Our Sunday Walk around Amersham
Our Sunday walk today was ably led by John (Churchill) that stalwart of CLOG and aficionado of things Chiltern since his tender age. Today's walk explained why, for the Chilterns are indeed a very attractive area - scenically and historically - within reasonably easy reach of the Capital. We benefitted from John's excellent local knowledge, which enabled us to cover paths other walkers may not so easily find. Of course, thanks to the flexible approach in CLOG, John was able to arrange this walk at reasonably short notice. The weather gods again gave us plenty of winter sunshine with a few clouds, as if to emphasise how fortunate we were with the weather.
We have almost scaled our final hill before we reach Amersham station. It's certainly worth tarrying a short while to take in the attractive view back across to Old Amersham.
The walk was "anti-clockwise circular", based on Amersham Station as the starting point. It was all of 8⅔ miles, or almost 14 Km, in length. In the morning, we took in some Chiltern woodland to the west of Amersham. Our lunch time destination was "The Plough" in Hyde Heath. In the afternoon, we headed for the valley of the Misbourne and the pretty village of Little Missenden whose church of Saint John the Baptist goes back over a thousand years. The murals inside the church were white-washed by Cromwell and rediscovered in 1931. We then entered Shardeloes Park, watched over by the Palladian Shardeloes House itself. Old Amersham is an architectural delight and provided a nice tea stop before we returned to Amersham Station and our respective journeys home.
So here is what these pages have in store for you. Even if you were not able to join us, here's your chance to find out how we enjoyed our fine end of February Sunday CLOG walk - a walk to remove the winter cobwebs.
Enjoy your browse!
Coming to Amersham
We came from various parts of London and the South-East. I had a four hour journey from Essex, where Engineering Works for Crossrail meant a "rail-replacement" bus journey of over an hour for part of the way. Of course, the return journey was of similar duration. However, I did not want to let Crossrail interfere with my walking plans. A walk through London Streets would have been much easier to reach, but who wants to do street-walking in town when good country walking weather is in the offing?
This is Billericay High Street at about 07:30 on a Sunday morning.
My ticket routed me to Amersham via the remnants of the Great Central from Marylebone.
Beeching would have turned in his grave for Marylebone is well used today for rail travel to many points west. Running buses instead of trains through the access tunnels did not turn out to be a really feasible idea. Poor Beeching!
At Amersham Station, the Metropolitan Line trains provide a dashing note ...
... while the decorative Victorian awning supports look on in a more restrained fashion.
We all - all eleven of us, a nice friendly select group - set off from Amersham station at about 11:00, just after the arrival of the train from London. Our morning walk takes us through woodland sitting on high over the Misbourne Valley to the south. We criss-cross the Great Central several times, with Weedonhill Wood early on our route. There are views across to Shardeloes House and Park. We'll see more of Shardeloes House and Park in the afternoon. As noted, we benefit from John's excellent local knowledge, reaching paths other walkers do not reach.
In the woods we hit upon this strange metallic group of plants. Don't they look nice? Were they crafted by hand or by machine? They are of course intended to deter the most determined trespassers from reaching the railway tracks in the cutting below.
Sharedeloes House appears in the distance through the trees,
which are still in the "all together" without their foliage.
Through the woods we go, until ...
... we reach an open spot where we can look across
to the Misbourne Valley and to Shardeloes House.
Palladian elegance seems to radiate into the surrounding landscape.
And here is a closer view.
Frank puts his best foot forward as we head through the woods, bathed in winter sunshine.
We emerge into ...
... open countryside ...
... as we walk towards the southern reaches of Hyde Heath.
"The Plough" at Hyde Heath
We make the "Plough" in Hyde Heath our lunch-time stop and discover some more about the impact of HS2 on the area. We wondered to what extent the local political landscape might be affected by HS2's intrusion on the local geographical landscape. Anyway, Hyde Heath was the highest and probably the windiest point on our walk. We were glad to enjoy the cosiness afforded by the "Plough".
As we enter down-town Hyde Heath, we pass "Hyde Heath Village Hall & Shop" with its distinctive clock. Other items of street furniture include a George VI pillar box, two dustbins, a "Safeguard" alarm, a defibrillator and a sign for "Your Trusty LOCAL Paper". It's all here, right in Hyde Heath!
A little bit further on, on the green, we reach the "Plough" which does NOT
display its food hygiene rating. I wonder why. All tables have already been booked and we can't get food. Nonsense. We sit at the small side tables and get our respective repasts.
This inn sign of "The Plough" suggests that ploughing could be a nocturnal activity. However, in my humble opinion, it's more to be able to include the constellation of the Plough (Big Dipper). Yes, it's the constellation and not what you might see if you have had a few too many!
Here's a real horse-drawn plough and a boot to match.
Really rustic, but then, we are out in the country.
However, the rural idyll may soon echo to the sound of HS2. Here is a cloth marker put up by a local lady to mark out the route through the Chilterns. Below, there will be a tunnel passing under Hyde Heath and emerging into a very deep cutting; much of the woodland hereabouts will have to cede to those espousing a high speed rail journey to the north from Euston. There was not, apparently, enough money to put the whole railway route through the Chilterns (AONB) in tunnels. The Channel Tunnel (HS1) is 30 miles long and tunnels on land are probably easier to build than those under water; however, money still seems to be an important consideration - AONB or no AONB.
From Hyde Heath we descended into the valley of the Misbourne, where Little Missenden was next on our route. The village nestles around a main street, at whose western end, almost if standing guard, is the ancient church of Saint John the Baptist. Further along the main street is the Red Lion pub which is a much frequented watering hole. The Crown at the eastern end bade us goodbye as we headed for Shardeloes Park. Strict abstinence - no drinks at either pub!
Stately trees seem to accompany us on our descent to Little Missenden
As we enter Little Missenden we are greeted by the ancient church of Saint John the Baptist.
Why not pay it a visit by clicking on the picture?
It's time to wend our way, but if you still have not visited the church, you can click on this picture.
I last visited this church on Nick's walk from Amersham to Wendover
, on Saturday, 10th March 2012, almost
years ago. Another case of "tempus fugit".
Next on our walk through along the main street of the village is the "Red Lion ".
I wonder how many "Red Lion" pubs there are in England?
You can't miss the sign of this "Red Lion" pub!
We don't stop for a drink, just for a chin wag with the publican.
The food-loving ducks and the hay wain are still here just as they were, when,four
years ago on
we made the pub our lunch stop.
Pubs often like to have a display of old - often rusty - items of agricultural tools and equipment.
In this respect, the "Red Lion" is no exception.
We missed Little Missenden's early seventeenth-century manor, but passed Missenden House which dates back to 1728, before the French Revolution. Brick houses, like this one, were for the well-to-do. Other villagers had less substantial timber framed houses.
We leave Little Missenden via the "Crown inn" which borders on Shardeloes Park. Two - perhaps guilty - smokers have put themselves in the picture, albeit in incognito poses.
The inn sign looks spick and span,
although how this compares to the smokers' lungs is another consideration!
After leaving Little Missenden, we enter the spacious parkland nestling at the foot of Shardeloes House. Mature trees and open grassland are typical of English Country Estates, and Shardeloes Park is no exception. We meet some of the equine kind and look up to the Palladian splendour of Shardeloes house. We leave by the Park Gatehouse which is a sort of gateway to Old Amersham.
Shardeloes Park was laid out by William Kent, the precursor of Capability Brown.
The trees and open spaces of the park lead the eye
to valley of the Misbourne and on to the woods we traversed in the morning.
Perhaps, Dan should have become a vet ...
... for he seems to have a way with animals.
By Jove, I think he has hypnotised the creature!
Some horses are free to roam ...
... in the expansive (perhaps also expensive?) parkland.
Shardeloes House is a "listed building of special architectural and historic interest", which a property company was hoping to demolish in 1953. After a long battle, the house was saved.
The present mansion was built between 1758 and 1766 for the local M.P., William Drake. I don't know if a present day M.P. could live in such a residence which is more associated with the "landed gentry" - but then things have changed. Today the house contains expensive leasehold apartments (not your common-or-garden flats!). The ornate main rooms have been saved and restored for the communal use of the residents and their flabbergasted guests.
There is only one road leading up to Shardeloes House and this is the gateway. For us it is also the gateway to the world outside all this 18th century splendour, as we head towards Old Amersham.
The original Amersham is now called Old Amersham. It was, happily, bypassed with the coming of the Metropolitan and Great Central Railways. In addition, a re-routing of the A413 took the through road traffic away from the picturesque High Street. For us it is the opportunity to admire the time-honoured buildings lining the High Street before we descend on the tea shop at the end of the said High Street. A nice way to finish a nice walk!
This classic Austin Seven stands guard at the western end of Old Amersham's High Street. By today's standards, a "gas-guzzler" the car may be, but it is, no doubt, a collector's pride and joy.
At the eastern end of Old Amersham's High Street is the 17th Century Market Hall which also served as a local goal - how could anyone misbehave in such a nice place as Old Amersham?
The Market Hall was built 1682 and given to the town by
the Drake family, owners of Shardeloes House (old and new).
"The Kings Arms" (hey, no apostrophe) in the High Street sports a nice inn sign - nice that is, except that the griffin has disappeared in a sea of dark red and black. Sign writers should sometimes, perhaps, think a bit more about the visibility of the fruits of their artistic labours.
This is looking back to the west end of the High Street and the way we came.
Opposite the tea shop is Old Amersham's church of Saint Mary. The exterior of the church is unfortunately Victorian, but the interior has some monuments and artefacts dating from the 17th and 18th centuries. Unfortunately, an event being held in the church precluded a visit. In 1931 a monument was erected in the church to
the seven Lollard dissenters who met their end in Amersham in 1521.
The church and fiercely pruned trees bask in today's peaceful evening sun. Next to the church, in a small man-made channel, flows the River Misbourne. Rivers generally don't get too big around here. It's the chalk, you know (as John explained).
On our way to Amersham Station we tackle the steep climb out of Old Amersham ...
... which is basking in the early evening sun.
It's been a fine and interesting day in the country.
Thank You All for a Nice CLOG Day Out!
Thank you John (Churchill) for suggesting and leading this walk. Thank you everyone for your company. The weather forecast was good and CLOG, to its great credit, as stated before, has the flexibility which allows us to plan walks at short notice of just a few days. Thank you everyone for making this yet another enjoyable CLOG walk. Thank you to the weather gods for bringing good walking weather with plenty of winter sunshine and only a few clouds. Almost exactly four years ago, Nick led a walk from Amersham to Wendover, the walk covering the southern part of today's walk. However, repetition of nice country walks should be encouraged; I mean, who wants to do "street walking" in the Capital with its noise and pollution, when close by, London's countryside has so much to offer? (Oh, for a rhetorical question!).
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