A Foot in the Chilterns in Scotland part 1

A group of 14 of us went walking in Edinburgh. Most of us stayed on the university campus https://www.edinburghfirst.co.uk/accommodation/salisbury-green-hotel-and-bistro/

which did mean trying to get the hang of buses. The bus service is amazingly good in terms of the locations and frequency but managing tickets was not so easy especially when bus drivers do not always sell you the right one. We were sold Lothian west to go to North Berwick which is clearly east and if the bus driver had good eyesight it did not work very well. After visiting North Berwick and being shown around by my sister we walked at least 8 miles along the coast to Gullane ready to be transported back on the next bus – this driver had good eyesight and refused to take us without further payment. When we sat down he turned off the engine and refused to move so we had to file off and wait for another bus who thankfully was more accommodating. He was a brave man to take on a bunch of middle aged nordic walkers armed with poles.

Day one was unexpectedly glorious sunshine – first walk for those who had arrived was from Blackford Observatory


We cheated a bit by driving up to the car park and walking from there. Edinburgh, due to its volcanic origins offers visitors the chance to view North, South East and West from the various hills in the city and surrounding area.

Later in the afternoon we walked over Arthur’s Seat to Duddingstone village, visiting the kirk http://duddingstonkirk.co.uk/history_and_buildings.html and Dr Neil’s garden http://www.drneilsgarden.co.uk/ on the banks of Duddingstone loch https://www.scottish-places.info/features/featurefirst7881.html before dinner at the famous Sheeps Heid pub https://www.thesheepheidedinburgh.co.uk/

Choice then was walk back along the old Innocent railway or drive back – those that walked had a lovely evening walk https://www.stuffedinburgh.com/innocent-railway-tunnel-2/

Day 2 – fuelled by a very tasty and indulgent scottish breakfast we set off for the Pentland Hills http://www.pentlandhills.org/ to work some of it off. Some people drove to Harlaw and walked there and the rest of us took the steep option from Swanston https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Swanston,_Edinburgh

We parked by the Brasserie and set off up Caerketton Hill from where there were breathtaking views, on to Allermuir and then picked our way down some very steep terrain to return to Swanston for a well earned lunch with the others who had done a walk around Swanston after Harlow.

From there a short drive to the Secret Herb Garden and back for drinks and supper.



Tylney hall and the chalk streams

A group of us arranged to visit Tylney Hall Hotel Gardens https://www.tylneyhall.co.uk/and walk near there. It is very different to the Chilterns – flat grassy country with clear chalk streams. We were blessed with magnificent warm spring weather – warm enough to picnic,

Tylney Hall has the most magnificent trees and the gardeners have been restoring the estate to its former glory

Following the tour we had a delicious tea in the Heckfield suite – the hotel has a number of private suites for meetings etc and this was one of them – I suspect they were wary at having walkers in the main hotel drawing room!

Donate a Gate – Turville

A Foot in the Chilterns Nordic walkers recently donated a gate under the Chiltern Society Donate a gate  scheme. As a walking group we are reminded every day what a privilege it is to have such amazing walking country all around us – the Chilterns really is a wonderful place to walk in all seasons.

There are some things one cannot change about a geographical location – the contours, geology and so on and we are so lucky to have such variety. Steep hills to keep us fit and give us some spectacular views, flat valley walks, riverside, wild flower meadows, and I could go on and on.

I decided to participate in the scheme as a way of giving something extra back and to benefit all walkers in the area. I am reminded daily that some people, for whatever reason, struggle to negotiate stiles, meaning that they are restricted in their choice of where they can walk – the installation of gates in place of stiles makes a huge difference to access to the countryside.

Gates are installed by the path maintenance volunteers who keep our rights of way  in good condition, armies of people working all year round to cut back vegetation, install gates, clear obstructions and I am sure many other things besides.

Travelling to other areas of the country as I do I am constantly reminded that we are lucky to have such a comprehensive network of pathways and bridleways and to have them kept in such good condition. Access for those with mobility challenges is carefully considered and information available to guide people unable to negotiate stiles.

The scheme https://chilternsociety.org.uk/donate-a-gate/ is one of the initiatives that the Society https://chilternsociety.org.uk/has taken to help people enjoy exploring this unique area and is managed by Stuart Gulliman. Stuart was so helpful from first contact, to the gate actually being installed. He manages all the negotiations with landowners, volunteer teams, and all the finer details such as the wording on the plaque, style of gate and keeps you informed all the way along with great efficiency and charm.

We have visited the gate on our group walks in all weathers and even had the ‘blessing of the gate’ by one of our walkers who is a lay preacher.

An added bonus is the gate is located near Turville and we can often visit Turville Heath Barn for refreshments at the top of the hill





Sunshine in the hambleden valley

As we set off from Frieth high on the hill above the Hambleden valley we were serenaded by birdsong and hardly anyone around. The walk down to Fingest is sensational with views across to Turville windmill, the village church in Fingest surrounded by typical brick and flint houses and the village pub – quintissential England! https://www.englandthisway.com/places/frieth.php

We are so lucky to have such a beautiful area to walk in, undulating countryside to provide the views and give us exercise up the hills.

From there to Turville Village and along the valley towards Skirmett before climbing back up the hill still in glorious sunshine through the beechwoods – beechnuts crunching under our feet which will be replaced by carpets of bluebells in a few months time.

winter in the Chilterns

Weather in a morning. This has been an interesting winter so far – pretty dry but some snow, storms and beautiful sunshine too.


Last week the 7.30am walk saw snow  then bright skies and finally cloudy skies all in a few hours


Latest Graduates

On January 13th 4 people gained their Nordic Walking UK passport having completed the Learn to Nordic
walk course with Anthea Osborn-Jones of A Foot in the Chilterns Nordic walking.

They are now able to walk with any NWUK accredited instructor.

Classes took place in Hambleden village  https://www.visitchilterns.co.uk/market-towns/hambleden-valley.html and Greys Court National Trust Property https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/greys-court near Henley on Thames https://www.visitchilterns.co.uk/market-towns/henley-on-thames.html

Wormsley Walled Garden

Following a steep and long walk around Ipsden and Wormsley we enjoyed a visit to the Walled Garden
Dating from the mid-1700s, the 2 acre gardens were originally designed by Richard Woods, a contemporary of Capability Brown.

Neglected for the better part of a century, the gardens were brought back to life when Sir Paul and Lady Getty commissioned distinguished garden designer Penelope Hobhouse to reimagine this beautiful space. Hobhouse divided the space into garden rooms, enabling visitors to move from “room to room” as they explore.

Wildflowers at Greenfields

What a wonderful evening we were treated to at Greenfields where Andrew Ingram gave us a guided tour of his wildflower meadows. The weather was perfect – sunshine with a light breeze providing some respite from the day’s heat and Andrew’s enthusiasm and knowledge of the flora and fauna in the Chilterns is infectious.

A Foot in the Chilterns goes to Austria

In June this year a group of 20 Nordic walkers from A Foot in the Chilterns travelled to Seefeld in the
Tyrol. We were lucky to be guided by Friends who live there for much of the year – Gillian and Klaus Sichau whose knowledge of the area, the walks and just as importantly the best Alms was invaluable in making the holiday such a success.

A recce last year had identified Hotel Charlotte https://www.hotel-charlotte.com/tyrol/ to be the accommodation of choice and they certainly came up trumps. The location and facilities that the hotel offered and the way that they looked after us was fantastic. They managed a fairly diverse group with a variety of dietary needs and accommodation preferences and the presence of the spa with swimming pool greatly enhanced our health and wellbeing.

Outside Hotel Charlotte Seefeld

Flying to Innsbruck from Heathrow with British Airways was ideal and we were met by our hosts and a very effcient taxi service run by Mr Haslwanter http://www.taxihaslwanter.at/. There is an easy train journey with spectacular views from Innsbruck to Seefeld direct which is always an option especially if you are travelling light.

Seefeld is a charming village with a wide variety of walk options including some organised by the village. Our trip coincided with Corpus Christie festivals and we were treated to processions and religious ceremonies, Heart shaped fires lit on the top of the mountains and a host of other Tirolean traditions.

Lots of traditional dishes had to be sampled – the walking was neccessary to counteract the effects of all the extra calories. This all combined with near perfect weather conditions led to a most enjoyable week in the Tyrol.

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