Our Walk in the Chilterns
Nick led an excellent walk of about 11.5 miles - nice company,
nice scenery and a good dose of interesting history. This linear walk was found (so Nick) in a book of Country Walks published by London Transport in about 1935. The walk is still here, 77 years on!
Picturesque Old Amersham, Repton's Shardeloes Park, Little Missenden and The Lee of Midsomer Murders
fame, were all interesting places to see on our walk.
Little Missenden Church exudes lots of history.
There was not a spot of rain, and by the time we had reached Little Missenden (about 3.5 miles into the walk) the sun had well and truely asserted itself. I therefore felt that some of our experiences should be held pictorially - so these are some of the pictures I took, together with a liberal sprinkling of narrative. Since the emphasis was on the walking and not photography, please make allowances for the technical and artistic imperfections! (In addition, to protect privacy, I have not directly included anyone's picture).
Getting to Amersham
Getting to Amersham, the start of the walk, was quite easy. Fast train from Marylebone or slow train from Baker Street. I thought I'd take a few pictures at Amersham Station
of the Metropolitain Line's new pride and joy - the new rolling stock. If you are not so interested in railways and would like to get to the actual walk, then just click here.
One of the new trains comes off the sidings to get ready for the run to London.
Old and new. The time-honoured joint Metropolitain and Great Central Station at Amersham plays host
to the latest rolling stock. This stock boasts (for physical and social safety) a wide walk-through concertina connection between each pair of carriages, thus allowing passengers (also with prams and wheelchairs) to pass down the length of the train inside the train - should they so wish.
Ready to leave for the south amid railway paraphernalia.
A quick look in the waiting room shows what's afoot for Watford. Seems a good idea - after years of official humming and hawing - to bring the
Met into Watford Junction to meet the West Coast Main Line and to add some more useful stations to the network. You'll need to wait a tad longer though, for 2016 is the target date.
Amersham Old Town
Amersham Old Town (less than a mile from "New Age Amersham") simply oozes history at every corner - and so close to the capital! Apart from the usual
facilities for matters spiritual (church and pub), the old market hall and a host of other interesting buildings vie for our attention.
We come in via the traditional church - crenelated tower and flinty walls. The garden wall
on the right is seemingly quite old as suggested by the brickwork and the iron supports.
The market hall (with meeting rooms above and a lock-up for rogues beneath) is reminiscent of Godalming's Pepper Pot, and dates from 1682 - a gift of the Drake family (see next section below). There has been a regular market "underneath the arches" for many years, and today's market invites us to buy.
The "King's Arms" is the stuff that real English pubs and inns are made of. Half timbered construction
... and a nice
inn sign swinging in the wind - except there wasn't any wind today.
The inn stands proudly in the spacious high street ...
... which hosts a splendid mixture of architectural styles from many centuries of English history.
We look back on the market hall and leave Old Amersham for Shardeloes Park.
Shardeloes was completed in 1766, and was the ancestral home of the
Tyrwhitt Drake family. It had been hoped - in 1953 - to demolish the "listed building of special architectural and historic interest", but after a considerable fight, it was "saved for the nation".
Today it contains expensive leasehold appartments (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.
These are the modest wrought iron entrance gates delicately curved by my camera - well what do you expect from a Fuji camera bought at Tesco's? From these gates, it's a long, long way to Shardeloes, which you can just about discern, as a white blodge, nestling between the trees on the middle right.
Palladian-style Shardeloes sits with sprawling stable block atop of parkland designed by the well known Humphrey Repton.
It's a Jane Austen sort of house ...
... comfortably presiding over its erstwhile tranquil surroundings.
The Palladian portico looks across the valley of the Misbourne and the modern age A413.
Little Missenden has two watering holes, and an old church dating from saxon times. We distribute our favours between the two aforesaid watering holes and then culturally feed our minds with the history oozing from the place of worship. Little Missenden has also featured in ITV's Midsomer Murders, but looked peaceful and respectable enough on our visit.
One of the watering holes, the "Red Lion", was visited by several of us and gave us the opportunity to practice our skills in dealing with already well fed, insistent, begging ducks, accompanied by some determined quacking.
As we enter Little Missenden, we are greeted by the seemingly historic Missenden House, complete with 4x4 Land Rover and mini convertible. Affluence exudes from every pore hereabouts.
Ye olde kirk guards the other end of Little Missenden.
Within are medieval wall paintings, used to educate the illiterate poor of those past centuries in the teachings of the Bible. Some paintings managed to escape Cromwell's Puritanical rampage by hiding under a layer of whitewash, only to be rediscovered centuries later - like this painting which depicts St John the Baptist holding the infant Jesus.
In the 18th century it was customary to acknowledge the benefactors to the parish and the church has an interesting board pointing to the charitable goings on at that time. We read the following and contemplate how life - and the consideration of what is important - has changed over less than 250 years.
“BENEFACTIONS to the POOR of this PARISH. Mr WILLIAM LINE by Will dated September 16, 1775, left two Meadows and an Orchard to provide one 3d Loaf each to six of the oldest Inhabitants attending Divine Service on Sunday Morning. Also one 2d Loaf to the Clerk for delivering the same. Mrs SARAH BATES, by Will dated April 14, 1787 gave 100 Pounds 3 per cent Consolidated Bank Annuities.”
Spring has sprung in Little Missenden.
More of Spring springing
in Little Missenden.
Another view of the church, with sun and shade doing battle on the road. Just before we left Little Missenden, we caught Lawrence inside, doing great things with the piano forte, on which he had been let loose by the verger (or was it the church warden?). Indeed, he tickled the ivories with great skill, filling the old church with nice dulcet tones, as if to say "there's life in the old building yet"!
The Lee featured in the first of the Midsomer Murders. Nothing murderous seemed to emanate from the brickwork of its time-honoured buildings when we stopped off for a quick rest and water stop.
However, we did ponder over the three large "ragged" and weathered irregular blocks of what looked like concrete, mysteriously stacked on top of each other (almost to human height) and gracing the village green at the pub end. They are just visible in the middle at the far side of the green in the picture below. What outlandish thoughts must have been employed to produce such a curious and not really very beautiful structure? A latter day failed attempt (nipped in the bud) to build another Stonehenge?
The peace of a late sunny afternoon reigns supreme as a long shadow is cast over the village green ...
... a shadow which seems to draw ever closer! The rest is left to your imagination.
It's quick march into Wendover, the pleasant Buckinghamshire town,
soon to echo to the roar of the HS2. The end of the walk is nigh.
A pretty avenue, whose spring flowers are consumed by the incipient dusk which signals the end of an excellent and invigorating day.
The 12th century Wendover Church looms up in the gloaming.
It's brighter on the other side. Inside there are a few interesting monuments, but nothing unduly special. Too much restoration spoils the history.
A quick look down Wendover High Street. I didn't plonk that white car in the middle - honest! The station is just around the corner - to the left behind me, hidden out of sight of the High Street.
Many Thanks to Nick for leading this invigorating walk and thanks to all who came to support it. A great time was had by all! We all look forward to more
of the same - or at least very similar.
Oh, and if you wonder about Nick's 11.5 miles, try the following. We set off from Amersham around 10:45, had about 1.5 hours break in Little Missenden, and reached Wendover by about 17:15 - all very approximate, you understand. This gives a walk of 5 hours. If we walked at an average pace of 2.5 miles per hour, this would give a distance of 12.5 miles. Now considering that we may have started a bit closer to the hour of eleven, that I actually reached Wendover in time for the 17:14 train and that we all stopped occasionally "in mid-walk", our distance could actually be a bit under 12 miles. Howzat? We'll believe you, Nick!