Monday, 9 April 2012

Coombe Hill War Memorial to Great Missenden

In which we walk from Wendover (ish) to Great Missenden, the sun shines and everything is lovely.

Map: Explorer 181
Distance: 5.5 miles (ish)
Time: 3 hours (includes stopping for a snack)

Rating: Moderate Walk (a longer walk with map reading needed!)

I had had my eye on a walk from the Chiltern Teashop Walks given to me by Geekysweetheart for a while. However, I am a fundamentally lazy person who dislikes climbing hills, and so while the book suggests parking in Wendover train station and climbing up to the War Memorial, I opted instead for my husband to drive me to the Coombe Hill car park, drop me off and then come back to Wendover station to pick me up, so this a slightly bastardised version of the walk from that book - a) it's a bit shorter, and b) it's backwards from the direction they set out, as they go from Great Missenden to Wendover, and I went the other way.
The back of the War Memorial

Despite dire predictions of the weather descending into snow and murk, the weather was cool but sunny as the Chap and I set off towards the War Memorial. From the car park it actually means you head in the wrong direction from the rest of your walk to start with, but the memorial is always pretty and has a good You Are Here feeling about it, so we started from there.

My first bluebells of the year!

Starting at the back of the war memorial, look for the first black sign with an acorn on it leading you along the Ridgeway to the ridge off to your right. There are very pretty views over fields and hills, and it was mercifully not a windy as it could have been. After the third black Ridgeway post, turn left through a gap in the hedge, cross the open grass and follow the path into the trees that leads you back to the car park. Once you reach the car park, cross over it into a National Trust owned area marked Lower Scrubs. Follow the main path into the woodland - I was surprised to see the first bluebells out, and while the woodland isn't yet carpeted in them yet, it will be in a week or two.

Continue along this path for a few hundred metres (ish) until it meets a wider path running from left to right across it. Turn right and continue through a woodland of twisty turny trees, and bear left when you come to the fork. I followed the path out of the area of the woodland where the floor was carpeted with plants to an area where there was only dry leaves and bare earth on the floor. The path ends at a fence, with a path running alongside it. Turn right and head along the fence. It was a beautiful morning, the Chap had been asleep for about 10 minutes, the sun was shining, the birds singing in the trees, and it all looked very pleasant.

Last week was all very doom and gloom, so a lot of this week has seemed to conspire to make me see that all people aren't complete swines. All three of us went to the Turkish restaurant in Tring for lunch the other day. They're fantastic with kids in there, and we ended up with the waiter tying a helium balloon to the back of the Chap's trousers and playing peekaboo with him in and out of the tables while we ate! The balloon was also very helpful seeing where he'd got to among the tables. I wouldn't normally let David run around restaurants, but when an enormous betattooed Turk (with picture of his two children on each forearm!) instructs you to sit down & enjoy your meal because the little one is fine, you do as you're told! Not only that, but while we were in there a couple that we had met from dance classes years ago reintroduced themselves and offered to babysit for us if we ever wanted to go out dancing because they know how hard it is when your children are little - while their daughters entertained our son by gratuitous peekaboo and balloon-waving. It was really heartening a positive.

Once you're on this path, it's pretty straightforward when it comes to map reading. All you need to do pretty much is head straight on for a fair while and you're set.  Continue along this path for a while - I also noticed that, like my walk on Pitstone Common at Ashridge the other week, there appeared to be a number of old, gnarled trees as this path appears to be on another old boundary line, or so the old earthwork would suggest.

You continue forward along this path until you reach the village of Dunscombe. You arrive in Dunscombe by walking out of the woodland onto one of their narrow roads, and immediately I decided the place should be made illegal for just being too pretty. Just too English woodlandy villagey place. Honestly, as I followed the path off the road, then down the backs of some houses and out onto the 'main' road, I even saw it has one of those tiny cutesy Churches surrounded by daffodils and primroses, and old signs up with ducks and geese hanging around the bottom, as if waiting for a photo op.

The path goes along the side of the tiny church, and then continues along a single-track road (the sort that has signs on saying motor vehicles shouldn't be driven on it). Follow this straight on into more woodland - Scrub Wood that then runs into Hampdenleaf Wood. The Chap had been awake since Dunscombe, and was beginning to make some complaint, so I decided it was time we stopped for a snack. Now, crawling babies are one thing, particularly if you just have to stop for milk, but the Chap now walks and needs real food. I looked for a suitable glade or something, a convenient bench, but nothing transpired. I could see what appeared to be a field at the edge of the trees, so when a path led off to the left I followed it in hope it would lead me to a space where the Chap could have a snack and a runabout.

Although we couldn't get into the field because of a fence, the path I found myself on proved to be perfect - it was one of those with a fence on both sides, far enough away from civilisation for there to be no dog poo, but also no nettles and minimal brambles. The fence on both sides meant he could toddle about, but in very controlled directions - no danger of him falling down a hole under a tree stump or anything. We had a sit and a picnic (I even felt confident enough to give him a small yoghurt, which can often be messy and awkward), I changed his nappy (and his trousers... there'd been a bit of a leak) and then he did a spot of investigation.

Once we had packed up all our rubbish to take him, he then walked with me for a bit. He was very excited by holly leaves, but also very keen on my boots - he kept bending down to point to his little shoes and then to my big walking boots, as if to say "Look, I've got shoes, too. And you've got shoes! And I've got shoes! How exciting!". He's a toddler; he's easily amused. It was adorable.

Bamboo & forsythia

He soon got bored of walking, however, so I hoisted him back into the sling. Continue forwards through the woodland until you pop out into another small cluster of houses. Cross the road and bear slightly left (but still straight on). The area we were walking through changed completely, as we were now flanked by holly bushes. The path then opens out to walk you along a wide bridleway alongside some fields. As ever, I was briefly distracted by the need to take a Botanical Interest photo (my poor husband suffers from these regularly when we go on holiday) when I spotted some bamboo growing by the side of the road - a plant not usually common in the wild in the Chilterns, I wondered how it got there...

Early hawthorn blossom
We were passed by a couple of horses, and then followed the bridleway signs along more woodland and then down a steep slope. In due course, the bridleway ends and a pathway leads off to the left. Despite not one but two clear signposts, clearly labelled 'South Bucks Way' (the path we were following), I managed to bimble gaily past this and down the hill until I found myself in Ringshall Farm and felt a bit of a wazzock. Not least because I had to pass the same farmer twice, with a "Hoo hoo, what a tit." demeanour, but I also had to climb back up quite a steep slope.

The woodland I went into was beautiful, however, because all the bluebells were out, and the smell was fantastic. I could also see there was a lot of wild garlic about, but as that won't flower until later in the year, I was safe to enjoy the smell of bluebells without a hint of garlic. Later in the year this whole place will smell delicious, but not quite in the way it does now.

Once out of this woodland you reach an open area of grassland - turn right and head downwards, and the town of Great Missenden should hove into view. Continue to the bottom of the hill, and then bear left across a field to a tunnel under the railway line. The path you are on will now lead you onto the road and Great Missenden - turn left and follow the pavement to the mini-roundabout. Cross the road and turn right towards the train stations - at the time of writing, a single back to Wendover costs £3.50 and the train leaves from platform 2.

Things I Learnt

  • The bluebells are coming out! Yay!
  • I seem to be getting less annoyed about stuff in general now I'm back at work. Clearly there are more things to distract me!
  • Bamboo! Loose in Buckinghamshire! How long before it starts to get a grip and become a problem plant, I wonder? Or will it be fine? Who knows...

No comments:

Post a Comment