We took the campervan south to the Chilterns for a few nights camping recently. The Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty [AONB] is a narrow strip of countryside in the south-east of England that is 46 miles long and up to 11 miles wide, stretching from Goring-on-Thames in Oxfordshire north almost to Hitchin in Hertfordshire. Close to London, this wasn’t an area we had ever explored before but it was perfect for a short break. The AONB website has plenty of suggested walking routes and in the dry weather we enjoyed we were able to spend every day out walking in the countryside.
In the winter it is easy to enjoy the dawn and the sunset without losing any sleep and we had dazzling pink mornings when the sun glinted off the frost on the fields and glowing sunsets when the landscape was bathed in warm light. We also had a foggy day when we walked along the rolling downs cloaked in fog, cocooned in a world with nothing beyond the few feet we could see. This is red kite country and these elegant birds surprised us when they soared out of the fog over the ridges. I enjoy walking in just about any weather; we have plenty of gear for anything the British climate can throw at us and the miscellany of the elements in our island country is part of the experience.
The Chilterns is a landscape of rolling chalk hills of grassland and woodland. In the villages we stumbled up on on our walks we admired pretty churches and cottages built using flint stones. These blue-grey or black compacted crystalline silica rocks are found in the chalk in nodules or bands; flint is a hard rock that formed from the siliceous sponges that once lived in the waters of Cretaceous seas. As well as a good and attractive building tool, flint was valued as a useful cutting tool.
Fog is often patchy and throughout the day the sun threatened to break through the cloud. After walking through the murk for a few hours we emerged into glorious sunshine at Lacey Green Windmill for just a short time. This beautiful restored 19th century windmill with four sails and a fantail was stunning in the sunshine and we stayed until the fog once again veiled the landscape in its mysterious qualities.