When my feet are off the road
The valley searchAs I entered the wooded section, my eyes were greeted by a carpet of bluebells. Nearly everywhere I looked and walked within the wood, they were covering the ground. It was the Friday before Easter and those flowers are not normally there until around mid May. Spring was in full flow and a nice warm weekend on the cards. I had set out to go a hunting. Not for wildlife, but for a special place I stumbled across some years ago. To search for the nice little valley where it was silent apart from some birdsong and way off any main trail.
A trek goes wrongIt was a few years ago and all began with a hike in an area which I had been near before but had not gone that specific route. I was walking along side of some hills on a trail and all the signs disappeared. A large wood was entered, which had several wandering trails, again no signage. I should have seen the hills on the right upon emerging.
What appeared was something completely different and amazing. I had entered a valley, consisting of some fields and it was completely silent except for a few birds singing softly. I was all alone and stopped there for some time, soaking it all in.
The search beginsThe last stop on my freedom pass map is a place called Amersham. It is way out northwest of London and takes about 2 plus hours to reach (on a good day). I've been there previously a few times because it is a decent launching point and some of the treks you'll find on the blog began there, so that's where I started the search. It was here my compass brokea new one was purchased a few weeks later.
Rather than walk down sidewalks of the street on concrete, I bore off right into a wood. Not far in, a left turn was made and the field next to it entered. A side path runs all the way down, past the Amersham Martyrs Memorial, where I stopped for a short lunch. From there it's just a straightish shot to the main road, then a bit of a zig-zag and back on dirt again.
Last summer I went over this bridge and it was quite overgrown and looked a bit dodgy. However, all bare from the winter strip-down it's, well, pretty much the same.
The top of the hills were my target, I needed to see what was on the other side and proceeded to do so. Looking out from the crests, I knew these were the wrong hills. Standing there presented me with a choice, return to Amersham or continue toward a town about 5 miles away where I could catch a train back to London and continue the search another day. I chose the latter and followed the trails through mostly open countryside until I stumbled upon a farm.
The dirt path, what there was of it, led me into a big field full of sheep. This year had seen a large amount of lambs born. There were also fields full of horses, other peoples ones which are stabled here and the owners come out to ride them. The lady who owns the place told me about all the lambs. Some Ewes had 5, others 4 each and the rest in decreasing amounts. There were hundreds of them all over the place. Good job too, because the farm had been compulsory purchased for a pittance, so that 2 railroad lines can go through to save 20 minutes from Birmingham to London at the cost exceeding 100 Billion UKP! The scale of this beggars belief (corruption...?). She was not at all happy, but had no choice, at least selling the whole flock of sheep will help.
I continued on through one town and headed toward the next where the station was. The sun in my face and a gentle breeze made it a nice relaxing walk.
On the way near the station, a train went by. It's Easter weekend and so all public transport is running on a Sunday schedule. I arrived and had to wait over 50 minutes for the next one. I have no idea how many times I walked around the empty parking lot of station rather than sit on the intensely uncomfortable seats. This appears to be a commuter town, because the parking lot is massive and the station way out beyond the edge of both the little towns. Eventually the mechanical beast arrived and I climbed aboard to return home.
A second tryThe hill was gentle and already I had covered about a mile and half. To reach the point where I was, required walking around the edge of the large field. Looking at it and I realized this was about 4 plots turned into one, with very irregular edges. By the time I arrived at the wooded area it finally bore home to me that this is all wrong and I retraced my steps back.
No signage had been present when I started out but enroute a sole footpath sign was seen. Knowing that the South Bucks way is notorious for lack of clear direction, I had reckoned to be on it and was wrong. On the way this fellow walking his dog was met and he pointed out that I had been heading in the entirely wrong direction. That was my fault, I had already been on 5 hikes without a compass, because it had broken a couple of weeks before. The new one lay in my pocketI'd forgotten it was there. His name was Peter and he pointed me in the right direction to start over from the Cricket Club. I thanked him and made my way back. At the club I found the only sign, no others were present, anywhere, so it wasn't totally my fault.
This was the second attempt to find the nice little valley, which sits somewhere off the South Bucks Way national trail, I just don't remember where. The first try I turned left out of Amersham, this time I took a right. A previous trek had taken me in this direction, but it was on the other side of the railroad tracks. I was now, finally, heading the right way and wondered how long it would take.
By now I had wasted nearly 2 hours and was hungry so stopped for a bite to eat. I don't eat a whole meal when I'm out, just portions of it over a few hours so that I don't cramp up. Now it was trying to figure out if any of the hills brought back a memory. Everything on the left was important, the right side had a small river and main, very busy, road (crossing it was a real challenge and just a little bit hairy).
Back on the trail, in the warm sunshine, the one thing I had was plenty of time. I hate rushing and so settled down to a nice stroll until the next hill. They all tend to look the same, grassed with a gentle slope and trees at the top, kinda boring really. Each one, once up there, yielded nothing. It was hill after hill. Most of the walking was in the fields of grass and then back to the main trail again. The hot sun was doing its work on my face, some very minor red could be felt starting, but it usually tans out (I think I've only been really sunburnt about 3 times in my entire life).
Eventually I ran across this side trail and started up it. As I proceeded I noticed the top of some electricity pylons. This hill was long and gentler than the first three. Finally I'm walking on flat ground under the pylons and continued. I knew it was the wrong hill, just wondered how long before it started going down again. It was like a large plateau and a dog walker said it went on for quite a ways yet, so I turned back, kind of. I didn't really know where I was and just wandered downward at an angle, found some pathway and followed it. By then I'd been walking for about 4 hours.
At one point I went through some trees and bush to exit with a view of a village. Nice looking place, I just hoped it was Little Missenden and not somewhere else. Entering it I passed by nothing but multi-million pound houses and mansions. No one was about and the homes began to get a bit smaller, then the pub appeared. The thought of a nice cold beer surfaced and I grabbed the door handle, only to find the place was closed. A bit further on I sat down for a short spell and had to ask for the main trail back to Amersham (there is no public transport here).
It was only 3 miles to Amersham Old Town and an easy walk. Memories of the return from the earlier hike helped direction wise because what signage there is doesn't mention the South Bucks Way. At one point it appeared to be going up a hill in the completely wrong direction (I'd forgotten about this bit). A lady was nearby, with her young daughter riding a horse. We chatted a little and she said just walk around the wood not up the hill, big thanks to her. I turned to the left and immediately recognized where I was by a stack of old hay that had been sitting there from before. Amersham was reached and I got the train back home. I added it all up later and reckon I knocked off about 12-14 miles total (glad I didn't wear my new boots that aren't broken in yet).
Third time not luckyThis day was a short no go, the landscape was all wrong so I didn't even bother about fotos and went back. One thing I had noticed last year and has really borne home this season, is just how genuine, friendly and helpful most people are in Buckinghamshirethey're a great lot.
Forth on the fourthThe last try I ended up near Great Missenden, where I stopped and sensed. All that came to mind wasdisorder. Every hike I've taken through it or near the place has been nothing but trouble. My Ordnance Survey map showed a trail from near the rail station, but it had been blocked off by some pretensive private area with people of a similar mind set.
One idiot kept insisting I go buy an OS map (I was actually holding one in my hand). He'd never seen one in his life (otherwise would have recognized it), just parroted what someone else had told him. You get this in England in some areas, perhaps that's where the disorder comes from, kind of like they've lost touch with reality. I walked away and had a good little laugh at it all.
A pathway was eventually finally found after circling that section of town. I discharged Great Missenden with gusto and set out in a Northerly direction. The weather was perfect, about 75 degrees, sunny and a slight breeze. Continuing for a way, I found myself in a field of brown cows (I think these are for meat not dairy). Several fields had varying kinds of cows in, all mooing and doing their cow thing. One narrow footpath was very uneven and I brushed my right arm against some barbed wire and bear two holes in my forearm as a result.
The hike continued as I ran across two parties of kids with leaders, taking part in a Duke of Edinburgh Award hike. They had come from Wendover, some miles away. Up ahead was this large wood and I began going through it.
As soon as a trail appeared heading down, I took it. It became steeper and steeper. This kind of hill is called a scarp, gentle slope one side, steep on the other. Could this be the large wood I originally had come through, from the north direction those years ago? The route was winding all over the place and a few sections were quite narrow. Then I emerged into a gentle valley. Is this it?
Found itSince the first time had been in late winter, there was no foliage. Now it is in abundance thanks to the long spring we've been experiencing. The trees have quite thick fresh leafage, ground cover is deep and it all looks a lot different.
Back then the fields were mostly bare, but now they were lush with growth. Very peaceful and not another human being around. Some birds were singing as I stretched out on the grass for about 30 minutes. Laying there, I heard a few birds singing, plus the smell of the earth and fresh grass added to the ambience. I had finally, after over a month of searching, arrived at what I had set out to find and just enjoyed it all.
Jun 01, 2019