Friday 18th May 2018
Go long!, I thought. The problem was, where? No matter the alternatives I considered, one kept popping up; Great Missenden by train, scout the route of HS2 up the Misbourne valley into Wendover, and then wind through woodlands back to Princes Risborough. The issue, though, wasn't the length of the route; it would entail and "interesting" amount of hill climbing.
Train to Great Missenden, Bury Farm, Mobwell, Cobblershill, Dunsmore, Wendover, Coombe Hill, Pond Wood, Ninn Wood, Whiteleaf, Princes Risborough station – 24.2km/15 miles, 520m/1,700ft, 7½ hours
Friday 11th May 2018
A quick afternoon circuit around Halse, despite the gloomly cloud cover, over the rolling hills near the source of the River Great Ouse. I'm also out to take some more images of the landscape before HS2 construction begins. Too late; it's started. As I circle Halse Copse I see more hares than I've seen for ages. Such a pity, as the cutting to be dug here will sever the landscape and take the side off the woodland.
Farthinghoe, Halse, Halse Copse, Radstone, Brackley – 15.7km/9¾ miles, 130m/425ft, 4⅓ hours
Saturday 5th May 2018
After cross-country walking for forty years, every now and then I remember an image of somewhere and I just can't fix where it is. After my last walk I was left with the image of a hamlet within an ancient earthwork. Eventually I tied it down to a location, not far from Leamington Spa – a chance to do some more photos along the route of HS2, and revisit a wonderful section of ancient trackway. Getting there, however, produced an absolutely extraordinary reward for my efforts.
Train Leamington Spa station, Campion Hills, Cubbington, Wappenbury, Ridgeway Lane, Grand Union Canal, Leamington – 23.9km/14⅘ miles, 230m/750ft, 7¼ hours
Tuesday 1st May 2018
This walk started with a comment from a friend a couple of years ago. When I pointed out that there were far more megaliths in West Oxfordshire than just the Rollright Stones, he wondered if it were possible to walk to them. That thought has been in my mind ever since; today, as a fitting tribute to Beltane – traditionally marking the beginning on the ancient Summer – I thought I'd give it a go.
Train to Kingham, Churchill, Sarsden, Chadlington Downs, Hawk Stone, Dean, Lidstone, Hoar Stone, Taston, Charlbury station – 26.5km/16½ miles, 400m/1,300ft, 7½ hours
Saturday 27th April 2018
South Warwickshire's Mercian Mudstones – a mixture of marls, clays and mudstones – were laid down in Triassic deserts just over 200 million years ago, when Britain was at the equator. It's not like that today. It's raining, and has been for some time. The ground is saturated, which means slippery mud and floods as I cross the clay-based valleys. I'm in for a hard but, hopefully, enjoyable day's walk along the hills that fringe the Avon valley… though I might not think that tomorrow morning.
Train to Wilmcote station, Straford upon Avon, Welcombe Hills, Snitterfield, Hampton-on-the-Hill, Warwick Parkway station – 20.6km/12⅘ miles, 215m/700ft, 5¾ hours
Thursday 19th April 2018
I think there are two general approaches to handling hayfever: you hide inside and take pills when the symptoms start; or, you go outside and toughen-up your mucus membranes as quickly as possible so that the symptoms are less annoying. I favour the latter. Today, apart from being the hottest day of the year thus far, it is also the first day I've had bad hayfever symptoms. Rather than stay inside, peering at a screen through blurred vision, I decide instead to go out and toughen the skin around my eyes.
Bus to Drayton, Wroxton, Balscote, Shutford, Jester's Hill, Swacliffe Lea, Fulling Mill, North Newington, Banbury – 17.9km/11⅛ miles, 330m/1,080ft ascension, 5¾ hours