Yesterday looked like being a nice day so I decided to head out for a long walk. But where?
I dug into the shoebox where I keep the leaflets for walks within easy reach of London I haven't done yet, and skimmed through. The rest of the Thames Estuary Path, perhaps, Broxbourne National Nature Reserve, Colne Valley Park, walks around Lewes, walks around Wallingford, the Kennet and Avon Canal, the Alban Way, the Worth Way, the Cuckoo Trail? But it felt like a Chilterns kind of day, thanks to the changing of the seasons, so I settled on a Chesham walk instead.
Chesham Town Council came up with six walking routes in 2008, with a leaflet for each, and have subsequently knocked out four more. They range in length from 2-mile-urban to 8½-mile-trek and are wonderfully thought-through, fully showcasing the wonderful scenery around the town. I think it's possible to pick the leaflets up for free from the library or Town Hall, but I couldn't check that on a Sunday. It's definitely possible to download them all from the council website, here, should you ever be interested in a chalky walk it's dead easy to reach from London. Catch the Metropolitan line from Baker Street and you could be striding out into the countryside within the hour.
I chose walk 2 - The Chesham Outer Ring - a 7½ mile circuit around the northern fringes of the town. Most of the route is across or alongside fields, and it feels proper rural throughout, although you're never too far from civilisation if you want to cut things short. Three pubs are passed, if that's your thing. There's a lot of up and down, crossing narrow dry valleys, but nothing too taxing. Thankfully it hasn't rained much of late, but I imagine it gets quite squelchy underfoot during British Winter Time, so come prepared.
I had a lovely three-hour circumnavigation, without ever getting lost, and mostly unencumbered by other walkers. When the sun finally came out the autumn colours were splendid. I've decided not to write about the walk in depth, because the chances of you following in my footsteps are remote. But if I had written it up, the following five sentences would all have appeared, except in separate paragraphs rather than bundled together incoherently into one.
The cowpat in the kissing gate, spotted fractionally too late, was a particularly unpleasant discovery. D.H. Lawrence lived in Bellingdon Farm Cottages for four months at the end of 1914. Several groups of backpacked teens, seemingly on some trekking challenge far from their multicultural homes, congregated on verges attempting to work out where to head next. The wonderfully named Bottom Lane descended into a leafy tunnel of overhanging potholed gloom. Departing the field where three alpacas were running free, I stepped past a single oak tree to see the whole of Chesham arrayed below.