Thursday, 24 May 2018

Walking The Ridgeway - Princes Risborough to Chinnor

Continuing from the northerly end of the walk we began in the village of Radnage, the next leg of the walk. As usual a circular walk incorporating a stretch of the Ridgeway and surrounding countryside. In total a walk of 9.6 miles.

 On this Royal Wedding day it was nice to just escape all the hype and get out into this green and pleasant land of ours.
We quickly had to cross the railway line going over the roof of Saunderton tunnel. The path then took us through Princes Risborough Golf Course which was strangely deserted for a glorious Saturday morning? More wedding watchers probably.   One of the holes looked particularly tricky with its pond right next to the green. The graveyard of many a golf ball I shouldn't wonder. Maybe the Carp are feeding on them? Some of them were massive and very tame too. Literally feeding out of my hand , either that or I am 'The Carp whisperer/ tickler ??

Once again we are treated to some amazing scenery and views and hardly a cloud in the sky. There is so much greenery it is quite re-assuring in these times of over-development. Above us there are plenty of  Red Kites that are so familiar around the M40 corridor and The Chilterns. 

The Ridgeway joins up with The Icknield way sharing the same path until the IW takes a straight course to Princes Risborough, while The Ridgeway meanders on a roundabout route. 
The Ridgeway joins up with The Icknield way sharing the same path until the IW takes a straight course to Princes Risborough, while The Ridgeway meanders on a roundabout route. 

 Through the trees there are cracking views of Princes Risborough in the distance. There is a cricket match taking place , what could be more typical of a late Spring weekend afternoon?
The track at times climbs quite steeply and the chalk underneath is already parched and dry. Although it is nothing compared to the 'Chinnor Hill 'we encounter when we leave The Ridgeway which is a monster.

 Yoesden Nature Reserve is a beautiful sunny grassland bank and wood in the tranquil Radnage Valley near High Wycombe. It contains some rare and precious chalk grassland.

In summer the grassland is full of common and spotted orchids, bird's foot trefoil, kidney vetch, Devil's-bit scabious and later on Chiltern gentians. rare butterflies can be found including the Adonis Blue, Chalkhill Blue and Small Blue.

 The wild flowers are really looking their finest in the meadows.
The mature beech woodland has some important ground flora including wild garlic, primroses, birds nest orchid and wood anemone.

The picture to the left shows Allium ursinum – known as ramsons, buckrams, wild garlic, broad-leaved garlic, wood garlic, bear leek, or bear's garlic – is a wild relative of chives. It could easily be mistaken for 'Lily of the Valley' actually.

As we get nearer to our starting destination  the footpath takes us through the churchyard of St Marys Radnage. Built by the Knights Templar in the late twelfth or early thirteenth century, it has been prayed in for over a thousand years and has an atmosphere that reflects this. The church tower is original and about 10 feet square and of a style which has elements of the late Norman and early English periods.

 I really liked the seemingly long forgotten graves , overgrown and unvisited. The sunlight through the tress shining on them gave them a prominence that didn't go unnoticed.

Back at our starting point we are conveniently close to 'The Boot' Public House .It is one of those ponsey 'Gastronome' pubs that charge ridiculous prices for food that gets served on a house brick or roof slate.The beer isn't cheap either but needs must when the devil drives and any port in a storm .

I had a pint of ' Marlow Rebellion Brewery' 'Legend' (4.2%) .A fruity Pale Ale with complex fruity notes of apricot, citrus and spice.

As we sat enjoying our well earned liquid refreshment in the pub garden, our old friends the 'Red Kites' sat in the trees looking down on us.  

Thursday, 17 May 2018

Walking close to the River Nene - Commander's Spinney

Bit of a last minute 'impromptu' decision to go walking on this particular sunny Sunday afternoon. Found a nice route in my 'Walking close to the Nene' guide. Our starting point was The Square at Earls Barton, walking along West Street and crossing the B573 we soon found ourselves crossing fields filled with sheep and lambs. The next field was full of Broad Beans coming into flower before further fields of vibrant yellow Rape.


Leaving the fields we arrived in the pretty village of Ecton. Following the road out of the village we crossed the A45taking an immediate left and passed 'Commanders Spinney'. A dyke trickled along on our right side as we continued along a hardcore road path .Crossing two bridges we arrived at Cogenhoe Mill (pronounced cook-noe). There was a beautiful Heron (one of many we were to see) by the riverbank where we picked up the 'Nene Way' footpath.

 From there we followed the rivers edge as it gently meandered it's way along to Whiston lock.

I think the highlight had to be seeing a fleeting view of a Kingfisher flying down the river. A splash of electric blue before disappearing as quickly as it arrived. There are lovely views of Whiston Church in the distance beyond the fields No wonder it is known as 'A jewel on a hilltop'. A Common Tern circles above us while Mrs Duck swims downstream trying to keep almost a dozen unruly ducklings under control. It really is a scene from a perfect Summers Day.
We spotted several swans all sitting on their nests of reeds keeping their eggs warm and safe from predators. The only noise is the drone from the nearby A45 but it can't disturb the scene that is one of peace, calmness and tranquility. Sadly on reaching Whiston lock it is time to turn inland and begin an uphill climb back up to Earls Barton.

The striking landmark of the church tower tells us we are nearly home. It is one of the finest examples of Saxon church architecture in the country.


Saturday, 12 May 2018

Jubilee Way (Leics) Burrough Hill to Burton Lazars

A sunny day and the start of a new walk. This time the 'Jubilee Way', set up and opened to celebrate Queen Elizabeth II's Silver Jubilee in 1977. The footpath starts at Melton Mowbray in Leicestershire and passes though Scalford, Goadby Marwood and Lincolnshire, where it joins  the Viking way.

The official start is at Burrough Hill and follows a meandering course, passing through Melton Mowbray. We across pasture and woodland and past old ironstone workings near Eaton before the the eventual finishing point at Belvoir castle from where there are said to be fine views over the Vale of Belvoir.
Altogether the Jubilee Way is about 24 kilometres long.


Burrough Hill is an Iron Age hillfort about 210 metres (690 ft) above sea level. It provides stunning views over the surrounding countryside , particularly on a clear day like today. local The area is the reputed birthplace of Stilton cheese , not that I shall be indulging that is for sure. 

Historically the area was pasture and infamous for foxhunting unfortunately! Today much land is arable, but dairy, beef and sheep also feature. Our wanderings took us to the village of Burton Lazars, It is the site of the remains of the English headquarters of the military hospital 'The order of St Lazarus'.

Church of St James Burton Lazars

Originally an Anglo Saxon village called 'Burtone' at the time of William the Conqueror and the Domesday book in 1086. The name was changed during the crusades of the 12th century when it opened a Leper Hospital and became 'Burton St Lazarus'. The village has a natural sulphorous spring which was probably a major reason for the location of the hospital. Sadly we couldn't even find a tap to quench our thirst and there was no pub or shop as the temperature soared. The name quickly became abbreviated to ' Burton Lazars'.


There was hardly a soul to be seen as we made our way full circle back to the starting point at Burrough Hill. A good thing really as my new boots were starting tell me enough was enough after just short of  9 miles. Some of the views on this stretch of the walk were absolutely stunning and given me an appetite to complete the remaining legs at some stage.


Sunday, 29 April 2018

Symonds Yat

Leaving Canop Ponds and we were off to see 'The Rock' . No not Dwayne Johnson of Hollywood fame , the one we had in mind is even bigger!

The rain was just starting to get heavier as we arrived at 'Symonds Yat' a viewpoint that provides fantastic views across the River Wye valley. The plan had been to to do a walk from Symonds Yat East along the side of the river getting the hand pulled ferry across to the other side and do a circular route. However the views across the English counties of Herefordshire and Gloucestershire with Monmouthshire and the Welsh border just a few miles away kept us occupied.  

 Famed for its natural river scenery and wooded expanses, Symonds Yat Rock is a limestone outcrop rising some 500 feet rising from the banks of the River Wye.
It is a fantastic place to see Wild Peregrines  They had bred well here until the early 1950's when the effects of pesticides drastically reduced the national population.
 In 1982 the re-occupation of the site started when three young were reared but the following year the nest was robbed.  After this event in 1984 the RSPB  in co-operation with the Forestry Commission made a protection scheme and for the first time Peregrine Falcons in the wild were shown to tourists.It was possible to see one of these wonderful birds  through a scope perched on a ledge and looking a bit wet and miserable. No flying through the valley at 200 mph today though.

Surprisingly a lot of the cliff holes were occupied by Canadian Geese of all things sitting on eggs! At some stage when they hatch they are going to have to make a massive leap of faith. But thinking about it making a nest so high up is undoubtedly a lot safer than on the ground. They are safe from predators who would eat the eggs such as Badgers , Foxes and Rats. 
It's great that during the breeding season the RSPB make telescopes available to visitors to watch the birds. 

Down below on the River Wye there are Paddle Boarders but at this distance they are just specks. It is just possible to make out a Barn Owl disappearing into a long abandoned shack.
It's not just the raptors that are here though. The feeding stations attract lots of smaller birds such as , Tits, Chaffinches, Sparrows and a particularly inquisitive Nuthatch. 
 It was with reluctance that we had to move on from Symonds Yat , I could have stayed all day. Unfortunately the weather had worsened and the rain had become heavier so it made sense.
We adjourned to the car  park at Symonds Yat East conveniently next to the Saracens Head pub. 
It's a lovely little hamlet nestled below the rock. The following pictures hopefully capture the essence of how lovely it is. 

The Saracens Head had a good choice of real Ales. Managed to sample a couple over a very tasty baguette with local cheese and pickles. Firstly the HPA (Herefordshire Pale Ale ) 4%. The second pint was the Butty Bach another Golden Ale but a little stronger at 4.5%.

Thoroughly enjoyed our first trip to this wonderful part of the country. Sadly no Wild Boars this time but I suppose it gives the perfect excuse to return as if one were needed.

Saturday, 28 April 2018

Forest of Dean - Canop Ponds

After a tasty breakfast we took a very short drive down the B4226to Canop Ponds. I had noticed the Forestry Commission car park there yesterday and thought it might be worth checking out.
Unfortunately the weather wasn't great with drizzle in the air. We walked up some steep woodland which was very muddy to get to a track surrounded by fir trees on both sides.
 The track leads to a series of man made ponds.
The lower pond was created in 1825 to supply water to a waterwheel at Parkend Ironworks.

There were again signs of Boar activity all over the place but still no Boars sadly.  There was however a very protective Swan on the water though. He was really giving the Ducks who were just minding their own business hell!
He was going out of his way to chase the poor creatures from anywhere near the Pen who who was on the nest.

Once again there were some lovely brightly coloured Mandarin Ducks. It was a bit strange because they were very close to the nest and they didn't seem to bother the male Swan (cob).

Female Swan (Pen)
Mandarin Ducks
Mr Angry Swan
The Forest of Dean or simply 'The Dean' as it is also known is made up of  110 square kilometres (42 sq mi) of mixed woodland. One of England's finest surviving ancient woodlands. It is the second largest forest in England after the New Forest.The location in Gloucestershire lies between  between the River Severn and Wye and is great for exploring.

Mandarin Ducks are very interesting
(well I think so).
They were introduced to the UK from China and
 have become established following escapes
 from captivity.
They nest in cavities in trees close to water and during the spring, the females lay their eggs in the tree's cavity after mating.
More Mandarins