Dunstable Downs Walk

If you haven’t experienced the view from the National Trust visitor centre at the top of Dunstable Downs you should put that right very soon – it is spectacular!  The gliders who enjoyed the strong thermals also had a good day but watching some of them coming in to land was alarming.

We went on this 6 mile walk on a beautiful Saturday morning.  The wind was strong as we walked along the ridge but once we got over the top and down to the Tree Cathedral this improved, although the mud churned up by the recent rain presented something of a challenge.  We enjoyed the fact that we were walking along the Icknield Way, one of the oldest trails in the UK – it was in existence before the Romans arrived.

The tree cathedral was planted by Edmund Blyth who served in the infantry in World War I and suffered the loss of dear friends Arthur Bailey and John Bennett, who died in the March retreat of 1918. By 1930 another WWI comrade, Francis Holland had been killed in a car crash and Blyth felt that all his friends deserved something more worthy in their memory. From 1930-1939, with the help of just one man, Albert Bransom, he began planting.  Trees soar upwards in feathery arches – tall limes, dark cypresses and strong-veined hornbeam almost meeting in the middle – with cedars and cypresses standing sentinel at the ‘west front’, always the grand entrance to a cathedral.

It is beautifully kept and we also enjoyed the precision hedge cutting which was being done while we were there.  

Shortly after our cathedral visit we enjoyed lunch in the Old Hunter’s Lodge in Whipsnade village and then continued our circular walk.  Our substantial lunch gave us the fuel to climb back through Whipsnade Heath up to the NT visitor centre, where once again the wind almost blew us off the hill with the gliders, but we settled for a welcome cup of tea!

Written by Frances and Rebecca

Hampton Court and Bushey Park

A small (5) group of us had a lovely day walking along the Thames from Hampton Court and then back through Bushy Park on Friday 4th October.

It was easy walking along a large loop of river passing desirable looking chalets (apparently built
on stilts so they do not flood) on Thames Ditton Ait, and a wedding venue on Raven’s Ait. After
lunch in The White Hart in Hampton Wick there was a bit of road walking before we entered Bushy Park where the stags were in fine voice at the beginning of the rut. We saw some magnificent antlers before returning to Hampton Court and taking advantage of their tea room before making our way home.

The weather was not quite as good as we could have hoped but much better than forecast so
hoods and umbrellas were not over-used and, although our guide book told us we had walked
10.9kms our phones told us that it was 8.5kms!

Written by Frances

Eynsford to Otford Walk

Many thanks to Yvonne and Angela for organising a wonderful walk on the Darent Valley path on Saturday 3rd May. A record nine of us (eight from NWLWI and one extra) managed to meet up at a very busy Victoria station to get the train to Eynsford. Setting off from Eynsford, we came across Lullingstone Roman Villa followed soon after by Lullingstone Castle, both of which looked like they deserved a return visit for proper exploration. We could smell the lavender fields some time before we came across them – and even this late in the season there was still one field in full bloom, providing a good backdrop for group photos. We had a quick look at the Hop Farm lavender shop, where there was lavender with everything, even chutney! Carrying on alongside the Darent we soon arrived in Shoreham where we enjoyed an excellent pub lunch. Fortified by our lunch we then climbed a steep path up through the fields and were rewarded by a wonderful view of the surrounding countryside (we knew we were in Kent because of all the oast houses dotted amongst the trees). We then descended again and re-found the Darent which we followed until we reached our final destination of Otford. As we were crossing the river, we suddenly saw some creatures disappearing into the undergrowth and after a lot of speculation and with the help of a local man who happened by, we concluded that they were mink! We were warned, however, that despite looking lovely and cuddly, they are actually very vicious creatures and the man said that they had even attacked his horses! On arrival in Otford we treated ourselves to a restorative cup of tea (and cake!), but while we were congratulating ourselves on completing a nearly nine-mile walk, we saw a large number of runners and found out that they were completing a mere 100-mile run along the North Downs Way. Maybe that should be our goal for next year!

Written by Catherine Jackson


Osterley Park and Grand Union Canal

A very hot walk in temperatures of 30 Degrees Celsius! We were well equipped with sunglasses, hats, suncream and water. We started in Osterley Park fields where we saw a heard of cows enjoying shade under a tree. We then made our way towards the Grand Union Canal where we helped a canal boat navigate a few locks. We stopped for a light lunch and a few refreshing drinks before continuing on to the end back at Osterley House.

Barn Hill, Fryent Country Park and the Welsh Harp

Having met at Preston Road tube station, Catherine led us on a sunny Sunday afternoon to Barn Hill, which has great views over London. We crossed the road to Fryent Park, which is a designated nature reserve before going onto the Welsh Harp, a large reservoir on which various water sports take place. It was all surprisingly free of people given how close we were to London. We took a train back to West End Lane and retired to a local café for tea and cakes, as you do!

Written by Angela.

Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park

A distinctly chilly first day of Spring walk around the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park following (rather haphazard and with a great deal of turning the map this way and that) the Art Trail. We may not have seen all the art on display but thoroughly enjoyed stopping for lunch at the Timber Lodge cafe for hearty warming bowls of soup and good conversation, trundling back on the overground together.

Written By Rebecca

Walk from Kew Gardens to Putney

A glorious warm September day to walk a section of the Thames Path, choosing the South side of the River, from Kew Bridge to Hammersmith Bridge, one of the greenest and most beautiful lengths of the Thames Path.  The path is flanked on both sides by trees and bushes that form a canopy overhead in some places which was shot through with dappled sunlight.   A great way to get to know each other better and get some exercise too.  We clambered up to Joseph Bazalgette’s magnificent iron Bridge at Hammersmith and had lunch at Bill’s.  17,000 steps. 5 miles. 606 calories burnt!

Written by Rebecca

Walk from Princes Risborough to Great Missenden

Three of us from NW London WI were joined by two from N1 WI at Marylebone station to catch the train to Princes Risborough as the sun broke through the clouds and we all dusted off our sunglasses.  We had a lovely walk with panoramic views across the Chilterns and through beech woods.   The recent rains had left quite a lot of mud, through which we picked our way.  We stopped at the Gate Inn in Bryants’ Bottom for lunch and were able to sit outside in the sunshine.   After lunch, a couple of steep climbs, another couple of forests and we were back at Great Missenden before 5 for the train home, tired and satisfied after a good day’s walk.

Written by Angela

Runnymede to Windsor Walk

A walk which connected two of the most historically significant locations in English history.

Three of us (plus dog) had a glorious sunny day in Windsor Great Park which even included ice creams and a polo match.