Walking Box Hill Circular - December alt text

Gambling on the weather this late in the year, we headed out for a (not so gentle) stroll around the Surrey Hills. SWC Route # 64 "Box Hill Circular" was the chosen route, rated 7 out of 10 and described as "... fairly strenuous...".

The weather wasn't perfect, grey and a bit windy, but the rain held off for almost all of the day, so it could have been a lot worse. The turnout was considerably better than expected, when I finally counted from the photo, we were 16 strong, with a good mix of old and new friends.

The walk itself was very good - it's an easy journey out of London and the train service is even good on a Sunday. There are a few variations possible on the route, but we did most of it, only missing out Headley Heath and a (frankly unnecessary) descent/reascent of Box Hill at the last. We kept up a pretty good pace, and completed the 15km in not much more than 3 hours. Lunch wasat the King William IV in Mickelham, which was very good, and with huge portions, but unfortunately we had to eat outside, so weren't in the mood to linger after we'd eaten. We finished for a well deserved pint at the Stepping Stones near Box Hill Station.

Ver Valley Walk - November alt text

With a fantastic weather forecast  (for mid November), Jules and I set off for a walk around St. Albans with Ver Valley Walk # 5 being the choice. We started at about 11:30 from St. Albans station (and got to the start of the route at about 11:55). We decided not to get into the queue for Waffles (far too long, and we didn't deserve it at that point in the day), and instead headed out of town quickly getting into the rolling hills.

The weather was beautiful, warm and dry and clear with just a bit of haze, and great views. The walk is a through a lovely mixture of countryside, from green valleys, rolling hills and water meadows. We stopped at a fantastic pub - The Three Horseshoes in Harpenden for a bowl of chips for lunch. Afterwards we followed the well signposted path back, and were treated to great views of St Albans' Abbey from the Hertfordshire Way and the sight of a Kestrel hovering over a field (clearly interested in something on the ground).

We finished the advertised walk at 3:20 (the queue for waffles was still to long, although we did deserve it at that point), then another 25 minutes back to the station. The total walk of 10 miles took us 4 hrs 10 minutes, and we'd rate it 4.5/10 toughness on the TimeOut scale. There are no significant ascents, but overall it's enough to stretch the legs.

Walking Ivinghoe Beacon - November alt text

Many thanks to Helen for organising a walk out at the weekend. The chosen route was a variation on walk # 5 from the Timeout Book of London Walks - Tring Circular, which starts and finishes in Tring Station, and takes in Ivinghoe Beacon, and the beautiful rolling hills and beech woods of the Chilterns in Hertfordshire.

We started at 11:25, at a good pace (to try to get away from the large group of walkers who were setting off at the same time), and were quickly out into the Chilterns. The weather wasn't great for sightseeing (see the picture), but considerably better than the rain that had been forecast earlier in the week. We followed the well signposted Ridgeway up to Ivinghoe beacon, and after a brief break for flapjacks we headed down the Icknield Way and on to Little Gadsden for a huge lunch in the Bridgewater Arms. After lunch we continued on at a more leisurely pace, through Ashridge Estate and onto Princes Riding (which leads up to the Bridgewater monument) before ducking off down to Aldbury for a well earned pint in the Greyhound Inn in Aldbury. We arrived back in Tring at a little before 5pm, making it 6 hours all in for the 10.5 miles walk, including breaks and stops.

I rather suspect we'll be heading back to this part of the world when the weather is better, as we only saw tantalising glimpses of what the views would be like on the fine day, and there are plenty of well signposted walks in the area

Sailing in the Solent - October Andy's Carrot Cake

Taking a bit of a chance on the Autumn weather, Andy, Be and I headed out for a weekend of sailing in the Solent. Dad very kindly volunteered his boat (again) and we headed down on Friday night to Southampton, ready to catch the tide early on Saturday morning.

The weather was absolutely superb for sailing, with plenty of breeze, and bright sunshine for most of the weekend. We started off heading down to New Town Creek, and dropped anchor while we enjoyed a break for lunch, followed y a good slice of Andy's Carrot Cake. After a bit of nourishment, we set off for Chichester (to give Andy a chance at his passage planning). The trip down was fast and fun, with a good blow from the South East, and the sea fairly well behaved. We arrived after sunset and found the pontoon in darkness before blowing up the dingy and heading to The Ship Inn at Itchenor for an excellent, and well deserved meal.

After a good night sleep we set off back to Southampton. Once again the weather was superb, and there were plenty of people out enjoying the conditions. we arrived back at the berth without incident (for once discretion proved the better part of valour where the crusing chute was concerned).

Walking Wanborough to Guildford - October alt text

Many thanks to Tina for organising a day walk out in Surrey, which was # 2 from the TimeOut Book of London Walks, volume # 1. The weather was very kind to us (given how late in the year it was), and the walk turned out to be a very pleasant stroll through the Surrey countryside. The walk was a total of 7.5 miles, and rated toughness 2/10 which was probably about right, all things considered.

We stopped for an excellent lunch at the Withies Inn in Compton, which we would all recommend - there was no problem getting a table at that time of day or year, although according to the guide this can sometimes be a problem.

The most memorable part of the walk (aside from the excellent company, naturally) was the Watts Cemetery Chapel, with its unusual brick architecture, beautifully set on the side of a hillock, just outside of Compton.

Walking Henley - October View down the Thames from the bridge in Henley

With fantastic weather forecast, we headed out for a group day walk around Henley to make the most of the late summer sun. It turned out to be one of the hottest days of the year, which certainly made the rolling hills of the Chilterns a bit more challenging than usual!

The walk we picked was route #6 from the Timeout Book of London Walks - Henley via Stonor Circular. We took the Stonor shortcut, which made the walk about 12.1 miles in length, and rated 7/10 for toughness, which was probably about right, in our opinion.

The route was spectacular in the late summer sun, with the beautiful rolling hills of the Chilterns still green from the [cough] summer [cough]. Overall the walk took us slightly over 4 hours of walking, with a good break for an excellent lunch in the Rainbow Inn at Middle Assendon, and a short break in the afternoon. There were a few comments about aching legs at the end, and I think everyone was quite grateful to see Henley at the end. In retrospect we should have stopped for a second break in the afternoon, but ho hum, we'll chalk that one up to experience.

We finished up in the Angel on the Bridge in Henley, for a huge plate of spare ribs, and very expensive Pimms, before heading back to town. We saw lots of red kites, which were singing for us at lunch time, with their very distinctive cries. The trick with the frozen camelbak worked very well, and stayed cold all day.

Shooting, Wine & Canapes - July Jules Shooting Clay Pigeon

After a few attempts to sort out a convenient date, we finally managed to get together with Andy, Be, Jamie & Emma for an eventful day of Clay Pigeon Shooting, Wine Tasting* and Canapes.

With the weather superb for the first time all week, we headed down to Royal Berkshire Shooting School for the afternoon. Despite being (pretty much) a group of novices, it didn't take very long to get into the swing of it, and pretty soon we were making a fairly good show of it. The most difficult was the "Rabbit", where the clays bounce along the ground, as this seemed to require the most judgement in where shoot in order to hit the things.

We finished up with a couple of rounds of competition, Boys versus Girls with a 15 point handicap in favour of the girls (who won). Notable scores go to Andy (highest individual score) and; Jules, who was the only person who managed to hit a fragment on the second shot at a teal.

In the evening we headed back to town for an evening of Canapes and Wine Tasting (*actually, more like drinking). It was a good selection of reds from the new and old world, with Andy & Be putting in a good selection from Australia, and Jamie & Emma producing some superb Rioja. Jules and I provided the Canapes and a couple of reds that we'd been saving for a special occassion.

Jules' Birthday: Shooting, Walking &Eating - May Ivy on fence post in front of hay meadow

To celebrate Jules' birthday (and no, we're not going to say which one) we headed out to Berkshire to have a go at clay pigeon shooting at Royal Berkshire Shooting School. With neither of us ever having shot before, we were slightly nervous about not hitting a single clay, but under Steve's excellent tuition (and with his record of no strike-outs in his entire career at stake) we were soon getting into the swing of it. I wouldn't say we were naturals, but pretty soon we were hitting more clays than we were missing, and getting a little competitive, naturally!

After the shooting, we stopped off for tea and a scone in Pierreponts in Goring before taking a gentle stroll along the Thames Path to Pangbourne. This was a lovely walk, but turned out to be a little longer than I'd anticipated, and so we took a train back to Goring instead of walking the entire round trip.

In the evening we went to The Boathouse at The Beetle and Wedge for an excellent dinner. Jules had the Goats Cheese Salad, followed by the Sea Bream, and I had the Butternut Squash soup, followed by the roast Pork Loin. Unfortunately neither of us had space for the summer pudding, although it did look excellent. All in all a lovely end to a great day out.

Walking Wadhurst - May alt text

Despite the slightly dubious forecast (showers, or maybe heavy showers) we headed out for route #18 in the Time Out book of Country Walks near London, Wadhurst Circular.

This turned out to be a very pleasant 12 mile walk through the High Weald, taking in the rolling hills and beautiful countryside including Wadhurst park. The weather held good all day, and we didn't need the waterproofs at all. We saw a few deer, but missed the baby deer in Wadhurst park, and lots of rabbits.

We stopped in Mayfield for an excellent lunch at the Rose & Crown - the consensus was that the (home cooked) food was superb, and the only the remainder of the walk prevented us from trying the selection of Kentish Ales on tap.

All in all, the walk took us about 6 hours, 20 minutes, including a couple of hours for lunch and breaks. The rating for the walk was 4/10, but we reckoned it was a bit tougher than that, probably 5.5/10.

Walking Tour London - April View of St. Pauls skyline

Many thanks to Marie & Sara for our collective Christmas present - a guided walking tour of London, given by Diane Burstein. We elected to go for Legal London and City Courtyards and Alleyways, last Saturday afternoon, in early April.

We started in St. Paul's, and then headed down to Fleet St., via the Old Bailey. From there we headed up Fleet St. a little way before making our way into and around Temple (middle & inner) before taking a route through the alleyways and courtyards north and south of Fleet st., round Blackfriars and past St. Paul's. We paused to take in the view from the top of the new shopping centre, and then on past the Lord Mayors house to finish up in Bank.

Many thanks to Diane (who did a fantastic job of taking us round, and displayed an astonishing knowledge of London), and everyone who came along - it was a fascinating day out, and a different perspective on an area that some of us had spent a lot of time in (and now know a little better!)

Walking Henley - March Small copse of trees on green hill, slightly in silhouette from the sun behind.

With the weather forecast to be fabulous, Jules and I headed off to try a walk from Henley, by Peta Bee, from a cutting from The Times. This was an 8.5 mile walk, blister rated 2/5 and graded Easy which takes in some of the rolling hills and beautiful countryside around Henley, including the picturesque village of Rotherfield Greys.

The walk quickly leaves the centre of Henley, and heads out into lush valleys and deserted footpaths. In addition to the countryside we also saw quite a few red kites, always a tremendous sight. For once the forecast proved to be true and accurate, and we didn't see a cloud in the sky all day, which definitely improved the mood of the day.

Overall the walk took us just over three hours, including one small stop, although we did go a bit wrong and took a shortcut which meant we missed Rotherfield Peppard (and more importantly the Red Lion pub). We haven't done hat much walking so far this year, and both of ours legs were feeling it a bit by the time we got back to Henley. I suspect we'll be heading back to Henley to do this or some other walks around the town.

Walking Berkhampstead - February alt text

Deciding to ignore the weather forecast (including hail in the late afternoon), Jules and I set off for a bit of a stretch-the-legs walk near Berkhampstead. This turned out to be a slightly up and down 6.5 mile route, which took us nearly 2.5 hours, around the Chilterns and Berkhampstead common.

We were both very grateful for waterproofs (this was the first outing for my new Rab jacket, which performed very well indeed) and good boots, since it rained or drizzled most of the day, and was very muddy underfoot in a few places. The route is quite accessible from London, with good train links or a fast journey up the M1, and the countryside starts almost immediately out of the village centre. We had a really good Italian meal after the walk at 'La Mancha" restaurant in town after the walk (which was very welcome by the time we got there).

There's loads of good walking around here - parts of the route we did intersected with the walk around Ashampstead Estate that I did in 2010 - and I suspect that if we come back we'll just take an OS map and find our own way around...

Walking Rickmansworth - January alt text

Our first walk of 2011 was a 7.5 mile stroll starting and finishing in Rickmansworth, North West London. Almost following route #584 from the "AA - 1001 Walks in Britain" , this follows the Chess Valley route north out of Rickmansworth, before looping back through Chorleywood common, and finally returning along the Grand Union Canal.

Overall the route was fine, although a few sections were a bit close to the M25, and some parts of Rickmansworth are a bit of suburbia-on-Earth. We stopped for a cup of coffee in the Black Horse in Chorleywood, and saw the biggest dog either of us had ever seen - a 15 stone Leonberger, accompanied by his "baby" (10 week old) stepbrother which was bigger and heavier than Tess is now.

All in all, the route took us 3 hours (including a 25 minute break), on a cold (2 °C), overcast and calm winters day.