in August 2005) whilst watching with amazement as a family ate a starter, a main course and a pudding each... Honestly!
We crossed the road and walked across a not-too-muddy ploughed field. After that, having walked along a lovely lane past Juniper Hill, the section of the walk which took us through the housing estates of Marlow Bottom was quite depressing! We were soon back out of the development having been nearly backed onto by a Rolls Royce... Crossing the road to Lane End, we walked past Seymour Court, the family home of Jane Seymour. We wouldn't have known that but for the fact that Dick read us an extract from the book: to do that, he had to get the book and his glasses out of his rucksack, put his glasses on, read, then put both items away. As a result, he normally reads to himself when we are not sure where to go: reading and walking at the same time is impossible. But he came up with a solution: read the relevant pages onto a cassette and strap speakers to his torso to play the book as we walk. Excellent!
Just after Seymour Court (or maybe just before it - we weren't sure exactly where it was, despite the commentary!) we passed High Rews Farm where a very tall horse was wearing a cunning disguise: he (it must have been a bloke horse) was wearing a green tarpaulin-coloured blanket which covered his face and ear protectors.
'Surely The Royal Oak at Bovingdon Green is just around the corner?' I thought about ten times over the next two miles. Surely? But it wasn't! However, after crossing Mundaydean Lane and climbing an incredibly steep hill (the steepest all day, and I was at the front and hardly dared to slow down let alone stop which was what I really wanted to do...) and walking past woodland carefully signposted 'Blounts Private Keep Out' we really were there. Hooray!.