Monday, 4 June 2012

Wendover Woods (circular walk)

In which I visit the highest point in the Chilterns, enjoy a nice walk in the sunshine and get really narked off at some film posters.
Map: None Used - we just followed our feet
Distance: 4k (ish?)

Time: 1 hour

Rating: Moderate Walk (some very steep areas)

Finally, a Monday with a walk! I got there in the end...

So, I found myself with an impromptu day off (in that I cleared the leave with my line manager two days before I had the day off), so ChapDad and I decided it was a good time to explore Wendover Woods.

The Cafe in the Woods
Wendover Woods is run by the forestry commission, and has excellent facilities with a good cafe and clean changing facilities to go with their play equipment and bookable barbecues as well as a Go Ape, yet we don't often go there. Partly it's because you have to pay for parking, and the other reason is that their 'designated trails' are appallingly signposted. They have lovely leaflets printed with all manner of jauntily coloured trails, and we have never managed to complete one successfully - we always lose the route. This makes it much more annoying than, say, the Ashridge Estate, which puts you next to some woodland and seems to announce "there you are, mate - best of luck". Wendover Woods, however, suggests it will provide some walks for you, and then promptly leads you astray.

This time we were feeling relaxed and so decided we would have a wander and just see where we ended up, which was nice because it meant we got to enjoy a new walk that we hadn't been on before.
Cairn marking the Chilterns' Highest Point

Starting at the Cafe in the Woods, head behind the toilet block onto a flat mobility trail. Not far down this you come out into a car park - follow the marked easy access path that is also signposted 'Chilterns' Highest Point'. Down this path, passing the bookable barbecue areas, you will see a Cairn. It is a sadly unexciting affair, as it really lacks any views to speak of (for those I would suggest Coombe Hill or Ivinghoe Beacon). However, it is nice to know that you've reached the highest spot, even if there isn't really a lot to see.

Sometimes, however, there can be too much to see. Journeys to work can be hard enough at the best of times. Whether it's a day I'm in the car or on the bus, each have their own niggles and trials. Slow traffic, trying to find enough seats, hot, grumpy toddlers, it can all add up. What I then do not need to see are one of two film posters that are, to express it politely, really getting on my wick at the moment.

Every now and again, film posters annoy me. For months my journey to work was blighted by having to look at the Life as We Know It posters on bus stops. They are posters that, frankly, let everybody down. Honestly, Warner Bros, we're not angry, we're just disappointed. And as for you, Katherine Heigl - you seem a nice girl, but I saw the truly dire The Ugly Truth and strongly suggest you find yourself a better agent who will get you out of these crappy roles.

But really, this poster filled me with rage. I was moderately-to-heavily pregnant at the time, and my ire was more easily raised than usual (if you can imagine such a thing... my ire is pretty trigger-happy at the best of times). The subtext (although let's be fair, is it really all that sub? It is more the plain text of the poster) that men are themselves children and that women are delighted to spend their lives chasing them delightedly while they forever evade her clutches. Honestly, people, none of us do well out of this poster.

The trees are quite tall.
And, indeed, had we been trying to follow Wendover Woods'  set trail we would not have done well either. After seeing the cairn, we followed the path around to the right until we popped out on the road that exits the area. I don't know if the mobility trail suggests you follow this road back to the car park or if we were supposed to carry on straight over (the route we chose to take) as there were no signs. Having crossed the road, the path leads you alongside it for a while before leading you back into the woodland and through some very long pines.

In due course, the path leads slightly down and then divided into left and right. We chose the left path, the way onto which was slightly blocked by wooden fencing designed to keep out trail bikes, and leading away from the direction of the car park. While the rest of the paths we had been on would have been fine for prams & pushchairs, the way from here definitely became unsuitable for anything more than a sling - there's lots of inconvenient roots and uneven pathways to get in your way.

Turn right, down the bridleway. As you can see,
ChapDad still favours a front carry.

We followed this pathway off into the woods for about 10-15 minutes, with me wondering every now and again at which point we should declare it quits, turn round and head back. However, ChapDad had other ideas. "I think there'll be a path parallel to this one down there somewhere" he gesticulated off down the slope. "We should take the next lateral a join it". I have long given up snorting at pronouncements like this, as more often than not, the swine turns out to be right. Lo and behold, not far after we passed an orienteering marker labelled 3V, a bridleway lead off down the hill to the right. It's quite steep in places, so care needs to be taken. This is particularly true when you reach the bottom of the bridleway and need to join the main trail to the right, as it becomes really steep here - not for very long, but enough to concern you when you've got a baby strapped to you.

However, Hollywood is never tired of churning out annoying films and posters, and recently they've managed to keep me at a gently rolling boil as the bus stops roll past. Firstly, let us begin with the charmingly titled Piranha 3DD. Now, I appreciate that as a woman in her early 30s, I am not the demographic at which this film is aimed. However, while I am not the demographic, the posters have been staring at me on my journey to work for some time now, and they are ticking me off.

There are a number of elements that distress me, and no, I don't think it's too strong a word. I am distressed by the link between sex and violence - there's the cracked sunglasses on an expressionless, porn-culture face. Should one be out of the water and see enough piranhas to reflect in one's sunglasses, I would hope the reaction would be slightly more animated than this bland, airbrushed, blow-up doll of a woman who appears to be waiting for the money shot. And that horrible tagline "Double the action. Double the terror. Double the D's." - which fishwit in marketing thought that up? Roll up, roll up! Come see this film and see large breasted women exhibit fear! In 3D! It'll be hilarious! Once you watch the trailer and see they joys of 'water certified strippers' in a park charmingly titled 'Big Wet' one wonders if the writers of this have ever heard of the women's movement. Again, I just don't think this does any of us any favours - it exploits and cheapens us all.

Having turned right onto the main trail, continue forward like this, again taking the right hand fork leading upwards when the trail divides. Follow past some impressive looking rooty trees as the trail rises until you arrive back near the car park, round the side of the Cafe in the Woods.

And finally, the last bus poster that is making me seethe - What To Expect When You're Expecting. It riles me, it really does.  I will leave aside the opinions of some of my baby-wearing friends as regards front-facing Baby Bjorn style carriers, but needless to say, some of them could write reams on how it's not doing the baby any good. What vexes me, however, and vexes me most strongly, is how the 'hilarity' of this film is conveyed. There are the women, lounging around inside the house, having a good time - like the men should be doing! And look, there are the men loaded down with babies - like women! Ha! Hilarious! Who would have thought it?!

To quote my husband, who has the mot juste on this topic:

"The great strides that have been taken by women into industries, professions and boardrooms necessitate reciprocal strides by men into the domestic sphere. These strides have been taken and are being taken in the face of ridicule from the media [...]We find this amusing primarily because a man in a domestic setting is a figure of fun. This is part of the backlash against women's liberation, in which this document is taking an active and self-defeating part. The author, in seeking to deny the cultural acceptability of a man who is capable around the house, is effectively policing the borders of women's own domestic drudgery. " (Although he said it about an email forward that went round his office - you can read the whole thing here).

"Boom!" is the appropriate response to that, I feel. Except I do not have the funding to put that paragraph on the right hand side of a bus that is currently advertising What to Expect When You're Expecting on its left. Although I would like to.

I'm not denying that the use of the Reservoir Dogs-ish walking in a line trope is funny. The use of the inhaler to replace some sort of weapon makes me chuckle. But again, it is the implication of the emasculation of man - that to look after children is a girly thing to do. Deep down there is some sort of ingrained feeling that we should all be living in some sort of Frank Miller-esque universe, where men are deep-voiced and violent, and women are all an agglomeration of the tropes of hotness and prostitutes or strippers to boot. Why is the image of men looking after their own children presented as funny? Why must the father be undermined in this way while at the same time the Western world scratches its heads at the prevalence of absent fathers? Anyone who has looked after a child for a day knows that it is mentally gruelling, so why can't we all cut each other some slack? I just hope the film doesn't turn out to be as annoying as the poster.

Things I learnt

  • I have now been to the highest point in the Chilterns. Oo.
  • There is more than one walk to be had out of Wendover Woods! Sadly, I very much need to be in a specific "oh, let's just wander" mood with someone with a better sense of direction than I to get a useful experience out of it.
  • Piranha 3DD? Really? Someone gave them money to make that?