Friday, 31 August 2012

Coombe Hill, Ellesborough and Chequers

Sunny days are still at a premium, with the wettest summer in 100 years now confirmed - at least for some parts of the UK; in the south-east looks like the August totals will be below the long term average. It has remained cool and cloudy, and disappointing for butterflies. This walk with a friend links in a walk we did over two years ago: Prestwood and Chequers as well as the Ridgeway section done in October 2004. It explores the environs of Chequers the country residence of the Prime Minister. One of my shorter walks, a little less than seven miles. Here is a map of the walk:


View Coombe Hill and Ellespborough in a larger map

Taking the lazy route to the summit of Coombe Hill (advertised as the highest 'accessible' point in the Chilterns at 260m). The 'inaccessible' higher summit is presumably nearby Haddington Hill at 275m but there is no view from there. This compares to the pinnacle of last week's walk Walbury Hill at 297m.

Coombe Hill,boer war,monument

The monument is to those who fell in the Boer War over a hundred years ago, with echoes of the current Afghanistan War. As at Watlington Hill there are splendid views to the north over Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire.

Coombe Hill,view

We then walked north down the steep slope. There were many chalk downland flowers to admire. Include the seed-heads of Agrimony (Agrimonia eupatoria).

Agrimony

No autumn passes without including at least one picture of sloes (the fruit of the Blackthorn Prunus spinosa), now ripening in the hedgerows.

sloes

The church at Ellesborough stands high and is visible over long distances, we were fortunate to find the church open as someone was arranging flowers. Subject to a Victorian clear-out of most of what originally gave it character there are only one or two monuments of interest around the walls. This memorial to Bridget Croke (1638) is the most flamboyant. The Hawtreys and Crokes were the local landowners who lived at nearby Chequers Court.

Bridget Croke,monument

There is a nice looking thatched house next to the church which gives a pleasing rural view, even though it is actually located on quite a busy road.

Ellesborough church,Beacon Hill

At the top of Beacon Hill was a herd of cattle enjoying the sunshine, for once the bull did not look at all intimidating.

cattle,Beacon Hill

There was an impression range of pretty wild-flowers still in bloom on the top of the hill, including Clustered Bellflower (Campanula glomerata).

Clustered Bellflower,Campanula glomerata,Beacon Hill

and Common Eyebright (Euphrasia nemorosa), with its orchid-like flower shape.

eyebright,Beacon Hill

Views to the West showed the steep edge of the chalk ridge.

eyebright,Beacon Hill

An area of steep slopes had lots of Yellow-wort and also Felwort/Autumn Gentian (Gentianella amarella) just coming into flower.

felwort

There was one patch of Viper's Bugloss (Echium vulgare).

Viper's Bugloss,Echium vulgare

The path then reached one of the few viewpoints towards Chequers itself. There was no sign of anyone in residence.

Chequers Court

One of the strange items spotted on the walk was this curious cluster of leaves and fruit. Looking it up afterwards I believe these are Hornbeam fruits (Carpinus betulus).

Hornbeam

One last flower. Nothing rare but tricky to photograph as it is so small, it is Nipplewort (Lapsana communis).

Nipplewort,Lapsana communis

Finally an 'artistic' shot in the woods of some grass seed-heads, well at least my companion thought it was something special.

grass

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