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Posts Tagged ‘chalk’

The first signs of spring in the Chilterns

Saunderton to Wendover, Buckinghamshire

Quintessential beech woodland in the Chilterns

Quintessential beech woodland in the Chilterns

North to the Chilterns, to take advantage of early spring sunshine. A favourite area of mine, the chalk hills, downland and beautiful beech woodlands of the Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty are very popular with walkers and riders. Generalising somewhat, the topography gives rise to two distinct landscapes: the south-east facing dip slope is heavily wooded, while the much steeper scarp slope that drops away abruptly to the north-west features valuable but rare chalk downland, a threatened habitat that, as I saw on this walk, is a priority for conservationists. A National Trail, the Ridgeway, follows an ancient trackway along the spine of the ridge for much of its route, starting (or finishing, depending on the direction in which you choose to walk) at Ivinghoe Beacon. I began a little way south of the national trail, climbing through gorgeous dappled woodlands to join the Ridgeway and pass close to a world-famous country residence, before following the line of the scarp slope to my destination; I’m accompanied for much of the way by what must be one of the greatest conservation successes of recent years.

Start: Saunderton Station SU813981

Finish: Wendover Station SP865077

Length: 10¾ miles/5 hours

How to get there: Both stations are less than an hour from London, served by Chiltern Railways services from Marylebone. Each stations lies on an entirely different line however, so there doesn’t seem to be any option other than to buy two single tickets.

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A short walk along cliff tops and beaches on the south coast.

Seaford Head, Sussex

View from Seaford Head

Looking east from Seaford Head over the town to, in the distance, Newhaven

Several times recently, urged on by the desire to escape the noise of London, I’ve jumped on the train to the pleasant unassuming seaside town of Seaford, somewhere of which I’m becoming quite fond. It’s a bustling, flourishing town and although it lacks the grandeur and flamboyance of it’s better-known south coast neighbours, Brighton to the west and Eastbourne to the east, it is equally lacking in the sense of decline and tackiness of so many towns around the British coastline. Seaford was the starting point for a walk to Eastbourne across the Seven Sisters, the spectacular cliffs formed where the hills of the South Downs meet the English Channel; I came here back in April to explore the abandoned village of Tide Mills, along the coast to the west, and returned to Seaford soon after to head east for the first time along the route described in this post. A fine sunny July day seemed a great excuse for a return visit.

Start/Finish: Seaford Station TV481991

Length: 6½ miles/3 hours

How to get there: Seaford is at the end of a branch line, served by half hourly Southern services from Brighton via Lewes and occasional direct services from London

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Breathtaking views and….er….breath-taking climbs

Box Hill, Surrey – An almost circular walk

An early finish at work allowed me to escape to Dorking for a beautifully sunny afternoon on the National Trust’s Box Hill Estate and the surrounding countryside. My route took in the largest vineyard in England, involved some strenuous climbs and followed, in part, the North Downs Way, one of the country’s Long Distance Footpaths.

Start: Dorking (Main) Station TQ170504

Finish: Box Hill and Westhumble Station TQ167518

Length: 7 miles/3-3½hours

How to get there: Both stations are easily accessible from London, either by Southern from Victoria via Sutton, or by South West Trains from Waterloo via Wimbledon, both of which take around 50 minutes. Not all return trains call at Box Hill and Westhumble however. Although I travelled to the main station in Dorking, unsurprisingly known as Dorking (Main), it’s also possible to travel to Dorking Deepdene or Dorking West, both on the North Downs Line served by First Great Western services from Redhill to Reading via Guildford.

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