Hemel Hempstead Station to Chenies - Sunday 2nd July 2006 - 9 or so miles,
23,000 or so steps
We met in Chorleywood at 10am and drove to Boxmoor. The
start of the walk took us alongside the Hemel Hempstead by-pass and
was noisy but we quickly arrived in lovely open countryside. On April
1st this year a drought was declared in this corner of England and some
of the vegetation is suffering but we passed many beautiful flowers including
elder. There were no poppies in the cornfields we passed we
lone specimen on a roadside verge near Flaunden. The sun was shining
on us very brightly as we walked
alongside a shady-looking wood, wishing for shade. We passed
Bovingdon and some huge
glasshouses: Dick and Glors are awaiting delivery of some blinds for
their intolerably hot conservatory (their words!) keeping those
glasshouses cool must be impossible
The wheat fields gave way to
a fine crop of
barley, much more
ripe than the wheat.
When it was nearly pub-opening time, we stopped for a banana break: we
had just come off a lane near Flaunden and into a field. We all sat down,
grateful for the rest in a shaded corner. As we ate our very welcome fruit,
Glors noticed that we were all facing the barbed
wire rather than the
view: we were so hot and bothered we hadnt noticed. Michael
performed a heroic dash to capture an image of the 'Guantanamo'
prisoners including himself.
On we trotted (Glors was setting a cracking pace!) passing some beautiful
cows before spotting two squirrels sitting on the grass, They were small
and probably young they were so small that I couldnt see
them in the viewfinder and they only just made it into this
photo! We werent the only ones feeling the heat this
is the first year I have been aware of summer blankets for
horses, presumably to protect them from sunburn.
After another shady stretch, we emerged into a barren
wasteland with a long and very exposed track crossing it. Had we known
that our path would take us past the far corner of this field, we could
have crossed it and cut three sides off our square! Not that we would
cheat like that, of course
After the intense heat of the open field,
it was a treat to enter some well-managed cool woodland. Astonishingly,
pond contained quite a lot of water it must be in the shade
all day. The pond contained a dragonfly
larva which had not survived the journey up a blade of grass, either
that or it was an empty larval case. Michael shot some video footage of
us walking towards him: as he dashed off ahead to take up his spot, we
hid in the wood edge, only to be disappointed when he did not call out
to us: he had gone so far ahead that he couldnt see us anyway and
had missed our little trick!
We emerged from the woodland onto a road very near
The Bricklayers Arms in Flaunden naturally, we made the short
detour to visit this hostelry. We sat in the garden and had a very welcome
and extremely cold drink. Apparently it is very popular gastro pub
although the Sunday lunch menu was a bit limited with two meat, one fish
and one veggie dish: maybe on weekday evenings they offer more choice.
Dick checked the
book for the next stage: notice his recently-acquired London to Brighton
2006 t-shirt: plans changed at the last minute so he did the ride solo
but he enjoyed it hugely.
It was definitely lunch time by now so we stopped in a newly-mown
field. No neatly tied bales of hay these days: bales are now huge
plastic-wrapped things. Sadly, my team photo did not come out but I know
Dick took a good one which will feature here later. We set off again and
found ourselves on a narrow track alongside a field of rape: there was
the most magnificent
umbellifer growing alongside the track which we passed at about the
same time as we met our first walkers. We met our second lot very soon
afterwards: she was wearing flip flops which must have been nasty in the
stubbly field they emerged from! The stubble gave way to a fabulous crop
of hay in the next field the
tractor (can you see it?) arrived to start mowing it as we crossed
the stile. Have I mentioned that it was a hot day? The tar took my boot
impressions as I walked. (I was wearing my boots not only because
they are supremely comfortable to walk in but also because I have a cut
on my right foot it is very sore and the boot offered it some extra
protection. No photo, youll be glad to hear!)
Descending towards the river Chess, we passed an amazing number of very
setts. We also saw some very large bracket
fungi. We met the Chess at the watercress farm, although from the
number of baby
trout in the water youd think we were at the nearby trout farm.
A fantastically bright and quick
insect hovered around and later Dick took a photo of a dragonfly.
Having strayed slightly from the path, we walked alongside the Chess for
some distance before passing some houses in Sarrat Bottom which would
be the most perfect place to live were it not for the footpath in such
close proximity! We saw at least two green woodpeckers, although they
moved far too fast to have their photos taken.
Eventually, we faced a dilemma: there were two routes to get to Chenies.
Did we take the 1.25 mile route in the sunshine or the ¾ mile route
woodland (did I mention how welcome the shade was?) This was a lovely
ferns and a
plant whose name I once knew, a delicate little thing but obviously
very tough the dogs mercury all around it had wilted from
the drought. The
canopy of leaves provided some wonderful shade but we soon emerged
into bright sun again, of course. Due to not having had the book of the
walk to hand at 01:30, we had parked in The Wrong Place and now had to
walk beside the busy main Watford road to reach the car. The consolation
was that there was an ice-cream van parked in the cricket field car park
Michael provided 99s all round. Hooray!
It had been a long hot day after very little sleep, but it was a lovely
walk and we have started at last.