Pete's Walks - Walk 1 of my Chiltern Chain Walk again

If you are considering walking this route yourself, please see my disclaimer. You may also like to see these notes about the maps.

Google map of the walk

I did this roughly 12 mile circular walk on Friday, 2nd October, 2009.  It was a repeat of Walk 1 of my Chiltern Chain Walk, though starting at Bison Hill rather than the visitor centre on Dunstable Downs (purely because of the free parking).

I must be mellowing and becoming sociable in my old age! For the second time in a week, I did this walk with someone else. Tim Bertuchi has a website similar to mine, covering his walks on long-distance paths in Hertfordshire, Essex and to the south of London. I first contacted Tim by email when I was researching the Hertfordshire Chain Walk, which he had already walked, and after exchanging emails about various walks for a while we have now met up to walk together three times.

It was a lovely morning as we set off about 10pm, leaving the car park at Bison Hill to walk along the top of the Downs towards the new visitors centre. There was however some low cloud on the horizon, which caused some haze and slightly restricted the views out over the Vale of Aylesbury and beyond. Tim soon spotted a Buzzard flying over a field at the foot of the slope on our left, where I've often seen them before (he spotted another one when we returned to the car park at the end of the walk).

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Ivinghoe Beacon from Bison Hill

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Dunstable Downs, from near the 'Chilterns Gateway Centre'

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Looking over the London Gliding Club and Totternhoe, from Dunstable Downs

From Dunstable Downs we made our way to the path round Kensworth Quarry, which we followed anti-clockwise to near Kensworth Church. I spotted two Small Copper butterflies along here, and would see a third later near Studham, the most I've ever seen in one day. It would be a surprisingly good day for butterflies, as I would also see three Red Admirals (the most I've seen in a day this year), a couple of Commas and a Speckled Wood.

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The path round Kensworth quarry - it follows the hedgerow down into the valley, going through the trees and up the steep far side of the valley

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Kensworth church

From Kensworth church we followed lanes to the former vicarage, then took a field path back across a valley to reach the main part of Kensworth by the Old Red Lion pub (which we noticed is currently closed). We then took a path from near the new vicarage across paddocks and fields to Markyate.

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View from near the old vicarage in Kensworth

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Markyate Cell, across the Ver valley

At first we went slightly wrong in Markate - busy chatting away, I started off on my usual route through the village towards Flamstead, but we'd only gone a hundred yards or so before I realised my mistake. Tim recognised parts of the Hertfordshire Way, which he has also walked, as we made our way to Roe End and then along the track to Beechwood Home Farm. He was then back in unknown territory as we turned right and headed through Gravelpit Wood and Great Bradwin's Wood to reach Studham Common, where we stopped for lunch.

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The path from Markyate to Roe End

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The farm track from Roe End to Beechwood Home Farm

From Studham Common we followed a path past the village school, to reach a road. Here, Walk 2 of my Chiltern Chain Walk meets this walk, and the Chiltern Way and Icknield Way also put in an appearance. I told Tim about the couple I met when I did Walk 2, who had been walking the Icknield Way but had gone wrong by following waymarks for the Icknield Way Trail, a bridleway that follows a slightly different route but that has confusingly similar waymarks. We followed lanes to Studham church, and then crossed a meadow or pasture to a path just inside a wood. We soon left the wood, following a long hedgerow through two fields to reach a path junction by the fence round Whipsnade Zoo.  This was where that couple had gone wrong, by turning right (the way we'd just come) instead of left (the way we were going). Their mistake was understandable, as there was a waymark for the Icknield Way Trail here (going the wrong way for them), but not the Icknield Way. Instead, there was a waymark for that path a hundred yards or so past the junction, where it was of no use at all!

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The path from Studham Common

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Studham church

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The bridleway approaching where it meets the Zoo fence

As we followed the zoo fence, I was a bit surprised to see elephants in the distance - I see them sometimes from the other part of the path along the fence, but not along this section. As we finished taking photos of them and turned back along the path, I saw a Hare just yards in front of us - for some reason it kept trying unsuccessfully to get through the fence instead of going through the thick hedge to the right of the path. As I focused my camera and tried to get some shots, it actually came along the path towards us, before turning and scampering off down the path.

The bright blue skies of the morning had now been replaced by grey clouds, as we followed the old lane from Holywell to Whipsnade. We visited our third church of the walk at Whipsnade, and then had a quick look at the Tree Cathedral, before making the short trip back to Bison Hill.

Hare, by the zoo fence

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Whipsnade church, the third church we passed on this walk

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Whipsnade Tree Cathedral (so that's three churches and a cathedral on this walk!)

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Ivinghoe Beacon and the VAle of Aylesbury from Bison Hill at the end of the walk - quite a contrast in the weather to when we started out from here!

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Tim, near the Bison Hill car park at the end of the walk

This was a very pleasant walk. I hadn't done this route since I walked the Chiltern Chain Walk eighteen months ago, merely because it follows paths that I follow on the longer local walks I do (it's essentially a shortened version of my 'Kensworth and everywhere' walk). It was really good to see Tim again - he enjoyed the walk, and we're hoping to meet up again for another walk sometime. I must admit it does make a pleasant change to have some company on a walk now and again!