diamond geezer

 Tuesday, May 08, 2018

Where to spend the warmest Early May Bank Holiday on record?



A couple of hundred people have had the same idea, streaming off the hourly train at Tring station and dispersing into the Chiltern countryside down forking tracks and pathways.



The villagers of Aldbury are setting up their annual May Fair in the churchyard and on the green. The maypole awaits tangling and untangling. Someone has coned off the pond. Ladies with clingfilm-wrapped cakes dash into the street. The Lost Children tent is primed. The Ridgeway Scout Group are setting up their coconut shy in front of the stocks (Ancient Monument Please Do Not Touch). The village bobby is looking forwards to one of the easiest beats of his year.



The Ashridge Estate is awash with families, fanning out from the central clearing by the visitor centre and spilling into the trees. "One circuit of the Meadow Walk should be enough, and then we'll have an ice cream." All ages and cultures are represented. "Hang on while Gran catches up." Tiny faces wave down from the top of the Bridgewater Monument. "I think we should join the National Trust, dear." A small child sobs on a scooter. "It must be this way for the bluebells."



The bluebells are at their bobbing blue best, not yet on the turn, and best seen by wandering off the main tracks into the shady beechwood. They seem to go on, and on, intermittently illuminated in sunlit splendour. There are plenty to go round. Families wander in awe before arranging themselves in front of a prime mauve backdrop, usually with reverence but sometimes crushing the little beauties obliviously underfoot.



Opposite the space-less car park and the ice cream van, Dockey Wood has the very finest display. The National Trust have it fenced off, and for just two weekends a year charge a nominal fee to enter. The central densely-packed carpet is mesmerising, safely protected from trampling by a ring of protective branches. A handful of encircling paths provide the ideal opportunity for blokes with SLRs on tripods and friends with shaky iPhones to capture the perfect purple portrait.



Up on the Chiltern Ridge, from the jutting heights of Stepps Hill, the Aylesbury Vale spreads out in a patchwork of whites and yellows and vivid greens.



Ivinghoe Beacon is the end of the quest for many, now sat on the edge of the escarpment around the trig point nibbling picnics or turning lobster red. Dad's brought his drone, but is having trouble with his gimbal clamp so the battery's run down, and today's panoramic flight will be much shorter than planned. High above, orange-bodied Easy jets whine their way into Luton. The distant haze shimmers. Whipsnade's chalk lion dazzles.



Pitstone Windmill, one of Britain's earliest, is alas closed.
This year's opening dates: Sundays from May 20 to Aug 26



Back down at river level, Ford End Watermill is holding one of its dozen annual open days. A trestle table out front sells tickets, cut-out models and bags of wholemeal home-milled flour. Take the path across the millstream to see the old sheepdip, and the millpond gently draining to keep the buckets of the waterwheel spinning, and the emergency plank which stops the flow if ever the worst happens. A red kite circles low and ostentatiously above the neighbouring meadow.



A goodly crowd has turned up, and the car park is almost full. They head inside to hear the history of the mill from a chap in a bowler hat, and climb the steep ladders from the Meal Floor to the Stone Floor to the Bin Floor. As the stones turn the brushes sweep the milled grain down a chute into a series of paper bags, the use-by date already stamped on the front. Down the road the ladies at St Mary The Virgin are doing teas and cakes.
This year's opening dates: Apr 2, 15. May 7, 13, 28. Jun 17. Jul 15, 29. Aug 12, 27. Sep 16. Oct 14.



In the neighbouring village, Pitstone Green Museum has been packing them in. The Heritage Park opens nine days a year, its sheds flung wide as a window into rural days gone by. It's much bigger than you'd expect, a repository of farm machinery and forgotten crafts, including a well-stocked blacksmiths and a monster racksaw. In many rooms it looks like the widows of men who died 20 years ago simply handed over their entire collection of 'stuff', including old radios, glass bottles and wartime magazines. The contents of several defunct local shops have wormed their way here.
This year's opening dates: Apr 2. May 7, 28. Jun 10. Jul 8. Aug 12, 27. Sep 9. Oct 14.



Visitors can have a go at throwing pots or join in with the ladies making lace. The orchard is full of classic vehicles, and their owners. Model trains run back and fro on the tracks at Much Hammering. The last tractor ride is at 4pm. Glum couples sit behind tables of knitted toys, unsold jam and glazed bowls. Keith is ever so keen to demonstrate the inked-up Adana letterpress. The ladies in the cafe have run out of ice cream.



And yes, it being May Day, obviously the Whitchurch Morris Men are waving handkerchiefs and thwacking sticks in the courtyard, and even encouraging visitors to join in.



Threading to the southwest, the Marsworth Reservoirs are used to keep the summit of the Grand Union Canal topped up. Courting couples walk the perimeter, faces (and occasionally torsos) glowing. All the litter bins are overflowing with bottles and cans. Nobody is buying framed art from the Mobile Canal Gallery. A birdwatcher focuses his binoculars on the far side of the water, completely missing the great crested grebe I can see diving through the rushes.



The Grand Union reaches its highest point near Tring, for a three mile stretch starting where the Wendover Arm branches off. At the top of the Marsworth flight an artist sits on a lock gate sketching Watermans Cottage. The garden at the Grand Junction Arms is full of families quaffing, and smells of barbecue. A bearded old man with a garland of green leaves around his head cycles past and grins. It's unclear who's had the better bank holiday.


<< click for Newer posts

click for Older Posts >>


click to return to the main page


...or read more in my monthly archives
Jan18  Feb18  Mar18  Apr18  May18  Jun18  Jul18
Jan17  Feb17  Mar17  Apr17  May17  Jun17  Jul17  Aug17  Sep17  Oct17  Nov17  Dec17
Jan16  Feb16  Mar16  Apr16  May16  Jun16  Jul16  Aug16  Sep16  Oct16  Nov16  Dec16
Jan15  Feb15  Mar15  Apr15  May15  Jun15  Jul15  Aug15  Sep15  Oct15  Nov15  Dec15
Jan14  Feb14  Mar14  Apr14  May14  Jun14  Jul14  Aug14  Sep14  Oct14  Nov14  Dec14
Jan13  Feb13  Mar13  Apr13  May13  Jun13  Jul13  Aug13  Sep13  Oct13  Nov13  Dec13
Jan12  Feb12  Mar12  Apr12  May12  Jun12  Jul12  Aug12  Sep12  Oct12  Nov12  Dec12
Jan11  Feb11  Mar11  Apr11  May11  Jun11  Jul11  Aug11  Sep11  Oct11  Nov11  Dec11
Jan10  Feb10  Mar10  Apr10  May10  Jun10  Jul10  Aug10  Sep10  Oct10  Nov10  Dec10 
Jan09  Feb09  Mar09  Apr09  May09  Jun09  Jul09  Aug09  Sep09  Oct09  Nov09  Dec09
Jan08  Feb08  Mar08  Apr08  May08  Jun08  Jul08  Aug08  Sep08  Oct08  Nov08  Dec08
Jan07  Feb07  Mar07  Apr07  May07  Jun07  Jul07  Aug07  Sep07  Oct07  Nov07  Dec07
Jan06  Feb06  Mar06  Apr06  May06  Jun06  Jul06  Aug06  Sep06  Oct06  Nov06  Dec06
Jan05  Feb05  Mar05  Apr05  May05  Jun05  Jul05  Aug05  Sep05  Oct05  Nov05  Dec05
Jan04  Feb04  Mar04  Apr04  May04  Jun04  Jul04  Aug04  Sep04  Oct04  Nov04  Dec04
Jan03  Feb03  Mar03  Apr03  May03  Jun03  Jul03  Aug03  Sep03  Oct03  Nov03  Dec03
 Jan02  Feb02  Mar02  Apr02  May02  Jun02  Jul02 Aug02  Sep02  Oct02  Nov02  Dec02 

eXTReMe Tracker
jack of diamonds
Life viewed from London E3

» email me
» follow me on twitter
» follow the blog on Twitter
» follow the blog on RSS

my flickr photostream