Week off (Saturday): Chequers
When Autumn comes around, a stroll in the the Chilterns lifts the heart. And so I took BestMate out from Marylebone and showed him the undulating glories of the season. We strode along the Ridgeway from Princes Risborough to Wendover, a mighty fine seven mile walk atanytime of the year, and took in lungfuls of unpolluted air along the way. The first of two serious ascents came at Brush Hill, a steady climb that suddenly broke into a long flight of steps. This led to a splendid, if murky, panorama atop the cruciform chalk incision at Whiteleaf Cross, looking down across a flaming palette of leaves, ploughed fields and the occasional rooftop. For lunch we stopped at The Plough in Cadsden, notorious as the pub which David Cameron accidentally left his daughter at, and which displays a notice saying 'Warning No Children At The Bar'. This is a homely inn, all character and old brick, serving ales and proper food to a mixed clientèle of ramblers and local Telegraph readers. We plumped for the mixed ploughmans, a veritable banquet of cheeses and salad (BestMate took my orange, and I took his cucumber).
The Ridgeway skirts Pulpit Hill to the west, before reaching a fence labelled under Section 128 of the Serious organised Crime and Police Act 2005. This is the boundary of Chequers, the Prime Minister's Buckinghamshire bolthole, forcing a lengthy detour around the perimeter of the estate. As ramblers we were afforded an unexpectedly fine view of its lawn and smoking chimneys, so good that we assumed we must be being watched (and overheard) by MI5 via technology planted in the treeline alongside. Only at the point where the footpath actually crossed the PM's drive did we spot two very obvious cameras, a peculiarly British means of combining national security with the sheen of permissive freedom. On Chequers' far flank we tackled one more panting climb to enter the crunchy woodland atop the ridge. A long hump of green pasture rose up above a leeward swathe of amazingly fiery foliage, then stepping out onto Coombe Hill the entire Vale of Aylesbury spread out beneath us like a misty patchwork. "See, I told you it would be great," I said, before descending gently into Wendover for a hot cuppa. The photos: eight autumnal shades The walk: [map][directions][7 miles, about 3½ hours] The rail ticket: a return to Aylesbury does the trick [alight early, board late]