R2: Aldbury to Wendover, Ashridge Forest 8 miles

It was Sunday, so before leaving Aldbury, we stopped for a while in the medieval church of John the Baptist.

We were welcomed in, placing our rucksacks near the font

13th-century wall painting decorating the apse of St Butolph’s Church, Swyncombe

We took communion and shared the peace, worshipping God together like so many before us. We gathered and exchanged vine branches and fixed them to our rucksacks, taking them with us as we walked out into the Buckinghamshire countryside.

This land was new to me, we were walking through parts of Ashridge…. one of the great… National Trust estates. I had heard of it from Angus, fellow NT archaeologist.

Extending over 8000 acres, it has over 3,600 ancient and veteran trees; more than any other NT property.  The biggest trees lie within the Frithsden Beeches, a lapsed wood pasture full of ancient beech pollards.

Ashridge was a monastic estate founded in 1283, the medieval woodlands were established over more ancient field systems and a network of other archaeological earthworks which can now be mapped beneath the trees using LiDAR.

Just a short walk today… we would pick up pace.

Soon we were back at Tring railway station, 24 hrs after we left it and still with 125 miles to go.

I said to Emma we’d had a gentle start…things would become more intense. No problem for her of course.

I clutched my North Chilterns 181 OS map..tracing my finger along the green diamonded line that wound its way across the paper. ‘You Boomers’ she said, ‘I can track our course by smart phone’..

‘You Millennials’ I smiled ‘you’ve lost the art of map reading, the wider view’

We compromised with Strada ….and Emma plotted us digitally… giving distance and our pace in kms per hour.

Beyond Tring, our hedged path took us through buttercup fields. Then over a high narrow bridge arching over the deep cutting of the busy A41. A bright blue sky, criss-crossed by plane vapour trails. A lorry honked us as we entered countryside again.

Skyscape across the A41

Lunch was submarine rolls from Aldbury post-office with a view back to Ivinghoe Beacon.. and then we entered the woodland of Tring Park.

A dappled day, bright sunlight flickering in flecks and circles through the tree canopy. A long avenue with sudden wide vistas out over the escarpment. Every tree trunk unique.. gnarled, nobbled, smooth, grained and architectural. We enjoyed the patterns and textures as Emma captured images for a future design.

A dappled hollow-way, Boddington Hill near Wendover

The woodland became less ordered, it wound past long abandoned hollow-ways cut by overgrown quarries. There were the last nub ends of bluebells, the verges now brightened by red campion and cow parsley.

On the outskirts of Wendover a large church with advance notices of Jubilee celebrations, then the park busy with people enjoying the late afternoon sun.

We found the accommodation and Emma phone-tracked a Tesco Express… we needed to reload the fruit pouch with easy peelers.

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