Nordic Walking with Snowdrops in the Chilterns

The theme for A Foot in the Chilterns Nordic walking this month is Snowdrops and we have been lucky to find them on almost every walk so far in varying stages of development from just pushing up through the ground to fully flowering. They really are a sign that winter is nearly over with their graceful and generous flowers in numerous different varieties.

Churchyards in particular often offer carpets of snowdrops and locally we have included St Botolph’s Swyncombe http://www.st-botolphs-swyncombe.info/events/news/ who open their church at weekends in February, serving teas and selling cakes and home produce – it is a major source of income for the church and people travel for miles to view this spectacle.maria2 small

We walked from Ewelme http://www.oxfordshirevillages.co.uk/southoxonvillages/ewelme.html a pretty village which is also familiar to us Nordic Walkers for the annual Chiltern Chase in June http://www.chilternchase.org.uk/ which welcomes us as competitors and is always a friendly event with a wonderful atmosphere and so far for us the sun has always shone!

Ewelme is a favourite film location and Paradise Postponed, Les Miserables and Misomer Murders are among films that have used this village. Jerome K Jerome author of 3 men in a boat is buried in the church graveyard. It has iconic almshouses and brick and flint houses and the historic watercress beds once a thriving business are now run by the Chiltern Society and open to visitors providing education and conservation https://chilternsociety.org.uk/our-sites/ewelme-watercress-beds/

Dunsden Church parishioners have been planting snowdrops in the churchyard for a number of years and though not as well established as Swyncombe they open in February with tours of the church and churchyard and information about Wilfred Owen amongst the things to see and do http://owenindunsden.org Our walk crossed from Berkshire to Oxfordshire and back again, passing the Loddon Brewery https://loddonbrewery.com/brewery  another filming location for Midsomer Murders which became the secondary theme to Snowdrops of February walks!

 

Walking through the Chilterns we frequently come across previously undiscovered gems and because this month is snowdrops everyone has been pointing out sightings of snowdrops ranging from small clumps to under tree carpets and everything in between

 

Walking from Hughendon Manor and West Wycombe

On a very cold morning this week we ventured to Hughendon Manor https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/hughenden where the reception staff where loathe to come out of their warm hut to scan tickets it was so cold! There were 7 hardy souls and 2 dogs who set off towards Downley Common http://www.chilternsaonb.org/ccbmaps/369/137/downley-common.html down very pleasant paths with not too much mud underfoot. We were soon warmed up from walking up the hill to Downley and pausing for a photo by the Beacon on the Common. Our only company was the birdsong, our chatter and the odd dog walker also out enjoying the crisp cold morning.

Our route took us over the Common and up to Naphill Common which is a myriad of footpaths, bridleways and muddy tracks – route finding is made difficult by the number of dog wakers routes cris crossing the official paths and a compass is almost a must to ensure you are going in the right direction.

 

We soon found ourselves in the pretty village of Bradenham by the village green and cricket pitch overlooked by Bradenham Manor and the church https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bradenham,_Buckinghamshire Bradenham Manor was once home to Disraeli as was Hughendon so there was a theme to our walk.

The Red Lion pub has closed although the notice on the door says open at weekends this does not appear to be the case.

It is a sad fact that many of the Chilterns pubs – once occurring in every village and hamlet cannot be sustained as a business and many are now turned in to houses. We crossed the busy main road to venture on under the railway line and up a steep hill in the wood to arrive at Noble Farm. With protestations from the walkers that this was not meant to be too hilly everyone was pleased to reach the top and all felt a sense of satisfaction from their achievements.

From here it was a brisk walk along the top of the ridge all the way to West Wycombe with the spectacular view from the church on the top of the hill. There was no sun glinting off the golden globe but it is still impressive. http://www.westwycombevillage.com/goldenball/

We were then rewarded with another downhill to the village of West Wycombe before climbing again towards Downley

2 more uphills and downhills before arriving at a very welcome bowl of soup in the Hughendon stable cafe.

The lovely thing about the walk was the opportunity to look back at intervals and see where you have come from – something we often cannot do on home territory around Henley with its lovely beech woods.

Nordic Walking in the Autumn with A Foot in the Chilterns

We have had an amazing autumn – frequent dry and warm spells interspersed with some cold snaps and rain.

To keep the countryside looking so wonderful rain is essential and we should not dread it. Suitable clothing especially footwear makes for a good walk and you often have the place to yourselves.

The colours have been spectacular as leaves stayed on the trees longer than usual and when they did fall were dry and fun to play in with that lovely rustle as you kick them ahead of you.

Now the leaves are nearly all off it is an opportunity to see views and wildlife often concealed at other times.

A Foot in the Chilterns Nordic walkers have covered the miles in Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire, introduced new people to Nordic walking and enjoyed some good early Christmas parties.

The barn at Turville Heath www.thebarnatturvilleheath.co.uk served us with the most delicious goulash preceded by soup and followed by cake – a meal suitable for the cyclists that eat there after a 50 mile cycle ride!

The Cherry Tree at Stoke Row hosted our other Christmas meal and managed a rowdy crowd of fussy eaters with skill.

We were blessed with glorious sunshine for the walks on both days which made it all the more enjoyable.

 

Completing the Shakespeare Way

All 146 miles now completed plus a bit extra for visiting interesting places and for good meals.

The company has been brilliant – the scenery varied and the challenge really enjoyable.

It has taken us to places we could not imagine existed and kept the fitness levels high for the summer.

It has been really gratifying to see so many people enjoying something different and forming new friendships along the way.

 

More Shakespeare Way

We started the day bright and early at Iffley village with a cup of coffee at the Tree Hotel who were very hospitable.

We were lucky to have ‘chauffeurs’ for this leg of the route so were dropped off by Mark and Tim.

We crossed over the lock via the bridge to get back on the Shakespeare Way and were soon on our way along the river again.

Walking across fields under the ring road and emerging at Sandford on Thames. From here the route becomes less attractive for a while – passing alongside a mobile home site and beside a sewage works which seemed to go on and on. We met a nice farmer who helped us back on our route when we had missed a sign and gone wrong.

The shade of the woodland was very welcome as the day was hot. We spotted a roe deer galloping across the field of wheat as it spotted us coming down the path.

The path goes uphill to the lovely village of Toot Baldon with its popular pub the Mole but we were too early for lunch.

We met Julia patiently waiting for us at Toot Baldon and walked on to the church with the most spectacular views across to the Chilterns.

The route from here to Marsh Baldon was very pretty with views of Wittenham Clumps – the iconic landmark visible from so may places in Oxfordshire. Some roadwork followed to get us to Chiselhampton where we had a delicious lunch at the Coach and Horses in a shady patch of the garden. Lovely food and very helpful staff.

Rejuvinated we were soon on our way again – at one point having to rely on Julia’s GPs to keep us on the right route as we wended our way through small fields by a stream and near gardens.

As we approached Stadhampton the school children were all out on the playing fields having a lovely time. We journeyed on and soon reached Ascott Park stopping to look at the old Granary and the dovecote  the mansion having apparently been burnt down in the 17th century before it was completed. We walked on to reach Chalgrove and walked through the neat and productive allotments to seek sanctuary from the sun for a drink stop in the doctors surgery. The local shop sold us ice creams and we were ready to undertake the final stretch of the walk. As we approached Brightwell Park with its impressive trees and parkland we met Tim and Mia coming towards us across the field which was a welcome sight and suggested that we were nearly at the Lord Nelson at Brightwell Baldwin – the cars awaiting us.

 

Iffley to Brightwell Baldwin

Iffley to Brightwell Baldwin

IMG_0885 IMG_0892 IMG_0893 IMG_0895 IMG_0887 Ascott Park RIMG0004

 

Nordic walking in Summer in the Chiltern Hills around Henley on Thames

Isn’t it amazing how you can walk similar routes and the views are always different depending on the seasons.

Not only is Henley buzzing with the Royal Regatta, The Festival and soon the Thames Traditional Boat Festival but the countryside is glorious, teeming with wild flowers, insects and animals benefitting from the recent rainfall and warm weather.

 

There is no better time to come walking or sign up to learn to Nordic walk. Our walks are varied and never the same

and you will see sights and experience spectacles you have never encountered before. Walking in company in a beautiful area so close to London and Oxford.

Shakespeare Way – Nordic walking Day 6

This section started in Bladon where the very hospitable owner of the White House – Kevin opened the pub early for us and made us delicious coffees, provided loos and made us very welcome. http://www.whitehousebladon.co.uk/

Bladon is the village beside Blenheim Palace  and Winston Churchill is buried in the graveyard of the local church.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2929670/Never-seen-pictures-documenting-private-burial-Winston-Churchill.html

There is a small Churchill exhibition in the church and memorial stained glass windows commemorating 50 years since his death

The route took us through Yarnton and then along the Oxford Canal and River Isis to Oxford, going through the centre of Oxford and finishing at Iffley Lock. We had a wonderful lunch at Jacob’s ladder inn in Wolvercote village to help us on our way.

 

Shakespeare Way – day 4 Church Enstone to Bladon

Another dry day – we have been very lucky. This is the one section so far where we felt that the published route could have been improved as there were at least 2 sections where we did 3 sides of a square and there was a lot of tarmac road involved which rather reduced the enjoyment for those sections.

We entered Blenheim Palace via the Stonesfield Steps – last visited by us when doing the Oxfordshire Way which shares the route at this point.

We finished at the White House at Bladon who gave us a very warm welcome, delicious food and were friendly and attentive. The dogs were made very welcome and we will definitely return

crossing in to Blenheim park Church Enstone start Victory column Propping up the tree Blenheim Palace Angela's knickerbocker glory (1) In front of Ditchley park

Shakespeare Way – Day 3

The third Leg of the Long Distance path started for us in Long Compton – parking a car in the village hall car park to retrieve later.

We had woken up to sunshine and after a coffee stop in a very friendly bakery in Woodstock were ready to tackle the walk.

We had been very pleasantly surprised by no major traffic issues around Oxford so hoping for the same next time.

The countryside was looking magnificent – bursting with vegetation and wildlife and we appeared to be miles from civilisation for much of the time although in fact we were never very far from a house, village, road or other human contact.

No refreshment options until we reached Chipping Norton but The Old Mill Coffee House and Bistro more than made up for it when we got there. We had a delicious lunch in the garden – fresh water for dogs and yummy food for us.

AOJ and Jock Cafe Whichford Wood

Decorated for the Queen's 90th birthday

Decorated for the Queen’s 90th birthday

emerging from the wood

Shakespeare Way Day 2 Halford to Long Compton

The plan for the day was Halford to Long Compton and we were lucky to have 2 willing chauffeurs in the guise of Tim and Mark.

Tim and Mia started the walk with us and then turned back to retrieve a car whilst Mark went of for some shopping and culture while we walked. Both greeted us at the end – walking towards us.

We had a welcome coffee stop in Le Cafe in Shipston on Stour and made it to Cherington for lunch by the river in the pub garden.

We were blessed with glorious weather again and spectacular scenery. See below the pink blossom from the chesnut trees in Honington

Horse Chestnut blossom Nearly finished for the day Towards Margetts Hill Le Cafe Shipston Nearly finished for the day