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Thursday, 17 August 2017

Footsteps in Sound Volume 3 (Stage 1 & 2)

The Ridgeway: Stage 1
Ivinghoe Beacon to Cadsden or The Hills Are Alive
August 2017

Talk about starting our holiday in style! After an average breakfast in a smelly pub we returned to our hotel, gathered our stuff and promptly locked ourselves out of our room. To make matters worse, the hotel's computer system was kaput and reception (understandably) didn't want to open a room for a gobby scouser (Kathy) who's identity they couldn't verify. 

The humble beginning of my Ridgeway Walk
By 10am we'd sorted the situation and made our way to the start/end of the Ridgeway path at Ivinghoe Beacon*. 

For the next 15 miles the Ridgeway traversed a pretty but unremarkable route. The first 10 miles or so were dominated by chalky paths and quiet woody plantations that skirted affluent villages and classy little commuter towns. It wasn't until late afternoon that I reached the Ridgeway’s first notable highlights, Coombe Hill and Chequers. 

War memorial at Coombe Hill
Around 12 or 13 miles from Ivanhoe Beacon you'll find Coombe Hill, the highest point in the Chilterns, upon which stands a monument to the soldiers of Buckinghamshire who died in the Boer War. This is a popular spot with locals for the obvious reason that the panoramic views are bloody stunning. From here the path runs south west through an unnervingly quiet wood (it was creepy) before crossing the grounds of the Prime Minister’s Chequers estate. 

A typical scene on my first stage of the
This is the history bit-stay with me! Chequers was built yonks ago and during WW1 it was converted in to a hospital for wounded soldiers. Following the armistice of 1918, Chequers was donated to the old goat, David Lloyd George, and it's been used since by serving Prime Ministers. It really is a stunning property surrounded by a beautiful estate, however, this wasn't a particularly enjoyable section of the route. Hikers are constantly, and I mean constantly, reminded of the penalties of straying off the path by numerous warning signs. To be honest, this doesn't make for an enjoyable/relaxing walk- right to roam it ain't! 

Wild flowers near Cadsden
Thankfully, the last few miles more than made up for it. I walked a quiet, undulating green lane flanked by grassy verges festooned with wildflowers. It was a great way to end a walk. 

*It'll become obvious why I walked the Ridgeway in the wrong direction in subsequent posts.

The Ridgeway: Stage 2
Cadsden to Watlington or Nature Attacks!
August 2017

Good God, I reckon today was possibly my third worst walk of all time. Over 4.5 hours I endured all the evils of hiking-crap weather, boring muddy paths and bad time keeping. 

Woods near Cadsden
Firstly, it rained all bloody morning. Really heavy rain, and it was misty too. I'd planned a spot of sightseeing at Cadsden but this was virtually impossible. The mist meant I was unable to see the Whiteleaf Cross, a hillside chalk mural, and the incessant rain then blunted my enthusiasm for an ancient burial mound. It looked good but I couldn't be arsed to read the information board in weather like this. So on I trudged.

Barrow near Casden

To be fair, for the next few miles the Ridgeway traversed pretty, undulating countryside until Chinnor Hill and then things went downhill fast. And I mean fast!

Random plastic pig in Field

From this point on the Ridgeway became a monotonous slog along a straight, muddy and chalky path flanked by high hedges. It was unbelievably boring because there was literally nothing to see but the path in front of me. It was so dull that passing under the M40 was a genuine moment of interest! 

Motorway underpass

As if the day couldn't get any worse, I arrived in Watlington, the smallest town in England, very wet, very smelly, very tired and 3 hours early for my pick up. Thankfully, I found a nice coffee shop and happily killed a few hours drinking coffee whilst writing this blog.

Thank you for reading.

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