Springtime on the Chilterns

We are so lucky to live in such an accessible place, near to many urban populations but wonderfully rural thanks to the topography of the Chilterns.
You may all moan about the steepish ascents and descents we sometimes include on walks but without that you do not get those spectacular views – often with no one else in sight.

Spring is one of the most wonderful times of year with everything looking fresh and beautiful – the beechwoods, wild flowers and plethora of birds and other wildlife.
There are many SSI’s with rare plants and birds and only this morning I heard a cuckoo – once plentiful but no longer.
Otters and kingfishers are more frequent sights and some areas there are nightingales singing and other less common birds.

A walk along the quieter stretches of river often yields sightings of these birds and animals, nesting swans and other water birds, the Loddon lily, reed beds and wildflowers

A Foot in the Chilterns is 10

10 years ago I never envisaged where we would be today. Our Nordic Walking group has grown and evolved to become an inclusive and varied group trying to stave off the inevitable
ageing process. Getting out into the Chilterns at whatever pace suits each individual, chatting, making friends and sharing interests as we walk. It was lovely to welcome walkers current and past
on our anniversary.
Robin’s food was excellent, the rain stayed away, and we even had Ukrainian cake.

We celebrated with current and past walkers at the Barn at Turville Heath where Robin and his family fed and watered us and we enjoyed seeing everyone. Some walked and some just came for lunch.

We discovered the barn when it first opened and have had a number of events there including birthdays and memorials – it is a special place.

The Coronation

Sue was brave enough to join me in campong out in the Mall in advance of the Coronation – completely mad but quite an experience.
Keen to witness a historical event and take to the street we went armed with a tent and new chairs plus waterproofs, food, phone chargers
and all sorts of paraphenalia.
Sue found a brilliant spot by the Australian flag opposite Clarence House (she is Australian). It also happened to be by the KP group – a bunch of people
who are royal superwatchers. They were constantly interviewed by the media. They adopted us and looked after us so all was well.

Rupert and one of Sue’s friends brought us supper which was extremely welcome

and the rain made an appearance every so often

We slept in our wonderful new chairs from Rohan and kept our stuff in the tent. The Friday night walk about was just beside us

The King, the Prince and Princess of Wales, during a ‘walk about’ on the Mall today, ahead of tomorrows Coronation.

The King, the Prince and Princess of Wales, during a ‘walk about’ on the Mall today, ahead of tomorrows Coronation.

The King, the Prince and Princess of Wales, during a ‘walk about’ on the Mall today, ahead of tomorrows Coronation.

It was an interesting night and the morning brought all sorts of new issues – trying to fold down the tent which required a neighbouring professor and a Polish man to assist.
By then Marianne had arrived and was close by but due to people being very territorial we could not invite her to join us!

All in all it was definitely an experience not to be missed

After the procession we retired to St James’ Park for some very welcome chanmpagne brought by Marianne and toasted the Red Arrows in the fly past


Snowdrops herald the coming of spring. Although not an indigenous plant they have been here for hundreds of years and proliferate in woodlands and churchyards as well as gardens.

We are lucky to have so many near us and traditionally have used this time of year to visit known snowdrop locations and enjoy them – often amongst aconites and other flowers that emerge in colder times.

Some of our local commons have an abundance of these lovely flowers and hedgerows where people have discarded garden soil and the snowdrops amongst it have colonised the area.

The snowdrops at St Botoplhs at Swyncombe are legendary and people flock form far afield to enjoy the spectacle and indulge in tea and cake.
The funds raised for this lovely old church are substantial and keep the building maintained.

Dunsden is another church where they are gradually building up the carpet of snowdrops and combine their flowering with a Wilfred Owen Day.
Wilfred Owen was lay assistant to the then vicar from 2011-2013. The Owen in Dunsden organisation https://owenindunsden.org/
has a lot of information and developed a Wilfred Owen trail in the area which is well worth doing.
They have recently commisioned a stained glass window. They collaborated in a competition with the Glaziers company and the winner was Natasha
Redfern who is about to start creating this beautiful window for installation by November 2023.
Loddon Brewery has opened a Tap Room and farm shop which are within walking distance and well worth a visit https://loddonbrewery.com/tapyard/

Greys Court National Trust has snowdrops and lots of other flowering bulbs later in the season, Northend Common and Turville Heath are other local sites and you can visit the wonderful barn cafe – a no car cafe for refreshments but need to book https://www.thebarnatturvilleheath.com/


Yorkshire 3 and 4

Day 3 was Lower Nidderdale – very familiar to our hosts as it is where they actually live. It is a beautiful River with the opportunity to view the valley from both sides without too much exertion. Another hot day where seeking shade became important.

We started from Darley community shop where we met for coffee before setting off up the valley to Summerbridge. There was a local man doing his shopping and he chatted about the Nidderdale Society and his home village of Brewerley advising us to visit the chapel there on the following day.

We enjoyed the sound of the river making its way down the valley as we followed the path alongside and the relatively flat terrain was welcome.

A few stone stiles to negotiate and add interest. On arriving at Summerbridge we made our way to the local cafe for drinks and cakes – wonderful

Yorkshire hospitality in a spotless establishment with exceptional service https://www.thefirssummerbridge.co.uk/

before returning with our 180 degree different view, to Darely for some to collect cars and to Birstwith for others.

Yet another warm and beautiful day so a need for shade where possible. Back to Pateley Bridge to start, along to Glasshouses and up the steep
hill to the top.
There is a folly on the top of the hill https://thefollyflaneuse.com/yorkes-folly-or-the-stoops-pateley-bridge-north-yorkshire/

There are various ponds on the ascent and descent and we did visit Brewerley Chapel where a resident nun gave us a tour and the neighbour
showed us round his garden. He had arranged for an old oak tree that developed honey fungus to be carved into a Celtic cross as a memorial to his wife and had a driveway constructed from brisks from his business

Coldstones quarry http://thecoldstonescut.org/

Ripon and Fountains Abbey

Stanley Spencer walk

In May we were treated to a visit to the Stanley Spencer Gallery and a walk around Cookham.
The curator gave us a personal guided tour of the gallery and the latest exhibition – Delight in Nature – a wholly new side of
Stanley Spencer’s art. If you were unable to join us look at https://stanleyspencer.org.uk/ to whet your appetite and encourage you to visit.

After the tour of the gallery Ann took us round the village showing us where Stanley lived and worked and some of the views from the paintings.
The weather was glorious and the tour guides incredibly knowledgeable which made it all a wonderful afternoon

Visit to Danesfield


Blue skies and sunshine! We were blessed with perfect weather for our visit to Danesfield Hotel on Monday 14 March. Twenty-two ‘A Foot in the Chilterns’ walkers, spouses and friends joined Dan Lawrence, the Head Gardener for a tour of the garden and a talk on RAF Medmenham (the RAF station based at Danesfield during WWII).

The present house was built in neo-Tudor style over the period 1899 – 1901 to a very high standard. The beautiful chimneys are similar to those at Hampton Court, each one is slightly different. The building is not stone, but brick with rendering cut to look like stone blocks. The cost of re-rendering, now overdue, is an eye-watering half a million! Once completed, the old Georgian house and Pugin chapel were sadly demolished.
Danesfield became a country house hotel in 1991. The building is a Grade II* listed, while two lodges, the steps, walls and fountains are Grade II listed. The coat of arms in evidence everywhere was recently designed by marketing!

Dan was a great guide; he has been at Danesfield for five years and is clearly passionate about his job. Until recently there were three gardeners, but currently there are only two of them managing the entire estate. Lawns and hedges take up a great deal of their time! To date, they have escaped blight attack to the box hedging (though there has been some insect damage). The formal beds were prepared but empty, waiting to be planted with hundreds of geraniums once the threat of frost has passed.
Dan was full of interesting little anecdotes. In this photo, we are standing above the old swimming pool, which he had heard had been filled in many years ago with anything unwanted that was lying around, such as old chairs and doors. Dan has first-hand evidence that this is true; his very expensive lawnmower hit a door handle a few years ago, resulting in a £2000 repair bill!

Beyond the old pool was this massive Cedar of Lebanon tree trunk. The
current owner is from Lebanon and he will not allow it to be cleared away. It does make a nice feature!

Here we are on the listed steps. The views from there were wonderful and it was clearly a sun-trap as the magnolia shows – the flowers significantly ahead at the time of the ones in gardens near me.

From this area, there were great views of the river and across the valley, none of which I photographed! The fountain and ponds were close to here with lots of large koi carp and goldfish, the latter were apparently added by some of the staff! No longer wanted fairground prizes perhaps?

A bad fire badly damaged the house in the 80s during renovation. After the fire, this pipe down to the river was installed so that if there was ever another fire, water could be pumped directly from the river. Dan told us that the fire brigade come every year to check that it is still in sound working order. Celia then told Dan that after that fire she attended a special service, where the Medmenham Church priest said prayers to protect the site from ever suffering fire damage again!

The spa was opened in the 1990s and is linked to the main building by a glass corridor.

As the plaque shows, the RAF used Danesfield during WWII as a base for photographic reconnaissance. Phyllis Court and Hughenden were also part of this work. After the garden tour, Dan showed us some interesting photographs taken during this time.

Danesfield House stands on a plateau, on the site of an ancient hillfort where artefacts from Neolithic, Bronze and Iron Ages have been found. The land shelves steeply down to the River Thames to the south. Its lofty position means we can often see it from our ‘Foot in the Chilterns’ walks. When I next see it in the distance, it will give me great pleasure to know a little more about it!

(If anyone would like to add more photos, please send them to Anthea. I particularly regret not taking one of the lead drainpipes which were beautifully ornate).


Mission 40 – March challenge in aid of TVAA

We are participating in the above event in aid of Thames Valley Air ambulance with the dual purpose
of motivation to keep fit into spring and raising money for our favourite charity.

They do an amazing job and any help to keep them flying is very worthwhile.

Please do support us if you can via our Just Giving page https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/anthea-osborn-jones1
As they say every little bit helps.

If you are a walker with the group do sign up and get your T shirt then get walking.