Sunday, 26 June 2011

Chequers/Coombe Hill (figure of 8) – (Buckinghamshire) – 24/06/11 – 9 Miles – Helen

So if you’re sensing a tad of deja-vu here, you’re correct this is the same walk I did last time out on this blog as well. The reason for the hasty repeat, is that Helen wanted to try the full circuit (as well as IVC) after we had got ourselves lost the first time out we tried it.

So rather than retread old ground describing too much of the walk again, let me bang on about the journey instead. Thus on my previous three outings here, I had taken the underground from Osterley to Marylebone, and then Chiltern railways to Wendover. However Helen didn’t fancy the long traipse into London only to in effect, come all the way back out to Wendover. I on the other hand didn’t fancy driving all the way to Wendover and back on a rush hour Friday. However thanks to the tube dot com, we were able to follow an alternative travel plan. So here it is.

Take a 12 minute walk from home to Osterley station. Then travel from Osterley to Acton Town, cross over the platform. Then travel Acton Town to Rayners Lane, cross over the platform. Then travel Rayners Lane to Harrow on the Hill, cross over the platform. Hang around there some 30 minutes for an Amersham train, then hastily cross over the platform again when it turns up on a different platform than it is supposed to. Eventually arrive at Amersham, and cross over the platform to buy a ticket for Chiltern Railways, then cross back over the platform again to get the train to Wendover, only to find you have just missed it and will have to wait half an hour for the next one. Arrive at Wendover the best part of three hours later, having lost all idea of why you had actually travelled there in the first place.

Anyway suffice to say we didn’t fancy that route back home again. Thus we took the Chiltern Railways train back to Harrow on the Hill, and then picked up on the previous journey only in reverse order. Although this enabled us to take about an hour off the journey it was something of a pyrric travelling victory.

However returning to our eventual arrival at Wendover, we decided we didn’t want to begin the walk until we had our lunch. To this end we were excellently served by the Shoulder of Mutton pub just outside the station (where I had afternoon tea the other week with IVC). We both had the fish and chips and mushy peas, which were of a much higher standard than what most pubs throw up, and to wash that down I had a pint of Strongbow.

So what about the walk ? Well you know the usual. Up to the Coombe Monument where we met some belted Galloway cattle. Go past David Cameron’s weekend gaff, then past Beacon Hill and onto Ellesborough church (no diversion here off to lunch as obviously we had already had it). Cross a field with the Coombe Monument way off in the distance, before the steepest of climbs. Watch Helen play silly buggers with a swing on a tree. Go through Low Scrubs cursing that the ice cream man isn’t there on weekdays. Up a wooded hill, down a long bridleway, keeping ones distance from someones horse-shit eating dog, then enter a field after waiting for the cattle to cross it, to arrive back at Wendover station.

Walks since last blog entry:

1 x 7 miles – Osterley Park/Grand Union

Monday, 6 June 2011

Chequers/Coombe Hill (figure of 8) – (Buckinghamshire) – 05/06/11 – 9.5 Miles – IVC

Having twice before tried to lead this walk for IVC only to be thwarted by engineering works on Chiltern Railways, it was finally third time lucky. However I was feeling more irritated than lucky when one particular member kept ‘busting my balls’ (as the Americans would say) at Marylebone station over where we going to be having lunch. I had figured the previous evening that the planned pub venue (The Russell Arms, where I had previously ate) might be unable to cope with a large walking group (given that it is a gastro pub, that are often very popular on Sundays). Thus I decided I would wait on the walk until we got to a potential turn off towards Great Kimble (and an untried lunch alternative) and then ring ahead. Not good enough for said member who insisted I should be ringing them from Marlebone station. Having said this once too often, I then insisted that he went and bought himself a sandwich if it was that much of a problem for him, as well as shutting up in the process. When we alighted at Wendover station he subsequently apologised for going on too much about it, only to then spend the first half of the walk doing exactly that all over again !

Anyway when the 13 of us alighted at Wendover station, the first thing we were met with on the main road was some sort of running race going in one direction, and a group of cylists (also wearing numbers) going in the other. Thus when the marshals saw us, they were left scratching their heads wondering what category we belonged to. However we were soon out of their way and with a fairly gentle climb up onto the ridgeway, we were soon at the Coombe (Boer war) monument. The views from here are always fairly impressive, only this was the first time I have noticed that you can actually see Chequers from this vantage point.

By the time we started our descent and into the wooded area, the weather was starting to drizzle, which it continued to do on and off for the rest of the day (but thankfully not through lunch). Hovering around us at this time, were a pair of walkers who looked rather irritated at out presence (all the chatter ruining their quiet countryside), so when we entered Chequers estate, I purposely held everyone up so we could finally get shot of them.

Once we reached the driveway to Chequers (and the potential turn off to Great Kimble) I phoned the Russell Arms, who confirmed they could accommodate us provided we sat in the garden and were prepared to wait for our food (fair enough). All the while as I was doing this I had to fend off some great wasp or knat type thing that was both buzzing in my ear, and complaining of a rumbling stomach. So after circumnavigating the base of Beacon Hill, and subsequently crossing a field, we assembled by the church in Ellesborough, where I explained that the first half of the walk had come to an end. We then split into two groups with the sandwich eaters staying in the church yard, whilst seven of us diverted down the road (off route) to the Russell Arms.

At the pub they kept to their word, with us waiting half an hour in the garden for our grub, with myself having the double egg, ham and chips. Subsequently we were joined by the sandwich eaters for a drink. Given the amount of OS maps they had between them, it turned out they had discovered a nice country footpath between church and pub (unlike my road diversion) which we all used on the return to the church for our second half (definite addition if I do this walk again).

Having crossed a large field with the Coombe monument far away in the distance, we picked up the bridleway and the start of a short and extremely steep climb. Even I had trouble with this one, stopping twice to gasp for air, although to my credit I was second one to the top, with only the youngest member of the group ahead of me. Following this we headed into Low Scrubs where I had to hold everyone up in order to recce out the right path (I got lost here last time). A climb up to and along a fence in the woodland, then a very long descent down a bridleway, followed by crossing a field and we were back at Wendover station. Given that we had half an hour before the train was due, several of us partook of afternoon coffee in the pub next door.

This is very scenic walk with fantastic views over the Vale of Aylebury from both the Coombe Monument and Beacon Hill. This is contrasted with two woodlands en-route. Several members of the group commented during and afterwards about what an enjoyable walk it was. Unfotunately it is not reflected in my mediocre pictures. So apologies for that, but leading walking groups is not conducive to great photography.