A walk in the Woods with the Ancients…

Greetings my Fellow Adventurers!

The other weekend Alli and I did a wonderful long walk across the Chiltern countryside from the little Buckinghamshire town of Wendover.

As a guide, we used the Chiltern Society’s book: ‘50 Great walks in the Chilterns’. As I’ve mentioned before, these walking books are a great idea if you want to get off the beaten track and away from it all, but don’t know where to go. We did walk number 34 ‘Grim’s Ditch to Cobblers’ Pits’, which was anything but grim and not at all a load of old cobbl.. you get the idea.

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Wandering in the woods! 

The book stated that this walk had two long ‘climbs’…

eek!..

…hoping that they just meant ‘steep ascents‘, we left the rope and crampons in Ratty and, starting by the clock tower, headed off down some delightful footpaths that led to the Chiltern link of the Ridgeway national path. We followed the trail out of the town, through the countryside and up into the hills on the first long ascent, eventually entering a lovely series of woods – thankfully no climbing was involved.

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Around the back-paths of Wendover

After a mile or so through the woods we diverted away from the Ridgeway for a spell to look at Grim’s ditch. It was at this point we fell fowl of the ever-changing landscape. Although the book was only written in 2015, a few things had obviously changed forestry wise and the turns no longer matched those described. Thankfully I’d remembered to bring the walking GPS* with us (I don’t always) and we were able to re-orientate ourselves and get back on route.

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Um… Which way..?

Grim’s Ditch is a Iron-age earthwork that crosses Buckinghamshire on and off for over 19 miles. Its original purpose is not known, although it was most likely some form of boundary marker. My personnel feeling is that is part of the same ditch system near Cholesbury that marks the edge of the ancient Catuvellauni tribe’s territory. Whatever it was there for, it is very atmospheric and was well worth the walk to see.

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Grim’s Ditch viewed from the side…
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… and looking back along the ditch

After the ditch we carried on across beautiful fields and through sun-dappled stretches of woodland, thankful as the day passed and the temperatures rose (it was reported to be as high as 32’C) that were following a mainly shady route.

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The sun-dappled way through the woods…

Starting downhill into another valley where the farmers were busy bringing in their crops we wandered down a magical ‘hollow way’; an ancient pathway cut downhill through the woods. Alli loves these paths – we had a wonderful sense of the past few thousand years all around us.

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Down the Hollow way…
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Across the fields…

Crossing farmland at the bottom of a valley we then headed up the second steep ascent hill into Wendover Woods, again, thankfully without the aid of climbing gear. Eventually we reached Boddington Camp. This large oval hillfort has been dated from as far back as the late Bronze Age, and although the banks and ditches are mostly obscured by trees, it is still a really impressive site. I’d love to have seen it in it’s heyday.

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A view back from Wendover Woods – we were there a few moments ago! 
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Boddington Camp bank and ditch – a bit lost under the trees! 

Finding a nice fallen tree in the centre of the camp, we sat and munched our picnic and wondered if our ancestors had once sat in the same spot to eat theirs. It’s a nice thought and a simple way to make a connection to the past, although I doubt they had an Indian spiced beetroot veggie wrap with falafels and mint sauce!

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The flatter end of the camp – the other end is a lot more impressive

Suitably fed, we walked deeper into the woods in search of a cup of tea. The Forestry Commission has a big visitor centre in the woods, with a cafe, a ‘Go Ape’ climbing thing, information office and various other ‘family’ activities to do in these woods – with a humongous car park to go with it. As a direct contrast to how quiet the woods had been so far, the area around the Forestry Commission bit were full of  what I like to call ‘Car-park people‘. These are people that go somewhere to get away from it all, and then don’t stray more than 50ft away from the car park, have a picnic or a ball game and then go home, saying they’d been somewhere – without actually going there. Once we’d run the gauntlet of disposable BBQs, blankets and the children’s play area, we reached the newly finished café. It was busy as expected, but the tea was nice and after two big ascents (climbs) the rest did us good. The Menu actually looked pretty good so it might be worth a visit someday when it’s quieter.

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Standing on the Haddington hill marker, erected in 1977

After tea we took a short walk to the top of Haddington hill (just off the car park) which is the highest point in the Chilterns. Then, leaving the madding crowds behind we followed a lovely long decent down through the other side of the woods to continue our journey. At one point the route had us walking through a golf course where we had a wonderful view looking back across towards Dunstable Downs, Whipsnade and the ancient Icknield Way.

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Looking across the Buckinghamshire countryside
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Looking over to Dunstable Downs

Moving further down we passed through the aforementioned Cobblers pits, a wonderful little woodland that used to contain a reservoir supplying part of the Rothschild estate. There were also some ancient chalk pits and the woods featured yet another lovely hollow way to finish the final bit of the downward leg.

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Another Hollow way… 

Past the pits we reached the long since abandoned Tring arm of the Grand Union Canal. The towpath took us along through Halton, past the RAF station, airfield and officers mess and back into Wendover – it was this part of the walk where we realised that the advertised 10-mile route, was actually 12! The walk along the canal was lovely with plenty of shade and bird life to see. It is obviously disused as it is very choked up with silt and water-weeds. I suspect if anyone ever wanted to open this up to boating traffic they’d have a very large challenge on their hands!

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The Tring Canal – a bit sun drenched

Once back in the town centre we unsurprisingly headed for a well-earned drink in the Red Lion pub, which, after all those miles in the blistering heat, was very welcome indeed.

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A well earned glass of wine! 

What a blooming brilliant walk – Great company, plenty of history and some fantastic scenery to boot.

Farewell my Friends!

*These little handheld walking GPS’s can be really useful little tools. Not always needed on walks, especially ones from a guide book, but very useful if you do get stuck. We have a Garmin Etrex touch 35 with a OS map SD card fitted – not cheap but a godsend if you need it.

14 thoughts on “A walk in the Woods with the Ancients…”

  1. That little GPS is brilliant – I need something like that for some of my trail excursions. What a nice place to get in touch with the great outdoors. Hope you packed a few square crisps in your fanny pack.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I really liked this blog Stuart. I was almost there with you.
    It seems like it was the perfect destination for a hot summer’s day, even if you did have to join up with the “car park people” – and that GPS sounds like a good bit of kit.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks Malc- I’m glad you enjoyed it!

      It was a pretty good place to go on such a hot day, that shade was very welcome. By the end of the afternoon you could really feel the heat, especially along the canal.

      The GPS is a great bit of kit if you have the OS maps SD card as well, the only downside too it is it eats AA batteries.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I really loved that walk, and can’t wait to do it again. Even the so-called ‘climbs’ wouldn’t put me off. The hillfort, the woods and the hollow ways are more than worth it. And the wine. 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    1. lol! Thanks Mike and I glad you enjoyed it. The ‘Car Park’ people make me laugh – we see them in all sorts of places, crowded around each other and paying little attention to the place they’re visiting – each to their own I suppose.

      Liked by 1 person

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