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Posts Tagged ‘chilterns’

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 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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