The Chiltern Way Walking Festival

30th April 2010

… in the spotlight

This year sees the 10th anniversary of the establishment of the Chiltern Way. To mark the occasion, the Chiltern Society has organised a Walking Festival – a wide range of walks to suit all ages and abilities, which aims to encourage more people to walk the Chiltern Way and to enjoy some truly fabulous countryside.

The Chiltern Way – a rambling, varied and mostly rural route that stretches around this Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and passes through many pretty villages – was established by volunteers in 2000, as the Chiltern Society’s millennium project. The plan was to create a long distance path around the Chilterns, and to encourage more people to enjoy walking – both those living local to the Chiltern area and those who travel from London or further afield. It has been a wonderful success: ten years on, thousands of walkers now use it each year.

It began as a circular route, of around 125 miles (200km), although three optional extensions now take the total distance possible to 172 miles (278km). There’s no official start/end point, although many of those who plan to do the whole stretch in a sequence of consecutive days regard Hemel Hempstead Railway Station as the easiest and most logical place, as it’s the nearest mainline station. From there the route leads to Chalfont St Giles, on to the edge of Marlow, Hambleden, Bix Bottom, Ewelme, along part of the Ridgeway (an ancient path, used since prehistoric times, and now designated a National Trail), Stokenchurch, Great Hampden, Aldbury, the Dunstable Downs, Sharpenhoe Clappers, Harpenden and back to Hemel Hempstead. If you’re driving (although this may not strictly be in the spirit of the thing), you can start anywhere, and walk in either the clockwise or the anti-clockwise direction.

Glorious isolation

There are over 60 guided walks on offer to the public during the Walking Festival, in Bedfordshire, Buckinghamshire, Hertfordshire and Oxfordshire. They range from shorter walks taking a couple of hours, themed walks combined with a visit to a local attraction, and day walks covering 10-13 miles. There are also opportunities to walk the whole Chiltern Way over a series of 14 longer walks on Sundays between May and September. You’ll even receive a certificate when you complete the final walk.

It’s an ideal time to be celebrating both the Chiltern Way, and the glorious landscapes on our doorstep. The current government has plans for a high-speed rail link across the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, and the Chiltern Society – not surprisingly – is alarmed by this threat. As John Taylor, Chiltern Society Chairman, said “This countryside is a precious resource enjoyed by millions of people…”

The Chiltern Society, with around 6,500 members, is one of the largest
environmental groups in England directly associated with the conservation of one of the country’s finest protected landscapes. It has over 400 active volunteers who protect the Chilterns’ heritage landscapes, buildings and rivers, maintain footpaths and bridleways, publish footpath maps, lead walks, cycle rides and photographic trips, and help Chiltern farmers.

See www.chilternsociety.org.uk for more information
about the charity and the Walking Festival.

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