Sunday 22 September 2019

12. My Kilimanjaro Training: 5 Months in - Prime Ministers Chequers and the Ridgeway of the Chilterns

Howdy folks! 

Thanks for dropping in to see how my last few weeks are going in my training for Kilimanjaro next. I'm now just 3 weeks away from leaving for Tanzania and have been squeezing in more training walks in the lead up to the big 'K'.

If you've been following my training journey since the beginning (nearly 6 months ago in Richmond Park) you've seen me all over the Surrey Hills, North Downs, The Chilterns, West Sussex and a week training holiday trying to get some mountain climbing in the beautiful Lake District (highly recommend).

Many of these walks I've been doing by myself with the occasional walking buddy or group - so this time I returned to The Chilterns joining the largest international outdoor group in London The Outdooraholics for a 21km trek along the Ridgway and through the Prime Ministers 'Chequers' retreat.....sounds an adventure. 

There are tons of walking groups on Facebook and to choose from and as you know I've dabbled in a few. Some are more 'turn up and follow if you want' and others are more set and organised like an inclusive 'field trip'. Outdooraholics are very much an organised group (even get a register and given a card with the walk leaders name and number on it, in case you get lost) for 18 - 50ish (if you're young at heart that is!) you pay them up front to cover the train ticket, or the wad of 28 train tickets that they have accounting for everyone, its super well organised.

The deal is you meet all together at a London train station depending which direction you're heading out of the city and travel together which breaks the ice I suppose. This time round it was Marylebone Station which surprising is pretty small BUT they have toilets you can jump the turnstile to use when noone's looking and a station piano! I sat mesmerised listening to a fellow train waiter as he belted out some beautiful keys to pass the time waiting for his train - I pretty like the charm of Marylebone station and a nice way to start the day. 

With our Outdooraholics walking guide for the day, Jade, the group were getting the train to Wendover, a market town in the foot of the Chiltern Hills in Buckinghamshire where we began to embark on the 21km Wendover Circular hike.

Through the woodland of Wendover, we began hiking sections of the ancient Ridgeway (you remember from my last post to the Chilterns right?) up to the top of Coombe Hill, the highest point in The Chilterns at 260m overlooking the panoramic view of the Aylesbury Vale, (apparently seeing as far as The Cotswolds).

At the top of Coombe Hill is the Boer War Memorial where you can get an even better look at the Oxford Plains and the far stretches of Indian summer bleached fields. 

The 106 acres of the hill once belonged to the famous 'Chequers' estate but was handed to the National Trust in 1918 by their gracious Lord and Lady Lee of Fareham as when the Chequers mansion was also handed over as the summer retreat to the serving Prime Minister of the UK - 1918 must have been good year!

Beginning the descent down Coombe Hill, in the distance you can see another National Trust property Pulpit Hill which was the direction we were heading. 

If you can look closely through the trees you can see the Chequers Mansion and Estate. 

Video clip from the top overlooking the majestic Chequers estate - before I'm shooed back on the path to keep walking on this really popular route ha! 

We continue on downhill and into footpath through woodlands, lush green valleys and open fields on our way down to the village of Princes Risborough.

But look what we end up passing by -  a close up of Chequers! I didn't actually think we could get that close to the now summer retreat of Mr Boris Johnson - but you can indeed! You can see the monument on Coombe Hill where we'd just come down from. 

Oh he lives in a house, very big house in the country....(classic 90's Blur song). Sorry Teresa May, tenancy is up! 

I'm sure this is the front of the 16th Century manor house which dates back to the 1565 with links to the families of Henry VII and Oliver Cromwell. The manors name 'Chequers' is named after the rare species of trees that produce green, brown oval fruits called 'Chequers' and is located near the village of Ellesborough, halfway between Princes Risborough and Wendover. 

Fun fact - Chequers has been the country residence of every prime minister since David Lloyd George and the rural retreat and Downing Street are 41 miles (66km) apart - think there's a reason for that!   

So pushing on past Mr Johnson's home, we enter the Grangelands Nature Reserve and into the Chiltern Hills woodlands where we hiked for sometime with no sign of this mysterious Iron Age Fort anywhere to be seen (our guide Jade, had never seen such fort) and we continued trudging through the ancient woodland before alas.....a big hill! Pulpit Hill! and strangely I get excited about the prospect of going up a big hill when everyone else is groaning - can't get enough of them!

Yes the Jack's and Jill's went up the hill.....

And noone came tumbling after, felt alot steeper than the photo shows though!

So following the Ridgeway, at 10km we came to the top of the Whiteleaf and Brush Hill with spectacular views across the vale and beyond.

Great lunch stop - to put the worlds to right...

Incredible how much more yellow there is this summer over green!

Hiking further, we pass the curious Whiteleaf Cross carved into the hillside chalk by monks in the 15th century, its in the left hand corner of the photo and its a pretty big cross!

Before returning to Wendover, we start to head back on ourselves and begin hiking back up to to  Coombe Hill and Whiteleaf village through a stretch of straw fields and scenes which you could mistake from The Wizard of Oz.

Yes, yes more hills, like it, like it...

I also figured out at this point that my on-loan Osprey backpack had a waist strap (thank you Julie from Chicago) for pointing it out - duh! Making carrying the weight ALOT easier....

Walking through Dunsmore village on our way back to Wendover.... 

The corn fields of Kansas Dorothy?

Joining the convoy behind 26 walkers, Julie and I hung at the back - the exact thing I intend to do on Kilimanjaro so there was no chance of us losing the group! Slow and steady I am told will win the race on Kili.

Always nice to look back on how far you've come...

And a good ole jaunt in the countryside isn't complete without grazing cows

And a pub....I suppose....for a drink (non alcoholic, now I've given it all up!) this was the end of our walk, finally arriving back to Wendover railway station. We'd completed the walk covering 23km, an extra 2 which I wasn't going to complain about!

Overall, a nice long practice walk with a few steep hills, 23km not bad!

Thanks for reaching the end and sticking with my Kilimanjaro training journey, just 3 more weeks to go and I'm so grateful to those who have been able to donate to my chosen charity Action For M.E who help my sister cope with living with 'Chronic Fatigue Syndrome' along with thousands of other sufferers in the UK who's lives have been robbed by the presently incurable illness and can only dream of going on a long hike, let alone a mountain! 

If you have liked my blogs and would like to help me with any donation you can towards my campaign, please see my Just Giving page to see further updates and how M.E (Chronic Fatigue Syndrome) can affect lives.

Thanks again and see you next time in my last couple of weeks of training! arggghhhh!!!


Training Walk Distance : 23km (14miles)

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