Never before have we embarked on a walk with no pub in the middle; that lack of respite and sustenance may have deterred some of the more faithful usual Ramblers. Others were still lingering abroad after Easter or otherwise disengaged.
But – undeterred by a gloomy previous day and an uninspiring weather forecast – a decent crew of Ramblers assembled for this spring outing. Marylebone is gateway to another England; it is 1930s sort of country connected by the exemplary Chiltern Line with its nice stations in genteel places such as Princes Risborough, minimal and old-fashioned train announcements, and an overall feeling of prosperity soon perhaps to be disrupted by HS2.
Fearful of advertised high fare prices on this gem of a line, some of us were nicely surprised by the threefold reductions afforded by group travel, Freedom Passes, and Senior Rail Cards: four travelled for the price we had expected to pay for the one of us, a bargain day out. (Worth grouping on these outings if you can be sure you will return in the same formation you set out with.)
Twelve of us left St M, and another joined at Aylesbury where the walk began: 13 in all, with a nice split of old traditionalists and keen young things some wearing warpaint, the Campbell connection making it something like a Southern English version of Glencoe without the fisticuffs.
The weather was (as promised) “interesting”, mainly sunny and even quite hot at times, with scudding clouds bringing April variety and a very occasional brief scatter of rain. The walk was mostly out in the open, with a smattering of bluebells.
Fields of sprouting crops. sheep and cows gave way at one stage to alpacas (we think).
The persistent feature of the excursion was stiles: dozens of them, turning a flattish ramble into a bit of an assault course during which we must have done a few hundred feet of stepwise ascent and descent, unexpected in such a level walk.
Sometimes there were even two stiles together, as though neighbouring landowners did not trust each other an inch.
Another feature of the walk was a profusion of spreading and elegant black poplars, useful robust and flexible wood for wagon bottoms if you have wagons to bottom, and spectacular too.
Without the midway pub, which closed two years ago, we eschewed beer and ate our provisions around a trig point in a new wood planted recently in memory of Michael Roads. Broad “rides” leading out from this small high point were notable for the way most led to church towers beckoning across the countryside.
High-class 80 percent chocolate replaced our normal pudding and custard, and we then slogged across a succession of arable fields to the quietly posh village of Haddenham and its slightly distant park-and-ride station, where sort of half the party was whisked back to London the instant they arrived.
The remaining Ramblers have not yet checked in, but may have decided that a walk with no pub at all was untenable, even if it comes up after 4pm. They may still be there, for all we know, stuck in 1930s England. (Unlikely, actually, ‘cos in the 1930s the pubs would surely not open until 6pm?)
Words by Peter. Pictures by Annie
Want to relive past walks? Find them in the Archive