Rooks Crannies & Ducks

Posted on: 25 March 2008 by Gareth Hargreaves

The weather holds out for Basil Turner as a solitary stroll turns into an opportunity to meet Chilterns locals.

The weather holds out for Basil Turner as a solitary stroll turns into an opportunity to meet Chilterns locals.

The Chiltern Hills are full of delightful hideaways. It is still possible to loose oneself in the woods - even the more open folds in the landscape can sometimes give us the impression that we are alone in the world. These are my special places: nooks and crannies where no house can be seen and, more importantly, no sound of traffic can be heard.

The village of Bradenham has a particular charm in that it maintains a peaceful aspect in spite of being just off a main road. It is able to do this because the whole village is owned by the National Trust. I used Bradenham as a base for a typical circular walk recently, and was rewarded with more than rolling hills and the woodland tree medley so typical of the area. The weather - so unpredictable of late - played an unexpected part in my day out.

I set out from the National Trust car park that is just outside the Ha-Ha wall that defines the grounds of Bradenham Manor. It was not to be a long walk, but the clouds told me that I should be prepared for showers at the very least. After crossing in front of the Manor gates and then the early Norman church of St. Botolph, I came to the little road that separates the few cottages of the village from the expanse of the Green. A left turn from the road, going north-west virtually opposite the church was my route across open country to the corner of a wood.

It was a gradual climb with great views on both sides of the path. Despite the brooding clouds, I dismissed the need to don waterproofs - for the moment at least. Away to my left a rumble of rooks were jostling for position on telegraph wires. They were in a bit of a flap I'd say! The storm was holding off, but dark clouds still threatened. I didn't appreciate it at the time, but the menacing skies added mood to the moment as the birds swooped and wheeled to find a place on the communal perch.

I moved ahead and on reaching the top of the hill, began to skirt the wood; first sharply left and steeply downhill, then a curve to the right. With the wood all the time on my right, the path then took a longer curve to the left to accommodate the denser woodland. I soon found myself in one of my treasured crannies where the rising open fields on my left and the wood on my right curtained off all signs of human activity.

Eventually, the path swung more sharply left and led me to some farm buildings and a narrow lane. Turning right along the lane I soon found my next waymarker. A small National Trust car park with an information board about the Bradenham estate confirmed my position. The route was clear: uphill again, but this time back into the wood I had previously skirted. I had completely forgotten about the threat of rain and by the time I reached the top and found the broader track leading me back to base, there was a general brightness in the air that almost amounted to summer.

The track descended into a wooded coomb where the trough in the land has been left open to the skies, providing space both for development and access for necessary forest management. Some tree cutting was in progress as I passed. The three workers were busy enough, but happy to stop for a chat about their work on the estate and to name the various trees in their 'neck of the woods'. I wished them well and continued along the track quietly pleased that my tree recognition skills were making some modest progress.

All too soon I was out of the woods and back into open country. My circuit was almost complete as I recognised a crossing I had passed near the start of my walk. A left turn led me back to Bradenham Church, Bradenham Manor, and the village green with men in white playing cricket. A glorious sight indeed, and all in welcome sunshine! So, for the record: it didn't rain all the time in July 2007.

I quickly swapped walking boots for lightweight footwear, then found a nearby bench from which to watch the cricket while I enjoyed my packed lunch. I must say it was not a high-scoring match, as one side was dismissed for a modest 105, but just how much the bowlers were on top became evident only as the opposition took the field. Batsman after batsman attempted to despatch the ball into the next village and batsman after batsman spent more time walking to and from the crease than actually at it. But what a great spirit the game was played in! Every good delivery was applauded by the fielding side and every duck scorer clapped back into the pavilion by the rest of his team. All out for 32 - well played. That's the spirit!

With not a jellybean in sight, my own spirit was revived and my faith in human nature restored.

© Basil Turner 2007

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