The Chilterns Circular Hike:

27th October 2002

A Xerox Hiking club day walk was scheduled for Sunday 27th October in the Chilterns, along a small section of the Ridgeway, one of the oldest 'roads' in Europe, dating from at least the Bronze Age 4,000 years ago. Today the Ridgeway National Trail is an 85-mile route from Overton Hill near Avebury to Ivinghoe Beacon, much of it following the ancient chalk ridge route used by prehistoric man.

Our route was as follows:

Start finish point is the Icknield Way Path car park at (955,150) on Ordnance Survey map 165. The total distance is 17km. Leaving out the loop through Aldbury makes this 14km
Start/Finish Car Park 0 0
Ivinghoe Beacon 2.2 2.2
Ivinghoe (PH) 3.8 6
Canal 2.9 8.9
Village Green at Aldbury (PH) 4 12.9
Start/Finish Car Park 4 16.9

We were due to meet up at about 10h30 and though my radio alarm did go off, I overslept only to wake up suddenly at 09h00, realising I had to fetch Eva at 9h30, causing me to panic.  In the midst of this Eva called me up to remind me that the clocks were now set back an additional hour, which I had forgotten about. This relieved the pressure somewhat and I relaxed. I had earlier called Jenny on her mobile, thinking that I had probably woken her. Gale force winds were predicted for Sunday. I looked out of the window and it was just that and more. It was positively howling! Ah, I wasn’t going to allow this to intimidate me and I probably needed something to blow out the cobwebs. As I drove from Welwyn to WGC, the dry yellow autumn leaves were being blown across the entire road in a wild, demonic frenzy.

Down the M25 and A41, we saw a couple of cars miss the final turn-off to the car park, just as we had done, the occupants waving frantically. One of them was Jenny. The crazy bunch who had decided to brave the elements were John Adams and Louis the border collie, Martin Lighten (Vanda's partner), Lucie Duverge (I found out later she was French), whom I had not met before, Chris Platten (Mr. Digicam), Jenny van der Meijden (Mark Hicken was back home engrossed in D.I.Y), Peter Karran, Eva and I. I donned my sunglasses to protect my eyes from watering, as they usually do in the fresh morning air. Martin made light of this cool dude look, reminding me that I was also up to being ribbed, as I may have appeared to have meted out to others in my Yorkshire Dale write-up. The playing field was levelled and I was considered fair game, too.

We set off up the hillside, when it suddenly dawned on me that I knew the territory, in that it joined up with the path from Ashridge Estate to Ivinghoe Beacon. I had walked this path from Ashridge on anumber of occasions and cycled it once. How we made it up the hillside to the exposed hilltop of Ivinghoe Beacon, is beyond imagination. Others were out walking too. The wind struck with such force that we barely managed to stay on our feet. Games were played out as those, brave enough to extend their arms and legs, were practically launched into space. Ivinghoe Beacon hilltop, accustomed to an assortment of radio controlled aircraft, was now witness to Harry Potter impersonators jumping around like lunatics, hoping a gust of wind would carry them off into the skies above! As we struggled down the hillside into the fierce wind, I found my face being stung by what I presumed to be tiny stones or grit. I looked down only to see small hardened, round droppings on the ground, like tiny pellets and could only assume the obvious, though I shall never truly know. Talk about the proverbial sh— hitting the fan! 1 - Beacon Trig.JPG (104937 bytes)
4 - Setting Out Again.JPG (169651 bytes) We picked up on the road into Ivinghoe and settled for lunch at the first pub we came across, The Rose and Crown. We no sooner placed our orders and as luck would have it, the lights went out. The power had failed as a result of the storm. The pub was plunged into semi-darkness, though the candles did provide a touch of romanticism to the Sunday afternoon’s culinary experience. Nice one, Jenny! The restaurant bravely stuck to a modified list of dishes. Most settled on bangers and mash. Whether they were in fact attempting to dispose of surplus food or not, the spread was superb value. The cider was going down well, too. Would I make it out there for the remainder of the walk? The conversation was pleasant, with an occasional touch of good humour. As I stated before, I truly enjoy the company of those in the club. The Moscow hostage drama dominated the list of topical subjects. A gust of wind caused the front door to slam, smashing the glass pane in the process. That must have dented their profits for the day. More than satisfied with the meal, we thanked the proprietors and headed off. Ivinghoe seemed a good place to live, the quaint little village boasting an attractive historical stone St. Mary’s church building.
7 - Windmill 2.JPG (83426 bytes)

We crossed a field with a lone windmill. One could be forgiven for thinking that one might be in Holland. Did this make Jenny feel homesick? "No", she replied, "I’m off home next week anyway"! We entered the village of Tring. This was where the party split up. The rest of us continued down the Union canal. The autumn colours were truly amazing. We stopped for tea. A rainbow appeared. Peter Karran rushed off suddenly in an attempt to locate Chris’s Ordinance Survey map. A wild goose chase ensued. Chris still had it on him in one of his pockets where he never thought of looking.

Tea Stop 4.JPG (129041 bytes) Tea Stop 2.JPG (181489 bytes)
9 - Log.JPG (150474 bytes) As dusk approached, the light began to fade and we re-entered Ashridge Estate. With the last sun bathing the windswept landscape in warm light, we quickened our pace. We could see the rain moving in rapidly across the sprawling plains below and we knew we were in for a soaking.  Well, we got what we bargained for.  We had been riding our luck all day regarding the weather! It was approaching 18h00 and turning colder. Suddenly we found ourselves in a downpour for the last half-hour before reaching the car park at Icknield Way. Eva and I decided to head off as soon as we could, making the most of the car’s heater to stay warm and attempt to dry off. We drove into WGC near the shopping area so that she could drop off a video. It was then that we noticed two large uprooted trees in the avenue leading down to Howard Centre. WGC had been one of the worst hit areas in the UK. Six people in total had died in accidents in the UK as a result of the storm. Trains were severely disrupted and some areas were still without power for up to 48 hours later. Yet we had had tremendous fun all day and regretted not one moment of it.  Jenny had done herself proud yet again!  I was a pity that those who had been on the Malham Yorkshire Dales Hike were not present.  I looked forward to meeting up with them again on the Portland Hike.
Note:  All photographs on this page were taken by Chris Platten.


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