8.5 miles (14 kilometres) October, beautiful autumn sunshine. With son and silly dog.
Today is UK Fungus Day. I did not know when we set off but by the time we reached the woods we were ready and primed to find mushrooms and share some mycological love. The spores must have been spreading as by the time we got home I’d acquired a definitive guide to British toadstools from the bookshop. I suggested we should post the best fungal growth on Twitter, lovely son suggested a picture of his athletes foot.
It was fortunate for our quest that the walk led us straight from Chorleywood station into the woods, Carpenters Wood. I only know three types of fungi with any confidence; two of them will alter your mind and the other will help start fires. I didn’t find any of those. Identifying these other tricksters is harder than you imagine, so let’s call these 1) a bonnet 2) a bracket 3) a brittlegill. I think that’s as far as I’m prepared to commit.
Heading to the village of Chenies there are two kites wheeling over a beautiful bucolic farm scene and a less than attractive chemical smell. I strongly suspect we are being sprayed with pesticides, and I consider asking lovely son to wave his feet in it. I hope the other fungi aren’t affected.
In true family style we eat our packed lunch on the first bench we come to, in Chenies churchyard listening to the out of tune church bells tolling 33 o’clock.
At the river Chess we go the wrong way, lured along the lovely riverbank, which is more of a tinkling stream. The Chess seems to have a complicated identity problem, some years thinking it is a vast and flowing Amazon, and some years disappearing completely. I don’t think it is the fault of the Chess, there are big efforts planned to restore and protect this delicate chalk river. The detour, however, is delightful and we are soon back up the hill.
There is a party of pheasants ahead of us as we approach Flaunden (which one of us insists on referring to as Flaundrette). Shovell is going beserk for a few hundred metres as they skitter around in front of us, refusing to pull over and let us pass.
Autumn is well on its way on the top of Flaunden Hill. The colours are rich and the weather is even richer. We are fortunate to be up here.
At Ley Hill we stop at the pub. You have a choice of two, the Swan and the Crown. We sit on the village green. There’s a huge brazier and I’m wondering if Ley Hill might have been a folkmoot in the Chiltern Hundreds. The land used to be divided into hundreds (or wapentakes if you are within the viking Danelaw) and within these divisions were smaller regions, each with a moot, or meeting place where business and law was conducted, usually on a hill or prominent geographical position. Sometimes the name is the only evidence we have: law knock knowl Thing Tin can all indicate an ancient anglo-saxon moot hill. Ley seems close to law, and doesn’t an owl indicate a parliament?
We go through Cowcroft wood where the last of the dragonflies are enjoying the sun and kids are swinging on rope swings in deep depressions below us. It may be an area of ancient flint mining. The branches under foot make a deeply satisfying crunch as you step on them.
All that is left is the hill down towards Chesham, back to reality where the bookshop is waiting for us and a train to take us home. But all I want to do is go back and do it all again. Maybe next week.
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This walk is one available on the Chiltern Society website, and the leaflet is available for download here. It is an easy walk but sections can be muddy. Please consider a donation at the following page: https://chilternsociety.org.uk/donate/
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