Basically just an excuse to get to the Roald Dahl Museum (and Story Centre) in Great Missenden, this is a very pleasant and easy crescent-shaped walk from Chesham to Amersham.

I tend to prefer to walk in winter or spring, the heat of high summer wears me down quickly and I find that insects trying to slurp my blood in huge numbers somehow displaces the mirth. That said it is something special to be striding through a landscape shimmering with life of all kinds. Today was one of those revels and I even managed to avoid most of the flying syringes.

Starting point: Chesham Tube Station, Zone 9, Metropolitan Line

End point: Amersham Tube Station, Zone 9, Metropolitan Line

Distance: 13.5 miles, 21.7 kilometres

Ordnance Survey Maps app/website route link

Download the GPX file for the route here: Chesham to Amersham via Great Missenden

As I say, this walk was really about getting to the Roald Dahl Museum in Great Missenden in the most pleasant way we could. But ostensibly it was about going for a walk with two friends who we hadn’t walked with before. Originally a two dayer was plotted but when I remembered how I fare in summer I decided to veto that and plumb for a much shorter bimble.

P1050131We met up with Helen and Tom on the Metropolitan Line and alighted at Chesham. This far out of London by Tube it feels like a great fraud. This isn’t London, is it? Hard to say for sure. It’s definitely way beyond the M25 but this tendril does seem to drag London to new lengths. There isn’t that much broken suburbia en route.

Chesham seems pretty nice really. The short walk south from the station was along a dark alley beside the tracks but then you turn onto the main road and get to pass the pedestrianised precinct with its brew shop on the corner and a Union Flag stretched across the street, far above us. Across the road there is a large park but just left of there you can find some beautiful historic properties nestled in the shadow of a handsome church.

P1050132If you head towards the church make sure you turn right before entering the graveyard, the gate at the end of the alley is your goal. This lets you into the park but you need to turn left immediately and head up the hill. Within seconds you’ll be walking on the grassy Chiltern’s Way. A gaggle of what appeared to be Ramblers moved as one huge host nearby, walking poles flashing in the sun.

Our path diverged from theirs as you take a left turn down the slope and through some trees. At the bottom you really feel transported away from Chesham, and certainly from London, as the hills begin to roll around you. Not too far away I spied the red glow of a hill painted with proud poppies, closer-by the horses in the fields were definitely getting that insectoid attention I was afraid of. The poor things whipping their tails all over the place. And then to add insult to actual injury a bird landed on top of one of the horses and seemed to just watch the huge thirsty flies bombing into their flesh. Slightly gruesome.

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Just beyond here you enter Herbert’s Hole. Whoever Herbert is he has a lovely big hole. It’s long and green and after several days of sun, rather nicely firm underfoot. Which is good because I’ve seen pictures of what this track looks like after rain is mixed with horses around here. Nuh-uh…

On the right you have that gorgeous poppy field to fill your eyes with wonder but also sad reminiscences of the Great War, then a model flying club’s turf further on, then on the left of the path you have have what appears to be an enormous crop of beans or peas. Seriously, it’s several town’s worth of these pulses in one field. They look delicious but I have no idea what type they are.

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We wandered along in good humour, chatting amongst ourselves whilst avoiding the exuberance of local dogs. After two kilometres you reach the end of Herbert’s Hole and join a road. There is a path just ahead which would avoid a few minutes of road walking but it was badly overgrown and Helen and Tom had opted for shorts on this walk. So road walking it had to be. No great loss I’m sure, and it meant we got to admire a cottage framed neatly by it’s hedge portal.

‘Ballinger Bottom (South)’ is little more than a road junction. As we headed up the north exit we came across a very dejected band of Duke of Edinburgh Awards teenagers who were off course and getting rather fed-up. They wisely asked for directions and we put them back on course. Our questions to them were met with fairly gruff responses but it sounded like they had already walked for 4 hours and were simply not in the mood any more. It was interesting watching their dynamic though. The typical leader urging everyone not to fight but to work together to find the way out, the solitary angry-looking guy striding out ahead, into oncoming traffic in likely deliberate disregard for the the norms of rural walking, the jokers in the pack who squabbled but seemed good-hearted. We easily outpaced the teenagers and were far ahead when we found our path away from the road. We waved at them hoping to indicate ‘Whatever you do, do not follow us’ and then started off into the brambles running alongside a very extensive house.

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It started out okay, despite a lot of nettle spikes, but then I turned a corner and called time on this route. It was entirely overgrown and impassable without a machete. That’s why the route I link to at the start of this write-up doesn’t include this part. We backtracked to the road, teenagers long gone, but saw a bunch of very anxious cows jostled in a field as someone mowed the lawn nearby. They seemed to be trying to escape the noise by being in the one corner of the field close to the ride-on mower.

Back at the junction I pulled out a couple of squashed jam sandwiches and then we turned south-west, and stayed on until the crossroads, at which point you head north.

We heard the bird of prey before we saw it. The high-pitched call came from just above the trees lining the road. The kite was as low as I’ve seen one, definitely the closest I’ve seen one in the wild. This magnificent bird drifted overhead with the sun turning its distinctive tail feathers into a glowing fan with a chunk missing. A lovely moment but over too soon.

A few hundred metres on you need to turn left over a stile and head diagonally across the field. There are sprayed arrows on the grass, left overs from a recent race I expect. From here it is only a few minutes to the edge of Great Missenden, with the gnarly A413 the only obstacle in your path. Once safely across you can head up the road in front of you, past the car park for the Museum, then turn left.

We took advantage of The Cross Keys Fuller’s pub on the main street, which I wasn’t overly taken with if I’m honest. It looks alright but it’s a bit bland. I also managed to spill a lot of beer and lemonade with a weird jerky gesticulation. So that was good.

The Roald Dahl Museum and Story Centre is inspirational. Like many millions of people I’ve loved his books for as long as I can remember, but the man’s story itself is fascinating. A picture of him dressed in military uniform and escorting a striding Hemmingway being a weird highlight. The thread in the whole Museum really is the ‘Story Centre’ with so much to inspire new writing and provoke inactivity into creativity. Learning to use the corpus of experience to weave timeless stories was something Dahl was a master of and I really felt like this Museum would be able to give some children a kick in the right direction. To keep their wonder. We left the Museum as a quiet and thoughtful group. I don’t know if we all felt the same way about it but I kind of wanted to avoid chit chat now. Just for a bit.

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P1050170Warren Water and the River Misbourne are in the grounds of a fairly posh house, but the lake feels a bit forlorn with its strange little hump-backed footbridge reaching over nothing much in particular. The wooden stairs down into this field were rotting away as well. There follows a few jagged turns, a dip under a railway, a run of field-side path surrounded by tall fences, and then a standard suburban back alley cut-through up a hill. At the top there is no view. But there are gated communities.

Now we came to something I’d scouted in advance, the splendid Full Moon pub. The beer garden was busy and bright, the interior cool and quiet. We occupied a table under the ancient wooden rafters and enjoyed a pint and some excellent side dishes. It wasn’t late but I was feeling sleepy. That’s hot weather right there.

Back on path I managed to miss the turning because my phone is a moron and has decided to go loopy from time to time. Still, no matter, the eventual route was very nice and easy to manage. A few good long views of the hills, a very loud overhead power line crackling, lots of cereals to run your hands through, and the joy that is the final part of the day when the peak temperatures have passed and the world seems to be relaxing again.

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Coming into Little Missenden you cross a field’s edges, and that is a little bit overgrown but it’s bearable. There is another pub just on the edge of the village but this one we passed by without too much longing.

P1050183You are currently on the South Bucks Way and it heads lovely and straight along the bottom of a ridge line rising to the west of the path. By the time to reach the mown grass of Shardeloes you almost expect to see a mansion house, so it’s no great surprise to see the columns of the portico popping into view.

There were juvenile geese everywhere here except on the lake. They just waddle around in a huge gang instead of making use of that lovely cool water. We found a severed tree beside the water. It looked to make a very nice seat but once you’re on it you realise that it has the unique capability of making all occupants look like gnomes.

That thwack of leather on willow drifts over to you before you see the ivory-clad gents milling around on the cricket pitch. A classic idyll suitable for the town of Amersham which lies just ahead. There’s a little road-side walking now but after avoiding the A road it becomes calm just in time to enjoy the lovely approach to the Old Town. The buildings are picture perfect. The pubs look grand and friendly, and on this day one had music drifting out to the road from the BBQ occurring in the beer garden. No time to explore here in depth though.

Amersham Old Town will be worth another look in future. It seems much bigger than Chesham and a lot more important. Dinky stores, cafes, markets etc. It reeks of wealth and history.

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As soon as you see the spire of St. Mary’s church head towards it and into the grounds. Round the church itself, with its sarcophagi styled stones and a little stream on the north side. Go left around the walled cemetery and up the hill. Don’t forget to turn round at the top because there’s a great view of the old town.

P1050212By now I was really sleepy. The woods accompany you pretty much all the rest of the way to Amersham Tube Station, which isn’t more than a kilometre or so. This part of town feels far removed from the Old Town and you can certainly see why the railway might have been plonked down here rather than in the other valley, even if it was for engineering reasons.

Our tube arrived within moments and I battled against myself to stay awake as we trundled back into London proper.

This is a very nice walk but not a blockbuster, truth be told. I enjoyed the rural feel to most of it but there was something vaguely unsatisfying in the route, perhaps the lack of hilly views for a Chilterns walk. It is only the edge of the region but I feel that I might have missed out a bit. I’m probably tarnished by the sun as well though. Give me a frozen solid mud path, hoar frost and complete solitude and I’d probably think again. Still, is there a better way to get to the Roald Dahl Museum and Story Center? I doubt it!