A lovely linear station-to-station walk in the Chilterns. Around 7 miles (11 kilometres) with lovely son and idiot dog. December, cold and dry
It’s December and it’s getting cold but I couldn’t be happier to go outside. We are on the train from Marylebone to Great Missenden, one of the wealthiest villages in Britain. I nearly bought a house here several years ago, a tiny one with oak beams near Roald Dahl’s house, but I’m glad I stayed in t’smoke. This is investment banker territory and the Prime Minister’s house is down the road, imagine if I needed to borrow a cup of sugar, I’d be arrested.
We’ve arrived in Great Missenden on Matilda Day, so we drop in at the Matilda Café and Bistro for coffee and brownies before striding out briskly into the cool Buckinghamshire countryside. It’s a good job I’m not alone, there are many kissing gates to negotiate before we even get up the first hill and we smell of chocolate and toasted cheese.
Over the hill and down and up again we are soon walking through beech woods. They have a deadened quietness about them with the sound of our boots rhythmically swishing through the orangey brown leaves. All the leaves are brown, and the sky is grey; I’ve been for a walk on a winter’s day. Do you get a song lodged in your head when you’re walking rhythmically? Out the other side there are two red kites mewing and eyeing up Shovell with a tasty interest.
We meet a bunch of the loveliest, friendliest cows and offer them some hazel leaves which they take with an enormous curling black tongue leaving cow slobber behind in return. Shovell doesn’t approve much. It is mudgy sludgy underfoot and it’s the perfect winter temperature for walking. My body is hugged warm inside my thermals and my face is tingley cold from the breeze. Shovell tries to carry a series of inappropriately large sticks before finally settling on a manageable one footer.
By the time we reach the curious looking church at Dunsmore I can smell wood smoke. It’s an odd looking building but the villagers have saved it from ruin and takeover sale several times. Unfortunately it was locked so I couldn’t get to see its insides. I have a feeling it has a strong beating heart under its unpreposessing exterior.
After Dunsmore things get odd. Why, can someone please tell me, in the field after Dunmore is there a herd of fake cows? I would never have realised had the sun not come out and shone off the shiny back of one of them. They’re creepy, plastic and they stole my 4g. This kind of nature I’ve never seen before. Fake countryside aesthetic? A vegan statement? Art?
We’re back in beech woodland again, National Trust land and we’re on my favourite ancient road, The Ridgeway, heading up Coombe Hill. It’s on Peakbagger at an easy 260 metres so we get to tick it off. There’s no trig point, apparently that was completely destroyed by vandals in 2018. At the top is a huge monument to the men from Buckinghamshire who died in the Boer War. The original plaque was stolen. Lovely son notices another plaque on the back which informs us the original monument built in 1903 was completely destroyed by lightning in 1938. That must have been an interesting sight, on this eventful hill.
As we follow the Ridgeway down towards Wendover, looking of course for hag stones, the sun comes out casting shadows of the clouds across the Chiltern Hills. We’ve made good time and all is well with the world. Except for those plastic cows, no they’re not right at all.
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I found this walk on the Ordnance Survey app, from Country Walking magazine. The GPX is here. It is described as moderate, but it’s a pretty easy ramble, even the hills are gentle or perhaps we are getting used to them.
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