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I always have mixed feelings when I complete a long-distance path. Part of me is relieved that the walk is over, while another part of me regrets that it is over and wants to carry on walking! There is also a sense of achievement in completing the simple goal I'd set for myself.
I have to admit that in the case of the Chiltern Chain Walk, the strongest feeling is relief that I have finished it. But do not think for a minute that that is because I did not enjoy it - far from it, the Chiltern Chain Walk is one of the most enjoyable long-distance paths that I've done. I am simply relieved that is over because I have had to put so much work into it. Before the walks described in this journal, I had walked the entire route in the opposite direction, and had probably walked the equivalent of two thirds of the route on my exploratory trips when planning the walk. So I had probably walked about 650 miles altogether - and then there was planning the route, writing the journal and the route descriptions, as well as creating the maps.
Flowery Meadow and Lodge Hill (Walk 13)
But then the sense of achievement is greater for this walk, because I had created the route as well as walked it. I thoroughly enjoyed all the exploratory walks I did to investigate parts of the Chilterns that were new to me, and sitting with my maps and trying to create a number of circular walks that linked together was both challenging and fun. There were one or two 'problem areas' where things didn't quite fit together as I'd have liked, and I had to go back and rethink my plans occasionally, but overall I was very pleased with the route I came up with. I only had to miss a few places that I'd hoped to include, Grey's Court and Radnage Church are the ones that spring to mind. While I did not want to repeat too many sections of other long-distance paths, at the same time I did not want to miss something out just because it was on another route - overall I was very happy with the balance I achieved here.
While all twenty walks were very enjoyable, there were a few I particularly enjoyed. Walk 5 (Wendover Woods and Aston Hill), Walk 12 (Coombe Hill and the Hampdens), Walk 15 (Hambleden and Ibstone), Walk 16 (Cowleaze Wood and Ibstone), Walk 17 (Watlington Hill and Park Corner) and Walk 20 (Goring and Mapledurham) are amongst the best walks that I have ever done in the South of England. Walk 1 (Dunstable Downs and Markyate) was possibly the least interesting walk for me, but that was purely because I was already so familiar with all the paths as they are all included in my own local walks.
The river Chess, near Chenies (Walk 9)
It's obviously unfair of me to compare this long-distance walk with others - I created this route, so I'm not able to claim that my view is impartial. It's also a little unfair, because I was able to do these twenty walks in just one direction, whereas on most other walks I have had to walk 7.5 mile sections 'both ways'. But for what it's worth, I do think the Chiltern Chain Walk is as good as any of the other long-distance paths I have walked in the south of England, and that includes the Chiltern Way which I enjoyed so much I did it twice!
The main aim of creating the Chiltern Chain Walk was to set myself a personal challenge - to plan, design and then walk a long-distance path of my own. But I have provided route details for each of the twenty walks, and I do hope that others will do at least some of the walks if not the whole route. The walks are so good it would be a shame if no-one else experienced them. One or two people have already indicated that they want to try some of the walks, so I'm hopeful that I won't be the only person to try the Chiltern Chain Walk.
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