Nordic walking in the Chiltern Bluebells

Strange weather this year and the bluebells have flowered late but now they are splendid. The most wonderful shades of blue amongst the wild garlic, celandines and wood anenomes all amongst the canopy of fresh green beech leaves. The Chilterns really do look amazing.


Having posted walks most days in April where bluebells thrive, they kept us waiting a while and for most of the month there was the carpet of green leaves with no sign of any flowers. It is always amazing how they almost come alive overnight – one day there are hardly any visible buds and then they burst forth with that wonderful aroma and distinctive bright blue haze.
This year each plant seems to be having its moment of glory – first the snowdrops poking up their heads in cold weather and brightening up the woodland and churchyards, then primroses – fantastic banks of yellow flowers, celandines glistening in the early spring sunshine, the smell of wild garlic on woodland edges obvious before the white flowers came out and now the bluebells.
The Chiltern chalkland https://www.visitchilterns.co.uk/is a diverse and wonderful habitat with a number of nature reserves mostly managed by the Wildlife Trusts http://www.wildlifetrusts.org/. Farmers and the Chiltern Society https://chilternsociety.org.uk/ensure the legacy is there for all to enjoy while keeping up traditions and farming the land in a way that encourages the natural flora and fauna.

Beechwood in spring

The Maharaja’s Well has had a face lift

The Maharaja’s well in Stoke Row has had its renovations completed. This unusual monument was a working well paid for by the Maharaja of Benares to provide water for the village. They also planted a cherry orchard to fund the ongoing maintenance of the well and a cottage next to it.
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-20498306
Many of our walks are around Stoke Row which has everything anyone would want for a good walk in the Chilterns countryside – several pubs, a wonderful village shop/cafe, lovely scenery, wildlife, woodland, country houses and so on
http://www.stokerowstore.co.uk/
http://www.thecrookedbillet.co.uk/
http://www.risingsunwitheridgehill.com/
http://www.thecherrytreeinn.co.uk/

Nordic walking is best done on mixed terrain and there is plenty of that in this area

Birthday celebrations at The barn at Turville Heath

On Thursday a large group of us met for a Nordic walk with the highlight being a beautifully organised lunch at the Barn. Robin and his staff put on a fantastic feast and Glynis and Anne Marie organised the whole day perfectly including decorating the barn beautifully.
Thew Barn is truly on of the real Gems in the Chilterns – with fresh produce perfectly cooked, catering for special dietary needs and maintaining a low carbon footprint – being a no car cafe with very local produce. They champion local producers and work with local people – you really should pay them a visit
http://www.thebarnatturvilleheath.com/

Wear it Pink for Breast Cancer

October is Wear it Pink for Breast Cancer and A Foot in the Chilterns Nordic walkers embraced this fundraising initiative and donned our pink clothing or anything else to raise funds.
One of the walks was in Windsor Great park where the sun shone and we had a lovely day finishing off for lunch at the Bailliwick.
Humans and dogs enjoyed the autumn colours and it made a change from the Chilterns.

The totem pole















Walking for Thames Valley Air Ambulance

On Saturday 23rd September 2017 walkers from A Foot in the Chilterns completed 5 or 10 mile walks in aid of TVAA.
Upper Thames Rowing Club http://www.utrc.org.uk/ kindly allowed us to use their club house as walk HQ and a beautiful sunny autumn day made for a fun time while raising much needed funds for a very worthwhile cause https://www.tvairambulance.org.uk/

It really was a team effort with fantastic marshalls, walk leaders, back markers, cake makers and of course walkers and sponsors.
Ruth Dunkin the fundraiser for the charity was on hand to welcome walkers back to the club, Henley and the surrounding area was looking marvellous in the sunshine and as we all packed up and said our goodbyes we reflected on a job well done.

The Nordic walking Festival 2017

A Small group of us set off for Purbeck and the NWUK festival on September 14th. Despite a heavy shower en route the sun came out when we arrived and the hub was bathed in sunshine on the edge of the sea.
The marquee had apparently blown away the day before so had to be replaced and thankfully the only casualty was organisation of the event which was set back a bit – no injuries from a flying marquee.
Once settled in to the wonderful cottage that Glynis had found for us, complete with hot tub we had a very convivial evening with food prepared by Mark and Mick and a little liquid refreshment to start us off.
Friday morning dawned and we togged up in our walking gear – new A Foot in the Chilterns coordinated shirts and fleeces – and Mick took us back to Swanage for our first walk – Swanage to Corfe Castle
along the ridge.

My next walk was starting from Church Knowle and was a beautiful walk but involved about 22 stiles which with 26 people was interesting. Pete was leading and was very good fun and Emma as back marker had her work cut out. Due to the stiles and overgrown path I had to make a run for it back to my car to get to the Advanced technique workshop back at the hub. From there it was back to the house to collect Linda for an amazing evening walk around Arne Nature reserve led by one of the rangers.
A very large group of Nordic walkers did not make for many sightings of wildlife but we learnt a lot and soon arrived at our camp fire supper. A delicious vegetable curry eaten sitting on logs around the fire and making new friends. Then back to the cars adorned with headlamps to light our way and falling in to bed.

The next morning it was back out again for another full day of activity – this time I was adorned with an Orange T shirt, hat and a whistle as back marker. The walk was Corfe to Creech for coffe and back to Corfe. David found us some amazing views and a lovely coffee shop with delicious Dorset ice cream as well as the coffee and cakes on offer.

Then back for lunch and for me it was off to the Power Hill Training with Marko – glorified circuit/interval training with Nordic walking poles which gave amusement to passing tourists and residents as we ran, leapt and walked up hill interspersed with squats and press ups. The aching abs lasted a while! A quick dash back to the house for a shower and spruce up and then all off to the barbeque at the hub and to attend the prize giving from the 16 mile challenge and speed hike.
As the sun set it became pretty cold and the fleeces came in handy but we soon decided drinks back at the house would be more pleasurable. Linda then had the bright idea of putting our hot tub in to commission – ‘a foot in the tub’ and even posing with a nordic walking pole each. It was in fact very effective at easing away any aches and pains from over exertion.

Our last morning dawned to lovely sunshine. Mick and Anne-Marie were leaving for Devon so once we had cleared up the house and packed up we were off for our final walk – Kimmeridge to Heaven’s Gate.
The marathon runners were coming in the opposite direction so we cheered them on as they passed and we frequently had to step aside to give them space.


Time to leave Purbeck and go to Wareham for a Sunday lunch of Fish and Chips – so fresh you could smell the sea!

The end of a good weekend and it fulfilled the bench on the hill top’s inscription of
‘Everything has to be earned but anything is possible’

Walking in Austria

We were blessed with wonderful weather for our recce trip to Seefeld in Austria https://www.seefeld.com/en/ 4 days walking in the alps and looking at options for accommodation for a group holiday in the autumn of 2018.

Train from Reading to Gatwick went according to plan, the Easyjet flight threatened to be delayed by

some considerable time but due to a feisty sounding pilot we took off sooner than he had been advised and landed almost on time in Innsbruck. From there a very efficient bus to the station and a train to Seefeld – all very affordable despite the poor exchange rate with the Euro and everything in  Austria seems to run on time.

On this occasion we were staying in a lovely apartment 5 minutes walk from the station – marketed as ‘sleeping under the stars in Seefeld’ – they were in fact artificial stars but they brightened as it got darker and moved around! https://www.seefeld.com/en/hotel-tyrol/hotel-search-and-book/seefeld/holiday-apartment/a-haus-alpengruss-1

The walking in the region is wonderful, ranging from easy bike and walking routes, to steep mountain paths and all graded according to difficulty. You can gain height on a vehicle width path and still experience the majesty of the mountains. We were lucky with spectacular views on account of the

sunny conditions and clear skies – it could of course be a bit different. One night there were spectacular thunderstorms with lightning over the mountain peaks.

The village bandstand has regular music played for all to enjoy – both local bands and visiting bands,

Pony drawn traps are available if the legs are tired and E-bikes plentiful for hire which make the hilly bits easy.

It would seem to be a perfect place for a Nordic walking holiday – an area set up for walking and steeped in customs and tradition from cows with bells to Leiderhosen and traditional dress.

 

 

Chiltern Way – Bovingdon to Ewelme so far

We are walking the Chiltern Way http://www.chilternsaonb.org/ccbmaps/219/137/chiltern-way.html starting and finishing at Bovingdon in Hertfordshire https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bovingdon

Nearly all of us are Nordic walking which really helps especially on the hills and keeps us fit.

We chose to start in Bovingdon where it was easy to park and our first day took us to Chalfont St Giles

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chalfont_St_Giles a pretty Buckinghamshire village. We were lucky to be invited for tea at the end of the walk by one of our party who lives there and it was a very welcome finish to a lovely day. The route had taken us through varied countryside – Flaunden, Sarratt where we had a delicious lunch in one of the 3 pubs the Boot http://www.thebootsarratt.com/ who were extremely welcoming to humans and dogs alike, Chenies, Chorleywood and on to Chalfont St Giles

The second leg was Chalfont St Giles to Sheepridge so a few more hills, lovely countryside and

spectacular views across the southern counties and London in the distance. Bluebells were out, the larks singing high in the skies and we were blessed with lovely spring weather.

A well earned lunch at the Crooked Billet at Sheepridge which was fantastic value and really delicious.

The third section we tackled was Sheepridge to Fingest so into the Hambleden valley – famous for its filming locations and iconic Chilterns countryside. The blossom was beautiful, the bluebells almost at their best and tea at the village shop worth the walk before journeying on towards Fingest further up the valley. Hambleden http://www.visitchilterns.co.uk/market-towns/hambleden-valley.html was once owned by Viscount Hambleden (WH Smith) but was sold fairly recently to a swiss banker who has invested in the estate and adjoining estates renaming it Culdenfaw – incorporating Culham, Hambleden and Fawley.

The fourth was Fingest to Ewelme passing Stonor House http://www.stonor.com/ nestling in a perfect position in the Stonor valley. It has been the home of the Stonor family for hundreds of years.

The footpath winds through the deer park with lovely views and one is surrounded by deer grazing in the parkland. The Stonor cricket pitch is down in the valley – home of village cricket in the summer months.

Up again to Maidensgrove Common http://www.chilternsaonb.org/ccbmaps/1421/137/russell-s-water-and-maidensgrove-commons.html right on the top of the hill above the Warburg nature reserve http://www.bbowt.org.uk/reserves/warburg-nature-reserve home to wonderful wild flowers, birdlife and doormice amongst other things. Down a steep hillside to the reserve – steep enough to warrant steps that deter erosion, along a bluebell valley, across lovely grassy fields with lambs and calves grazing happily, until we reached Park Corner and cross the busy Nettlebed to Watlington road.

We are then sort of on the final stretch past Nuffield Place https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/nuffield-place and Huntercombe to walk down the path to the Old London Road – a restricted byway leading out to open fields and on towards Ewelme. The route approached Ewelme https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ewelme from above giving lovely views of this beautiful village. It has a strong community feel – the shop is now run by volunteers from the village and serves tea and cakes amongst other things, there is a primary school, alms houses , church and a pub and there are the historical watercress beds now run by the Chiltern Society https://chilternsociety.org.uk/our-sites/ewelme-watercress-beds/

Chiltern Food And Drink Festival 2017

Walks took place as part of the Chiltern Food and Drink Festival 2017 and were planned to introduce newcomers to the area and the delights of the Chilterns

Walkers could choose to walk or Nordic walk and those from far afield – Salisbury as well as those nearer to home experienced some real delights both walks and vies and food providers

We met for the first walk at the Chiltern Valley Winery and Brewery http://www.chilternvalley.co.uk/ where walkers had the opportunity to browse in the shop before setting off across the Chilterns. Thankfully the weather stayed dry and our route took us down the hill to Skirmett and back up through beech woods before going down again to Turville  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Turville – filming location for a multitude of films. We visited the church to see the John Piper widow http://www.hambleden-valley-churches.org.uk/TURhistory.htm before journeying on along the valley, skirting the Wormsley estate https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wormsley_Park which now hosts not only world class cricket but also the opera that used to take place at Garsington. The bluebells were just coming in to bud

The route then turned back up a steep bridleway to Turville Heath where our host Robin prepared a sumptuous lunch in this barn

http://www.thebarnatturvilleheath.com/ It really is a unique place blending history and innovation and Robin was able to tell us the history of the barn – the timbers being from ships from Henry V111. Ships were scrapped and the timbers sold in Henley – on of the most important inland ports

Robin’s family have farmed here for generations and have a great affinity with the land and the area. Much of the craftsmanship in the barn in recent years has been done by Robin himself

 

Now full of food we journeyed on across the top of the hills to Southend and back to Luxters farm

Wilfred Owen walk

A group of us met in Caversham to walk the Wilfred Owen trail plus a bit extra. This was the idea of Linda

whose husband helped by cutting back some brambles to make the walk more pleasant and avoid wading through mud.

The trail is based on Dunsden owenindunsden.org  and also took advantage of the opportunity to visit the church snowdrops.

There has been a planting programme and the churchyard has more flowers every year. They are fundraising for a Wilfred Owen window in the church.

We passed Loddon Brewery https://loddonbrewery.com/ which is a local brewery offering tours and is the set of some Midsomer Murder filming.

To celebrate this they sell a beer labelled The Night of the Stag – a title of one of the films featuring their brewery