Chesham and the Chiltern Hills


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May 1st 2021
Published: May 3rd 2021
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Dear All

Greetings from London. We have just had a lovely, three-day Bank Holiday weekend at the beginning of May, and I took advantage of having the extra day by completing something that I started probably over three years ago now. I completed “Walk 4” in my 1998 book “Country Walks Around London” – yay!

I bought this book second-hand from an Amnesty International Second-Hand bookshop in Hammersmith, probably over 10 years ago now. Although it was published in 1998, the “Country Walks Around London” has served me well over the years in following slowly but surely its 26 listed walks in surprisingly beautiful rural areas all around the city limits of London – I am now halfway through the book, having completed 13 walks, with 13 left to go. The walks vary in length from 4 miles to 11.5 miles, although after completing my first one at 11.5 miles and just about hobbling the final mile of the journey back to the train station again, I decided to cut the longer walks into two, and thus have two more leisurely strolls of around 5-6 miles each instead.

The last time I delved into the contents of this
Dungrove FarmDungrove FarmDungrove Farm

Chiltern Hills
book, however, was over three years ago now, when I began Walk 4 called “Chesham Switchback”. This was one of the long 11.5 mile walks, so I planned to do the shorter first half of the walk first, and then follow up with the latter half a little later. Little did I know at the time that more than three years would pass until I picked up the walk again, and this is what I decided to do the Saturday of the Bank Holiday weekend. And what a lovely little walk it was!

The walk begins at Chesham tube station, right at the far end of the London tube network’s Metropolitan Line. Being located in a whopping Zone 9 of London’s public transport zones (most of the network is between Zones 1 and 6), this was pretty much the furthest one could go out of London on a tube line. Indeed, Chesham is 25 miles out of the City of London, and although forming one of the suburban towns of London’s commuter belt, also has a foot in the Chiltern Hills, Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. While England has 10 National Parks, each with the highest level of conservation
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Dungrove Farm
and protection from development, beneath these in rank sit 34 Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONBs) – beautiful parts of the country which are also offered some additional protection in terms of planning controls. The Chiltern Hills AONB is a 660 square mile area of rolling hills, pastoral and agricultural landscapes, interspersed with quaint little villages, including the lovely little Chesham I was to visit that day.

The trip to Chesham took two hours from my house. Although it was long, it was surprisingly easy, firstly on the Thameslink train from East Croydon, connecting easily over a footbridge to an adjacent platform at Farringdon station, to the Metropolitan Line all the way to its north-western-most point of London. After having arrived at my destination, and rubbing my rather sore rear-end (tube trains are not made for long-distance journeys!), I felt a sense of familiarity exiting the little Chesham tube station, taking a left, and into the delightful little town centre.

Chesham’s High Street was a-bustling with activity during my visit, and I wasn’t too sure if this was because it was a Saturday with lovely weather, because it was a market day, because we are not long out
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Chiltern Hills
of the lifting of our third lockdown in this country, or a combination of all three. Whatever the reason, there was a highly jovial atmosphere in town, with friends saying hello, outdoor café and seating areas bustling with activity, market stall traders selling their wares, and plenty of people giving a friendly smile and a “morning” greeting. It was really lovely. The bus I was to take to the place where I was to resume my walk was hourly, and I had an hour to spend in town before the next one was to leave at 11.45am. I happied away this hour by visiting the village’s lovely duck pond called Skottowe’s Pond, the 13th century St Mary’s church and churchyard, the old part of the village along Church Street with narrow winding lanes and beautiful stone cottages, the quite-famous village Clock Tower in Market Square, the George and Dragon pub dating back to 1715, and the lovely pedestrianised High Street with lots of cute little shops and cafes. I was most interested in the market stalls which had been set up on that day, selling all sorts of things from olives to cheese, fish and antiques. Again, there was a
"Country Walks Around London""Country Walks Around London""Country Walks Around London"

My trusty, beloved 1998-handbook to rural escapes and adventures around London
lovely atmosphere, and everyone seemed happy to be out and about and mingling.

The time passed quickly, and I stocked up on supplies for my walk at a Greggs bakery and Boots food section, before my bus arrived, the 354 from Chesham to Berkhamsted, which was to take me the two-and-a-half miles north-east-wards along the A416 to a little hamlet called Ashley Green, whence I was to recommence my Chesham Switchback walk once more.

I was excited and happy to be exploring again.

Ashley Green was a pleasant little place, with a small Victorian church called St John the Evangelist, a large village green, from which presumably the settlement got its name, and an interesting little wooden structure built over the site of the village’s former well house. My guided walk was to take me along a path signposted as the Chiltern Heritage Trail east of this reconstructed well house. I would love to be able to return to the Chilterns again at some point to delve further into the area and explore more of its little villages. This seemed to be just a fleeting visit, but I was happy to be somewhere new again.

The
Walk 4: Chesham SwitchbackWalk 4: Chesham SwitchbackWalk 4: Chesham Switchback

The first part of my walk around three years ago started heading west of Chesham and returned via the short cut shown on the map. The second part of my walk related in this blog entry began at Ashley Green, just south of the Golden Eagle Public House here on the map, and headed eastwards from there.
walk descended a tarmac path before it opened out onto a huge expanse of farmland, really quite breathtaking considering many of England’s farms and fields are small and cute. This place felt vast and open, and after passing a couple of other walkers coming in the opposite direction, I pretty much had the place to myself. Dipping into the valley and rising up out of it again, I passed through the buildings of Harriotts End Farm, and out onto a sunken country lane called White Hill, which headed downhill again. This lane was surprisingly quite busy with traffic, and every few metres or so I had to step into the undergrowth at the side to let a passing vehicle past. After a very steep incline, my walk headed off the lane again, and down a very rocky and tree-covered path back into the peace and quiet once more. This led me past another farm, Sale Farm, and through several more large, open fields, this time planted with green crops and making for a delightful photo or two. At the far end, there was an enclosure with some very loud and aggressive-sounding dogs who barked as I passed by. This is
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On the way to Chesham
something I don’t particularly like about walking in farmland areas – I’m not a big fan of fields of cows or sheep, particularly the former, but every once in a while a farmhouse has a dog, and walking alone and having my fear of dogs, I find this quite a challenge. Fortunately I kept my mind at bay and walked past the noise and into the next field.

I was passed at this point by two joggers who fortunately came at the right time, as they jogged on ahead of me, showing me the route across another field which I wouldn’t have seen for myself. Whilst I just love my “Country Walks Around London” book for its highly descriptive walking directions, and quirky and interesting facts about places along the way, it was written nearly 25 years ago, and quite a bit of its directions cannot be followed as stiles and gates have since been removed, whilst others have been added. If the joggers had not gone ahead of me, I would have taken a mistaken right-turn I think. Heading along the correct path, I saw a lovely grassy embankment by a country road, and took a pit-stop for
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On the way to Chesham
a spot of lunch – a pasty and chocolate shortcake from Greggs – lovely!

My walk then continued between a couple of houses lining the country lane, past a horse paddock with some friendly horses, and once more into another vast expanse of farmland before me. These farm fields were wonderful as they were again planted with crops, meaning I could completely enjoy my walk through them without the need to look over my shoulder for any cows, or worse still, bulls. I once read somewhere that an average of two people a year in the UK are killed by cows, and I have since had an aversion to walking through fields of them. Indeed, give me fields of crops any day!

The field path took me out into a lovely little village called Botley, which when my book was written had a post office and a village store. Sadly, both seemed to have disappeared since, and it was just a little residential settlement. Still, it was pleasant and seemed friendly having had a look at the community notices on the village’s noticeboard. My walk took me down the wonderfully-named Broomstick Lane, at the bottom of which it junctioned with the equally quaint-sounding Bottom Lane and Tyler’s Hill Lane. Here, my second part of the walk actually rejoined the short-cut back to Chesham which I had taken all those years ago having completed the first part of the walk, and thus the last mile or so of my journey was along familiar ground. I did indeed recognise this part.

I followed Bottom Lane for a few hundred metres, before turning right up a steep field and across towards Dungrove Farm. I started to again encounter other walkers here, so figured I must be near Chesham again. The final part of my walk was just so familiar, as I recalled having already walked through a field of Dungrove’s Farm which had two llamas within! The footpath actually led through their field, and I felt sorry for them being disturbed by regular walkers. I kept my distance. After the field, the walk opened out into a large, recently-ploughed field at the top of a hill with a striking tree in the middle of it, and a panoramic view below all the way down to Chesham again. I made my way down into the valley on the other side of the hill, across a bridge over the track of the Metropolitan Line, and along a track-side path back to Chesham tube station again.

My walk had come to an end. For some reason the next tube train back to Central London was cancelled, and with there being a train only every half-an-hour, I spent nearly an hour at Chesham tube station waiting for my onward transportation home again. This actually went really quickly, and I spent the time contemplating what a lovely walk in the Chiltern Hills I had just had, and feeling very satisfied that I had at last completed this walk which was over three years in the making. Yay! I’m not sure when it will be, but I’m very much looking forward to my next “Country Walk Around London”.

So on this note, thank you for reading, and all the best for now 😊

Alex


Additional photos below
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Robin

St Mary's Church, Chesham
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Yew Tree

St Mary's Church, Chesham


3rd May 2021

Travelling Again
Hi Alex - Really enjoyed following you along on your last two blogs - its great that we can now travel a little bit again have missed it so much, however there is so much to see right on our very own doorsteps. I to struggle with meeting dogs on walks and nowadays you hear lots of reports of cows being not too friendly to walkers! Have done many a detour to avoid them where possible. Particularly liked hearing about your birding experience at Rainham Marshes in your last blog - will have to add it to my list of UK Reserves to visit as I do love watching wildlife and particularly birds, we have a couple of Sparrowhawks nesting in our local reserve in Winchester and watching them has kept me sane during the current lockdown period. We are hoping to head off to Wales next month all being well - oh what a treat that will be ... ... Happy Travels Sheila
3rd May 2021

Travelling Again
Hi Sheila. Thank you for your lovely and encouraging comment, and indeed, it is lovely now to be able to travel just that little bit more again. Glad to read I'm not the only one who makes detours to avoid cows and their fields, and also that I'm not the only one who doesn't like encountering dogs. I'm glad to hear the sparrowhawks were something that kept you sane during these times. I think many of us have learnt to appreciate the smaller things in life more than we had done before. I like to make a detour or two sometimes on my walks home from work, to walk down a street I may not have walked down before. Wales next month sounds wonderful, I look forward to hopefully reading about it soon. Take care, and happy travels too :) Alex.
3rd May 2021
Chesham Heritage Trail

How I love hiking in farm country
We've made some hikes ourselves in country similar to where you were and we absolutely loved it. Seems like you enjoyed it too. And you don't have to be afraid of cows. Be careful is good, but you don't have to be afraid. /Ake
3rd May 2021
Chesham Heritage Trail

Hiking
Thank you Åke. Good to hear you have also been able to enjoy English countryside walking. And thank you for the advice on cows! I've never really been a big fan of them ☺
5th May 2021
St Mary's Church

Nice shot
Nice shot of the church! Glad you managed to complete your Chilterns walk
5th May 2021
St Mary's Church

Thank you
Thank you Alan. It was very satisfying to have completed it in the end! ?
8th May 2021
"Country Walks Around London"

2nd hand book stores
You've found a gem with this one.
9th May 2021
"Country Walks Around London"

Gem
Thanks Merry, I love this book ?
8th May 2021
St Mary's Church

Creative shot
I like it.
9th May 2021
St Mary's Church

Photo
Thanks Merry ?
8th May 2021

Blogs Abound
I've missed travel so thank you for your word pictures and taking us along on this exploration. I also am happy people are beginning to blog again as our reading choices over the past months have been it and miss. I'm excited people are out embracing the world. This sounds like a lovely part of England.... so glad you found that book. Enjoy.
9th May 2021

Blogs
Thanks Merry. I'm also catching up on blogs, and enjoying reading people's perspectives on their own countries and local travels. It helps us all, I think, to get out there and explore in some way at this tricky time.
8th May 2021
White Hill

Serenity
A lovely hike.
9th May 2021
White Hill

Serenity
Thank you Merry. It was a lovely little foray into the English countryside. Thank you for reading my blog ?
8th May 2021
High Street Market

Cooking on High Street
Wonderful moments. We are social creatures.
9th May 2021
High Street Market

Cooking
Thank you Merry. I think you would have liked this gentleman's food stall ?
18th May 2021

Country Walks
What a lovely walk, Alex, and a great idea to work your way through the walks in your book. Chesham looks like a very cute place to explore.
18th May 2021

Country Walks
Thank you Lori ? The book is certainly helping me to explore more locally at this time. Thank you for reading my blog entries on Chesham, and also the Rainham Marshes ?

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