Chiltern Chain Walk 1:
Dunstable Downs and Markyate

9 August 2008

The Chiltern Chain Walk is a series of 20 circular walks which link together to create a chain across the Chilterns, running from the northern edge near Dunstable to the Thames at Goring. Today George and Stephen walked the first of them, aiming to stay ahead of the rain predicted for the afternoon.

The new Chilterns Gateway Centre, opened in 2007, where we parked the car and started the walk.

Looking north-west from the Dunstable Downs. The weird brown structure on the left is connected with the environmentally friendly ventilation system for the visitor centre.

Dunstable Downs. From here, the walk became a little confused as I followed the advice to walk "through" the next car park, which I took to mean carrying on in much the same direction, whereas I really needed to turn right.

But we soon found the right track and were walking around Kensworth Quarry. Chalk from the quarry is pumped along a 92-kilometre pipeline to Rugby.

Crossing the first of several shallow flat-bottomed valleys that were typical of this walk

George as we continue around the quarry

A last look back at the quarry.

The 12-century church of St Mary the Virgin at Kensworth Church End, the original centre of Kensworth; the main village is now at what used to be called Kensworth Common and is now simply Kensworth.

A mounting block on the grass opposite the church

George makes his way between fields as we make our way to Kensworth as it starts to rain, some 2 hours earlier than predicted, albeit only light rain at first

After going through Kensworth we took a long route through a maize field and through the housing estates of Markyate before returning to more arable fields

This, located at Roe End, isn't a very good photograph, but I thought it was interesting - the route ahead, marked as a "public highway" on the sign, is also marked as unsuitable for motor vehicles. I suppose a motorbike would probably be okay, but they're right - I wouldn't take a car down there!

After that the rain became more persistent, and though the walk was not unpleasant, it didn't really provoke me to take the camera out, but here at Whipsnade church the rain did ease off enough for a little sit down on a bench.

Another grotty photograph, but this is the Tree Cathedral at Whipsnade

A few Jacob sheep watch us as we return along the Icknield Way Path to the edge of the Dunstable Downs.

Well, the weather wasn't what I had hoped, and rather took the edge off what would have been a pleasant if unspectacular introduction to the Chiltern Chain Walk. The best bit is at the beginning (and end), and in a sense it is a shame that this is the bit I'd driven to rather than walked to - though if the weather had been nice, it would have been good to have sat looking at the view at the end of the walk. I'm sure I'll be back for another of these walks before too long.

Total distance 19.4 km in 4 hours 35 minutes with 328 metres of ascent.


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Unless otherwise stated, all images copyright (c) Stephen and Lucy Dawson