Autumn

Being slapped in the face by a wet leaf means only one thing: autumn has come to the Chiltern Hills.

Much is being written in this, the most difficult of years – 2020 full of Covid-19 – of how we should be embracing the great outdoors.

Easier said than done, not least of all if the countryside is not your natural environment and the thought of cold rain, train journeys in the dark and unfamiliar muddy paths doesn’t appeal. When we are facing six months of socialising outdoors, you need to be prepared. Mentally and physically.

“Wrap up warm” the hardy types say; “put on wellies, a good coat and pack a thermos”. Let me unpack that for you: wellies don’t keep your feet warm, jeans turn to ice when it’s wet and cold, and yes, a thermos is a very good idea.

Begin at the beginning

This blog is packed full of ideas and inspiration for exploring the naturally outstanding Chilterns. It is a good place to begin to find what interests you; the locals, landscape history, the seasons, or simply a walk to blow away the cobwebs, to socialise, or to try somewhere new.

Once you’ve found a place of interest, head over to VisitChilterns to find out how to get here, where the nearest pub is (very important), where a good local hotel is, which railway station will drop you off at the nearest market town, and what else is open nearby. #KnowBeforeYouGo

Let’s get you in the mood.

The harvest is in, and we enter that golden period between summer and the onset of autumn. Typically a period of calm. The countryside is slowing down. Not the butterflies, they are still busy around our feet, as we walk through the pale yellow grass.

So many spiders and an unfamiliar morning coolness, warm days snatched, hedgerow harvests, crows surf the frequent gusts and two stags are glimpsed through the Ashridge trees, tussling, preparing for the rut. Migratory birds have begun their epic journeys south and the geese are once again practicing ing their twice daily V formations over the house.

“Vapour breath
Sparking berries,
Laden with soft rain.
Damp dogs and wellies
Rainbows shiver through a monkeys wedding.
Home to warm towels and tea.”

Don’t smoke in bed!

A dot on the Chilterns landscape; somewhere you wouldn’t even pass through as the busy Leighton Buzzard road now bypasses the village. Yet this tiny settlement has one of the most remarkable and historically important features, tucked away inside a Grade I Listed 15th century cottage at No.132 Piccotts End. Open during the Heritage Open Days Festival, it is nonetheless an intriguing story of past lives and pilgrims. Smokers to!

A visit to Piccotts End
Tucked away pre-Reformation murals

Charming Chess Valley

A story of battles fought and lost in a far-off land and a horse’s heart buried in Latimer. There are walks in this pretty valley, and all accessible by train.

Cooling off in the River Chess

Penn House

I love the rain, but as the water-soaked overhanging branches slapped the car roof, I edged alone Mop End Lane, wishing I’d left home earlier. I couldn’t be late for the guided tour of Penn House conducted by Earl and Countess Howe no less! Meet the locals in this post.

Tourism trophy envy

Thameside in the autumn

Itching to get away from my desk and take a walk to enjoy a warm autumnal afternoon, it was a tweet that spurred me into action to head over to Cliveden Reach, between Cookham and Boulter’s locks in the southern Chilterns, the fabled and sweetest stretch along the River Thames. This is a National Trust property and best to look at their website before you go to check when the grounds are open.

Peeking through the shutters

Waddesdon in a Room

Valuable Rothschild treasure is reassuringly safe behind the pair of stout, boldly designed treasury gates at Waddesdon Manor. The house is closed at present, but this is another story about the Rothschild family and a local blacksmith.

The Rothschild five arrows
The Waddesdon Treasury gates open to reveal the treasures within

Beautiful Barton Hills

Just when you think you’ve enjoyed most of the beauty that the Chilterns has to offer, two special locations come along in the same week. The Amaravati Buddhist monastery and Barton Hills National Nature Reserve.

Scenic view
Beautiful views from Barton Hills

If you’re ready? A flask of good coffee with mugs, cake bought from a local deli all packed, warm socks inside your wellies, warm waterproof coat on…perhaps a pair of cords is a countryside step to far? Let’s go!

Next up, a fabulous Chilterns winter.