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Archive for October, 2010

Superb views and wonderful woodlands on the North Downs

Wye to Chilham, Kent

All Saints Church, Boughton Aluph

The southwest elevation of All Saints Church, Boughton Aluph

New boots to try out, and a beautiful azure autumn sky – what more reason could I need to head out into the country? This was actually my second attempt at this walk – back in August, I got halfway to Wye on the train before the rain started to pour down and I made the decision to abandon any foolish plans I may have had for a 10 mile walk with no bail-out point or shelter along the way. This time, I managed to stay dry. Well, mostly dry; after hours of sunshine, the English weather decided to remind me that it is autumn, with a brief but tempestuous downpour of rain and hail just as I reached my destination. Not to worry though, it had been a great day featuring glorious views, extensive stretches through beautiful autumnal woodland, and a real gem of a country church. And the added danger of aggressive wildlife!

Start: Wye Station TR048470

Finish: Chilham Station TR078536

Length: 10½ miles/5 hours

How to get there: Both stations are about 90 minutes from London Charing Cross or London Bridge with Southeastern, either direct or by changing at Ashford International. A quicker (and more exciting) route from north of the Thames is provided by the High Speed service that whisks you at up to 140mph from St Pancras International to, less than 40 minutes later, Ashford International, from where a more sedate service reaches Wye in 6 minutes.

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A pleasant stroll along an historic transport link in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty

Tring, Hertfordshire to Cheddington, Buckinghamshire

Lock, Bulbourne, Grand Union Canal

Lock No. 44 (and former lock keeper's cottage) between Bulbourne and Marsworth

Like the South Downs, the setting for my last walk, and part of the same geological system, the hills of the Chilterns are celebrated for their dramatic combes, chalk grassland, attractive beech hangers and impressive views from lofty summits. And also like the South Downs, many of the transport links within the Chilterns negotiate their way through breaks in the line of hills, such as at Goring Gap, where the Thames threads its way between steep wooded slopes on either side. At Tring the Grand Union Canal, the London to Scotland railway and a major Roman Road, Akeman Street, all squeeze through the hills into the Vale of Aylesbury beyond. As much as I love the high ground of the Chilterns (I had a wonderful day on Aldbury Common during the snows of January 2010), there’s something very relaxing about the sedate pace of life along the canalside, so for this walk I chose to follow the Grand Union for a few miles northwards from Tring.

Start: Tring Station SP951122

Finish: Cheddington Station SP922186

Length: 6.5 miles/3 hours

How to get there: Both stations are on the the West Coast Main Line. London Midland services from London Euston to Milton Keynes and Northampton stop regularly at Tring, but less frequently at Cheddington. Journey time from Euston is about 45 minutes each way.

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This one’s all about the views.

Goring-by-Sea to Amberley, Sussex

Which way now?

Which way now?

I’m very fond of the South Downs, as you may have noticed, given that I’ve written about walks in this area before. I’d been planning this one for a while, and on a September Saturday when I found I had nothing much else to do, made a last minute decision to head south and make the most of the late summer sunshine. The beautiful weather was essential to fully appreciate this walk – the fantastic views across southern England from so many points along the route would have been far less spectacular if visibility was reduced. There were some long climbs, and I must admit I was exhausted by the time I reached my destination, but, wow, was it worth it!

Start: Goring-by-Sea Station TQ105032

Finish: Amberley Station TQ026118

Length: 12 miles/5 hours

How to get there: Travelling with Southern again, Goring-by-Sea is on the West Coastway line that runs along the south coast between Brighton and Portsmouth/Southampton, and is also served by direct services from London Victoria, taking about 90 minutes. Amberley is on the delightful Arun Valley line that runs south from Horsham to join the West Coastway near Littlehampton & Bognor Regis; again, there are direct services from London. NB: There is another Goring station, in Oxfordshire, which is of no use if you wish to follow this walk, but it is in a beautiful part of the Thames Valley and the Chilterns so ending up there wouldn’t be completely disastrous. In fact, it’s an area I’m planning to visit soon enough.

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